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[GR] Bonobo Beach

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  • Tom Vasel
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 28, 2006
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      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
      trademark) game.

      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
      the winner!

      Some comments on the gameā€¦

      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
      track.

      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
      matter.

      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.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
      www.tomvasel.com
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