Reviewed by Jeff Lingwall
- Designed by Dan Halstad
- Artwork by Chris Quilliams
- Published by Plan B Games
- 2-4 Players
- Playing time: 30-45 minutes
The Basic Idea
Recent years have seen a surge in nature-themed games. Wingspan covered birds, Photosynthesis covered trees, Trekking covered parks, and so on. To this burgeoning countryside collective comes Beez, a new game from Plan B. In Beez, players take the roles of geometrically-minded honey bees, which use programmed movements to gather nectar from a hexagonal field of flowers and then convert that nectar into point-scoring drops of honey. The gorgeous production and simple rules make the game eye-catching and family friendly, yet not everyone might find the programming and goal-juggling elements as “sweet.”
The Rules, in Brief
Players form a board from hexagonal tiles with flowers and leaves. The flower tiles are then populated with small cylinders representing nectar. Players take a bee figurine which they place at the center of the board. Players score points based on two secret and three public objectives (such as “fill up certain rows in the honeycomb,” “collect certain colors,” or “form certain shapes with certain colors”). Fittingly, the last player to have eaten a honey sandwich goes first.
The meat of the game is attempting to successfully navigate the flower field using the unique way these bees move. Five of the six sides of the bee figurines are labeled with numbers. These numbers (1/5, 2/4, 3, 2/4 and 1/5) represent the number of spaces a bee can move in a particular direction. Notably, direct forward movement is not allowed. After rotating and moving the bee, if a bee ends its movement on a space with a small piece of nectar, the player collects the nectar, and if the bee lands in the middle of a flower with a large piece of nectar, the player collects the large piece together with an adjacent small piece. The nectar players collect goes into a honeycomb, assigned to a row corresponding to the bee’s movement. Points (honey drops) are scored based on how the arrangement of the nectar pieces within the comb aligns with the public and private objectives. In the advanced version of the game, nectar can only be placed next to previously stored nectar. Once a player has stored 12 or more nectar, the game ends.
I have enjoyed Beez. To start, Plan B has really outdone itself with the production values here. The three-dimensional bee figurines are gorgeous, the inlaid boards for collecting nectar without pieces moving around are a nice touch, and the flower and plant tiles are bright and vibrant.
At the same time, for all the cute bees and charming artwork, the gameplay can be surprisingly thinky. You’re essentially balancing two puzzles at once: how to move the bee around the board to collect nectar, which involves programming a series of complicated turns and movements, while simultaneously planning how to best fill up your honeycomb to maximize points. The intersection of the programming needed to move the bee together with the spatial elements of nectar placement can be a challenging task. Of course, when you pull off an amazing pair of spatial maneuvers to place the last nectar needed to satisfy an objective, it’s a very satisfying experience.
For me, while not extremely rules-heavy, the game is perhaps just simple enough to be a family game but perhaps not wonky enough to appeal to fans of heavier games. That “heavy family game” (at least as I’ve pegged it) is an interesting space to occupy. I don’t know that this is going to appeal as quickly to families used to eurogames with the complexity of, e.g., Azul or Ticket to Ride. The puzzly aspects are just a little too thinky. Planning multiple moves ahead for bee movement is genuinely challenging, and necessary in the endgame with few nectar choices remaining on the board. My 15-year old daughter compared it to Tash-Kalar, a game with similarly strong spatial elements that are tricky to plan ahead without manipulating and resetting elements on the board. I’m also not a huge fan of the “juggle multiple objectives” style of scoring, which my mind (at least) finds hard to manage and younger players might not find accessible.
In sum, I see Beez as a gorgeous, well-designed, somewhat niche game. Heavy gamers might play this as a cute filler before moving on to something longer. Family gamers might find it a little too much unless they have the patience to get down the bee movement and goal-juggling. Yet for fans of nature-themed games or those who like pulling off a series of intricate, interrelated plans, Beez is a home run from Plan “Bee” Games.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers
Lorna: I am a big fan of abstract games with simple rules and elegant game play. Beez misses the mark slightly on both accounts for me. It was also easy to lose track of the turn ending mechanism because I was busy moving the bee and then moving the token to the hive and then trying to plan for the next turn without too much AP. It’s a very pleasant game but I am more likely to pull out something else when I’m in the mood for something short and abstract.
Chris Wray: I enjoyed playing this a couple of times — and as Jeff points out, the production value is stunning — but it was a bit a bit too chaotic for me to enjoy long term. I can’t quite peg down why I feel that way, since there isn’t actually that much chaos in game chaos, but it did feel like programming (which I don’t like in games), and in the end, we’ve seen too many here-are-your-goals-go-get-points games for this one to really stand out.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
§ I love it!
§ I like it. Jeff L., Eric M.
§ Neutral. Lorna, Chris W.
§ Not for me…