Life in the jungle is tough, so it isn’t all that surprising that its inhabitants might want to unwind at the end of the week. Beasty Bar, by Stefan Klob, is all about getting your team of animals into, Heaven’s Gate, the hottest nightclub this side of the Serengeti. It’s not going to be easy: ‘The Gate’ is always jumping and not everyone is going to make the cut. A big bruiser guards the door and he’ll kick you to the curb without a second thought.
In Beasty Bar everyone has the same 12 animal cards inhabiting their deck. Each turn you’ll add a card from your hand to the end of the line up to the club. Each animal has a special power. Some of the powers activate as soon as the card is played, and others are an ongoing passive ability. For example, when you play the Kangaroo, they can jump ahead in the line by one or two spaces, and line position is key. The right spot can mean you’ll get in and have a night you’ll never forget. The wrong spot can cost you your awesome plans…or even your life! The animal kingdom takes partying very seriously.
From their decks of 12, players will draw three cards for their starting hand. Each turn, they will play a card and draw back up to three. The game ends when all of the cards have been played. In the beginner version, players get one point per animal that got into the club. The advanced rule gives between 2-4 points depending on the animal, as some have a harder time making it in than others.
If, at the end of a turn, there are five animals in the line up, the bouncer opens the door. The first two animals in line get into the club, but the last in line gets kicked out of line, never to return. The remaining two animals step forward and start a new line up. Taking advantage of your special powers and playing the right card for the situation is critical.
Lions come in at number 12; they have a lot of pride and go straight to front of the line, unless there is another lion present, in which case they’re simply kicked out. The ‘beautiful’ hippo comes in at 11, and fancies herself as a bit of a celebutante and will push her way ahead of any lower numbered animals. The crocodile at number 10, and didn’t have time to eat before going out – he’ll eat his way up the line (eliminated lower numbered animals) until he hits an animal the same size or bigger. The number 9 serpent loves order, and when played will immediately re-arrange the line so that it is in numerical order so that the highest numbered animals are closest to the club’s entrance. The giraffe, number 8, moves ahead of the animal directly in front of her on each turn. Number 7 is one of the coolest zebras you’re ever going to see. He works as a bit of a barrier between the crocs and hippos, as those pushy/hungry animals are unable to pass him. The seal, number 6, turns everything on its head by reversing the order of the line. You might have been next to get in and all of a sudden you’re last… there’s no justice! The chameleon is next at number 5. They can take on the personality of any of the other animals already in line. After they resolve their special power, they go back to being a normal old 5. At number 4, the monkeys work as a team. One in the line doesn’t do anything, but a second monkey added will put itself and the first one to the front of the line. The only problem with the monkeys is that if a lion ever shows up, they get scared and leave the line voluntarily. The kangaroo, who I mentioned hops a space ahead every turn, is number 3. The parrot, number 2, makes such a commotion they are going to get rid of one card of their choice from the line up. Finally, we’ve got the skunk. His putrid stench will get rid of the two highest ranked animal types from the line.
Each card has great potential if used at the right time. There’s certainly some strategy in knowing what to play now and what to save for later.
In the end, Beasty Bar is a filler game in the same vein as Guillotine. It plays out in about 15 minutes, and we often play a few rounds in a row when it hits the table. The art is pretty cute, placing human characteristics on these animals, fighting to get into a club and the spaciousness of the large card size leaves plenty of room for clear iconic descriptions of the special abilities. I’ve had good success playing this game with both kids and adults. It can be approached as nothing more than a light romp, or as a cutthroat, take-that battle to gain superiority in the social standing of the jungle.