This game is no joke–there’s certainly more here than the cartoony title and box art. The first clue that Beeees! is more than it appears is the age rating. 14+? For a real-time dice-chucker with no reading involved? Surely you jest.
Well, Shirley isn’t kidding. Beeeees! only appears to be a chaotic and random. Just looking at the components makes you think you know what the game is about before looking at the rules: a bunch of hex tiles with pictures of three dice on one side and a picture of a honeycomb on the other. Clearly, all you do is throw your dice until you can match a tile, then grab the tile. Most tiles wins. The End. And look! Your dice have pictures of bees and stingers on them–so cuuuuute. And what’s this? Bee-shaped rubber tokens? Those are for points, obviously, or maybe just to throw at each other. And the cards with dice numbered one through five? Probably where you keep your dice when you’re not throwing them.
I admit it, I fell for it, too. “Eight pages of rules? Uh, ok. Over-explain much?” Turns out there was a leetle more to it than I thought.
First of all, the object of the game is not to have the most tiles at game’s end (though that helps). Instead, when you grab a tile, you flip it over and add it to your “hive”, and what you’re trying to do, for maximum points, is to grab as many tiles of the same colour as possible, because every matching-coloured edge in your finished hive counts as a point. And, since there are Wildflowers which match every colour, you can, if you are careful, build some pretty point-rich hives. Of course, you don’t have time to be careful, because this is a real-time game, and you are going to make mistakes.
This edge-matching mechanic (basically set-building in disguise) means that you don’t necessarily want to just put your dice willy-nilly on whatever tiles are out there–except this is a real-time game, so the urge is to match as quickly as possible.
The next bunch of surprises revolve around dice-matching and tile-grabbing. First of all, each player begins the game with a single stack of tiles; only the top is visible to all. Next, you can place dice not only on your tiles but also your immediate neighbours’, and vice versa. This means that you can potentially “steal” one of their tiles if you have the majority of dice on it when it is full. And vice versa. And because you should be watching out for matching colours, you will want to do this, and prevent others from doing it.
If your dice are in the minority on a tile when it fills, you get a consolation prize of a “helper bee” (one of those rubber tokens)–each pair of which scores a point at the end of the game. And in the case where each space on a tile is filled with a different-coloured die, someone gets to shout “BUZZKILL” and toss it out of the game–another potential way to screw others out of points.
Usually you can only place one die at a time on a tile, but some tiles require placing a pair or even a triplet all at once. These are obviously harder to fill, but there are alternate ways to grab them–or any tile–using those bees and stingers on your dice.
And if all that wasn’t enough to think about, there’s a special way to win those Wildflower tiles which involves using those cards I mentioned in a mini-game called a beeline race. You need all five of your dice available, so if you’ve got some placed on tiles you have to wait until those tiles are claimed to get them back.
So you see, apprentice beekeepers, this ain’t Escape! Curse of the Temple or FUSE. It’s more along the lines of Space Cadets: Dice Duel in terms of difficulty. (I can’t compare with Project: ELITE because copies of that are rarer than hens-teeth right now, although CMON has promised a reissue/reprint). And, played with the right crowd, a round of Beeeees! might more resemble that of The Mind in terms of thinky, pause-y gameplay.
I hand it to designers Marcus Ross and Cara Ryan: they have created an excellent real-time game that plays in 15 minutes which has the potential to appeal to gamers at all levels. But those who purchase it hoping for a light filler or something to play at Family Game Night may find themselves overwhelmed; they might want to houserule the game down to its simplest level and then introduce new concepts bit by bit.
Or you can just frantically chuck your dice and throw the rubber bees around. You “bee” you.
The Daily Worker Placement thanks Action Phase Games for supplying a copy of Beeeees! for this article.