It’s not too often that a “board game” shows up on the shelves of an Apple Store, or in the “tech section” of Best Buy or Target. But that’s just what you can expect when you’re talking about Beasts of Balance, a technological dexterity game from Sensible Object, a game design studio whose self-professed mission is “Making games for our connected world”. And they’re clearly on to something because they’ve won awards for their games…lots of awards. But we’re here to talk about Beasts of Balance right?
Beasts of Balance is a dexterity / stacking game with a twist. One goal of the game is to fill your Bestiary, a visual diary of sorts, with a variety of animals; at last count there were over 100 different permutations! The game includes 6 creatures, but there are at least 5 or 6 other creatures that can be picked up aftermarket.
Beasts of Balance includes a base, called the plinth, which pairs with an app on your phone, tablet, or smart TV. Each time you select an item to stack on the base you tap the matching icons, and that piece will then appear within the app.
As you stack pieces onto the base the app reacts to your choices. When adding an animal piece to the plinth, an animation of that animal will appear. Some of the pieces allow you to feed existing animals; air, earth, and water each feed a different creature depending on its habitat. Other pieces allow you to migrate a selected creature from its current habitat to another one; and in doing so you’ll create a brand new species of creature.
Play solo, in teams, or competitively; stacking pieces onto the base until you either run out of pieces, or more likely the whole thing collapses.
When the inevitable collapse happens, after displaying an animation of an erupting volcano, Beasts of Balance has yet another trick up its sleeve…if you can get all the creatures back on to the plinth (in any configuration) before the volcano erupts your land is saved.
But that probably won’t happen.
Playing Beasts of Balance
Since I’ve already given you an overview of how to play the game, let’s talk about why you pick some pieces over others. As mentioned before, when you add an animal to the plinth, it shows up in your virtual world. Each animal comes into being with a certain number of stars (health), but after a piece is placed, the animal with the highest energy steals stars from the other creatures.
Selecting the right piece to play can make the difference in whether you win or lose. If you’ve got a large number of air creatures, then consider playing an air piece to boost their collective power. If you’re trying to balance out habitats then migrate one creature to another area, or even cross one creature with another to get the best of both worlds! Watch as I add Bear to the world, feed all land and water creatures, then migrate a Shoggle to the land to become a Swinejaw. 😀
Beasts of Balance has recently added new gameplay modes which allow for head to head gameplay. This review doesn’t cover those modes, but we might include them in a future review.
Upon opening Beasts of Balance, you might be more inclined to think it’s a do it yourself modern art kit instead of a game. The box is filled with wildly colored pieces whose shapes are an outlandish combination of M.C. Escher and Pierre Bézier; all hard angles and smooth curves.
The top layer of pieces are nestled perfectly into a perfectly shaped molded plastic insert. These are the “beasts” you’ll be shepherding throughout your games. Pull out the top layer and you find the plinth, along with assorted other pieces whose purpose is not immediately understood. Pick up a piece and discover the ever so slight rubbery texture which helps the pieces grip each other when stacking them. It’s clear that the team at Sensible Object cares deeply about this project, and put their heart and soul into it.
The interaction here between the physical and the digital is quite astonishing. When adding new pieces you never know quite what you’ll get…especially when you migrate or cross existing creatures. The act of discovering new creatures for your Bestiary is the most enjoyable…you’ll be experimenting all day long. But never fear because there’s a challenge here as well. The pieces are extremely irregular which makes stacking and balancing them quite difficult.
We previously reviewed Dropmix, and like that game Beasts of Balance is an immersive experience. Part game, part app, all “activity” that you can play with your friends and family. If you’ve got the disposable income then Beasts of Balance will make an excellent addition to your collection, as a game, or work of art.
If you’re interested in reading more about how Beasts of Balance was created, check out this great blog post on the Sensible Object website.