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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Worker placement with a twist
  • Elements of 4X
  • Superb component quality

Might Not Like

  • Another Euro game!
  • Can become very long at high player count
  • Can be dominated by early hibernation in 2 player
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Apiary Review

APIARY

UN-BEE-LIEVABLE

If it’s not Cats out-evolving us, it’s Bees, apparently. In this new treat from Stonemaier Games (Scythe/Expeditions, Wingspan, Viticulture and let’s not forget our absolute favourite Red Rising), after we are long extinct it is the Bees that have replaced us as the dominant species… but like us, they have over-used the planet’s resources, and it is time to waggle dance with the stars in Apiary!

WHO PUT THE BUMP IN THE BUMP-DE-BUMP-DE-BUMP?

You start small, but aim to spread out, initially feeling very conventional with your basic worker bees gathering resources. Unlike regular worker placement, however, which as we know can lead to frustration and analysis paralysis, you can “bump” an opponent’s bee – but, that which bumps me makes me stronger! Yes, bumping a bee returns it to its home hive, but in turn increases its strength. Hit 4 strength, and you can generate a new dance and placement space – in other words, if you build it (in this case, your engine) and they will come (dancing)! But, at the same time, that great space bee will enter hibernation, providing a natural cap that neatly prevents a single player’s engine running away to dominance. It’s all a very effective combination of mechanics which are at once familiar in feel and innovative in their application.

DRONING ON

At the start of the game, you have your basic faction frame - hiveship, in essence - which can be expanded as part of the grow action (the expansion frames ARE very thin cardstock, which is my only niggle in product quality). It will have benefits for filling the hexes with appropriate Farm, Recruit or Development tiles. The resources are limited and simple to manage, with excellent clear pieces for Fibre, Pollen, Water and the more complex Honey and Wax; the game scores very well on the accessibility front (always important to consider visual impairment). If you don't have space to store your resources, they are instead converted into the Queen's Favour, a separate score track - which means that interestingly NOT hoarding is a valid tactic also. The board itself is busy but clear, with reminders at every step of results of placement and action choices. I'm one of those people who usually demands player aids, and whilst the game does come with them (and they're good), it's so clear that they're really not necessary. For me, the Seed deck is one of my favourite touches, allowing you to gain instant bonuses or be planted for endgame score bonuses - I love the mix of short vs long term planning (if you remember the Investment cards from the classic VTES CCG, it's that kind of vibe)

BUSY AS A...

Whilst not fully 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate), it does have some elements of that: for example, the deep space sections of the board are resource rich, and as the game progresses, the competition for the top hibernation spots can feel quite aggressive even if there is no direct combat as such. If I do have a criticism, dominating the hibernation spots can give you a heck of an edge in 2-player, though there is still an element of risk if you commit too many workers to hibernation. I've already mentioned the quality of the tokens and cards, but let's not forget how impressive the actual bee ships are: coloured but washed black (break out the Nuln Oil!), they rotate to show their level - crisp and clear. The Queen Ship is a chonky gal, and it's a bit of a shame she's not painted also, but I'm really reaching to find fault if that's one.

BEE-RILLIANT

With 20 (!) sub-species factions out of the box, there’s a wealth of content here – it’s a level of asymmetry that feels strongly reminiscent of Twilight Imperium (which surely must be a deliberate nod, minus the 4-day long gameplay), and you can see hints of where another 4 factions might fit in too. There are a half-dozen suggested starting factions, who run off developing the basic resources, but with all the other options it will keep you coming back again and again. With a whole galaxy of options to explore, and a cracking Automa solo mode, this is a rich and engaging game that will keep on bringing you back for more of its sweet space honey! Another top-notch Stonemaier effort!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Worker placement with a twist
  • Elements of 4X
  • Superb component quality

Might not like

  • Another Euro game!
  • Can become very long at high player count
  • Can be dominated by early hibernation in 2 player

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