Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Beasty Bar

Beasty Bar is a Hand Management card game focusing on take that mechanics from Zoch Verlag (the company that brought us Ghost Blitz). Your objective is to get as many of your animals as you can through the lineup and inside a bar called Heaven's Gate. You will have to make sure that your animals do not get tossed from line and are actually allowed in, to do this you will manipulate the bar lineup. The only similar game I have played is Guillotine but even that is a stretch. In this review I will quickly cover how to play, how well it scales from 2-4 players and what kind of gamers I think would enjoy Beasty Bar.

Goal / Objective:

The goal in Beasty Bar is to have the most animals inside the bar Heaven's Gate when all players have no cards remaining in their hands.

How to Play:

Getting inside Heaven's Gate is not an easy task. First there have to be 5 animals in the lineup. Once the lineup is full the two animals in front (closest to Heaven's Gate) will be allowed inside the bar and the animal at the end of the line will be tossed into the get lost pile.

Each turn players are allowed to play 1 animal card from their hand. You add the animal to the end of the lineup and then perform the specific action that corresponds with the animal that was chosen. Each action will manipulate the lineup in some shape or form either by butting, scaring, eating and hopping over the other animals in line. You might make the other animals so grossed out they leave or snitch them out to the bouncer, and if all else fails just change the order of the lineup.

Here is a list of each animal and what the action they perform does:

My Thoughts:

Beasty Bar is a ton of fun, you will need to use a mix of tactics, strategy and politics to win. Although there are no political mechanics, Beasty Bar gets pretty personal since almost every action you can perform is a take that action that screws with someone else's plans. Turns go around the table fast enough that you are still annoyed by the time you get to take a turn so expect revenge to come knocking. There is more strategy than Guillotine because you are using the same set of animals every game and everyone has the exact same cards however Guillotine supports more players. I wonder if the game would work with more players or if it would just be too crazy, there is an expansion already which can be played as a standalone but it doesn't increase the player count. Beasty Bar has been a hit with every person I have showed it to so far so I will definitely be picking up the expansion which comes with 12 new animals.

I think what makes Beasty Bar such a great card game is that you are not sure how many times the bouncer will let guests in (rounds there will be before the game's end), this means if you save your trump cards until the end of the game they might end up getting wasted. If you play them right away you make yourself an easy target to get ganged up on. To make matters worse, every card is very situational and might only be a trump card depending on which other animals are in the lineup already. The only real rule I play by is to save my parrot and chameleon for later on in the game.

My only criticism is that the iconography at the bottom of the cards that explains what each animal can do is really confusing the first couple times you look at them. I do not feel like they accurately show what they are trying to and you end up just memorizing what each animal does anyways. The box only comes with one cheater / help card explaining the actions because the other 3 help cards are in other languages and even the one they give you is small and crammed with tiny text. I think it would have been better to include 2-4 bigger cards or boards roughly the size of the small square box that explain what the cards do and then left the diagrams off the animal cards.

The art is humorous and a little dark which goes great with the take that mechanics of the game. Take a look at what I mean, meet the animals:

How Does it Scale?

2 Players: Two player games of Beasty Bar are intense and evil. You will want to plan carefully turns ahead but have to remain prepared to change those plans at any moment. Have a backup and a backup backup plan. There are a lot of things you can try in a two player game that you cant with 3 or 4 players. Playing with 2 is a lot quicker, your plans are not completely screwed by the time its your turn again like they usually are in a 4 player game. Best of all since the complexity of the game comes from playing your opponent and not mechanics it stays fresh and fun even after playing a ton.

3 Players: Three players is the sweet spot if you ask me. The perfect balance of strategy and tactics with just the right level of frustration. I find that 3 players suits the mechanics / theme better because treating Beasty Bar as a serious strategy game doesnt feel right when the skunk is winking its butthole at you. I prefer 3 players over 4 because you have a bit more control over the lineup.

4 Players: Prepare to have every plan you come up with screwed with. However there is a great aspect that comes with 4 players that doesn't with 2 or 3; It becomes hard to keep track of who's animals are inside Heaven's Gate. This makes things really interesting especially when you consider players taking your actions personally and seeking out revenge, and especially because with 4 players it becomes even easier to blend into the background, not piss anybody off and hope to not become a target yourself.

Who Will Enjoy Beasty Bar?

New Gamers: It really is a shame when icons add to confusion, the whole point of them is to aid in the explanation of or represent rules. Although the mechanics of Beasty Bar are really simple, I would not recommend showing it as someone's first game unless you have a fair amount of experience explaining board games.That being said just play your first game blindly and figure out what each animal does as you play it and everyone will know what they are doing by the second play through.

Casual Gamers: The first few times you play Beasty Bar it takes a bit longer than a typical filler which is okay because you will want to play again and a few games takes up the same length as a medium weight game. After players have familiarized themselves with the cards and no longer have to look at the helper card Beasty Bar actually becomes faster than more fillers which is great because its also a bit more intense. Although some of the artwork is not exactly PG13, I have played with my parents, relatives and other couples, I think the theme makes the game easy to approach and really does a good job drawing players in.

Gamer Gamers: If you are a collector you might be surprised by how unique Beasty Bar is, Not to say that the mechanics haven't been done before, (a couple cards do the exact same action as Guillotine cards) but I have not seen them combined in this way before. I feel like most serious gamers will be able to understand the icons no problem and will have an easy time memorizing what each card does making my only criticism of Beasty Bar irrelevant.

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