Minecraft: Builders & Biomes

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As in the original Minecraft digital game, in Minecraft: Builders & Biomes players explore the Overworld, build structures, and mine resources, earning points for structures and the largest connected biomes of forest, desert, mountain, or snowy tundra spaces on their player boards. Familiar foes like Endermen, Creepers, and other mobs also appear throughout the game, and they ne…
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Fun for Kids


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

You Might Like

  • Seeing your favourite Minecraft elements on the table
  • Surprisingly strategic with more depth than many family games
  • The cube resource timer is wonderful

Might Not Like

  • Components could be better quality
  • Limited player interaction
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As in the original Minecraft digital game, in Minecraft: Builders & Biomes players explore the Overworld, build structures, and mine resources, earning points for structures and the largest connected biomes of forest, desert, mountain, or snowy tundra spaces on their player boards.

Familiar foes like Endermen, Creepers, and other mobs also appear throughout the game, and they need to be defeated using weapons collected from the board. Defeating mobs earn players points in addition to granting additional awards. Game scoring occurs as the resource cube's layers are depleted. As soon as the third layer runs out, the adventure comes to an end, and the builder with the most points wins.

In more detail, on a turn you take two different actions from the following possibilities:

• Collect two blocks: At the start of the game, you set up a 4x4x4 cube of building blocks with 16 wood, 14 sand, 12 stone, 10 obsidian, and 12 emerald being placed together at random. When you collect a block, the top face and at least two other sides must be revealed.

• Move: Your character starts in the center of a 4x4 grid of tile stacks, with each stack holding four tiles. Weapon tiles are placed at the end of each column and row. Move 0-2 spaces between stacks, then reveal all adjacent tiles that are face down.

• Build: Discard blocks from your personal supply to match the building requirements on a tile next to your character. Place this tile on your personal 3x3 building board.

• Fight a mob: Choose a mob adjacent to your character, then reveal three tiles from your weapon stack, which starts with a stone sword, a wooden sword, and three poisonous potatoes. Tally the number of hearts revealed; if this sum is at least as large as the number of hearts on the mob, you defeat it. Remove it from the board, and place it next to your personal building board. Mobs might grant you an endgame scoring bonus, immediate points, or a one-shot bonus action.

• Collect a weapon: If your character is next to a weapon tile at the edge of the playing grid, you can shuffle it into your weapon stack.

Scoring takes place three times during the game, specifically after the final block is removed from the first, second, and third level of the building block cube. In the first round, you choose one of the four biomes (forest, desert, mountains, or snowy tundra) and score for the largest connected area of this biome on your personal building board. The board comes pre-printed with biome spaces, and as you place buildings on this board, you can alter the biome of a space. In the second round, you choose one of three materials (wood, sand, stone, or obsidian) and score for the largest connected group of structures on your personal building board that are made of this material. In the third round, you score for the largest contiguous group of structures (decoration, dwelling, animal house, or bridge) of your choice on your board. After scoring in the third round, tally bonus points from the mobs you've collected.


Minecraft Biomes Feature


Based on a phenomenally successful video game, Minecraft: Builders and Biomes is a 2- 4 player game of exploration, construction, and combat designed by Ulrich Blum and published by Ravensburger.

Builders and Biomes features Steve, Endermen, Diamond Swords, Obsidian and much more that will be immediately recognisable to Minecraft fans.

For the uninitiated, Minecraft, the video game, is a sprawling sandbox in which it is possible lose yourself entirely. It can be enjoyed alone or in a highly interactive online format. It can even be ‘modded’ by those with the required coding skills.

I’m no expert, however, I’m reliably informed (by my kids) that there are two basic modes: Survival and Creative.

Survival mode presents players with a variation on a shipwreck adventure. Waking up alone and defenceless, players must craft tools to provide themselves with the basics to survive i.e. shelter and food. Once this is mastered, the players can begin exploring the Minecraft world, finding and creating new items as they go. Players must be careful, though. Lose your hearts and you will need to respawn.

Creative mode provides the freedom to build anything your imagination allows, so long as it doesn’t have rounded corners and is shorter than 256 blocks high. Less ‘realistic’ than Survival, the necessary tools and materials are available from the start. There is also no fear of dying, be that a result of falling into lava or through excessive use of TNT.

So, what does one do during a game of Builders and Biomes and how does the game play transfer into the board game format?

Minecraft Biomes Body 1

Updating Resource Packs…

Set up is straight forward, with building tiles arranged in a 4×4 grid with smaller weapons tiles around the outside. Each player grabs a player mat, a character standee, personal weapon tiles and an experience marker.

Wooden blocks are stacked together, with the help of a cardboard frame, into a large cube. This acts as both a resource area and as a game timer.

On their turn, a player takes two unique actions from a choice of 5

• Collect – take two blocks from the cube. Any block can be taken, so long as the top surface plus two other sides are visible.
• Build – pay blocks to build a structure. These blocks must match the building requirements printed on the tile. Once built, place the tile on your player mat, covering a biome (terrain) including, if you wish, a previously placed building tile.
• Explore – move your character 0, 1 or 2 spaces, revealing the tiles around your final location
• Fight a mob – reveal 3 weapon tokens from hand. If the number of hearts shown is equal to or greater than those shown by the creature, you win. Be careful though, some of your starting weapon tiles are potatoes.
• Collect a weapon – pick up one of the weapons tiles your character is standing next to and add it to your collection. Note: some weapons provide special abilities

Scoring happens on no less than 5 distinct occasions

• When an instant effect is triggered. These are printed on certain tiles.
• Scoring Rounds. These are trigger when a layer of blocks is completely removed. More than one scoring round can be triggered on a single turn

  • Scoring Round A
  • Score points based upon a single connected group of biomes. Each biome type has a different value and the most numerous biome type may not be the most valuable
  • Scoring Round B
  • Points are awarded based upon a connected group of buildings made from the same material
  • Scoring round C
  • Points are awarded based upon connected tiles featuring a building type (dwelling, bridge etc)
  • End game scoring – Defeated mobs will provide an end game bonus based upon the total number of tiles featuring a certain type of biome, building or material (Thankfully, there is a beginner’s scoring variant where there is no need to connect tiles to score during the three in-game scoring rounds)

But how does it play?

Minecraft Biomes Body 3


Wow, this isn’t what I was expecting at all.

I was planning to switch off as I rolled dice to move around a board.

But no, my son wants points and wants them now, my daughter is planning a late game obsidian bridge combo while I repeatedly throw poisoned potatoes at a Creeper in the hope it may fall over its own feet.

We have resource management and variable scoring rounds, instant effects and special abilities. Meanwhile combat holds the faint odour of a press your luck/deck building hybrid mechanic.

The building block resource mechanic has a wonderful tactile feel and good timing can ensure scoring happens at the most beneficial moment.

My goodness…this is a real game!

Minecraft Biomes Body 4


As my excitement at Builders and Biomes not being a Minecraft themed property trading game subsides, I can take a closer, more objective look.

The game play flows well, turns pass quickly, however, there is sufficient thought required to ensure the occasional pause while players plan for future scoring rounds

To caveat that, this is very much a family game. There are varying strategies although, for seasoned gamers (probably not the intended audience), these strategies are shallow.

So, while Builders and Biomes may sound, look, and even occasionally feel like a mash up of a character-based fantasy quest game and a cube shuffling euro puzzle, it isn’t. Well, maybe a simple one.

Ah, but for families Builders and Biomes is a treat. While there are layers to this game waiting to be explored, it is easy to pick up. The rules are clearly written and the suggested age range (10+) is about correct. This is probably a game suited to older kids and early-teens.

Best of all, as the kids enjoy seeing Steve run around the table uncovering new locations and fighting creatures from the game, us adults can enjoy having that bit more to focus on.

Minecraft Biomes Body 2


A few games in and I’m starting to notice the cardboard equivalent of frame rate lag. The components, for all their table presence and functionality, are not the best quality. The worst offenders being the thin player mats and the weapons tiles that already show signs of wear from repeated handling.

And I’m not sure about the theme or, more specifically, how it reflects the video game. You see this is neither a sprawling sandbox for the imagination nor a true survival-based adventure game.

Building is limited to what is printed on the available tiles. A creative strategy based upon building increasingly complex treehouses, for example, is just not possible.

While there are weapons and creatures to use them against, there is also little risk. For all the fun to be had from cycling through your hand of weapon tiles, hoping against hope that you have enough hearts to defeat the Enderman, if you lose, nothing happens. There is no penalty, the turn simply ends with nothing achieved.

There is also no real interaction between the players, other than that caused by taking a block or tile that they were hoping to acquire for themselves. For a game based on a video game with a thriving on-line community, this is surprising.

The Minecraft colours and characters are there in all their pixelated blobbiness and I am enjoying the game, however, outside of the branding, Builders and Biomes doesn’t really feel like Minecraft as I know it.

Minecraft Biomes Body 5

Final thoughts

While Minecraft: Builders and Biomes defied my expectations and was a genuinely pleasant surprise, it remains a mixed bag.

The component quality could certainly be improved and the seasoned gamer in me wishes the gameplay was both deeper and more reflective of the source material.

However, it works very well for its intended audience. The mechanics are borrowed liberally from more advanced hobby games, simplified, and then filtered through a recognisable brand. The result is a game that should provide families with a great deal of enjoyment.

Zatu Score


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

You might like

  • Seeing your favourite Minecraft elements on the table
  • Surprisingly strategic with more depth than many family games
  • The cube resource timer is wonderful

Might not like

  • Components could be better quality
  • Limited player interaction