Designer: Matt Shoemaker
Art: Helen Shoemaker, Alina Josan
Publisher: Hit’em With a Shoe
Player count: 1-4 players
Playtime 30—120 minutes (Depends on length of game the players choose)
A prototype copy of Bee Lives: We Will Only Know Summer, was provided by Hit’em With A Shoe for this preview. Everything you see in this preview is in prototype form and does not represent the final product. I want to thank Matt for allowing me to preview this product.
Bee Lives: We Will Only Know Summer
Bee Lives is a medium weight euro game with worker placement and resource management mechanics, where players are managing a bee hive for a year. It has a lot of interesting choices round to round due to the unpredictable events drawn each round, resources tiles available, and other competing wild hives. After sitting down with the designer of the game at Origins Game Fair, this became one of my most anticipated Kickstarter campaigns of the Fall. I mean, who isn’t at least curious about playing a euro game about the life of bees made by a beekeeper? Let’s find out what all of the buzz is about and help you decide if Bee Lives: We Will Only Know Summer is something you may consider backing on September 10th.
A Bee’s Life
Each player begins the game with an initial pool of three worker beeples and a starting resource tile to put their hive on. Players will expand their presence in the game by scouting for more resource tiles blindly from a bag. Each of the tile types provide resources, such as honey, pollen, and water. Think of the resources as the bee essential vitamins for survival. The value of the resources depends on the season. To get more workers, players have to collecting pollen cubes that become eggs and eventually bee workers next round. Bee production is made possible by the queen bee. Players have a couple specialized queen bee options. There are queens that adds bonuses to attack and defense, one that cause bees to swarm more often, a cleaner queen, and one that produces more bees than normal. Disease and space in your hive feels like the most important contributors to success in the game. Initially, player’s hive are safe from disease and have a restricted capacity for bees and resources. Players will have to build wax to create more space and prevents swarming when necessary. I’ll touch on swarming later, but it can bee beneficial or cause some chaos for all players if things get out of hand. Disease track management will provide a smoother playing experience. The disease track goes up every time a player’s bees forage for resources and robs their opponents. If a player fails to cleanse their hive, bee babies will die or it may kill off the entire population one by one. It hurts to bee stuck in a situation where you can produce new bees because of disease.
Can You Stand the Rain?
At the beginning of each month (round), an event card is drawn and it usually shifts the focus of each round. The events seem like issues a bees would have to deal with during the seasons of the year. In the Spring, resources are plentiful and specific tiles will provide more honey, pollen, and water than others. In the Summer, player’s hives may experience overheating. If the workers can’t find water that round to cool off the hive, then the queen cannot produce new workers from the pollen during the next round. In Autumn, it’s a scramble for resources to prepare for the end game and it feels like three rounds of desperation. During all seasons, overheating, wild hives appearing, being unable to produce bees, and robbing between players is expected. A Bee’s lives is about survival and the struggle. After nine rounds (months), Winter will gradually decrease your resources and disease could decimate your hive. I appreciate this game for teaching about the life of bees. The designer of Bee Lives, Matt Shoemaker, does a fabulous job of exposing players to the struggles of maintaining a hive. Almost everything you do in the game feels thematic and authentic. I was totally immersed in the world of bees.
The Struggle is Real
A round of Bee Lives goes faster than expected and it’s very easy to make choices that will force players to shift their focus almost too often. You need to feed your bees honey or they starve and die, use water to keep the hive cool to produce bees, and have enough workers to protect their resources. Preparation, aggressiveness, and efficiency are all necessary to be successful. Players will spend most of their time scouting for new tiles to forage for all the resources they need. During the Spring, it’s important for players to make their hive swarm to score the most points. Swarming occurs when bees think that there isn’t enough room for them to be in the hive. A hive can only have half its capacity dedicated to workers, or else they swarm and take half of the resources with them. You’re rewarded handsomely for propagating earlier in the year, but a new challenge presents itself. A wild hive of the now rogue bees appears and each round, the hive’s AI will take actions similar to the players with a more aggressive approach. Wild hives may attempt to rob all hives, occupy essential resource tiles, and possibly swarm to create more wild hives. The only way to prevent any opponent from dominating an area and score points is to successfully rob other hives and defend against being robbed. The small amount of points awarded for successfully robbing players and taking out wild hives may not seem like a big deal, but the points for swarming rapidly decrease each season. Since robbing and swarming are two important scoring elements, players are forced to interact with each other to take down wild hives and put pressure on each other. I wish there were more objective based scoring opportunities or an alternative friendly scenario based game mode. Winning can rely too heavily on combat to scrap for points in the middle rounds of the game and I think some players would rather have a more hands off approach. The reason why it doesn’t turn me off personally is, I feel like the thematic pressure to survive, scrapping for resources, and prepare for the brutal Winter rounds, all makes sense. It shouldn’t feel safe for players at any point. That’s a basic overview of the gameplay of Bee Lives We Will Only Know Summer.
What’s So Cool About Bee Live We Will Only Know Summer?
Take a look at this short video and hopefully it will provide some clarity about the game.
(Click on the video, it shows right side up)
Why Should I back this game?
The thematic gameplay is a huge selling point for me. I feel like I experienced the struggle for survival that bees experience.
I like the tension that’s created by having multiple wild hives on the board. Sometimes a little chaos is overwhelming, but most of the time it’s really fun.
The art direction and components are already heading in the right direction.
I’m happy to report that the solo gameplay presents the same gameplay experience as the multiplayer mode. Sometimes it can me more difficult. The normal game feels like a solo game for the first couple rounds until the player areas are combined. It’s not a perfect mode, but I look forward to seeing more. I’m believe solo backers should stay tuned to this campaign.
The gameplay is easy to learn, but the choices you make from round to round add more weight to the experience.
My biggest gripe at this time is the scoring. Scoring by swarming, robbing, and defending make sense thematically speaking. I would like to see more objective based scoring during certain seasons or random goals cards for the game as end game bonuses. Maybe I just want more scoring because my scores were so low. I only played one year games, so maybe that contributed to my low scores. #getgood
I would like to see a couple pre-set maps for players who do not prefer grabbing from a bag of tiles. Drawing tile is fine by me, but I believe created lay out provide just as much strategy. I have to remember this is a prototype.
I would not be surprised if Bee Lives: We Will Only Know Summer will fund quickly. Matt Shoemaker has created a game that is bee-lieveable thematically and it’s definitely fun to play. The worker placement is easy to pick up and learn, but the decisions players will make add the right amount of weight the game. I don’t think the game is flawless, but it exceeded my expectations after more plays. I hope they add more scoring options and scenarios for the multiplayer and solo modes throughout the campaign. Solo players should stay tuned to this campaign. I can see the potential of the solo mode moving beyond the standard beat your score you see in a lot of euro games. I think that’s all that needs to be said. I like what I’ve played thus far and I’m interested enough to see what’s added during the campaign. I can’t tell you what to do with your backing dollars, but I hope today’s preview will help you make an informed decision to back the game. Thank you for your time.
Please feel free to leave a comment or question about Bee Lives: We Will Only Know Summer. I will respond and I appreciate ya for commenting.