Calvin’s Commentaries: Monarch migration turned into great game theme

The very idea of animal migration seems all but impossible.

When the first robin bobs over your lawn it is hard to envision that tiny bird has only just arrived from wintering in Texas and Florida.

More amazing is that the Monarch butterfly makes such fantastic migrations too.

The beautiful butterfly we see here in summer flies south to Mexico for winter. The actual individuals we see dying at some point, generations being born and dying as they make the annual flights south and back north.

Every spring, millions of monarch butterflies leave Mexico to spread out across eastern North America. Every fall, millions fly back to Mexico. However, no single butterfly ever makes the round trip.

It is fascinating and near impossible to get one’s mind around.

So what has the monarch butterfly to do with a game review column?

Well, Mariposas is a game from designer Elizabeth Hargrave based on movement and set collection that lets players be part of the amazing journey of the Monarchs.

The game has been held in reserve until now for review because it also has a sort of connection to Halloween.

“The monarch’s arrival in Mexico is a breathtaking phenomenon that also carries strong cultural significance. Like clockwork, migrating monarchs arrive in Mexico at the same time of year, every year. Their arrival coincides with Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is observed in Mexican culture between November 1st and 2nd (Fernandez, 2017),” relates “Día de Muertos is a celebration of the deceased. Families and friends gather at grave sites of their ancestors and loved ones. There, they build altars with photos, offerings, ornate sugar skulls, bright orange marigolds, and candles. The living then share refreshments and stories to celebrate the lives of their friends and ancestors who have passed. This holiday serves as a way to keep the dead alive in the hearts and memories of the living (Chavez, 2019).”

But onto the game itself.

“Mariposas is played in three seasons. In general, your butterflies try to head north in spring, spread out in summer, and return south in fall. The end of each season brings a scoring round, and at the end of fall, the player with the most successful family of butterflies — i.e., the most victory points — wins the game,” notes the publisher website at

The game does a very good job of leaving players with some understanding of the amazing migration.

You start in Mexico, move north, and then turn and head back through the course of the game. Along the way, you have to create new generation butterflies as others are lost. A first-generation butterfly is long gone by the time you return to Mexico to score points with a fourth-generation one.

Along the way, you earn points by stopping in certain places. A straight path might seem wisest but ‘flying’ off course might get you some points too.

And here every point counts. This is not a game where you gather piles of points. They are scant, to the point you might wish they were a bit easy to gather.

The board is nice, if not outstanding.

The butterflies are wooden, which is rather standard fare these days, but still nice.

The rule set seemed pretty straightforward.

The box art is very nice.

Overall, Mariposas is a game that would always be welcome on The Meeple Guild table but lacks the wow factor past appreciating the effort of Monarch butterflies to be a first-choice play option.

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