A board game for 3-5 players by Reiner Knizia, published by Piatnik (Austria)
These comments copyright 2000 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated June 20, 2000

Aww ... Honeybears is a cute little game. It has a small board showing a beehive at one end and a bear's cave at the other. There are four colorful bears which start at the beehives and race to the cave, eating honey on the way. And finally there are 55 cards. Even the artwork on the cards is cute.

The game is aimed at children 8+, but it's one of those games that can be enjoyed by adults as well. The mechanics are pure Knizia - in fact, they have a purity that he sometimes loses in other games.

In this game, you don't control a single bear, but may move any of the four bears. All four bears are used whether you have three, four, or five players. The bears are moved by card play.

Each color bear has eleven cards: six showing a walking bear (move 1 space), and five showing a running bear (move 2 spaces). In addition, there are eleven cards of a rainbow suit, with the same proportion of walk to run cards. With a rainbow card, you can move any bear. The cards are shuffled and dealt out randomly to all players, so you'll usually have some of each color.

The board is only 14 spaces long, and that includes a start space and finish space. Half the board is labeled "-1", and the other half has spaces ranging from "0" to "+3". When a card is played, the appropriately colored bear advances one or two spaces, depending on if it's walking or running.

A round ends when one bear reaches the cave. At that point, everyone scores for the round, the scores are recorded, and the race is run again until everyone's been First Player once. Then total up all the scores to determine the winner of the game - very simple.

Scoring is interesting, and bears the Knizia hallmark. When one bear reaches the cave (the +3 space), everyone reveals the cards remaining in their hands. Each pair of Walk cards of the same color is worth five points times the value of the space the same-colored bear is on. An additional Walk card is worth one point times the value of the space. Run cards are worth two points times the value of the space. Rainbow cards are worth nothing. The player who moved the bear into the cave gets a six-point bonus.

Scoring Example: if you have one Walk card for the bear that made it to the cave, that's three points. If you have one Run card for a bear on a +1 space, that's an additional two points. A third bear finished on a 0 space, so you score zero points for it no matter how many cards you have for that bear. And if you have a pair of Walk cards for the final bear on a -1 space, that's worth -5 points, which brings your score for the hand to zero!
So the simple yet truly lovely catch to the game is this: in order to move a bear, you have to spend potential victory points!

Obviously, there's some luck involved here: whoever gets the most Rainbow cards can move a bear they have a lot of cards for, thus saving their victory points. True, but it's hard to have that many Rainbow cards - and if you don't spread their use around, no one else will move your bear. Generally, for a bear to make it to the cave or even to the +2 spaces, it has to be moved by more than one player.

Also, moving a bear to the +2 rank is risky, as someone else can then move it into the cave, scoring the +6 bonus for finishing the round. And of course, the more Rainbow cards you have, the fewer scoring cards in your hand - Rainbow cards score you no points at the end of the round. Besides, the distribution of Rainbow cards evens out over the rounds, so it hasn't been a problem in my experience.

Bad card distribution is the only possible flaw, and the odds are against the same player getting the most Rainbow cards every round. No, for all it's cuteness and apparent youthful target audience, Honeybears is actually a very fine quick game. A great filler with some substance in an all-adult group, and a fine family game parents will enjoy playing with their children. I recommend it!

Other games by this designer I've reviewed are:

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