Bees are woven into our history. The worker bee is a symbol of industry in Manchester. The bee is also the topic of some of our finest art and literature, such as Billie Piper’s 1999 classic hit “Honey to the Bee.” There are also several bee-related board games, such as Hive, Beez and Queenz. The big question is… where does Honey Buzz rank amongst them?
Imagine All The Beeple…
Honey Buzz is a 1-4 player “organic strategy” game from Elf Creek games, designed by Paul Salomon. The aim of the game is to expand your hive so it becomes more productive. As the hive becomes more productive, it starts to produce more honey. This in turn can be sold to market or used to complete orders. The person with the most points at the end is the winner.
Firstly, I can’t do a review of Honey Buzz without talking about the artwork. It is spectacular. Anne Heidsieck has done a wonderful job with making the game a visual delight. The beeples (bee meeples) are pastel-coloured delights, and the honey looks delicious (I hasten to add that it isn’t edible). Every single component in the game has been designed to a high specification, nothing looks out of place at all. Even the rulebook is clear, concise and utterly charming.
Underneath the artwork is a pretty wonderful game. Each person starts off with either 1-2 beeples and an amount of money depending on the order of their turn. You also have the skeleton of a hive (everyone starts with the same design) which you are going to expand. On your turn, you have two options: to take a tile or recall workers. If you decide to take a tile, you then place the tile on your hive in the hope of making an empty cell. If you do this, all the symbols surrounding the empty cell are activated in any order you wish.
A Hive Of Action
The first action is a new bee, which means a new worker is placed into the nursery ready for when you recall your workers. The second is to forage, this allows you to move your forage token one space on the woodland board. If you land on a nectar that matches the pattern of your empty cell, you can pick it up. If it doesn’t, or you land on an empty space, you take one pollen. The next action is to produce, which means you can place the fan token onto your hive, and any nectar spaces adjacent to it produce honey.
Another action is to go to the market, allowing you to sell or complete an order. Another of these actions is accounting, which allows you to take five coins from the general supply. The last option is a decree, which allows you to choose any of the five actions possible.
The start of the game is a little slow, as you only have one worker bee. If you are the third player in a 3-4 player game, it immediately limits your options. If you want to place a bee to claim the same hive tile as someone else, you must place one extra beeple in a “beeline”. The game really does build up in pace as you start to recall workers and in turn give birth to more worker bees.
When it comes to making and selling honey, there are four types: wildflower, cherry blossom, rosemary, and acacia. These, as well as your pollen can be sold during the game. As you sell, the value of the honey and pollen start to decrease. You also have the option of completing orders. There are three piles of orders which give you points for a specific combination of honey or pollen, and also allow the player an additional action. As the game progresses, the honey becomes less valuable to sell, the orders become larger and more profitable.
There are also Queen’s contest bonuses available during the game and at end of game scoring. These bonuses vary from being the first to collect all four types of nectar, to completing the most orders. The end of the game is triggered by either two of the three order stacks being cleared, or four of the five resources being at their lowest value. At the end of the game you earn points for your ranking in the Queen’s contests, any coins you have, surplus honey and pollen, and any orders completed. The person who accumulates the highest score is the winner.
Bee Aggressive, Bee Bee Aggressive
If you wanted to challenge yourself further, there is an advanced variant. On the other side of the woodland board, the forage grid changes. You also place the nectar tiles face down, so it becomes a memory test as well as a strategy game. I don’t know that the advanced variant adds much to be honest. I’ve played both and don’t feel like it’s any better than the basic game.
The game scales very well. I have played at a two and four player count, and have found myself having enough downtime between turns without being bored. There is also a solo variant to the game, which has different levels of difficulty, increasing the replayability.
Before I tell you how much I love the game, I do feel the need to mention a couple of slight criticisms. The first of these is to do with the honey pieces. At first glance they do look like each other (aside from the wildflower). Unless you have the trained eye of a Dulux paint fanatic, it can be hard to tell them apart. The second negative is the advanced variant. The basic game is fantastic, but the advanced variant didn’t really have enough to make me want to play that version more often.
Queen Bee Or Not For Me?
Overall, Honey Buzz is a wonderful game. If you are a fan of Everdell, there are a lot of parallels. A worker placement game that starts off slowly because of your lack of beeples, but as your hive grows and becomes more productive, your turns start to have a lot more value. The other obvious parallel is how visually stunning it is. I cannot say this enough, Honey Buzz is a beautiful game. The theme runs perfectly in line with the gameplay, and it is just an excellent experience. If you are someone who enjoys strategy, this is the game for you. If you are relatively new to the hobby and want to try something more advanced, this game is also for you. It really is the bee’s knees.