This review was also published on, and is available, on the incredible Zatu here!
Do you love bears? Do you have an undeniable displeasure when around babies? Or are you just a fan of competitive hand management card games? Regardless to any of your answers, so long as you have a slightly twisted sense of humour and enjoy card games, Bears Vs Babies by Elan Lee and The Oatmeal is the game for you! Players compete to defeat abominable babies whilst creating their own equally horrifying Frankenstein-esque “bear” creations.
Bears Vs Babies is entirely centred around creating an army of bears capable or defeating hordes of unusual and questionably designed babies that only a mother could love. Players compete to construct the best ‘bears’ using cards from their hands that will have an attack value powerful enough to defeat land, sea, or sky baby armies.
Each turn, players can play two cards, draw two cards, draw one and play one, dumpster dive, or provoke the baby armies. The two cards played must be attached to a bear head card or ongoing creation and the stitches must line up; if the stitches don’t match then you can’t attach those body parts. Bears are comprised of heads, torsos, arms, legs, tools and hats. Other than tools which are attached via plugs (yes, plugs) and hats which sit nicely on the head, all cards must match the stitches set out on the cards and must make sense (you can’t attach a torso to a torso, not even bears have two chests). All cards attached to the bear will contribute to its battle capability and will aid it in its inevitable battle with the babies. Determining which army the bear will battle is done via the bear’s head; the attack value on the head card will determine which babies are attacked. Blue is for sea, green for land and red for sky, although some heads are wild and can contribute to all battles.
Bear cards aren’t the only things lurking in the deck, you may be unlucky enough to draw a baby card! These cards are immediately added to their respective army and this counts as an action, meaning you may spend your turn empowering the enemy! The baby cards have values of 1-3 and these are cumulative, meaning the longer an army goes unprovoked, the more powerful it becomes! On the flip side, you may acquire an action card. Action cards work differently dependent on what card you acquire; the ones that will benefit you can be played from your hand, but those that are less beneficial are played immediately! Drawing cards can be equally as risky as provoking the babies! Dumpster diving is the only surefire safe way to acquire powerful cards, but this takes two actions; it enables you to go into the discard pile and draw any one card, so if you’ve been hunting down one body part and having no luck, you can always pillage the corpses of others’ fallen bears!
Down to the business at hand! Battling babies! To take on an army of babies, you need to spend no actions and draw no cards on your turn, you instead shout PROVOKE! The provoking player chooses which army to take on and all bear armies of that type must engage the enemy. Players’ armies don’t fight together but also don’t count against one another, so choosing when to provoke and which army to provoke is important both tactically and for points! The player with the most powerful army that can beat the babies gets those baby cards, and all monster cards that joined in the battle are discarded. If no one can beat the babies, no one wins and all cards involved are discarded.
The game is quick but doesn’t play smoothly, but it’s not meant to. You’ll spend a lot of time getting annoyed at other players! Every opportunity that you get to outdo, hinder or straight up annoy your opponents is meant to be grasped. This is one of those games where, if you don’t act like a terrible human being, you’re going to lose. On top of that, the game requires a lot of social deduction in terms of establishing what your opponent’s next move is.. Should they provoke a baby horde they aren’t going to be fighting, they may massively disrupt 3 turns effort! The game is designed as a filler and should be played as such, too much play in quick succession will cause the game to lose its charm! The artwork is hilarious and reflects the comedic theming of the game, but don’t let that fool you, the cards are only the tip of the iceberg when you remember the box is coated in a thick fuzz!