Quick Look: Beware of Bears
Designers: Ayaan and Amanda Naqvi
Artist: Amanda Naqvi
Publisher: Kudo Banz
Year Published: On Kickstarter September 2021, possibly due to be published 2022
You and your friends are campers in the woods. And apparently, you and your friends are not fond of each other, as there are bears in the woods. You are trying to make it out alive while simultaneously trying to hinder your friends’ chances of doing the same. I mean, why not? Better them, than you!
To set up, make sure that the decks are separated according to the backs. One deck has bears on it, and this is the playing deck. The other deck features a forest, and these are aptly named the Forest deck. Find a Playing Card that features the appropriate starting paths, and hand each player 3 health tokens. Then, shuffle both decks. Deal each camper 5 of the playing cards. Lastly, deal 2 Forest cards, FACEDOWN in front of each camper. These cards are to remain face down. The Forest deck features either a serene safe forest scene, or they feature a bear. The bears are bad, and unless you can defuse it, they attack you for one life point. You want to either be the last camper running for your life or be the first one out of the woods alive.
The theme is awkward, but I love it. I like to think of it as a survival show. We are all trying to get out of the woods, but these hilarious bears (come on, one is actually a Gummy Bear) are trying to kill you. And as the saying goes, you are just trying not to be the slowest. The simple mechanics of card drafting and playing feels fresh as there are a lot of interactions between you and the other players. I feel that a lot of games lately lack a lot of interaction and ways to hinder your opponents.
The game play is simple. At the start of your turn, you draw one card from each stack. You then play any two cards you want. You have four options: play a Forest Card into your own tableau, play a Forest Card into an opponent’s tableau, play a Playing card for its action or as a trail, or Discard a card. You can do the same action twice. You must always have 5 cards in your hand. This means that if you use a card to save your life, you must draw a new one immediately.
Playing a Forest Card into your own tableau, or forest, gives you an advantage. You can stack if full of Forest scenes, helping your odds. Odds of what, you ask. Not finding a bear when your opponents force you to flip these cards that are face down. Which leads to the next option, you can place a Forest card, facedown, into your opponent’s tableau. This is where you can get into their minds. You can put a forest scene in there, and they will think you have put a bear in there. Or, you can put a lot of bears into their forest then make them flip some.
How do you do that? I am glad you asked. You play a Playing card with an aqua border on it. This will dictate how many cards they must flip. Playing Cards could also feature a green border allowing you to peek at cards in your tableau. You now have an advantage of knowing where some bears are and aren’t. Cards with a white border help you to diffuse different situations you might find yourself dealing with throughout the game. Got a branch in your path? Use the saw. Flip a bear? Use your bear spray. If all else fails, throw the bucket of lava!
Lastly, the brown border cards represent action cards. Make your opponent shuffle their tableau so all the hard work of memorization goes out the window. A rock will send a bear from your forest tableau to your opponent to diffuse or suffer a wound. The last action card I want to talk about is the Bear Stare Down. It is the most fun and chaotic card in the deck. You challenge an opponent to a card flipping face off. First one to find a bear, loses!
Also, in the Playing Card deck, are path cards you can use to escape the woods, and path block cards you can use to sabotage opponents.
First one out, or last one left alive, is the winner!
The artwork and pictures are completely on point and heighten the fun lighthearted feeling of the game. Beware of Bears is mainly a card deck (162 cards) and a handful of heart/life chits. I have no problems with the quality of either of these. As part of their Kickstarter campaign, there will be more cards unlocked!
Oh man, Beware of Bears makes you laugh as you play. Yes, it can get frustrating trying to get the correct white bordered card to diffuse your situation, and it can be infuriating waiting on a path card. But, you can mess with and slow down your opponents the whole time you are waiting on the right card. There never seemed to be a wasted turn. In the times I played, I don’t think I discarded one time. You can always play your Forest Card, whether in your tableau or your opponent’s. And likely, there is an action card you can play as well.
I felt this game was out of balance a bit. Every game tended to go one way or the other for victory. In none of the games I played, were players going after the different strategies. I believe that a higher play count plays better. It works as a two-player game, my son and I played a lot, but it was definitely better with more players.
With not being able to get the required card easily, the game can drag on a little longer than it should.
My other piece of criticism comes from my designer brain. Finding a specific card for a starter can take some time. The game would be better served with two dedicated cards double sided printed with tents around the circle as starting cards. These would stand out, be easy to find, and speed up the set up. It’s the little things.
Beware of Bears acts as a great escape game. I love games that offer multiple ways to win: last camper standing, or first one out. It had great graphics and a lot of the card flavor text was quite hilarious. I know that everyone I played this game with enjoyed it thoroughly.