Let’s face it, we can’t always get out in the woods when we want to, and sometimes that makes it hard to get the woods out of our heads! So what can you do when you’re stuck inside but are dreaming of being afield in your tent or hammock? How about you play a game.
Now, we aren’t talking Monopoly or Sorry here, we’re talking about games geared directly towards the outdoorsman in you. While attending a game convention earlier this year I came across two games designed to let you wander afield right from the comfort of your family room or kitchen table. I come from a long time gaming background so I’m always on the lookout for new stuff to play. Despite the overwhelming crush of computer, console, and handheld electronic games out there I still prefer to play old fashioned dice, card and board games. There’s something about sitting around with your friends and family around a game that you simply don’t get playing online games with folks you don’t know. It’s good quality time, especially when you can play with your kids. So let’s take a look at the two games I discovered and you’ll see why they’re suitable Monkey Business for the site!
Published by Fireside Games – Bears!- Is a fast and furious dice game designed 2 to 4 players ages 7 and up. Perfect! My son just turned 7 and my daughter is 8. I had built in test subjects at hand. Bears! Is a dice game. The only thing better than a dice game in my opinion is a dice game with lots of dice, and Bears! certainly provides in that arena. You have total of 40 dice in the game. 20 “Camp Dice” and 20 “player Dice”. All dice are your standard six siders but rather than numbers you have various symbols key to game play. The Camp Dice have either tents or bears on them. The Player Dice have sleeping bags, rifles, and runners on them. In addition to the dice you have a simple, compact rules pamphlet and a set of four scoring cards. That’s it!
The storyline of the game is that you are at a campground when wayward bears rampage through. How will you handle the bear incursion? Will you get the bears or will they get you? Gameplay is very easy and quick to learn. Each player gets 5 Player Dice to roll personally and you allocate 5 Camp Dice for every player in the game so you’ll be rolling anywhere from 10 to 20 Camp Dice depending on the number of players you have. One person rolls the Camp Dice (you can take turns with that) and each player rolls their own sets of Player Dice. The goal is to quickly match up Camp and Player dice. Tents can be matched with either sleeping bags or runners and bears can be matched up with rifles. It seems simple but there is strategy involved.
How you score the game depends on what dice are left over at the end of the round. The first person to take the last of a particular type of dice, either a tent or a bear, shouts Bears! At that point everyone stops and scores their matches. Unmatched dice are worth nothing. Incorrect matches penalize you buy -1 point. A rifle and a bear matchup is worth 1 point, and a runner and a tent is worth 2 points. Where the strategy and gamble come in are with the sleeping bag and tent match ups. If there are no bears left at the end of the round then sleeping bag and tent dice pairings are worth 5 points! However, if there is a bear left they’re worth -2 points since campers in sleeping bags just make burrito style snacks for bears left in the campsite. So the key is to really keep an eye on what dice other players are snatching and try to guess whether it’ll be bears or tents left at the end of the round. You can rack up points quick with the right combo, but a wrong guess will also make you lose points fast too.
I played mostly with my son and daughter and it was interesting to see our strategies evolve. My son and I generally gambled and went for the tent and sleeping bag match ups hoping for big points. My daughter would almost never do that instead concentrating on matching up runners and rifles. While my son and I spiked with heavier individual round scores, we also took bigger point hits when we guessed wrong and there were bears left at the end of a round. My daughter’s strategy allowed her to rack up steady points with little chance of losing what she gained. No one style proved to be the overall winner but we all had our turns in the barrel winning the game. It’s fast and easy to play, but not mindless. You definitely need to pay attention to what’s happening and plan your matches accordingly.
Now, don’t think that Bears! is just for kids though. While it is fun to play with the youngins it’s still fun for adults too. The simple game mechanics and fast pace make it fun for anyone playing and adding in a few adult beverages if it’s an all adult game doesn’t hurt either. Bears! carries an MSRP of $19.95 and is available online from Amazon and other game stores or by going to the Fireside Games website and checking out their store locater for a store near you.
Monkeys with Knives and Guns
With a name like that how could we not review this one for the Monkey? Black Ball Games must have known how just how to grab the attention of the Woods Monkey staff because this one has almost everything we love with the possible exception of beer (but you can always add your own beer when you play!). Monkeys with Knives and Guns (MWKG), is another dice game. I mentioned earlier that the only thing better than a dice game was one with lots of dice. Well, MWKG ups the ante by not only having a lot of dice but having BIG ones. The game comes with 16 six sided dice that are probably twice as large as your standard dice. Rather than simple numbers, or pips, the dice are adorned with images of frolicking monkeys packing guns, knives and bananas. In addition to the dice you get a set of 30 banana tokens, a rules sheet and a nifty cardboard tube to house it all.
MWKG is fast and easy to play. So easy that the rules are a simple one page sheet that tucks neatly into the tube. This game is also designed for 2-4 players ages 7 and up. Once again, perfect for my brood. Dice are divided evenly amongst the number of players you have and you select the amount of bananas you want to play with. Fewer bananas make for shorter games; more bananas make for longer ones so you can tailor game time to your needs. To play all players roll their dice at the same time. Once you do, check your dice. Weed out any monkeys looking down the barrel of their guns. Stupid monkeys. The n separate any “fighting monkeys” (ones with knives or guns) and monkeys with bananas. Once all the players have done that you go around the table and “fight.” Players pit an armed monkey versus an opponent of their choosing’s monkey. They can take out other monkeys with bananas or other armed monkeys. The goal is to collect the most bananas so you need to use strategy to try and keep the other players from getting bananas but also to keep them from killing your monkeys. Once combat is resolved you score the round by seeing what monkeys are left on the board and consulting the rules to see how many bananas you get based upon your remaining monkeys. The three types of monkeys that get you bananas are: Hungry Monkey (good for one banana from the pile), Robber Monkey (steals one banana from another player or from the pile), and the Smart Monkey (takes two bananas from the pile). Play continues until one person reaches the winning score (which varies based upon the number of people playing).
It probably took you longer top read that than it really does to master Monkeys with Knives and Guns. It’s quick to pick up and fun to play. Like Bears! this one works well with both kids and adults. MSRP on MWKG is $20.00 and it can be bought directly from Black ball Games or from your favorite game shop.
Not Just for the Kitchen Table
Now, let’s not get focused on gaming at home. Sometimes Mother Nature simply doesn’t cooperate when you do get a chance to hit the woods and you end up stuck inside your tent or cabin. Those rainy days don’t have to be a loss though if you pack a game like Bears! or Monkeys With Knives and Guns with you. Both games are pretty compact and easy to pack. If you strip the games from their boxes you could easily put the dice into a pouch or Ziplock bag too to make them even more compact. Having something to do on those cruddy days can be the difference between salvaging a trip with bad weather and having the whole thing be a wash.
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