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Bärenpark» Forums » Reviews

Subject: [Review] A Beary Nice Parkbuilder rss

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Seth Brown
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"Urses, foiled again by a terrible pun subject line!"



OVERVIEW
Barenpark is an relatively light tile placement game about building your own bear-themed park. Players take turns placing tiles on their own personal park boards and claiming new tiles from a general pool, until one player has completely filled in their park with various bears and greenery.

COMPONENTS IN BRIEF
4 double-sided starter park boards, 12 additional park boards, 1 central tile repository board, many park tiles of various block-constructed shapes, and 30 achievement/goal tiles -- all made from good solid quality boardgame chipboard.

GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
Each player is given a starter park board and a single greenery tile (1 square for first player, 2 squares for second/third player, 3 squares for fourth player).

On your turn, you must play one of your tiles onto your park board. It must be orthogonally adjacent to a previous tile (unless it is your first tile), and must not overlap forbidden space (the bear pit, other placed tiles, or anything that isn't the park grid).

If you cannot legally place a tile, you draw a greenery tile of your choice from the center board, and your turn immediately ends.

If you placed a tile, you then receive benefits based on the icons which your placed tile covered. This may include:

*Wheelbarrow - Draw a Greenery tile from the central board (4 types available)
*Cement Mixer - Draw a bear enclosure tile from the central board (4 types of diminishing points in each type)
*Construction Digger - Draw a bear habitat tile from the central board (12 unique tiles)
*Construction Crew - Draw an additional park board from one of the two piles (presuming you do not already have four)

In addition, if the placement of your tile fills in the last non-bear-pit space on any individual park board, you claim a bear statue to place on your bear pit. Placement of a tile may also qualify you for an achievement tile if you have fulfilled the requirements.

Once one player has completely filled all of their boards, each other player gets a final turn, and the game ends. Whoever has the most points wins.



GOOD POINTS

*Good Looking Game.
Between the bright colors, the cute bears, and the pleasing tetris-like shapes, Barenpark is a game that looks good on the table. The components are all of good quality thickness (unlike some games about constructing a city of tetris tiles and greenry *coughPrincesOfFlorencecough*), and both the central board and your finished player board are aesthetically pleasing.

*Very accessible
This is one of those games where you generally only need to explain the rules once. Take a tile, place it on your board, get new tiles if you covered icons, points for everything are printed right on the tiles. The only rule players might need a reminder on is that new tiles must be adjacent to old ones, but generally speaking this is a game that you can open and teach to a table of non-gamers in a minute or two, and leap right into the game.

*Doesn't overstay its welcome
I'd seen comments elsewhere wondering if the 4 parkboard limit should be extended, but I think the game is a very good length as is. Even a 4-player game goes along fairly swiftly, with not too much downtime except to growl in frustration as another player snags the bear tile you wanted on their turn. Because turns are so short (place one tile, take reward tiles), your next turn is always around the corner. And by the time one player is ending the game, probably another player or two were very close to completion, with maybe one or two players lagging a bit further behind.

*Forces you to balance Points vs. Shapes
The bear enclosure tiles of each type are stacked such that each tile is worth one point less than the tile above it. Consequently, players are encouraged to grab from the tops of each pile as early as they can. But sometimes even though the T-piece is worth 5 points, the Square worth only 2 points is what will best fit on your board to cover more icons. Throw in the achievements that pull you in yet a third direction, and the game has a few interesting decisions.



BAD POINTS

*Two tiny almost-irrelevant notes.
A minor point but one that bears mention, is that the number of each greenery tile to use is misprinted on the board. This will likely only affect your first game when you say "Hey, I think we're missing tiles", until you realize the numbers have been swapped. Also unrelatedly, but doesn't deserve its own point because it is similarly minor, there is a constructible bear-divider included to use in the box, but all using it accomplishes is making it more difficult to fit all the boards and tiles back in the box.

*Tight Scores
Some people will consider this a benefit and not a downside, but this is a game where it's very easy for all players to follow a fairly similar point curve, grabbing enclosures and bear statues that are only a few points off from each other. Including the achievements in the game will help widen the gap, but aside from the achievements it may be hard to feel like you're making progress much faster than another player.

*Not great with 2p
Although the rules suggest Barenpark may be played with 2-4 players, after a pair of 2p games I don't expect that I will ever play this game 2p again. The tight scoring is only exacerbated, with your opponent highly likely to grab a tile worth a single point less than the one you just grabbed, making the whole game feel like a squabble over pennies. It is definitely far better with 3p, and better still with 4p.



CONCLUSION
Barenpark is a very pleasant casual game. I really didn't enjoy my first two plays, but was delighted to discover that was just because they were 2p, and that at 3p and 4p, the game is enjoyable. It's far from a complex game, but as an attractive and accessible game that plays fast with some nice competition (esp. with achievements), it's a nice way to start out a game night.

IS IT FOR YOU?
If you only like complex games, or get easily frustrated by games where you can't make much headway over opponents with clever play, Barenpark may not be for you. Also, I wouldn't recommend this for 2p.

If you want a well-paced, attractive, accessible game that's some light-medium fun for 3-4p, Barenpark is a snap to teach and satisfying to play with the tiles.

*Review copy provided by publisher
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Ben O'Steen
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While I agree with most of your points, I don't quite agree with the lower player count ones. With the lower number of tiles in the 3p and especially the 2p, hoarding tiles and taking tiles that you are not be able to play can be a good move when done at the right time. It's still a light and breezy game, but still a fun short game with a lovable theme.

Also, the achievement tiles are essential at any player count, the game feels... bare without them. (Come on, I had to fit one in!)
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Seth Brown
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benosteen wrote:
While I agree with most of your points, I don't quite agree with the lower player count ones. With the lower number of tiles in the 3p and especially the 2p, hoarding tiles and taking tiles that you are not be able to play can be a good move when done at the right time. It's still a light and breezy game, but still a fun short game with a lovable theme.

Also, the achievement tiles are essential at any player count, the game feels... bare without them. (Come on, I had to fit one in!)

I agree that having experienced the full game, playing the game w/o achievements is a grizzly fate.

But I found tile-hoarding in 2p not to be terribly effective. The number of bonus habitat tiles doesn't change from a 4p game, which means with twice as many of those tiles available as can be taken, you can't do much denial of points work there. Grabbing an enclosure to hoard is only going to cost your opponent one point, even if you take the last one in a stack just to deny them the perfect shape. You could theoretically try to hoard tiles to prevent achievements, but since achievements only require 3 tiles of a type, and there are 8/9 of the relevant greenery/bear tiles in a 2p game, you'd need to grab 6/7 of the same type of tile before your opponent can grab 3.

So sure, if there's only 1 tile left of a certain shape, and you see that your opponent needs it, maybe it's worth grabbing. But generally speaking the 2p game seems to be more about maximizing your own board without worrying much about the tile stacks. But if you want to continue hoarding tiles in a 2p game (which, given your geekbadge, I imagine you do), I certainly won't try to stop you!
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Curt Frantz
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Isn't the orientation of park board in your Medved Park picture illegal? I thought none of the boards could extend below your park entrance...
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Seth Brown
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tribefan07 wrote:
Isn't the orientation of park board in your Medved Park picture illegal? I thought none of the boards could extend below your park entrance...

It is! We totally missed this rule when we played our 2-player games.
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Seth Jaffee
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Osirus wrote:
achievements only require 3 tiles of a type, and there are 8/9 of the relevant greenery/bear tiles in a 2p game, you'd need to grab 6/7 of the same type of tile before your opponent can grab 3.

In 2p, isn't there only 3 of each enclosure (2/4/6vp)? So 6 total tiles for each animal type?

Seems like grabbing 2 of the 3 Enclosures would make a "3 polar bear" achievement pretty tough, at least they're unlikely to beat you to it.

Also, in 2p, everything's +/- 2 vp, not 1. I guess that's still small ball, but it's twice the difference you were describing
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Seth Jaffee
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Osirus wrote:
tribefan07 wrote:
Isn't the orientation of park board in your Medved Park picture illegal? I thought none of the boards could extend below your park entrance...

It is! We totally missed this rule when we played our 2-player games.

I'm not really sure why that's even a rule. Seems superfluous to me. What does it accomplish?
 
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