“Not bad” turned out to be an understatement. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get “Queen Bee” out of my head and I realized — like an allergic reaction to a bee sting, I was seriously itching to play it again.
Jeremiah & Kara
Publisher: Elixir Board Games
Designer: Mike & Larissa Bruner
Artist: Sarah Keele
Game Type: Combat
Game Type: Area Control
Initial Year of Release: 2020
Age Range: 10+
Expected Playtime: 30 – 90 min
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Theme and What is it?
Wings flutter furiously. Sharp stingers glint in the light. A harsh buzzing fills the air. All around your hive bees are fighting. Your home was infiltrated suddenly by a group of enemy bees intent on overthrowing your queen.
A massive bee brandishing an axe streaks across the hive, whooping and hollering as he goes. He manages to cut down several opposing bees before a group of enemy drones swarm him, stinging him into silence. All around you your comrades are falling. “Retreat to the Queen! Retreat to the Queen!” A loud voice snaps you from your frozen shock. You snatch up the spear of a fallen warrior and race toward the queen’s chambers. You round the corner just in time to see the last of the Queen’s guards stricken down by an enemy squadron. Frantically, you fly to save your queen, but it’s too late. Just as you reach the doors, you hear her cry out — quickly — and then nothing.
You barely have time to process what’s just happened, before a soft haze settles over your mind. It’s strangely calming — like gentle pollen snuggled in daisy petals. The enemy squadron emerges from the Queen’s chambers. They’re standing right in front of you, but you’re not afraid. The largest one approaches you and pats you on the shoulder with a massive bee hand. “Come along, brother,” he says, “it’s time to go home.”
Together, you, the squadron, and all the surviving bees abandon the hive and set off for your new home.
Queen Bee is a take-that combat game with a unique twist on player elimination. Players compete as separate beehives to protect their queen while attempting to vanquish the queens of their opponents. When a queen is defeated, the surviving bees of that hive join forces with the player who defeated them. Through strategic maneuvering, clever card playing, and a little bit of luck, one player will successfully vanquish the neighboring queens and become the supreme leader of the meadow.
Each player starts the game with 1 Queen Bee, 7 Warrior Bees, and 7 Worker Bees in their hive. The goal of the Queen Bee is to just survive until the end of the game, while the Warrior and Worker bees protect her. Warrior bees are the strongest and fight better in a battle, but the slight build of the Worker bees allows them to travel along tunnels between the hives, making them extra mobile.
Players take turns sending their bees across the board, dodging and bludgeoning enemy bees on their way to vanquish the other queens. During combat, players roll dice and play cards to determine the winner. Warrior bees get to roll bigger dice with higher values, and Worker bees roll smaller, less powerful dice.
When a players queen bee is eliminated they’ve technically lost, but they’re not of the game. Instead, their surviving bees pledge themselves to the player whose bees defeated their queen, and fight alongside them against the remaining players.
“This seems like it’ll become super unbalanced when there’s 3 beehives fighting against 1 last beehive,” you think. Don’t worry, that’s what I thought at first too. Taking down a queen is a vicious, violent process. Bees are slaughtered left and right. By the time a queen is taken down, both sides have lost enough bees that their combined weakened forces actually balance out against the other hives. By the time the game gets to 3 vs 1, the 3 combined hives have lost enough bees that they’re on pretty equal footing with the last hive. It’s a genius mechanic, and Queen Bee executes it un-bee-lievably well.
There is a bit of luck involved with dice-rolling combat and the cards you might draw throughout the game, but I didn’t find it to be detrimental to the game at all.
When Mike and Larissa asked me to test out their game, I’ll admit I didn’t have super high expectations. A home-grown player-elimination game? Not really my cup of tea. The game arrived, I opened it up, and right on top there was a note from Mike that basically said, “don’t be afraid to whoop your opponent”. That made me nervous, too. We set up the game (which took about 2 minutes) determined first player and… we were off. Our bees shot out of the hives with flames in their eyes and sparks shooting off their stingers. We fought, stung, thwarted, and bashed each other’s bees until finally one queen was defeated.
“Not bad,” I thought, as we were putting it away. “Not bad” turned out to be an understatement. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get “Queen Bee” out of my head and I realized — like an allergic reaction to a bee sting, I was seriously itching to play it again.
We organized a 4-player game for that same night and had another fantastic experience, and the next morning we played again. When the time came to send it back to Mike and Larissa, I genuinely wished I could have kept it for myself.
Game Build Quality
The copy I played with was mostly a prototype copy, but the official game promises to have high quality components and great production value. The game will have a Game Trayz insert for holding everything in place, a double-sided board (5-6 players on the flip side, I believe), and a sturdy standard-sized box to store everything in.
It looks like there will be two versions of the game: a standard version, and a deluxe version. The standard version comes with simple, colored wooden cubes to represent the different bees, While the deluxe version comes with bee-autiful miniatures.
The art in Queen Bee is bright, vibrant, and chock-full of bee puns. The different zones on the main board (hives, field, and tunnels) are easy to distinguish from one another. Each card in the game has a thematic name, ability, and a cute illustration to match. One of my favorite decisions the designers made was to include a fully written out description of the card’s ability along the bottom of each card. This helps players to know exactly when it can be used, and what it does, which helps gameplay to buzz along at a quick, efficient pace.
Queen Bee is fast-paced and full of back-sweating tension. Players are totally focused on what’s happening on the board, because literally everything anyone does can affect everyone else. Maybe you thought Red Player was going after Yellow, but they’ve maneuvered a group of their Warrior Bees closer to your Blue hive than you’re comfortable with — suddenly you have to rethink your entire upcoming turn! Things like that happen constantly in Queen Bee keeping players on their metaphorical toes.
Queen Bee is a player-elimination game. Usually, player-elimination games are met with rolled eyes, semi-stifled groans, or outright exasperated huffs. What’s fun about being eliminated 10 minutes into an hour long game and having to watch everyone continue on without you? NOTHING. It’s the opposite of fun — it’s un-fun. In Queen Bee though, when a player is eliminated they’re not out of the game — they just get a new goal, which is to use their bees to protect their new queen. So when a queen is defeated, there’s a small moment of mourning, and then that player is right back in the game, excited and happy to be fighting along their new bee-rothers in arms.
Gameplay moves quickly. The actions are simple, but the decisions you make can be critically important. These qualities, coupled with the endless bee puns and unique twist on player-elimination, will leave you satisfied and keep you coming back for more.
Age Range & Weight
The manufacturer recommended age for Queen Bee is 10+, which I think is accurate. There’s potential for kids even younger being able to play because there are only 4 actions to choose from each turn. That, and the fact that all the card abilities are written in full on each card, ensures that as long as someone can read reasonably well, they can play this game just fine.
The game is simple, but there’s enough strategy and planning involved to classify it as a medium-weight game. For the most part gameplay moves along steadily, but there are definitely times where a player gets caught in a particularly sticky pinch and takes a while to mull over all their options before finally choosing the best one. Still, things like that only happen once in a while, and once it’s over, gameplay gets right back on the fast track.
Queen Bee might be my most anticipated game for 2020. I’m trying to come up with some flaws to point out, but I genuinely can’t think of anything. The simple mechanics, rich gameplay, and unique take on player-elimination make Queen Bee unlike any other game I’ve ever played. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is Memoir ’44 because of the head-to-head combat and card based actions, but even then it’s not the perfect comparison. For anyone looking for a unique, fun combat game, I don’t think you could go wrong with Queen Bee.
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