When it comes to board game expansions, there are two main types; some expansions are designed to fix that which is broken and others are designed to elevate that which doesn’t need any fixing. Rise of Tribes: Beasts & Bronze (B&B) is one of the latter.
B&B is actually two expansions in one. Before I delve into these expansions, keep in mind that this review assumes that you know how to play the Rise of Tribes base game. If you don’t already or just need a quick refresher, then check out my review here.
The first expansion, Beasts, introduces the titular beasts into your game via a new set of Event cards. As events are revealed from the Event deck, some will spawn creatures such as the Sabertooth Tiger which will move around the board eating tribe members or the Eagles which players can capture and later use to set one of the dice to a value of their choice.
The second expansion, Bronze, introduces a new win condition in the form of 3 different Bronze Age technologies. Obtaining these technologies isn’t easy, though. First, the players have to acquire the cards. Secondly, they have to actually construct the technologies themselves. If a player is the first to construct all 3, they automatically win the game.
As soon as a player constructs their first village, they will acquire one of the Bronze Age cards–writing, trade routes, or metallurgy–of their choice. Each card has 2 sides, one with iconography in the 4 corners and the other with the special power granted by the card. When a card is first collected, it is situated with the iconography side up with the corner containing the single dot facing north. The iconography depicted on the card dictates what conditions the player must meet in order to rotate the card to its next corner. Once the fourth corner is reached and its condition fulfilled, the card is flipped to its alternate side revealing the new technology and its associated power which will then be available to that player for the remainder of the game.
I’ve noticed over the years a trend that many Kickstarter titles tend to share… well developed games with poorly developed rule books and B&B is just one of the more current examples. Before I’d even started setting up the game, I had questions. For instance, the rulebook just provides this one single line at the beginning of the Bronze section: “The Bronze expansion provides a new win condition”. Is the Bronze end condition a replacement of the base game’s end condition or is it an alternative win condition? It isn’t immediately clear and it is never explicitly clarified in the text that follows. It wasn’t until I read the text of one of the example turns on the very last page of the rulebook that I was able to deduce that the new win condition is just a different way that a player can win.
Another example is the “Race For the Eagles” Event tile. This tile reads: “Eagles are removed via Conflict. Collected Eagles may be used later to set one of your rolled dice to any result”. Does that mean that in order for a player to claim an Eagle that they have to come into conflict with another player on the tile on which the Eagle resides? In order to find the answer to this question, I had to go digging through the rules forums on BGG. There I discovered that the Eagle itself is actually treated as a tribe member, so a player could just overload the tile with their own tribe members in order to trigger a conflict with (and collect) the Eagle pawn. There is no way I could have figured that out from the Event tile and certainly no way I could have discovered that in the rulebook. While it does provide clarification on a great deal of Event tiles, the “Race For the Eagles” was not one of them. If you’re going to go into a lot of detail about some of the Event tiles, why not just provide an appendix and expound upon all of them?
These conversations don’t come up nearly as much as you think they would, though, and that’s not because everything else is crystal clear. It’s because, in my experience, the Beasts really just don’t see the light of day very often. The Beasts are triggered by a random flip of an Event tile and that is triggered by a player rolling doubles on the dice. If a player never rolls doubles, the only Beasts you’re ever going to see in your game are the Great Bear and the Wooly Mammoth which are added to the board during setup. In fact, over the course of at least 5 games, the only Beasts that I ever saw hit the board aside from the two mentioned were the Eagles. And to top that off, the Wooly Mammoth’s Event tile was never actually drawn so it just sat there on its tile like that guy you worked with on your last group project that showed up but never actually did anything. So, while there’s definitely potential for the Beasts to add some diversity to your game, this expansion overall feels like a swing and a miss.
I cannot say that about the Bronze expansion, though. I REALLY like this one.
The nature of the way that the Bronze cards work rewards a lot of careful positioning and planning. It also provides players with an impetus to actually pay attention to what the other players are getting up to. In Rise of Tribes, aside from the occasional Conflict resolution, players were largely only concerned with whatever tasks they were trying to accomplish for themselves and there wasn’t ever really a reason to try to actively block someone else from achieving their own. Not so in B&B.
B&B doesn’t just limit the players to fulfilling tasks on their Bronze cards one at a time. Instead, the players are able to fulfill as many of them as they can when the time comes to do so. This means that it is possible to plop down a village, acquire a Bronze card, and then complete every single task on the card in a single turn if you have positioned yourself to do so. This potential rapidity can be very swingy, rocketing someone from last place into the winner’s circle. What was just a race to be the first to score 15 points turns into something else entirely. And the tension that comes along with that is delightful. Before experiencing B&B for the first time, I’d never played a racing game with two different race-based end conditions. After playing it, I’m not sure I’d ever want to do it any other way.
So, I’d say that overall Beasts & Bronze is a pretty successful expansion. It does what it sets out to do although some portions are executed better than others. I’m glad these two expansions were bundled together because if they weren’t, I’d be warding you away from at least one of them. The Beasts expansion just doesn’t add enough to the experience on its own to be worth whatever you’d be asked to pay for it. Coupled with Bronze, though, it’s a solid package that I’d recommend to anyone that’s a fan of the base game.
And speaking of solid packages, check this out…
It fits inside of the base box, box and all. Pretty cool if you ask me.