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Subject: First impressions; 2 players rss

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Levi Hobbs
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Franklin
Tennessee
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No matter how intense I may get about enjoying boardgames, I hope I never forget to simply be an amateur.
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I played this twice with my wife last night. Not knowing what to expect, we were glad to discover a simple exploration game with more meat on its bones than say, Carcassone. The theme is also refreshing; how many games do you play about exploring the woods while trying to avoid bears?

There's a fair amount of strategy in Bear Valley. Considering that the game only takes 15-20 minutes to play, it's a really nice amount of meaningful decisions. Every turn you're deciding how far you want to push your luck. You're also deciding whether to follow in an opponent's footsteps, but then worry about how to circumnavigate them, or take your own path. This becomes very meaningful if your own path keeps leading in the wrong direction.

Speaking of which, we were afraid that the game would be too simple. If I can turn the card any direction, surely it will be easy to get to the camp right? Well, not really! Having to align the cards in a very specific way means they often don't even connect, or the only way that they connect makes the path go a way you don't want to. I like this; it would just feel too easy otherwise.

The first game we did with the normal rules (none of the advanced) and then introduced those in the second game, and I would definitely recommend that, as there are some strange nuances to just the normal rules (such as the "woods" cards that have all the clusters of stones on them).

I definitely enjoyed the advanced game more. However I have to say, one thing that annoys me is the amount of rules to remember. You have to remember not only what a piece of equipment does, but also if it's one that you can take with you or if it has to be left. And if you want to take it with you, then you need to stop next turn so that it's there at the beginning of your turn.

Speaking of rules like that, it's really hard to see any thematic sense in some of the rules. I understand why it's hard to carry a canoe with me, but...a machete? Why would my character just drop the machete after hacking through a hedge?

This is basically the way half the rules are. They feel just a little clunky/fiddly and not thematic. BUT the cool thing about the rules is that they definitely create more strategy and more meaningful decisions. So there's pros and cons to this design strategy.

I should also mention that while several rules are not thematic, some of them are. If you move through a mountain you can only move one more space--sure, you're worn out. Makes sense. Caves let you travel underground--yeah, makes sense, and that's really cool.

I really wish the rulebook was written better because we had to consult it a LOT more than you would think for a game this simple. But with that being said, we've got it pretty well figured out after two plays, and I'm sure our future plays will be faster.

So far this gets one big thumb up from me...we'll definitely be playing it some more.
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Armand
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That's very interesting! Thanks for posting this Levi.

I'm a big Carl C. fan, but I've been reading a lot of early negative comments on BV. The big knock is the multitude of rules. I wish publishers would pay more attention to rules summaries and player aids. They forget that their experience - being pitched/taught the game by the designer - has nothing to do with our experience - opening the box and saying wtf...

Anyway, it seems most of the negative comments I've read pertain to larger groups - more people means more misunderstandings and confusion. Good to hear that it works as a 2p push your luck, if not the 6p semi-party game I was expecting.
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Levi Hobbs
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Franklin
Tennessee
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No matter how intense I may get about enjoying boardgames, I hope I never forget to simply be an amateur.
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Yeah, and I would say by-the-way, that once you really understood the rules well and have figured out all the edge cases, you should be able to have quite a bit of fun teaching it to 4-6 people. But I definitely wouldn't recommend playing it with 4-6 the first couple times.

I hope I didn't come across as too negative; once you get past learning the rules we really did have fun.
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