The Bears and the Bees

It’s time to talk. It’s an important one that every budding aficionado should have so you can have some basic facts with which to arm and protect yourself. It will also help prepare you so that when you’re friends inevitably start talking about it you won’t feel sheltered or ashamed. It’s time to talk about The Bears and the Bees. If you’re a hobby gamer, there’s a good chance you’ve never played this game. That’s okay. I can’t imagine this game would have jumped out at you. If you’re more of a family gamer, then you may very well know this one. Regardless of which end of the spectrum upon which you lie, this game by Grandpa Beck’s Games can—and probably should—be in a semi-regular lineup for your game nights.

The Bears and the Bees
The Bears and the Bees is available on Amazon.com

The Bears and the Bees by Grandpa Beck’s Games

Designer: Jeff Beck
Artist(s): Apryl Stott
Publisher: Grandpa Beck’s Games
Players: 2-5
Prominent Mechanism(s): Hand Management
Theme/Category: Card game
Awards: Winner—Best Family Fun by Tillywig Toy

First, let me start this off by pointing out that I am writing about the version of this game that was released in 2018. Creator Jeff Beck tells me they are revising the rules somewhat as well as tweaking the art on the cards to be more color-blind friendly. The rules are intended to make the Bear card more meaningful and less punitive for the person playing it.

What is The Bears and the Bees?

It’s a card game for 2-5 players ages 8 and up where you all lay tiles (the cards) to build a hive. Each card you play has particular rules around it and, if you make smart choices, can allow you to play several cards per turn. This is important when your goal is to play all of your cards before your opponents. Once a player has played all of their cards, the remaining players total up their points. Play continues for three rounds and the player with the least points at the end of those rounds is declared the supreme overlord of Ursidae Apiaries the world over. Okay, so I added that last bit myself. Regardless, the player with the least points wins.

What’s in the Game?

  • 1 rulebook
  • 104 hexagon-shaped cards
    • 70 Honeycomb cards
    • 15 Worker Bee cards
    • 10 Drone cards
    • 5 Flower cards
    • 3 Bear cards
    • 1 Queen card

First Impression

At slightly smaller than the size of a typical paperback novel, the game is compact without being diminutive which makes it an ideal size for traveling. As a board game nerd, I love the cards. Hexagons?! Brilliant. The art by Apryl Stott is elegant. Not too childish; doesn’t take itself too seriously. Furthermore, I like that the Becks are clearly in tune with gaming enthusiasts (despite this game not being geared towards hobbyists) and put a notice right at the beginning of the rules that you can find the rules on YouTube if you don’t feel like reading them.

Deep(ish) Dive into the Game

This is not intended to be a how-to post but it’s hard to explain what I may or may not like about the game if I don’t at least touch on the rules.

Setup

Begin the game by placing the Queen in the center of the table and then deal out 9 cards to each player in a 2-3 player game. If playing with 4-5, each player receives only 8 cards. The dealer then flips over the top card places it adjacent to the Queen. The orientation here does not matter as all six edges of the Queen card are honey which are considered wild. If the dealer draws any card but a honeycomb at this step, discard it face up and repeat the process. The dealer continues doing so until he or she draws a honeycomb.

The Bears and the Bees

Turns

On the first player’s turn, they choose one card from their hand to play onto the hive that matches at least two sides. We’ve already established that honey is considered wild so the first player really only has to match one side’s color to either side of the honeycomb card that was placed by the dealer previously.

Note: Special cards may NEVER touch the queen!

The Bears and the Bees
Note that the purple of the new card is touching the purple of the first card. Red and honey touching is fine because honey is wild.

Beginning on the second player’s turn, and every turn thereafter, players may play two cards from their hand so long as their second card is adjacent to the first one they played on that turn. If you cannot play you must either draw a card. Alternatively, you may discard one card and draw two.

Note: if you discard a Bear card here, draw three cards instead of two.

The Bears and the Bees

The Cards

Let’s turn our attention to the special cards which I haven’t really addressed yet.

The Drones each have three honey edges and three colored edges (always the same color). These cards are extremely useful because of their flexibility in where they may be played.

The Worker Bees have one honey edge and five colored edges (all different colors). These are harder to play sometimes but when they are played with two sides matching, that player chooses an opponent to draw a card. If played with three sides matching, they draw two cards. Or you can split them among multiple players. As you may have guessed, if played with four sides matching, then the player(s) draw(s) three cards. And so on.

The Flowers are all single colored and when they are played with two sides matching then ALL other players draw a card. Three sides matching means each player draws two, etc.

The Bear is a bit different. You must play it with two sides touching (not matching) but at least one side must touch the honey side of a Drone or Worker Bee card. Additionally, it is the only card you can play on your turn. No one can play cards adjacent to the Bear for the rest of the round.

Bonus Plays

I’ve mentioned playing cards with more than two sides matching already and while some cards grant bonuses for matching three or more sides by forcing opponents to draw more cards, doing so will always result in a bonus to the person who played the card. If you match three sides then you get to play one additional card. Match five sides then you can play THREE additional cards (this means a total of for that turn). And if you do the unlikely and somehow match six sides then you discard your hand and win that round instantly.

Note: there is no penalty if you are unable to play all the additional cards during a bonus play.

Finally, Scoring

Once the round is over players with cards still in their total up their point values and record those sums. Honeycombs are worth 5 points. Drones, Flowers, and Worker Bees are worth 10 points. Bears are worth 15. As you can see, it’s imperative that you offload these special cards as soon as you’re able. The game is always three rounds.

Player Engagement

Engagement is reasonable in The Bears and the Bees. There is a “buzz rule” that players can implement for slower games. If someone is taking too long (agonizing over what their optimal strategy should be or simply not paying attention) the rest of the players may start buzzing, like a bee. If all the players join the buzzing then the turn is over and if the player has not played a card they must draw one instead.

Note: the table must give each player a reasonable amount of time.

Player Interaction

Interaction is good in this game. Given that you can choose which opponents draw cards when you play a Worker Bee or a Flower it is imperative to stay mindful of the player with the fewest number of cards and to give serious consideration to whom you force to draw penalty cards. And they will likely pay you back at their first opportunity.

Replayability

This game plays quickly. The rules say 30 minutes. I’ve had some go longer (if you suffer from analysis paralysis you’re going to get buzzed a lot) but I’ve also seen most of them go quicker. Therefore, this game is a good filler or a good one to play while you’re waiting for the pizza to be delivered. As such, the replayability is pretty good.

Quality

Just cards. No components or even score pads to assess. That being said, the cards are a great stock and have a nice finish. Even though they’re tricky to shuffle because of their hexagonal shape they’re durable and photogenic!

Final Thoughts

This is not a hard game to understand. But, Grandpa Beck’s suggestion of this being for 8+ years of age is one I’d recommend you heed. Sure, a younger player could match colors easily enough but developing a strategy to create bonus plays or understanding who to select to draw additional cards would be challenging for little ones. If they don’t care about winning, by all means, knock yourself out. Otherwise, I wouldn’t push the age recommendation.

If you play with family or you looking for a good filler, definitely add The Bears and the Bees to your collection. I think you’ll like it. I think it shines best at four players. Two is okay but not my first recommendation for a couple of players. Three is good and I didn’t play it with five.

The Bears and the Bees

Pros/Cons

Pros

  • Replayable
  • Engaging
  • Easy to Teach
  • Fast Playing

Cons

  • Can cause mild anxiety for those who agonize over optimal play
  • Hard to distinguish between red and purple edges, especially when they’re on the same card
A review copy of The Bears and the Bees was provided by the publisher.


Author: Patrick

Board gamer, role-player, father, blogger.

39 thoughts on “The Bears and the Bees

  1. It’s like you mention not a game I would have probably encountered in the wild but the simplicity with which you play is something I love to warm up a game night with. Sometimes we will just play several smaller quicker games and enjoy each other’s company and catch up. This could easily “bee” added to our rotation. Thanks for pointing this one out and explaining it clearly. Great job!

  2. Seems like a cute game. Bears are kind of my thing. And everyone loves bees, right? I think if a player gets buzzed then the next round they should be eaten by a bear! Actually, no, terrible idea. They probably figures that out in playtesting.
    Great review, cheers!

    1. Hahaha!!! Thanks for the laugh, Nathan. Reading your comment reminds me a of a quote from Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books.

      “Well, at least I’m not being eaten by a bear.”

  3. We’ve played once at a convention. Our game went pretty fast but we’ve decided that when we play with our teenager who agonizes over statistics and probability that we will definitely use the buzz rule.

  4. Thanks for a thoughtful review. I really like your format and the details you provide.

    It’s funny but every time I referred to this title for a while I wanted to say the ‘birds and the bees’ and usually got different looking glances from people when I said we should try it out.

    From your description this does sound like a fun game that could appeal to many types of gamers and one that would go over well with my (less gaming) kids and that my wife and I would enjoy playing with them.

  5. I really like the format of your post. It is easy to read and quickly find information you need. One thing I have been looking for with this game, is if it works for younger kids. I have a you get child I have been tempted to play with but was not sure. They are great with patterns. That child also has some anxiety and over analyzing issues. You answered both those concerns. Thanks.

    1. Yeah, if the child gets overwhelmed by optimizing their moves or by others encouraging them to hurry along, you will want to use discretion with this game. Thanks for commenting, Vanessa!

    2. I can’t wait to try the game! As a beekeeper my bee encounter has been crazy, only to discover after getting stung multiple times at once I now have an extreme allergy , but still like having them on our property now it is much husbands responsibility.

      1. Yikes! As a teenager I worked in landscaping one summer and watch an older man disturb a yellow jacket nest. He ended up being okay, but not before a trip to the hospital. Thanks for reading and commenting, Christy.

  6. So I think this is the one Grandpa Beck game I haven’t added to the collection yet and after reading your review, that’s going to have to change. This was such a thorough and easy to understand review/explanation that I’m not sure I’ll even need to read the actual rules! I had actually thought this was more of a children’s game until reading your review- I can see where we will have just as much fun with this as with a more complex game.

  7. I love the shape of the cards and seems like easy enough gameplay. We play a lot of games as a family every night and it sounds like a good addition. Thanks for the review! I appreciate the detail you gave it and the recommendation about the age suggestion. Sounds like the bees knees.

    I’ll see myself out.

  8. Thank you for the awesome review. I just learned about this game a little over a week ago. I was debating on whether to buy it or not. I really like how you explained the rules. I have brought a few games before and after reading the instructions I was like “what” and the game ends up sitting on the shelf.

    1. I feel your pain, Ruth. Sometimes interpreting the rules is a bigger obstacle than coordinating everyone’s calendars. Something that I’ve found to be helpful is to just start playing and fumble through the rules. They often start making sense as you’re actually playing and making mistakes.

  9. This is a fun game for older kids and adults. It takes a little bit of brain energy to remember the rules but worth it once you get a hang of it. You’ll need a nice amount of play area because it will spread out.

  10. My family loves Grandpa Becks games but I admit I have never bought this one but after reading your review I think I need to change that – after all who does not want to be supreme overlord of ursidae apiaries? But really you did a great job explaing the rules and the cards. My son is always thinking 3 moves ahead so this seems like one that he would really like. Thanks! I also buy games for my nieces and nephews for their birthday so I loved your opinion on the age.

  11. This looks like it could be a fun little game to play after supper with my family. Thanks for the review.

  12. Thanks for your in depth review and explanation of the rules. I have played it before and we really liked it. I hadn’t heard of the buzz rule before- that’s a great one! Good point that red and purple do look similar on the cards.

    1. Thanks for reading, Heather! That rule is tucked away towards the end of the rules. It could stand to be moved to the front and made more prominent.

  13. Jeff Beck, the developer of the game checking in. Great job with the review and the summary of the rules, the critiques that you made are all very valid, but I am happy to say that we are addressing them all with the next printing which will be arriving in the next couple of months.

    We have modified the artwork so that the colors are much more distinct and also divided the rules into beginner and advanced play. While most players will likely want to advance to the Advance play section to enjoy the full strategy of the game, if you have a person who suffers from analysis paralysis in your group, they will be much happier playing with the beginner rules which are still engaging and fun but reduce the amount of decision-making required.

    We made some modifications to the way that the bear works as well that solved one of the lingering balance issues of the game. The card counts and ratios will remain the same in the new printing, so you can use the modified rules with the current set of cards without any problem, we will upload the new rules once the next batch of games arrive.

    Thanks for the great review!

  14. Great explanation of the game, we love Grandpa Beck’s games. This game is fun because it does require a little thought in playing it. We love the shape of the cards and it is fun with 2 players or the 5 players. Another great game

  15. Hey man I enjoyed the breakdown of the game in the bold lettering. To be honest, when I read a review I get lost in parts I may not find as much interest in and skip ahead. This was well laid out. I’m always on the lookout for games that teeter on next level strategy for my elementary students and this sounds up that alley. I may have to monitor that buzzing a bit though haha. Nice review!

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