[GR] Bonobo Beach
- Lost Valley is one of my favorite games, an exciting thematic game of
exploration and gold mining. I was therefore very interested in any
further games designed by the Goslar brothers, and therefore was glad
to get my hands on and play Bonobo Beach (Kroneberger Spiele, 2003 -
Roland & Tobias Goslar). Bonobo Beach is intriguing in one aspect,
because the company released two games at the same time (this one and
Cronberg) that have the exact same mechanics with different themes.
Cronberg is about building a castle, while Bonobo Beach is about
finding the best spots on a beach.
If you look over the comments on the game at www.boardgamegeek.com,
you'll find that they quite often mention the game Kingdoms. And
indeed, Bonobo Beach is very similar to that Reiner Knizia game. For
myself, Kingdoms is a great filler game, and Bonobo Beach certainly
falls in the same vein - a very enjoyable game that is as fun for four
players as it is with two. Games are quick, have some luck (from tile
draws), and offer some rather agonizing decisions that are rare in
games this short and simple. I love the theme, the gameplay, and am
certainly glad I got my hands on this rhombus-filled (a Goslar
A board depicting the island of Bonobo is placed on the board, made
up of a grid of connected triangles. Each triangle is either a dune
(showing a "x2" on it), a toilet, or a sun shade. Each player is given
four tokens of their color, and a score marker of the same color is
placed on a scoring track. A pile of twenty-eight rhombi are shuffled
and placed down next to the board, and the youngest player goes first
with play proceeding clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they have two choices. They can either place one
of their tokens at an unoccupied spot (a juncture between triangles).
This spot has to be next to at least one unoccupied triangle, one that
is not covered by a rhombus. The other choice a player has is by
drawing the top rhombus and placing it face up on top of any adjacent
two uncovered triangles.
When all the triangles that are adjacent to a token are covered, that
token is recovered by the player owning it and scored, earning the sum
of the points on the rhombi (whether positive or negative). As tiles
are placed, it is also possible that a toilet triangle become
"active", which means that the rhombi are placed in such a fashion as
that it can no longer be covered. An active toilet causes any
adjacent tokens to be returned to their owner without scoring.
Play continues until all players can no longer place a token or
rhombus. One player may have to pass while the other players finish
placing the rest of their tokens. After this, final scoring occurs.
All tokens on the board are scored just like before, except that sun
shades and dunes affect the pieces around them. A token next to a sun
shade converts all the negative numbers adjacent to it to positive
numbers. A token next to a dune doubles the values of all the numbers
adjacent to it, next to two dunes quadruples the values, and next to
three dunes (which I've never seen!) multiples the values by eight.
Scoring tokens are adjusted, and the player with the highest score is
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The Bonobo Beach board is very nice, showing an
island that is one large beach, with thin lines drawn on it to show
the triangles, as to not mess up the look of the island. Each tile
shows artwork of something you'd like to be next to (like a lifeguard
or an oasis) or something that makes a poor neighbor (like dead fish
or trashy sunbathers). All tiles have numbers clearly marked in each
of their four corners, and the negative tiles have a darker background
than the positive one, helping to differentiate between them. The
artwork on the entire board and tiles is very well done, and for some
reason, using rhombi is more interesting than squares; it allows for
clever placement and just has a very different feel to it. The tokens
are tall, thick wooden cylinders in yellow, green, red, and blue and
provide a stark contrast to the board. Everything fits inside a flat,
square box, which is very aesthetically pleasing, showing a motor boat
speeding towards the beach island - but mostly ocean.
2.) Cronberg: I've played both versions, and they are virtually
identical, except for the theme. Bonobo Beach is the more unique
theme, so I would recommend that version.
3.) Rules: The rules are well formatted, managing to show color
illustrations and still fit onto two sides of one sheet of paper. The
game is easy to teach, although I spend some time showing exactly how
each of the triangles works when activated. Teenagers and adults
quickly figure the game out, while those who've played Kingdoms before
pick the game up in a flash.
4.) Critical decisions: When do you place a token down? If a player
places a token down early, they may get an excellent spot, but they
may also leave themselves open for other players to place negative
tiles down next to them. Sometimes the best spots are next to a
toilet, but the player risks the chance of having their token sent
back to them. I haven't seen the toilets ever be too devastating,
since most players are too chicken to place their tokens adjacent to
them. A player who waits too long to place their tokens may be forced
to, near the end of the game, place their tokens on spots that give
them only a few points, or even negative points. In one of my early
games, I ended with a final score that was negative (not sure what
that says about my skills). One excellent spot can win a player a
game, which makes placement very important, and also promotes playing
multiple games in a row; players can simply leave their tokens on the
5.) Tiles: As I said before, I think it's neat that the tiles are
rhombi. I also think it's a clever mechanic to have the board itself
play a function in the game and have triangles that aren't covered
play a role in scoring. The tiles are split evenly - with half of
them negative - making the game a bit harsher than some, but still
fun. I've seen players give their tokens negative points, just to
cover the board up in such a way that an "x2" space is activated, and
this kind of "active board" makes the game very interesting.
6.) Fun Factor: It's a lot of fun to score big with one of your
tokens, and players who like tile placement games are going to enjoy
this one. Sure, it's basically an abstract game with a theme placed
on top of it (evidenced by the fact that two completely different
themes work equally as well). Still, I enjoy the theme, and it does
work well; and I found that because the game is so quick it doesn't
I like Bonobo Beach as a quick game to start off an evening of games
with, or something to play quietly with my wife - something that's fun
and interesting to play, while allowing idle chatter. It has a unique
theme, fast fun play, and is intuitive to teach and learn. Once
again, the Goslar brothers have produced a fun game, one of the best
of the tile-laying genre.
"Real men play board games"