Beasts of Balance is a unique – at time of writing – game in that it combines a three-dimensional stacking challenge with a digital world: whatever piece you pick to add to the stack will have an effect – positive or otherwise – on the screen, via the marvels of bluetooth technology. Players work together to try and make the most fantastical world they can, before their tower finally collapses…
The game comes in a big box and contains a plinth with several pieces to be added: some animals, some elements, and some pieces such as the cross or migration that will impact on the survival of the animals on your screen. You’ll need to download the Beasts of Balance app to your iPad or tablet, and then you can begin.
On your turn you select any piece and scan it on the base of the plinth. This sends a signal to the app that you have selected, for instance, the warthog. Now you add it to the stack, trying not to dislodge anything. If anything falls off you only have a few seconds to rebuild, before – on the screen – the volcano blows its’ top! Once added in the real world, the app will add your warthog to the digital world, happily ‘existing’ on land.
But the game isn’t as simply as merely adding more animals just so they can pop up digitally. Firstly, some animals can dominate one of the three elements (air, water, earth) on the screen, having an undesirable affect on others. And you can breed new types of animal by adding a cross piece: it will crossbreed the last two animals you added, meaning your warthog and eagle may be combined into a rather strange looking flying pig. Animals can also migrate, which means they will evolve and adapt to their new environment. And adding any of the element pieces will support any animals in their matching environment, but may have an adverse effect on the other animals, You can choose which animal you want to support by scanning the moment the firefly buzzing about onscreen passes by them. There are even some slightly rogue pieces such as the distraction, miracle, and haste that do all manner of things: protecting animals from each other, putting on a time limit to piece placement and so on.
So as you place more pieces you are physically balancing the tower, but metaphorically balancing your environment so none of your animals go extinct. And the screen throws in some extra elements too, such as having to press parts of it at certain times to bump up your points (or stop you losing some).
You can play the game co-operatively, or as individuals taking turns to build their own towers, trying to get the highest score. The app records your points for you.
Ten out of ten for uniqueness: stacking is nothing new in games, from the comparatively bland Jenga to the GNG favourite Bausack. But stacking that decides the virtual life and bizarre crossbreeding in a fertile digital realm is…. different. I found Beasts fascinating, but I have to add that as one who spends their working day in front of a computer screen, I’m not sure how keen I am on incorporating apps into boardgames as a permanent fixture. I’m sure we’ll see more, but for me much of the appeal of boardgames is the act of sitting around a table with people; an immersive, tactile experience in the old-fashioned sense. But, so as not to appear as a complete old fart… I did enjoy this!
None really. The challenge is dexterity and a smattering of tactics, but nobody can interfere with your turn.
Playing co-operatively, minimal. Playing competitively, it depends how many players. You might be waiting half an hour for your turn!
Minimal: challenge number 1 is to balance something. If you can make it something beneficial in the digital realm, so much the better.
There's a number of ways to stack things and the app has a fair bit of scope as well.