Fellow Love Thy Nerdian, Matt Warmbier, and I were drawn to the Greenbrier Games booth at GenCon 2018. We were on a mission to pick up some promo cards for a friend of ours. And there was Jen, demo extraordinaire, rattling off bear puns like she was trying to set a record.
We listened to the pitch and could BEARly contain our excitement as we waited to play. I expected it to be a fun little dice drafting exchange where my 3 beats Matt’s 2, the type of thing I might add to my kid’s game shelf at home. They tend to like games similar to what I expected it to be.
I was very…very wrong.
BarBEARian: Battlegrounds fits nicely into the “unassuming” category of games, for me. While I was enticed by its fun and light-hearted art style—with the disproportionate features scientifically proven to boost cuteness—I was floored by the complexity of its gameplay.
The basic mechanic of BarBEARian: Battlegrounds is dice drafting—rolling dice and using the individual outcomes as actions on your village player mat. This seems fairly straightforward until you see that not only are you trying to collect enough resources to purchase upgrades (including your remaining two dice), but you are also strategizing the best use of your dice to simultaneously attack up to three other players and defend their potential raid of your village. Oh, and all of this is done behind the clan screen so no one can see where you are placing your dice. This little twist adds a social deduction element to the mix and will make you second guess almost every die you place.
While the game initially feels like simple dice rolling and resource collecting, as players get their BEARings, things heat up quickly and you’ll find yourself doing all that you can to defend your glory points and resources as you race to be the best bear in the 100 Acre Wood in your quest to 7 glory points.
BarBEARian: Battlegrounds is a game with high replayability and a fresh experience just about every time you play it. It can be played with two to four players, but I would highly recommend playing with at least three. The game becomes far less predictable with more players in the mix. The box says games run twenty minutes, but mine have been more like forty-five, probably due to the fact that the people I played with really wanted to maximize their actions.
Secret actions take the dice drafting in this game and elevate it with deduction, but to look at the face of it, you’d never expect this game to be as cut-throat as it is. Like another game we reviewed, BarBEARian Battlegrounds holds strategy beneath an adorable design, making this a game I can enjoy both with my regular game group and my family.