Bearicades (Ninth Level Games, 2017)

 

Date Played: October 12, 2019

Gist of the Game: Populate a forest with woodland creatures. Use woodland creatures and the assistance of “Predators” to protect your forest from hordes of tree-thirsty lumberjacks. To win, be the last player with at least one animal remaining. Use bears to form “bearicades” that prevent the lumberjacks from harming your forest (but usually don’t cause the lumberjacks to be discarded). Lumberjacks may have special features that make them more or less challenging to discard. You must draw a lumberjack at the start of each turn, and that lumberjack will force the drawing of 1-5 additional lumberjacks. There are two phases of play: “Day,” in which lumberjacks are fought, and “Night,” in which predators prowl and ready themselves to protect the forest during the next Day phase. The lumberjack pile refreshes if cycled through, so that there is always a ready supply of lumberjacks. The predator pile does not refresh, so if you manage to survive long enough for all the predator cards to be drawn, you don’t shuffle the predator discard pile back in, and your forest is probably not long for this world. Neither rounds we played lasted nearly this long.

Color Commentary: This weekend was the CinCityCon board game convention in Cincinnati, and we went to avail ourselves of the extensive game library. We also bought giant plush D20s, but that’s a story for a different blog. As with many games we play and enjoy, we were initially drawn to Bearicades because of the art. We’re simple folk. It doesn’t take much to draw us in. A bear or two will usually do, and having the entire game premised on bears is a good way to get in our good graces.

In the first game, M was quickly overrun by lumberjacks. Don’t feel especially sorry for him. He managed to recover and was utterly savage. What’s more, this is the first game I can remember playing that he’s won on the first playthrough. Not only that, he won both of the rounds we played. To me, this suggests some kind of flaw in the game mechanics. I’ve come to consider my 24-hour advantage sacrosanct.

Some predators have the feature of being able to send batches of lumberjacks that are present in your forest to another player’s forest. This basically created a war of attrition, resulting in a game board that looked like this near the end (I am on the receiving end of the pack of lumberjacks):

IMG-2125

Now, you have at most four animals in your forest, and can only have up to 6 bearicades in play. As you can see, I have two bearicades, and they are already occupied. Even sacrificing all of my animals (which means I lose the game anyway), that still leaves 9 lumberjacks that I can’t cope with. Both rounds ended up in situations like this. Likewise, the lumberjacks that make you draw an additional card when they enter your forest can cause a rapid escalation. Let’s say you have one of those. You have to draw an additional lumberjack. You send them to your opponent’s forest. Because the “draw one” lumberjack has been moved to their forest, they now have to draw an additional lumberjack. They’re able to send all the lumberjacks back over, which means you have to draw another lumberjack because of the “draw one” jack, etc. Anarchy!

M’s Thoughts on Strategy: Having to assign at least one lumberjack to each forest makes it so you’re putting more pressure on the other players than on yourself to deal with lumberjacks. The onus never has to be on the active player, at least not at first. This may lead to interesting strategy issues with more than one other player. Contributing to the war of attrition premise, a key part of the game is sensing when your opponent is weak and capitalizing on this, knowing that if you misjudged you’ve possibly used a lot of resources and made yourself more vulnerable for your opponent’s turn. Without an expansion pack of some kind to add variation to the predators, replayability may be limited. Both games followed exactly the same pattern in about the same amount of time without much in-game variation in dynamics, which may make it tiresome fairly quickly. The fact that we could already envision this outcome after just two playthroughs doesn’t bode well for the long-term. This game was a lot of fun, so much so that I lobbied unsuccessfully to play it for the entirety of the 6 hours we were at the convention. I was unsuccessful in those efforts, but you can’t say I didn’t try.

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