“Bears!” is a game I was expecting would hit a home run. My business partners had played a demo of it at Origins and raved about how good it was. When I got a chance, I received a brief demo of it, and thought “well, this has potential”. At the time the game wasn’t released yet, it was still at the printers. So I had to wait for a little while before I could receive a demo copy and really put this game through its paces.
When the game arrived on my doorstep, some time later, I wasn’t one of the first to play it. I was busy playing a different game, while a group of my friends played with my partner, Shawna. I overheard bickering which caught my attention and always makes my heart sink a little. What was the problem? Apparently someone wasn’t pairing their dice up properly and there was dissension in the ranks over whether the player had to or not.
What is “Bears!” ? It’s a dice game with speed elements. There are two colors of dice: white and black. The white dice are part of a communal roll that everyone uses, and the black dice are rolled by each player. At the beginning of the turn, the white dice are rolled out into the center of the table, and each player rolls their own black dice at the same time. Then you reach into the center and grab the white dice, matching them with your black dice.
The white dice are comprised of “tents” and “bears”. Each of these can only be paired with certain symbols on your black dice. The black dice are comprised of “shotguns” , “runners”, and “sleepers”. When the center pile of white dice has no more tents, or no more bears, the first player to notice shouts “Bears!” which ends the round.
So how do you score? Well, for every shotgun you paired up with a bear, you score 1 point (sorry PETA). For every runner you pair with a tent, you score 2 points. The sleepers get tricky. If there are no bears left at the end of the round, each of your sleepers are worth 5 points. If there are bears left, and you slept through it (paired a tent and a sleeper), you lose 2 points for each of these pairs.
And that is where the bickering began. One player wasn’t pairing his dice as he went, he just grabbed what he wanted as fast as he could and put them in a pile, and at the end paired them up. So the other player couldn’t tell if he had sleepers paired with tents very easily, which effected whether she took bears or tents. That was argument number 1.
The second argument of the game came when the big handed boys in the group kept blocking the available white dice, so others couldn’t see what was available. It’s a speed game, remember, saying “excuse me, would you be so kind as to move your hand so I may see the dice” every round, is not an easy thing to do. It came out more as “Move your hand!”. When they finally ended their game, and were packing the dice back into their box, I heard one of the boys say “Let’s never speak of this one again”.
So that was my introduction to “Bears!”. Cheery, no? Needless to say, I was a little more than hesitant when a couple weeks later the game was pulled back out for me to play. I didn’t want to fight! But I had to play it, I agreed to review it after all. Ok. *Deep breath* Here we go!
…. But we didn’t fight. I admit I wasn’t as completely enthralled with the game as my partners, but there were no petty fights over blocking dice and making pairs. It was even enjoyable.
For me the game play moved too fast. I didn’t have time to stop and think about bears vs tents, the grabbing was over in the blink of the eye. Maybe I’m just not as quick on the ball, but I didn’t really find I had time to weigh my options. Which meant for me the game was a little too random for my tastes, but it wasn’t all around a bad game.
So what is the final result? This game doesn’t seem to be for everyone, but some people absolutely love it. My business partners think this is the best thing since sliced bread, a couple of my friends want to forget it exists, and me? Well, I would play it again, but it isn’t at the top of my list. But the great thing about this game is: it isn’t very expensive. So if it sounds interesting, don’t be shy, you don’t have much to lose. And who knows, maybe you’ll be one of those people who really think this game is “the bee’s knees”.
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