Bees are incredible creatures. Never mind the argument about their teeny tiny wings and behemoth bodies, they’re astounding in other ways. They communicate through dance, have a work hierarchy, can travel at 15 miles per hour… They’re incredible! What’s more is how important to the environment they are and how they are the reason for the majority of our produce. They do a job no other creature does on such a magnitude that, without them, we’d be gone too!
A boardgame themed on these creatures would need to be stunning. No doubt about it. And, luckily, the good folk at Awaken Realms Lite and Van Ryder Games recognised this. Bees The Secret Kingdom is a gorgeously accessible game oriented around collecting pollen to make honey. Which translates to acquiring sets to get victory points cards. It’s quick, accessible, gorgeous, and a top choice for families.
How to Play
Bees The Secret Kingdom is accessible despite its many mechanics. The game is set up in an easy to understand format and the iconography is relatively self-explanatory. To begin, you put the pollen tokens in their respective piles so they are within reach of all players. You then shuffle the pollen cards and lay them face down so they are again within reach. Next, you shuffle all the honey cards and lay out four. Finally, the first player takes one pollen, then the next players take two until it is back to the start. The game is now set up.
Players then take it in turns to either purchase honey cards or collect pollen. To collect pollen, a player takes two cards and chooses one to play. They collect the pollen in the top right and all other players collect pollen from the bottom left. Sometimes other players gain one pollen, sometimes they collect more. A player can never own more than four of each type of pollen. To purchase honey, a player discards the corresponding pollen tokens and takes the card. Some honey cards contain action text which is used immediately.
For those needing more complexity, an advanced mode is available. This includes the use of beehive cards. During setup, players take three random beehive cards and lay them for view of all players. These are either end of game effects which impact points, or instant win conditions. The game ends when there are no more honey cards to play into the queue, and all players have had the same number of turns. Whoever has the most victory points is the winner.
How it Handles
Bees The Secret Kingdom is a tremendously quick, accessible, and family friendly game. It’s replayable, aesthetic, and easy to understand. I genuinely can’t say enough positive things about this game for its target audience. And that’s the big thing here, its target audience. This is not a game for hardcore gamers to frequent, nor is it one for the euro fanatic, nor the take-that pro. It’s a family game, despite its many mechanics. Any gamer will appreciate it, but it will not fill those gaping holes where you’re requiring weighty games.
How Light Is Light?
This game is an excellent starting point as an introduction to heavier games. It includes a few mechanics on a smaller scale and is therefore a great introductory game for them. They’re not dumbed down enough to be irrelevant, but not weighty enough to be overbearing! The resource management of collecting specific pollens is important as you’re going to do a lot of it. You’ll need specific ones to purchase honey cards which are your points. What’s tricky here is knowing that when you collect pollen, so does everyone else. Although this isn’t going to be of the calibre of those grabbing the pollen, it can often be enough to allow them to buy the honey card you’re eyeing up. There’s a hidden depth here for those true tacticians of gaming, and it will appeal to heavy thinkers. That said, its not a deep enough depth to scare away rookies in gaming.
The actions of the cards in Bees The Secret Kingdom are usually positives for other players. They’re used immediately and will often result in them gaining pollen, exchanging it, or you losing all other pollen tokens. However, alls not lost here, as some allow you to take another turn. These cards aren’t going to appear often enough for you to wait them out, but when they do they can be a real buff. How you weigh up whether you cash in early or hope for high victory point cards is entirely down to your play style, but we’ve seen games won and lost because of waiting.
Taking It To The Next Level
In the advanced mode, the beehives are introduced. These are basically instant win conditions and point modifiers are the end of the game. Now, what’s weird here is you don’t often see instant win conditions in many games, particularly super light weight ones. These are usually reserved for super heavy games as a focus clause in rules, or as the entire end game focus. The instant win conditions in Bees The Secret Kingdom are not easy to achieve. At all. They sound incredibly simple but that’s deceptive. Like with the positive action cards, gaining these conditions is difficult. Waiting for them to appear may be detrimental to your score, which you may end up relying on to have any hope of winning. But that’s not to say these are completely irrelevant at all, there is always scope to achieve them.
The points modifiers are much easier to achieve, however doing so means collecting specific sets of honey cards. These sets usually score poorly alone, so having missing cards can again be a factor in why you might lose. The advanced mode of this game will give you more to focus on, and introduces those set collection elements. By adding more meat onto the bone, it suddenly becomes more of a gamer’s game, but it’s still presented incredibly lightly. Our only thought for complexity here is that younger players may need help calculating their scores!
Does It Look Good?
Bees The Secret Kingdom is a gorgeous game. There isn’t a single negative we could say about the aesthetics of this. It looks accessible, is illustrated beautifully, and using plastic tokens instead of cardboard adds more charm to it. What’s more is how the instruction manual was presented. We don’t often mention instructions, but this is a game that presented itself beautifully enough for us to seek out a rough edge. Instead what we realised is how well rounded and explained the instructions are, and the diagrams only add to this. The qualm we have? As this is aimed at lighter audiences and families, this isn’t a game that younger players would be able to access independently. We’d highly recommend having someone explain it to them before allowing free reign!
Bees The Secret Kingdom really surprised us in both how easily it played and how accessible it was. The game is at no point any more complicated than a player can make it, and everything is easy to understand. In a nutshell, you either take pollen or you trade pollen for honey. Straight forward. This isn’t a game for those looking for a weighty hand/resource management, set collection, point collecting game. Bees The Secret Kingdom is a game for families, younger players, anyone new to gaming, or anyone needing a light, fun game.