Beez is a delightful game designed by Dan Halstad, with vibrant artwork by Chris Quilliams. As some may guess from its four-letter title and colourful box, it's published by Next Move Games, who also publish Azul and Reef. It is for 2-4 players and has a playing time of 30-45 minutes.
The premise of the game is that player-controlled bees fly their erratic paths over a hexagonal field of flowers collecting different coloured nectar to store in honeycomb hives. Nectar is stored in ways that meet three common and two individual objectives which convert into point-scoring drops of honey. The tricky problem is that your bee won’t fly in a straight line but will always turn before it moves, and the amount it turns determines the distance it then moves, and so defines where any nectar collected can be stored in the hive. This is complicated by the furthest flowers having extra nectar tokens and when a bee alights in their centre it can collect two, filling its hive more quickly. In play, after the initial dash into the flower field, the game becomes an abstract puzzle of trying to manoeuvre your bee to collect either double nectar or the right colour nectar, having moved the right number of spaces before another player flies right past you and collects it for themselves.
Opening the Beez box is a treat! The production quality of this game’s components is outstanding! The three-dimensional bee models are beautifully constructed works of art which have a pleasing heft when compared to the monotone thermoplastic playing pieces of so many other games. The chunky triple-ply hive boards have set spaces for both large and small nectar tokens, while the seven-hexagon flower tiles and the wooden nectar tokens are vividly colourful. The game comes with a thick scoring pad. In comparison to the rest of the game, the objective cards look rather drab and one minor issue is that the flower tiles don’t all have a uniform background colour and by their nature they drift apart slightly during play.
Beez has one of the easiest and most pleasant teaches I have ever experienced. You move your bee, collect nectar and place it in your hive to make the patterns on the objective cards. When anyone collects 12 nectars then we finish the round and score. That’s about it! Pleasingly, the game’s 30-45 minute time stamp is spot on. Indeed, our first play took 45 minutes from opening the cellophane and punching out the components to final scoring, including the teach! However, I don’t want to give the impression that these simple rules make for a simple game. Because players are simultaneously juggling two different puzzles, this game requires far more thought than its cute bees and colourful flowers lead you to believe. You need to plan ahead a spatially complicated flight-path for your bee using a series of turns and moves as well as juggling the placement of your nectar in the hive to maximise your honey production and, if any spare mental capacity remains, you can look to thwart your opponent’s scoring opportunities. However, when all your plans connect and your bee lands on the exact spot needed to complete one of your objectives, it is wonderfully satisfying.
Beez then is an interesting blend of being bright, light and simple on the outside but 'thinky' and complex in its gameplay. This lands it in an odd position on the games shelf, with the nature of the game changing with the context of its players. It can be played as a delightfully cute and colourful family game or it can be played by seasoned gamers as a relatively quick abstract strategy game with hidden depths. There's just a slight concern about the game's replayability as the objective cards are relatively few and rather 'samey'. We found that some seemed to offer a fairly easy-to-score 10 points while others felt harder but only yielded 4 points.
Overall, Beez is outstandingly well produced and a pleasure to put on the table. I like the game, I like the theme and I love the components. For these reasons it deserves a place on my game shelf and I’ll even forgive it for the deliberate but atrocious spelling in its title. I would take this on a family holiday and enjoy playing it; equally if someone gets this out at my games club, I’ll happily play it. Will I play this game another 4-5 times? Absolutely, and I’ll enjoy those games! But will I play it 40-50 times? I don’t think so. However, if I were explaining board games to a potential convert, Beez would be one of those I’d grab to show off our hobby and it would readily go in my bag for sons' and daughters' day at my local games club.
(Review by Paddy Green)