Dale Yu: Review of BONK

 

BONK

  • Designer: David Harvey
  • Publisher: Competo/Marketoy
  • Players: 2 or 4
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Times played: 6 with review copy provided by Competo/Marketoy

BONK is another of the new Target-only offerings for this year; this one from the same company that brought the awesome wooden dexterity game KLASK to us. BONK itself is not new, it is a modernization of Rollet, a game that I first saw a few years ago.

The concept in BONK is simple.  Two teams play against each other.  The field is a large rectangle, with areas in each corner cordoned off to hold each player’s slide.  The small area between the cordoned areas is the team’s goal – teammates will do their best to defend their goal and not allow the wooden ball to enter it!

As I said, in each corner, there is a (removable) plastic slide which oversized ball bearings can slide down and enter the field of play.  The slide rotates around freely, so you can pretty much send your ball bearing in any direction.  As the start of any point, there is a much larger wooden ball which starts in the exact center of the field.  There is an infinitesimal depression in the center to keep the ball in place…  When the game is in this reset mode, all players have an equal number of ball bearings in their corner.   The board is made of a single piece of curved wood, and the natural inclination of the balls is to fall into the nearest corner area…

All players start with their hands on the table, and then on the start signal, each player is allowed to use their hands to pick up ball bearings and swivel their slide.  Ball bearings are placed at the top of the slide and then released, with the hope being that they hit the object wooden ball.  There are no turns in the game; once a point is started, it’s pretty much a free-for-all.  You are really only limited by the availability of ball bearings in your corner.  If you do not have any to pick up, you must wait until someone misses another shot and their ball rolls back into your corner cordon.  Again, the goal is for you and your teammate to hit the wooden ball into the goal on the other side.

A point is scored whenever the object ball reaches the goal.  There is a line of holes used for scoring between the players.  Whenever a goal is scored, the game is reset.  Each player makes sure they have an equal number of ball bearings to start, and the ball is replaced in the central divot.  Then, the game is restarted.  The first team to 5 goals wins!

My thoughts on the game

BONK is a fun dexterity game which can really be enjoyed by almost anyone who is able to pick up the marbles and set them on the slide.  The rules, as you can see, are quite simple, and it’s the sort of game that usually generates plenty of laughter and groaning – the sorts of noises that attract people to come watch.  When I’ve had this out in groups, it doesn’t take long for people to stop and watch…. And then ask to play the next game!

The games themselves go quickly – usually less than 5 minutes.  The reason for this is that – in my experience so far – many of the points can end quickly.  Sometimes, as quick as just a few seconds!  I mentioned that the board is curved – or maybe I should really say crowned.  In any event, once the wooden object ball starts moving, it will pretty much always be in motion.  As the center resting spot appears to be the highest point, the ball is always moving towards one of the goals.  The angle of the guardrails in front of each player also guarantees that a slowly rolling ball will head down the guardrail and be deposited right into the goal!

Thus, someone who is able to hit the ball cleanly on the start of a point will send it careening down towards their opponent’s goal.  The opposing team realistically has one chance from each teammate to hit the ball to deflect it from the goal…  Otherwise, it either enters the goal straightaway OR it hits the guardrail in front of the player and then rolls down – usually into the goal.   Occasionally, if it is going fast enough, it will jump over the goal entrance and onto the guardrail on the other teammate… but now it’s going slow enough that when gravity takes over, it will surely fall into the goal.  

You would that there would be plenty of time to pick up a new marble, place it on the slide and then roll it down to hit the wooden ball – but there isn’t!  It might be only a second and a half for the ball to be struck from the starting spot, roll onto a guardrail and then into the goal.  We’ve had to start using a defensive strategy where only one player drops a ball at the starting signal – with the other player keeping his marble at the top of his slide, awaiting the possibility of the wooden ball coming his way – so that a defensive shot can be made.  If both players roll their ball from the get-go AND miss – there often is no time to mount a defense before the wooden ball is in their goal.

Watch the video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=25&v=z-kW_Ds97Xo

There is a shot taken at 0:14 of the video.  And the ball is in the goal in less than 1.5 seconds!

Trust me, that’s not enough time for my brain to process the action, pick up a marble, and then aim/slide it.  I can barely manage to hit the ball if I’m at the ready with a ball at the top of the slide!

size comparison

I have played the original Rollet, and that had a much larger board.  It was too big to try to bring home from Europe – but I had fun playing it.  The difference in the larger board is that the points seem to last longer.  A single strike is often not enough to propel the ball into the goal.  Also, the players have a bit more time to try to get a new marble to shoot away the wooden ball.  (From what I remember, it was also much harder to hit the ball when far away given the increased distance…)

The game seems to be made in a sturdy fashion – it’s survived multiple sessions with high school aged boys without incident.  The wood itself is lightweight (feels like balsa), though the swiveling slides and rails in the corners are made of a black plastic. This new version is still not tiny – the board is almost 23” x 16” – and it obviously has proved challenging enough for us given the number of times we’ve whiffed on hitting the wooden ball as it careens around the board.  The set that I have seems to be fairly balanced/leveled – without any significant advantage to either side of the board.  I would recommend though playing on a level surface or table as even the slightest amount of slope will affect gameplay.

So far, we have only played with four players – and if there is a shortcoming to this game – it’s that it really can only be played with a full complement of four.  The rules suggest that you could play with two – with each player manning both towers – but a few practice rounds have made it clear that there isn’t enough time to scurry back and forth between corners to use both effectively.

We’ve had a lot of fun with BONK, and it’s the sort of game that I’d bring out and leave on the table at a party.  Just about anyone can figure out how to play it, and like I said, it is definitely a conversation starter.  At least one of my boys has complained that the points don’t last long enough – but for a casual sort of dexterity game, I think that it’s no big deal – the short play time just gives you more opportunity to set up a new game and/or maybe cycle in new players!

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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