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Game review: Bärenpark is a colorful tile-laying, zoo-building extravaganza

Posted June 28

The charm of the game Bärenpark by Mayfair Games comes in three parts. There is one part beautiful artwork, one part lovable bears and one part custom design of your own animal park. The game is easy to play without being "bearied" in a ton of rules.

Two to four players take the roles of animal park builders. Whoever can build the most impressive park will score the most points and win the game. The theme of the park is bears. Players will build habitats for kodiak, koala, polar, panda and Gobi brown bears.

Setup consists of seeding a main board full of different kinds of tiles that are available to players for collection and placement on their own individual park boards throughout the game. Players each receive their own park starting board. For those familiar with tile-laying games, they will feel right at home with Bärenpark.

A player's park board is where a player places the tiles he or she has collected to build their park. "Forebearance" is a plus because space is limited, and even though the park can be expanded three times by adding more boards, clever placement of tiles is a must. All tiles must fit together on the boards to count for scoring. Tiles come in all kinds of shapes, point values and sizes.

The personal park boards for each player are designed with a four by four grid pattern and are completely "bear" to begin with. The park tiles are placed on top of these grids. In some grid squares, there are icons that depict special tile-drawing powers. When these spaces are covered, it triggers the ability to take more tiles from the main board. This is part of the strategy of keeping a building engine going while gathering the tiles worth the most points.

For example, player one places a tile on his personal park board. It covers a white cement mixer icon. That means he may immediately take an animal house tile from the main board. It may be placed on a future turn. Not receiving new tiles each round can sometimes become "unbearable."

If that were not enough, the game features 10 different achievements that can be earned by placing certain tiles in certain places in a park. For example the first person to place a total of four different shaped animal house tiles in his or her park can claim an achievement worth eight points. Similarly, the first person to connect three koala bear tiles in a park scores eight points.

It's also important to get one's "bearings" straight with tile placement. Each of the four park boards a player will build has a single space for a statue. Nothing else can be placed there and a statue can only be placed when it is completely surrounded by other tiles. The statue tiles decrease in value each time one is taken, so speed is of the essence or this will become a "bearier" for winning the game.

One of the things that really makes this game growl is the artwork. The tiles show beautifully illustrated images of bear park enclosures, walkways, riverways, food areas, playgrounds and park facilities. The art is attractive, and little bears can be seen on the tiles in various forms of living. When the game is over, players will enjoy viewing their parks. It's not uncommon for someone to whip out a cellphone and get a picture of their creation.

Another appealing thing about Bärenpark is how easy it is to learn and play. The game consists of placing and drawing tiles each turn and that's it. Combine the friendly theme and ease of play and the game is perfect for families. I can easily be the "bearer" of good news and recommend this game for those who want a quick, easy to learn, tile placement game with a great theme. Download the rulebook and find out more at the Mayfair Games website.

Setup consists of staffing a main board full of different kinds of tiles that are available to players for collection and placement on their own individual park boards throughout the game.

Email: rmorgenegg@deseretnews.com

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