Bees: The Secret Kingdom Review

Bees: The Secret Kingdom
Van Ryder Games
Kamil 'Sanex' Cieśla
Dagmara Gaska
2-6

Bees: The Secret Kingdom is beautiful, elegant, and austere in its design.  While its mechanics are quite straightforward, a handful of simple design choices make it a most enjoyable game for its relatively light gameplay weight.

Without any reservation, I can say that Team Gameosity loves bees.  I mean, some of us even sport tattoos that feature our honey-puking friends.  But we’ve not played too many games about those titular insects that delighted us nearly as much as we would have liked.  But then, along comes Bees: The Secret Kingdom – a light, uncomplicated, thoroughly beautiful filler-level game that simply buzzes with sweet art and hums with enjoyable gameplay, all while never leaving us feeling the sting of boredom!

Jess
Jess
Wait, are you really making bee puns? Is this going to be a thing for you now?
Andrew
Andrew
Don’t get used to it, honey.


We got a review copy of Bees: The Secret Kingdom for our consideration & possible review


Bees: The Secret Kingdom is, at is heart, a set collection game.  Players are trying to score the most points before the end of the game.  On a player’s turn, they choose to either gather pollen or produce honey.  To gather pollen, players will draw two cards from the pollen pile, picking one to play and the other to discard.  The played card generally will have 2 sets of symbols – the pollen icon in the upper right corner is the number and type of pollen crystals the active player will gather.  The icons in the lower left corner show what pollen all other players collect when that card is played.

Andrew
Andrew
That decision, right there, is one of my favorite things about Bees: The Secret Kingdom. We love games where you get to gather resources off-turn for a lot of reasons, but especially because it keeps you engaged even when you’re not playing!
Jess
Jess
Right! And not only that, but it gives you a little element of strategic decision-making: by grabbing the pollen you need, are you also giving your fellow bees exactly the pollen they need to buy a honey card that you have been eyeing? It makes watching other people’s pollen supplies an organic part of the game.

Instead of gathering pollen, players can opt to buy one of the honey cards on display, by turning in the pollen crystals shown.  Honey cards are all worth points, and many of them have special effects that trigger when they are purchased.  These can range from gaining pollen to taking additional turns to even giving advantage to your opponents (which can act as a catch-up mechanism of sorts).

At the end of the game, the player who has managed to produce the most lucrative pile of honey, plus some bonus points, will be crowned the Queen Bee!…or something.  The winner, basically.

Andrew
Andrew
Bees: The Secret Kingdom really hits the sweet spot for a filler, for me. It definitely has some strategic decisions, but they exist within a really finite scope of options, so it’s incredibly rare that someone sits there, paralyzed by indecision.
Jess
Jess
And like we said, gaining pollen from cards the other people play is a great way to keep the game flowing, and it stops Bees: The Secret Kingdom from slowing down as players take turn-after-turn, trying to get the right pile of gems.

In addition to these rules, Bees: The Secret Kingdom comes with some optional rules that are considered ‘advanced’ according to the game’s instructions, but really only add to the flavor and strategy of the game.  To use them, you will randomly draw 3 new rules to be put in play each time you set up the game.  These advanced rules represent either additional end-game scoring opportunities, or even instant win conditions that can make for an even more strategic game without adding on any time or complexity!

Jess
Jess
So, no surprise, I really liked Bees: The Secret Kingdom. It’s so pretty and fun, and it’s just the right size & weight to be a filler.
Andrew
Andrew
I really liked it too, for everything you just said. It’s just a good game, and the theme and art really elevate it. An absolutely solid choice, especially for the apiaphile in your life!

For anyone looking to snag a game that really hits the sweet spot for a filler while being absolutely gorgeous on the table, we highly recommend Bees: The Secret Kingdom!  It’s accessible, portable, and plays very well at all player counts, making it a definite addition to our permanent collection.
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