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Honeybears

Publisher: Piatnik
Reviewed by Debbie Pickett
Reproduced here with kind permission from Funagain Games.

Sweet but not fattening

Hiding in this apparent children's game is a quick little filler that will appeal to adults and serious gamers alike. In Honeybears, four bears are trying to make it from one end of the small board to the other - the premise being that they have just stolen some honey and want to get away from the irate bees as quickly as possible.

In this game no one bear is controlled by a single player, but each player can move any bear along the track by playing a card of the matching colour from their hand, dealt out at the start of each round. Cards will move one bear either one or two steps, as specified on the cards. There are also wild cards that allow the player to elect which bear to move. As soon as one bear reaches the finish line the round is over, and the player who moved the bear over the line scores a bonus.

It is the scoring that makes Honeybears such a fascinating game. For each bear, you score the product of how far the bear is along the track (there are regions from -2 to +3) and the sum of your unplayed cards in that bear's colour. This produces a dilemma - do you play a card for a bear, moving it into a higher-scoring region, but lowering your stake in the score for its final position, or do you wait and let someone else do it for you? On top of this, having two '1' cards for the same colour bear counts as a multiplier of five, not two. This makes it rarely beneficial to split pairs and stops the game from becoming a free-for-all.

Usually several rounds of Honeybears should be played to even out the somewhat large luck element. This luck element may put serious gamers off, but the game is so short - usually it is over in a couple of minutes - that it doesn't really matter. The cards and bear-shaped wooden tokens are altogether too cute for words. Lots of fun.

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