Barenpark was one of the first polyomino, or Tetris type, game. In it you were building a zoo containing only bears! There was no need to concern yourself with paths around the exhibits or any simulation stuff like that! Just place a tile in your park, and take new tiles depending on what icons you cover up. Some icons let you expand the park, whilst others gain you more exhibit tiles or utility tiles that don’t score points but can fill empty spaces in your park.
The original game was simple and satisfying, while not neglecting strategy and planning. The Bad News Bears Expansion adds a lot more thinking with various options to add to the game, including new bears, new objectives and, of course, monorails. The monorails not only add scoring elements but also a 3D aspect to the game with you building the monorail towers into your park before connecting them with the monorails themselves.
Monorails have various rules dictating their placement and they must snake across your park, for example. This adds another layer of planning and thought to the game as you attempt to fit everything inside. The new grizzly bear tiles are very large and obtained by trading away two tiles you already own. It’s a tough choice but often a rewarding one as long as you have left enough room in your park.
Like the base game, The Bad News Bear Expansion rewards players with more points the earlier they are able to take advantage of it. Be it monorails, statues, or standard exhibit tiles, the sooner you grab them the more points your will be awarded. This race aspect keeps the game fairly speedy while the new options do give you more to think about.
Ultimately, the game loses some of its simplicity but adds a lot more choice. You don’t have to use all the modules so you can select the best level for your game group.
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 30-45 Minutes
Bärenpark: The Bad News Bears (2019) is the first expansion for the popular polyomino game Bärenpark by Phil Walker-Harding and publisher Lookout Games.
As soon as I was told by a fellow board gamer that there was going to be an expansion for Barenpark, I was immediately stoked! I scoured the internet to find any information about it, the first article I found said that monorails were being added, at which point the Monorails song from The Simpsons instantly started going round in my head ‘What’d I say? Monorail! What’s it called? Monorail! That’s right! Monorail!
The next paragraph said that the monorails would be 3D, I was sold before it even said about the new Grizzly habitats. So, of course, I pre-ordered straight away as the base game is one of my favourites.
What’s in the box?
Some of you will be happy to know that the box is the same height and width as the base game so they sit nicely together on Kallax shelf or any other shelving unit you have.
This expansion is full to the brim with new boards ready to be punched! I must say I am sick of getting an expansion that has barely anything in the box, at an extortionate price, so this did not disappoint.
In the box you will find:
- 12 Grizzly Habitats.
- Four Park Exit Areas.
- Four Additional Bear Statues (17 -20).
- Four Additional Animal Houses (These take a two or four-player game to eight points rather than the normal seven points for white cement truck habitats).
- 28 Monorail Towers.
- 24 Monorail Cars.
- 18 New Achievement Tiles.
- Eight Additional Toilets.
The bear statues, animal houses, achievement and toilet tiles can be added to the base game if you wish.
I will put this in two parts as you don’t have to play with both modules if you don’t fancy it every time. For my first game I found that adding it all become very convoluted, so try it with either one to start and build up to using both aspects.
Module 1: Grizzlies!
The new Grizzly habitats are made up of a tile with seven squares, therefore they are bigger than the original tiles and far more intricate to place. This means you have to be a lot more strategic in your placements prior to adding to your park. You will definitely need to plan ahead a few turns so that you pick the correct Grizzly habitat because there are various shapes to choose from.
In order to gain a Grizzly habitat you must discard an animal house and a green tile from your reserve, this can be any green tile, these are then removed from the game. You may not substitute any other tiles for a Grizzly habitat. This may be done at the start of the end of your turn however, if done at the start of your turn you may place the tile immediately after picking it up rather than adding it to your reserve.
Module 2: Monorail! Monorail! MONORAIL!
In order to gain monorail towers you must place a green tile and add a tower on top immediately, they must not be added at a later stage. You are able to place them on your first turn if you start with a green tile. Subsequent towers must be placed three squares away from the previous tower so that the monorail car can be attached. If you have placed another tile ahead of your track that is not a green tile then unfortunately your monorail is completed. This can be a bit of a downfall on points if this happens as all monorail cars have points like the animal houses, same issue if you start your monorail later in the game than other players.
You can only have one monorail line, it cannot be in a straight line, it must have 90 degree corners at all times and no loops. There’s no limit to how long the track can be but it does get more and more difficult when you are trying to place your bear habitats around it to score points in as many ways as possible.
The game ends as normal but The Bad News Bears expansion gives you a fifth area board with an exit on it. The exit tile must not be placed below a park area as your visitors need a way to finally leave after the two years since the base game was released!
Final Thoughts on The Bad News Bears Expansion
I have played through The Bad News Bears Expansion a few times now and I love it, even though I have not yet fully completed a park. The Grizzly module means that tiles go quickly, so act fast for those additional points, this may be why I never completed my park in both a two-player and four-player game. My advice, due to my bad luck, is to try and get a bit of a reserve going then swap your low number animal houses for high number Grizzly habitats.
The 3D monorail aspect looks great, it reminds me of Disney World or Jurassic World, and once you have put the towers together you can leave them in the box for easy set up when you play next.
The new achievements give you additional ways to get more points as before, but I do feel that they are very difficult if playing with the expansion, this may be why you can add them to the base game and only focus on them without the additional modules, but we all like a challenge don’t we!
I feel that The Bad News Bears expansion has really stepped up the base game. It’s gone from a fairly light polyomino/tile placement game to what could be quite a complicated game. I like the fact that you don’t have to use both modules if you don’t want to, so you can keep it a bit lighter if you want.
I think the value for money with this expansion is definitely worth it as it’s one of the cheaper expansions to a popular game. You can see more of the new modules in Nick's unboxing video. My one issue is that I wish there was an extra board to put the Grizzly habitats on similar to the foldable board where all the base game bits are stacked as they just stay in the box and get forgotten about.