28th Jan2021

‘Beez’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

Recreating the ponderous, often clumsy movement of bees in a board game could not have been easy, yet somehow Plan B Games and designer Dan Halstad have managed to do so with Beez, the latest release in Plan B’s line of attractive, similar looking games that also happens to include Azul. In Beez, each player simply takes the role of a single bee – represented by an attractive and colourful miniature – and attempts to collect pollen from the various flowers that make up the board. When someone collects their twelth pollen, the endgame is triggered and a final scoring determines the winner.

Aside from complex scoring, Beez is a pretty straightforward game. Interestingly enough, I find myself saying this about Plan B Games products quite often, with Azul another game that pretty simple at a mechanical level, but made more complex by some of the interesting ways in which you would score points to win. This is especially true of the two later games in the Azul series. Where Beez is concerned, I’d say that the gameplay is even simpler, with the one thing each player does on their turn being to simply move their bee, then collect the pollen from whatever flower it might land on – if there is any.

What makes this tricky is that each bee has numbers on the hexagonal base (or beehive) upon which it sits. Each of these sides had one or more numbers on it – for example a two and a four, or a five. At the beginning of your turn, you decide to move your bee in whatever direction one of its sides is facing, by exactly that many spaces. So if you want to move in the direction showing a two and a four, then you simply choose either two or four spaces, turn your bee to face that way, then move the number of spaces you chose. Keeping your bee facing in the direction it just has just flown is therefore seen as extremely important.

Now, if you do land on a space with a “small pollen” then you may simply collect it right away, adding it to your beehive. If you land on a space with a “large pollen” which is only found in the centre of each flower, then you may take the large pollen and a small pollen from the same flower, if there is any left. When you pick up pollen (of either kind) you must then place it in your honeycomb. The nuance here is that pollen can only be placed on a honeycomb space with a matching number – so sing your example above, if we moved four spaces and picked up pollen, we must then place that pollen on a space with a four on it in our honeycomb.

Now, do you recall that I mentioned how Beez is really simple, except for the scoring? Well, I mean, it really is as simple as it sounds so far. The scoring, however, is not. Firstly, players will need to take note of the three shared objectives out on the table. They’ll also need to bear in mind the two objectives hidden in their own hand, chosen semi-randomly at the beginning of the game. Between them, these objectives will determine the winner of the game, and they are pretty damn fiendish. Some of these objectives are as simple as collecting five different colours of nectar – these are easy. Others require nectar to be arranged in specific ways within your honeycomb, and these are a huge challenge considering the movement of the bees.

This gives me something on a conundrum when it comes to Beez, because there are two distinct groups of players in my house, and Beez kind of appeals to both and neither of them at the same time. There are the kids – who love the look of Beez and seem to feel very proud about having mastered bee movement, but they cannot fathom the scoring out no matter how hard they try, and then there is me and my wife, who can master the scoring, but find the very simplistic gameplay a bit too simplistic. This makes Beez a difficult one to place in our collection.

The challenge of moving bees around does pose some interesting conundrums. You’ll need to learn, for example, how to program several turns together for maximum efficiency – taking into account, of course, that your opponents might move into a space you were counting on. The sides of the bees give just enough scope to be flexible, meaning that you’ll rarely be without a move, and there are two spaces on each board where the bee can take on water and move twice in one turn – effectively allowing them to travel long distances – but all the same, a couple of bad turns in a row can leave you feeling very on the outside of the action.

Overall then, Beez is not a bad game at all – in fact it’s a really beautiful and quite clever game. Unfortunately, it’s an odd mix of cleverness and simplicity that makes it a little hard to place. If one of the things you really value in a game is a sense of calm, with little or no contention as bees buzz around and everyone works on their own scoring criteria, and you like the sense that there are decisions to be made even despite that, then Beez might well be worth a look. It may not be a long-term favourite here, but I still think we need to give it a few more tries and perhaps wait until our children are older before casting a final verdict.

*** 3/5

Beez is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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