This game? Bites?
This game, Bites.
This game bites!
It’s all about the punctuation.
It’s inaccurate to say Bites bites, but how could I resist that intro? Take two:
In the late 90s, DreamWorks went head-to-head against Pixar in movies about insects: Antz versus A Bug’s Life. Antz boasted star power, with roles voiced by Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone, J-Lo, and Christopher Walken. Pixar countered with Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Phyllis Diller, but for sheer name recognition, DreamWorks prevailed. Yet, when considering both films, the actors alone weren’t enough to make a better movie. For all the glitz and glamour with A-listers, I strongly preferred the film with better characters and story.
Bites has beautiful pieces. Brightly colored, double-sided cardboard foods. Big, die-cut, wooden ant meeples. An five-level-tall, towering anthill for the finish line. All very tactile. It’s an impressive table presence, and also something of a space hog. The components reminded me of Eric Carle’s artwork, and I suspect getting this to the table often would make me a Very Hungry Cater-player.
Setup is simple enough. Construct the anthill and set aside one food of each type: green grapes, tan toast, yellow cheese, red apples, and green peppers. Place those next to the anthill as rewards for the players who move an ant to their final destination.
Randomly arrange the remaining bazillion (45) foods, along with five chocolates and five drops of wine. If it looks like the cartoon of a parade of ants marching away food, you’ve properly accomplished the task.
Next, flip a card for each of the four decks – Red decides which tier ants will take when climbing the anthill. Brown provides different powers the chocolates will assume. Yellow describes how the wine tokens will score. Blue introduces new rules and/or pieces to affect gameplay. With twenty-five total cards, the possibilities aren’t endless, but they’re as plentiful as any insectarium.
Players take turns moving an ant to the food of its corresponding color, then collecting one piece of food from either side of that ant. The ants continue marching one [ant] by one [food], until they arrive at the anthill and . (Potential for a game sequel with a roach motel are not currently in the works.)
Once all five ants have climbed onto the anthill, players refer to the cards and compile scores for their corresponding bites, with the highest score becoming the Picnic’s Grand Poobah. It’s transcendANT!
Bites’ simplicity is both a compliment and a detriment. The rules are clear and learning how to play takes less than five minutes; conversely, there wasn’t enough depth to make it memorable. The rules offer the option to increase the strategy by playing Double Bites, but doing so requires purchasing a supplemental set. Moving works very much like Candyland, except players decide which color to advance to next. Positioning comes into play, especially in deciding which food will be worth 0-4 points each, but choices felt shallow, even arbitrary.
I’ll readily concede that Bites might fill a niche for younger players, and I will credit the designers for accurately predicting the play time to take 20 minutes, regardless of player count. There are only so many morsels to collect. But whereas I make important decisions in Hey! That’s my Fish! or Abandon Ship! or any number of HABA games, Bites prompted little desire to set up another food parade for another game. My children felt largely the same way, but then, the youngest is already a teenager. Maybe I need to track down a copy of Myrmes?
The cards do create a variety of options, and players can decide what complexity to use. Selecting the hardest (three-star) options makes a much richer game than the recommended starter set, but even so, it provided neither any noticeable poor mistakes, nor any optimal plays that led to aha! moments. One BGGer went so far as to claim Bites was deceptively strategic. If that’s the case, I was deceived.
It’s ironic that a game named Bites has so little bite. It’s pretty, it’s efficient, and it’s quick. But I’ll opt for a game with better flavor.