In Bärenpark all the players are building their own ‘bear park’, housing brown, polar, gobi bears, and even koalas.
The game is made up of tiles, which represent the various parts of a completed park. Everyone starts with their own park area tile in front of them, which they will build on. You’ll see the park areas are covered in a number of symbols: a wheelbarrow, a cement mixer, a construction crew, and a statue location, which is merely a hole in the ground. On your turn you add a tile to your park, and if you cover one or more symbols, you pick up another tile (or more) from the display for a future turn. The wheelbarrow is basic (non-scoring) park elements like a cafe, playground and toilets. The cement mixer allows you to take tiles that show bears in their pens, and unlike the wheelbarrow tiles, these will score you points at the end of the game. And the construction crew allows you to expand your site! When you take a new park area you’ll see there is a new symbol available – a digger. Covering the digger allows you to take the largest and highest point-scoring tiles of all.
When adding tiles, you must always place next to a previously-placed tile, and you may not cover up the statue area. When you completely cover a whole park area, you take a bear statue from the supply (the most valuable in terms of points) and place it on the statue site of your just-completed area.
Play continues until any one player has covered all four of their park areas (you can’t have more than four) at which point everyone else gets one final turn, and then points are tallied.
That’s the basic game, but Bärenpark also comes with the option of adding in achievements. These are a set of objectives – a certain amount of polar bear tiles, for instance, that are laid face-up. At the end of every turn if you’ve met the achievement you claim it, adding the points value of the achievement into your score at the end of the game.
Bärenpark is one of a raft of tetramino-type games that have come out in the last couple of years; where the game involves cleverly joining disparate geometric shapes together. If you like feisty interaction then we’d recommend the (2-player) Patchwork. If you love a simple ten-minute puzzler then NMBR9, I think, is fantastic. If you want an absolute behemoth of a game with massive replayability for many repeat visits, then maybe A Feast for Odin is the way to go. But for a gentler experience then Barenpark is family-friendly whilst offering enough depth for adult play – especially if you add in those achievements. I think it’s great – easy to teach, and very more-ish, it’s a family game in the very best sense.
Barenpark is gorgeous-looking, and it’s my favourite of these tessellating type of games. The fact that it’s a race to be the first to fill four boards is great – and the game zips along. The intricate illustrations on the tiles, with chunky points graphics and candy colours, gives the whole presentation the feel of playing a mobile app, and this would be a great way to introduce cardboard gaming to fans of puzzly iOS/Android games.
I haven’t played with the achievements yet, but it seems they would add a bit more direct competition into the game, which would be great too.
Minimal. Someone with a very attentive brain might be able to spot what another player is eyeing up and grab it themselves, and there is an element of a race about the game too, as evidenced in the bear statues - but mostly you're getting on with your own business. However, adding the achievements into play does increase the interaction as you can all be after the same thing...
Not much fidgeting here.
You can plan well ahead if you feel inclined to do so, but the game is best played reasonably quickly.
Your choices are always the same, but there are quite a few of them! And once you're familiar with the basic game you can introduce the achievements to it, which add an extra dynamic.