I was surprised at how quickly I dove into this game from the very first time we played. It’s so simple on the surface, but there is a good amount of spacial strategy at play. Throw in the special action tiles, and you’ll soon find you can’t get enough! The Bears and the Bees is perfect for families with young kids, grandparents to play with their grandchildren, or as a fun warm-up or filler game for your heavier game nights.
Play as a hive master with the object of laying down all of your color-matching tiles in increasingly harder combos. All edges of each hexagonal tile you place must match the color of adjacent tile edges (with honey being wild). Different tiles do different things with the Queen Bee at the center of it all. The worker bees cause others to draw cards, the drones have three wild honey sides and earn you bonus plays, the bears eat honey and block all future placement around them, the flowers are all one color and force others to draw cards, and the rest of the honeycomb tiles just look delicious (yes, I love to eat honeycomb!).
You’ll really enjoy the balance between luck and strategy. Yes, getting the right tiles matters, but placing the right tiles in the right locations at the right time matters more. You’ll find some games where you just feel kind of stuck, some games you’ll feel like you cheated by getting all the right tiles every time, and most games you’ll be nicely balanced in the middle.
Very young children can play Bears and the Bees and have a lot of fun. They probably won’t win (as doing well requires some strategic foresight), but they’ll enjoy placing matching tiles. They’ll really light up when they get a rise out of mom or dad after blocking you! =-)
There is a fantastic progressive element to The Bears and the Bees where the more matching sides you have, the more cards other players have to draw (with Worker Bees and Flowers) or the more bonus plays you get (with Drones). These can be really tricky to set up as the odds of having the exact matching tiles and not being messed up by other players are pretty slim. This difficulty is what leads to those sweet, sweet moments:
My favorite heart-jumping moments are when you get that perfect tile that fits in that perfect spot that results in much oooohing and aaaahing from the other players (or groans if they have to draw). You are rarely able to plan for such moments which makes them all the sweeter.
Tips & Tricks
- Think ahead at least a turn, ideally two or three turns. If you really want to achieve those elusive 4- or 5-match placements, you’ll need to plan ahead (and hope other players don’t mess you up!).
- Have a plan, but be aware of the changing landscape! You may find that sweet spot placement that another player worked hard to build…just for you to swoop in and steal!
- Save your drones! They will come in very handy later in the round when you need those wild honey edges to earn big points.
Scoring & Wrap-up
Overall, I give Bears and the Bees a 7 out of 10 for the following reasons:
- Its quick and easy gameplay is fun for adults and young kids alike.
- The level of strategy is perfect for adults and older kids to plan ahead and build up to great plays.
- The artwork and color are stunning. You’ll drool when you see how realistic the honey looks! Even a photo doesn’t quite do it justice.
- As with all Grandpa Beck games, it’s super portable! Take it on vacation or slip it in there with the other big-box games for game night.
- There are multiple teaching facets for children of all ages. Young kids learn basic colors and matching while older kids learn strategic planning and foresight.
- I haven’t found a ton of impact or strategic use to the big, hairy bears. Yes, they block all progression around them, but they don’t seem to help or hurt any player, yourself included, more than others.
Overall, I would definitely recommend The Bears and the Bees for family game nights, family vacations, or as a good starter or filler game for hard-core game nights. It’s light, engaging, and a lot of fun!
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.