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Happy Bee

As Board's Eye View's resident apiarist, I am often given bee-related games to try out, which is how the card game Happy Bee was pressed into my hand one game day and I’m rather glad it was! Happy Bee is designed by Maxime Rambourg and Théo Rivière, with artwork by Anna Formilan. Published by Helvetiq, it is the fourth game in their 'eco-friendly Fun by Nature' series, following on from Just Wild, Fish'n'Flip and Fly Home!

Happy Bee is a simple little card game that packs a delightful punch. Every player is dealt seven cards, each featuring a bee on a colour background matching a flower suit. In front of the players are stacks of coloured flower cards, each stack coloured like the bee cards and numbered from 1 to 5 to indicate how many points that card is worth. Each round, all players simultaneously select their bee card(s) and place them face down. When all are ready the cards are revealed and players check the majority for each colour, with the person playing the most cards of that colour winning the flower card and the points. But beware! Play the same number of cards as another player and neither of you win and the flower card is discarded along with any that were unclaimed.

Now for the twists! First, having played your card(s) you keep them for the next round but pass your unplayed cards to the player on your left, collecting the remaining cards from the player on your right. So the player to your right knows exactly what cards you have in your hand and all players know at least some of them! The game is played over nine rounds, at the end of which the player with the most points wins. The second twist is that the number of cards played in each round varies. In the first round you play one card, in the second round two cards, up to 5 cards, then on the sixth round its back to playing 4 cards all the way back down to a single card on the ninth and final round. This means you get increasingly stuck with your hand in the middle of the game, which may have been good for the flower cards available a few rounds before but disastrous for the ones on offer now.

Therefore the game is essentially a series of risk/reward decisions. Do you go for the high-value flower cards at the risk of winning none or settle for lower value cards that are likely to be less popular? Do you concentrate your bee cards to focus on one type of flower or spread your bets on the hope that you can pick up some ignored flower cards on the cheap? Do you pass your strong hand of one colour in the hope of switching to a more profitable colour or do you stick with a main colour throughout? Not the most demanding decisions but this isn’t a demanding game and, win or lose, in 5-10 minutes the game will be reset so you can try a different (and in my case equally unsuccessful) strategy.

Teaching and learning this game is super easy. From removing the bio-degradable cellophane to playing your first game takes less than 5 minutes. The game is an enjoyable filler that works well for 3-6 players and won’t last long enough to distract from the main course. It is a good family game that is easy for everyone (even non-gamers) to understand and enjoy and it will offend absolutely nobody. The box indicates that it is suitable for ages 8+ but a child of a gaming family will probably be able to tackle this at 6+. I would readily get this game out for son’s and daughter’s day at my local games club or play it around the Christmas Dinner table; and if you're still looking for a now late Christmas gift, the price point of this game makes it very suitable as a stocking filler.

Are there any issues with the game? Well not really. The cards do use fairly muted colours and a suit system that shows flowers on the bee cards but whole plants on the flower cards. I have had one person question how well these would work for visually impaired or colour-blind gamers. I cannot comment on that but do think that the texture and colour of the cards reflect the eco-friendly nature of the game. There is also a page in the rulebook highlighting the importance of bees and other pollinators to agriculture and bio-diversity as well as championing organic farming. There are two pages dedicated to the flowers selected for the game and the look and taste of the monofloral honey they can produce. This may surprise anyone who thinks of honey as just being the sticky, yellow, sugar-water that supermarkets sell. If this gets just a handful of gamers to try some natural local honey or even attend their local apiary it will have been worth it. All this bee-related information addresses my one very minor negative point about the game, that its gameplay and theme aren’t strongly linked: the game could have been themed around about pretty much anything or been a totally abstract.

Overall, Happy Bee is a well produced, unprepossessing filler-length game that is both quick and fun. I like the game; I like the gameplay and I support the theme. It isn’t and doesn’t pretend to be the main course of a gaming session. So wake up and taste the honey and be a Happy Bee!

(Review by Paddy Green)

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