Game Mechanics: Worker Placement, Dice Rolling, Set Collection
Contents: 72 dice (18 per player), 90 pollen cubes, 48 hive hexes, 12 action/flower cards, a set of Queen Bee cards (exact number tbc), 18 blocking counters, 1 x rule sheet
Suggested Retail Price: Currently on Kickstarter
Parental Advisory: Safe for children
“Build a beehive, collect pollen & make honey – be efficient, be strategic, outmaneuver your opponents in this strategic board game!“
Waggle Dance places each player in charge of a swarm of bees, sending them out to compete over flowers for pollen which they will later turn into honey. Along the way they will also look to increase the size of their hive, hatch new eggs to increase the size of their swarm and perhaps seek favours from the Queen Bee.
Let me start by saying I am a big fan of what Grublin Games Publishing have achieved over the past 12 months. Their first game, Cornish Smuggler, was successfully funded on KickStarter; a serious game aimed at serious gamers and has garnered a great deal of support and a few industry nominations along the way.
So, I will be the first to admit to a little disappointment when they unveiled their second title “Waggle Dance.” Upon hearing the concept of the game I immediately conjured up images of cute cartoon bees in my head. It didn't help that it was described to me as a family, possibly gateway game, this only added to my preconceptions. Still, as any good gamer should I pushed my misgivings to one side and sat down to play. Were my fears to be realised, or was I to eat humble pie? Continue on dear reader to find out…
I think I should first quote Henry Jasper of Grublin Games Publishing from a recent interview with G*M*S* magazine to give you a clue! “I definitely didn't want to see … cutesy cartoon bees.”
As stated, each player controls a group of bees which they send out to collect pollen to later process in to Honey. Honey creation is the victory condition, with the player who makes the most honey being declared the winner. The end game is triggered when someone creates seven honey segments in their hive. This can be easily adjusted for shorter or longer games and is in fact how I have introduced new players to the game, playing up to three or five so everyone can get a good feel for the game.
Each bee is represented by a single six-sided die. At the start of the game, each player starts with six bees under their control. Additional bees can be gained as the game progresses by claiming and hatching eggs. The other actions that bees can take are increasing the hive, collecting pollen, trading, creating honey and seeking favours from the Queen.
At its heart Waggle Dance is a worker placement game with a dice rolling element. Upon first inspection it is very easy to view this game as mainly a dice rolling game due to the sheer number of dice (72), and therefore mistakenly one might think it is heavily luck based. While there is of course an element of luck, as there would be where dice rolling occurs, this is mitigated by the number of dice rolled and the manner in which actions are taken and pollen is fought over.
The game is played out in rounds, which are each split in to two phases, Day and Night (Placement and Resolution).
The Day phase starts with each player rolling their respective dice. The face up numbers will determine what actions are available to each bee that a player controls. In turn, each player will then place one of their bees on a desired card and play will continue round-robin style until all bees are placed.
Increase the hive Hatch an egg Claim an egg Visit a flower (to attempt to collect pollen) Trade Make Honey Pick up a Queen Card
Picture courtesy of Grublin Games Publishing
Some actions cards are limited to six dice, with a space for each number 1 through 6. Once a space it taken, no further dice of the same number can be played there.
Actions like hatch an egg and create honey are played on the respective players hive and require pairs of the same number. These actions are only limited by the number of pairs a player has and/or the required items (eggs/pollen cubes).
Finally, the flower cards are not limited at all. There is one flower for each number 1 through 6 and bees visit the flower that corresponds with their number. The player with the most bees on any give flower can claim two pollen cubes, the player in second place can claim a single cube. Four pollen cubes (of the same colour) are required to create a honey segment in the hive. This will block the hive square off and lead to players expanding their hive.
The Night phase is where each card is resolved in order. Should someone create a seventh (or more) honey segment in this phase then the game is over. The victor is the person who has created the most honey at the end of the night phase. If no one has reached this point then each player reclaims their respective dice and rolls them again to re-start the day phase.
I talked a little about Queen’s favour cards earlier and these add another element to the game. These can be collected by each player and each card provides a slight advantage to the player activating it, or perhaps a slight disadvantage to their opponent. None of the cards are especially powerful and seem fairly well-balanced, though there is still some discussion ongoing about which of the currently available cards will make the final cut.
Production, Artwork and Quality
The game has been designed with simplicity in mind. The concept and execution of the game is very easy to understand and after a round or two players quickly get the hang of things. The iconography used throughout is very intuitive and provides clear instruction on what action any given card provides, or in the case of the Queen cards, what affect the card has. The only criticism is perhaps that the cards are very clinical and do not carry across the beautiful artwork of Mateusz Szulik that is used for the cover art.
Picture courtesy of Grublin Games Publishing
The game moves along at a fairly quick pace and rarely is there any downtime between players, of course, this can happen from time to time due to the number of decisions that a player has to make over the course of the game.
It is being marketed as a game that has “something to offer” all level of gamer and this is largely true. It appeals on several levels due to the tactile nature of the game, the sheer number of dice being rolled and it is simple in concept. A new gamer can easily start playing this with minimum fuss and will learn the strategy as they go. An experienced gamer will perhaps at first think there is not enough in it for them, but again, after a round or two you see the expressions change, brows furrow, hands run down chins and eyes glisten as a plan starts to form; there is depth here make no mistake about it.
The game states up to 80 minutes play time (for 4 players, playing a full game of 7 segments of honey). Perhaps, for a game marketed as a gateway game, this is a little too long and might turn away people who are looking for an introduction to the hobby.
Having played the prototype and seen and played with a mock-up of the production version, I can say that components look to be the quality you would expect, round wooden tokens representing eggs, and wooden cubes representing pollen. The dice themselves were slightly disappointing especially as they feature so heavily, but this is being looked at. The only things I cannot really comment on is the final quality of the cards and the hive spaces.
Like with most Kickstarters the rulebook is still being finely tuned, but from what I have seen thus far it is well laid out and very easy to follow.
Waggle Dance is a joy to play and feels great while playing it. It’s great holding a fistful of dice and even better watching them scatter with abandon across the playing area. There is plenty of depth to keep experienced gamers happy, but equally the simplicity is great for new players too.
Do not be fooled in to thinking this is a game that revolves around luck, as there is plenty available to each player to mitigate bad dice rolls. Of course, these can still occur, but it is doubtful whether victory (or lack of) will hinge on such things.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how they're going to 'sort out' the artwork to make it more thematic per Henry's recent Kickstarter comment. I'm a backer and really excited about this game already--but I think that tightening up the look will really put it over the top.