Sunday 25 February 2018

Review: Bärenpark board game

Bear-tetris, koala disputes, and for some reason, cause to use the phrase 'one toilet short of a draw' in a public place. I'm taking a look at Bärenpark, the latest offering from Phil Walker-Harding of Sushi Go! and Imhotep fame, that had me googling for Gobi bears and the umlaut keyboard shortcut!

Barenpark board game - Phil Walker-Harding - box art

I'm no expert, but I'm fairly certain that box doesn't depict safe bear-care procedure...

I've played so many fit-together-the-cardboard-tile games over the last year or so that it's hard to find enough words for 'tile' to write about them without sounding boring. Google has provided 'polyominoes', the actual description for these shapes and pretty much the best word ever. With Patchwork, Cottage Garden and NMBR9 all in our collection though, you'd think we'd be all polyomino-d out by now.

Barenpark - completed park | Random Nerdery

Enter Bärenpark, one of the most hyped games to come home with me from the last UK Games Expo. Bärenpark is a puzzle game where up to four bear-loving park designers can create a comfy new home for a collection of Gobi, polar, panda and koala bears. Yes, they know that koalas aren't actual bears, but the rules make it very clear that they've been included for their lovability factor rather than their taxonomy.

Each player takes on a very bleak looking patch of land to develop into their own shiny bear-topia. These are divided into a grid of squares, some of which are marked with special symbols.

On your turn you add a polyomino (yes, I'm going to keep using it...) to your park from your individual supply. The symbols you cover with this tile dictate which tiles you can take from the central supply to use in future turns:

Green wheelbarrow

Take one of the small 'green area' tiles - toilets, playgrounds or food streets - and add it to your supply.

White cement truck

Take the top 'animal house' tile from one of the available stacks. These go down in victory point value as the stack starts to disappear, so you have to balance up the choice of shapes available with the potential points. You can instead choose to take one of the green area tiles instead.

Barenpark tile board

Orange excavator

Take one of the big 'enclosure' (or awkward-shaped-but-high-points-value) pieces. Again, you can choose to take one of the previously described animal house or green area pieces instead if you don't think you'll have anywhere to fit the bigger shapes.

Barenpark enclosure tiles | Random Nerdery

Construction crew

Add another section of empty land to your park. You can have a total of four of base boards in your park; once you have four, covering the construction crew symbol no longer does anything).

Barenpark park tiles | Random Nerdery

You're aiming to fill up each tile, covering all squares except the little fenced-off pit; once you've completely filled all other squares on a base tile, you get to take the bear statue tile with the highest remaining points value and slot it neatly into this last space.

Barenpark bear statue completing board

These statue tiles go down in value from 16 to 1, so Bärenpark becomes a race to fill your park tiles faster and more efficiently than everyone else to make sure the highest point statues end up in your park.

Barenpark bear statue tiles | Random Nerdery

Once a player completely fills their park, everyone else has one last turn to patch up what they can before the game ends and scoring takes place. Scoring is as easy as counting up all the points shown on the tiles you've managed to place in your park. The player with the most points wins!

If you want to add some more challenge into the mix, there are also a number of achievements available with their own associated points, for things like having three consecutive river tiles, or having one of each animal house. These add an extra element to think about that really helps with replayability, as the base game could get a bit stale over repeated plays.

Barenpark achievement tiles | Random Nerdery

I like that there's not a huge amount of adjustment needed to set up the game for different player counts, just removing a few tiles for two or three players. The game components are great, with loads of adorable artwork and chunky cardboard tiles. The box insert was a bit of a mystery, using spare bits of punchboard to create three triangular sections in the box. I'm afraid I can't show a picture, because I immediately abandoned it in favour of some ziplock bags - although I'd be seriously eyeing up the Meeple Realty insert if it weren't for the vast UK shipping cost!

Barenpark board game - completed park | Random Nerdery

We've played a ton of this since UKGE and it's still a really popular go-to choice when we want something fun, quick to play, light in terms of rules but still offering something to think about. And yes, we do have too many tile-laying puzzle games now, but it won't be Bärenpark getting axed from the collection. Sorry, Cottage Garden!

Barenpark board game - food street tile

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