FAR FROM BAD… MY REVIEW OF BARENPARK: THE BAD NEWS BEARS
30 - 45 Minutes
Polyominoes are fun, they just are. 80s or 90s kids grew up in a world where the tetromino (4 sided polyominoes) placement of Tetris was as central to gaming as Mario’s jump. There is a satisfaction to slotting pieces perfectly into place, there must even be a scientific term for that feeling. Board gaming has long since tried to match that high of a perfectly placed line wiping out four rows gave us back in the old days. There have been many challengers to the throne and leading the pack seemed to be Spring Meadow, Patchwork and Barenpark. In my mind Barenpark has always been the winner, even if the consensus around the community seemed to feel that Patchwork offered a more complex and engaging experience. Barenpark has gotten even better with the Bad News Bears expansion that adds aesthetics, complexity and depth in an affordable package.
There were always two main speedbumps on the road to efficiency during a game of Barenpark. Where to put the literal pointless greenspaces? What to do when I get more cards in my hand than I can reasonably place each turn? The new features in BNB directly target those scenarios by offering you ways to leverage those positions for more points.
The new monorail pillars can be placed on any greenspace tile and then, as long as you keep placing greenspace tiles exactly 3 spaces away, you can create a place a monorail between the two pillars for points. No longer are green tiles something you grudgingly put down to finish off a small space only when necessary. These now become a central part of your plan from turn one. If used early and correctly they get you additional points that would have otherwise been wasted. Typical to Barenpark, the monorail points are descending further incentivising early acquisitions. It’s fantastic game design when a previously maligned mechanic is brought to the forefront of planning and is actively desired.
The second main module is the addition of grizzly bears. These tiles are the largest in area and offer a large amount of points. At any point in your turn you can discard a greenspace tile and a four-square bear park tile to pick up any grizzly tile. This gives you something to do when your efficient tile laying begins to pick up tiles faster than you can place them. It rewards the multi piece placements with something that is more tangible than just future options.
Both of these additions are absolutely gorgeous. The monorails are fully 3D and make the game board really pop. I also love the art on the Grizzlies, being from the Canada there is something about mountains and pine trees that really appeal to me.
Barenpark is one of the best expansions I’ve seen in a while. It’s great design to take aspects that didn’t even seem bad, merely “decent”, and target them with such precisions to make them just as interesting as any other gameplay element. It doesn’t change the core gameplay or add unnecessary bloat and it offers everything at a very reasonable price.
Adds meaningful decisions to areas that were missing it
Adds more park variation and replayability
Additional Setup Time
Monorail components make effective storage solutions troublesome