Game Buzz: Bärenpark

When I was in Boy Scouts, we had an easy way to tell the difference between different bear species.  Let’s say you’re hiking in the woods, and you see a bear.  You try to escape it by running up a tree.  If it chases you up the tree and rips your face off, then it’s a black bear.  If it shakes you out of the tree and rips your face off, then it’s a brown bear.  And if it rips the tree out of the ground before ripping your face off, then it’s a grizzly.  With that out of the way, let’s talk

image by BGG user Soeren_Lookout

Bärenpark is a new game from designer Phil Walker-Harding that was published by Lookout Games and Mayfair.  The game is for 2-4 players and takes around 30-45 minutes to play.  The main idea is that you’re trying to build the best bear park, filling it with pandas, polar bears, Gobi bears, and koalas (which aren’t actually bears, but they’re cute and therefore in the game – at least that’s what the rules say).

The game comes with 16 park boards, 52 green areas, 28 animal houses, 12 enclosures, 16 bear statues, 30 achievements, and a supply board to hold all of the tiles.  At the start of the game, each player will receive a park board that has an entrance as their starting board.  The other 12 are shuffled into two piles of six each.  Tiles are sorted onto the supply board, with higher numbered tiles on top of the stacks.  The starting player receives a toilet tile, the second and third players receive a playground, and the fourth player receives a food street (in a three-player game, the third player gets a food street).  These tiles have different sizes – the toilet is only one square, the playground is two, the food street is three.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

On your turn, you will do three things.  First, you will place a tile.  Take one tile from your supply and place it in your park.  It must be adjacent to another tile in your park (if there is one) and may not cover a pit or hang over the edge.  If you do not have a tile to place, you must pass.  This gets you a free green tile, but your turn ends immediately.

Once you have placed your tile, you will evaluate icons.  If the tile you placed covered up any icons printed on your board, you’ll carry out the associated actions in any order.

  • A green wheelbarrow means you get a new green tile – a toilet, a playground, a food street, or a river segment.
  • A white cement truck means you get a new animal house OR a green tile.
  • An orange excavator means you get an enclosure of your choice OR a green tile OR an animal house.
  • A construction crew means you get a new park board to expand your park.  It is oriented to your perspective, and cannot be placed below the exit.  You can’t have more than four park boards.

The third thing you will do (if possible) is place a bear statue.  This is done if you complete a park board – that is, if all spaces except the pit are covered.  A bear statue is placed on the pit, and the earlier you get one, the more points you’ll get for it.

The game ends after a player completes all four of his park boards, and after all other players get one more turn.  You then score, adding up all values of tiles in your park.  The high score wins.

image by BGG user Krecik

This game gets a lot of comparison to Patchwork, but for more than two players.  I think it’s probably a little more forgiving than Patchwork as you get to choose from any tiles, but the Tetris-style gameplay is still present.  It’s an interesting theme, though the disclaimer about koalas not being bears in the rules makes me think they were already well into production before thinking about that.  This seems like a fun, relatively light game with hardly any interaction – it’s kind of a race to get the higher scoring tiles first, but that’s about it.  Still, looks like fun to me and it’s been getting some pretty good buzz so far.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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3 comments

  1. I don’t know how I feel about this basically being a rip-off of another recent game, but its always better to be for more than two players. Bears are also really cool….

    • I don’t know if I would call it a RIPOFF of Patchwork. They certainly share the polyominoes aspect, but if you’re going to call Bärenpark a ripoff, you might as well call Patchwork a ripoff of Tetris. In the board game world, you could also look to Blokus or FITS as preceding Patchwork. I think Bärenpark is different enough that they all exist side by side. Also, I agree that bears are cooler than quilting.

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