Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 15 September 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- BarBEARian Battlegrounds

Game: BarBEARian Battlegrounds

Publisher: Greenbrier Games

Designer: Walter Barder and Ian VanNest

Year: 2018

BarBearian Battlegrounds is a simultaneous secret-action, dice allocation game for up to four players. It's also an excuse for many bear puns, as you 'fish for glory' and try to be part of the best 'neighbearhood'. 

Through rolling dice to collect honey and other resources, as well as getting into scrapes with all of the other bears, you'll try and gain glory that will allow you to win the game. The art looks great and really evokes this slightly odd theme, but what game lies beneath the cartoons and the puns?


The objective in BarBEARian Battlegrounds is to be the first player to have 7 flags. While you start with 2 of your own available, and can gain more by completing objectives, your winning collection may include any number of your opponents flags too!

Each round you will roll as many dice as you have unlocked (from 3-5) in public so everyone can see, you will then move them behind your screen and place them on spots on your player board. Three of these spots generate resources which you can use to unlock special powers, two of them commit your armies to defence, useful if you think people are attacking, doubly so if you don't know who. The final 3 spots allow you to attack your opponents. In each space you can place only 1 die, however if you rolled a double you may stack them on top of each other letting you vastly increase the output of that space.

Combat is simple, starting with the first player you will attack each of the opponents you committed a die to. You then compare the number of pips on your attack against them to the number on the dice they used to attack you and/or defend. The higher die's pips are reduced by the number of the lower die (potentially you can soften people up for other player's attacks), should the defender win then nothing happens. However if the attacker wins then they get 2 choices: 1) steal 2 resources from their target or 2) steal 1 flag from their target.

After attacks players who committed dice to resource generation gain the resource tokens and can then spend them on various upgrades, you can unlock new dice, purchase powers to assist you in combat, or buy tools to increase your resource generation. After this each player will check to see if they have completed their objective, yous tart the game with a choice of 2, and then gain a new one every time you complete your old one. Objectives give you flags as a reward and are an important way to win the game.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

BarBEARian Battlegrounds is a quick, light game that actually works quite well at higher player counts. The knowledge of what your opponents rolled is a useful tool for knowing who to attack, but allows for some room for bluffs and double-bluffs as the exact placement of the dice isn't public knowledge. The mission system is good in theory, but some of them are out of your control, for example one demands that you defend against a powerful attack, but if no-one dedicates that much attack power against you then you can never complete that objective

Unfortunately as a two player game it has some severe issues. as with many games with direct player vs player attacks in a 2 player game one player is the winner and the other is the loser, there's no chance for cyclical attacks meaning everyone wins something. This results in the game being a simple matter of who rolls the most high numbers,  being able to win attacks consistently means stealing flags and winning the game. Things get even worse if you steal resources, if you can get tools, or extra dice early then you have a lasting advantage. The game can soon have an obvious winner and just be a matter of waiting things out until the inevitable happens.

That all being said, at 3+ player things change massively, suddenly you have to predict who is going to be worth attacking, and attacking everyone means that you are losing a good chunk of your dice just to do so. Your decisions suddenly have more weight to them, and with more than 2 players rolling dice it's less likely that one person will be the only person with good./bad luck in the round. Here the game shines with quick turns and the ability to make huge comebacks (attacks alone in a 4 player game can get you 3/7ths of the way to victory in 1 turn!). In conclusion BarBEARian Battlegrounds is a chaotic dice worker placement that should never have been advertised as a two player game.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

We originally really struggled to get BarBEARian Battlegrounds to the table. Our first game was with two players and it really didn't flow well. It was a lot of tug of war - with flags moving back and forth each turn and no-one really pulling ahead. The difference between attacking and defending was barely apparent and it became a game of 'who rolls best'. We wanted to introduce the game to new players, but the theme was not interesting to any of our gaming friends and didn't really match well with the deeper dice placement mechanics. "I know the game looks silly, but it's actually a dice allocation game" wasn't really a phrase that was winning people over.

We got the chance to play a game with three players and it really became much more entertaining. There were some real tactics to looking at people's dice rolls and predicting who might attack and where you might defend or attack as a result of this prediction. There was an opportunity to gain two flags per turn, which then made the game move faster and the leader could become the target for other players. At three players, BarBEARian Battelgrounds was an enjoyable take that game with some deeper mechanics, that made it more satisfying that other card-based take that games that we don't typically enjoy.

The three player games also taught us a little bit more about how to play the game well, which made our future two player games a little more enjoyable with a few more opportunities for tactical play. For me BarBEARian Battlegrounds is definitely a 3 player plus game though and probably ideally suited to families, where kids will find the theme enticing, but at the same time it will be a step up from more basic games.

You Might Like...
  • It's interesting that the dice results are not hidden information, so you can predict quite well who might attack and where you need to defend.
  • Hidden objectives help you to develop a strategy.
  • So many bear puns!
You Might Not Like...
  • There is lots of dice luck in the game and very few ways to mitigate it.
  • If you primarily play with two players, like us then the game can last too long as a game of cat and mouse - passing glory tokens back and forth.
  • The game's lighthearted theme covers some slightly harder to grasp mechanisms that we wouldn't recommend for all new players.

The Verdict
5.5/10 BarbBEARian Battlegrounds fills a strange niche. It's a quick take-that style game, but with quite a few modern game mechanics. It could be a good introduction to dice allocation or worker placement for new players, but for us it was too light for the time and effort invested in playing, especially at two players where the game outstayed its welcome.

BarbBEARian Battlegrounds was a review copy kindly provided to the Board Game Exposure Reviewer Collective.

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