Not-So-Gentle Ben: A Single-Take Review of Bears!

Imagine, you and your friends and family on a peaceful camping trip, deep into the woods. You're roasting marshmallows over the open fire, enjoying the fresh country air... But what's this? Oh. Just bears attacking your campsite. Yes BEARS!!!

Bears is a dice-rolling game from Fireside Games for 2-4 players that takes about 10 minutes to play. So should you put this game on your table, or run screaming into the night? Let's find out!

The Components

Dice! There are five black dice you'll always use, and you'll use five white dice for every player in the game. There are 40 dice total (20 white, 20 black). 

There are also 4 player-aid cards that fill you in on the scoring. 

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The Setup

Each player snags 5 black dice and a player aid. Then 5 white dice per player are placed into the general pool in the middle of the table. These are called "Camp dice." That's the setup, it's quick and simple.

The Gameplay

The game is played in rounds and there are no player turns--everyone makes a mad grab for points all at the same time!

A round begins with one player rolling all of the camp dice and their player dice while all other players roll their player dice. Yes, that's a lot of dice hitting the table at the same time! Once they're all rolled, players match dice as quickly as they can. You can only grab one die at a time, and you have to pair it up with one of your dice as it is rolled. You can re-roll your dice as often as you like; you can't, however, reroll a die that has been paired or locked in with a camp die that you've snagged.

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All of the dice are custom dice. Let's talk about the different icons and how you match and score them.

The Camp Dice - These have 2 unique symbols on them: Bears (2 sides) and Tents (4 sides). 
The Player Dice - These have 3 unique symbols: Sleepers (2 sides), Runners (2 sides), and Shotguns (2 sides).

The Sleepers and Runners can be matched with the Tents, and the Shotguns with the Bears. So you'll be grabbing dice to match accordingly. 
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Ending a round and scoring--A round ends when the camp dice either have only bears or only tents showing. When that happens the round is immediately over and any of your player dice that haven't been locked in don't score you any points. 

Scoring breaks down like this - Shotguns matched with Bears earn you 1 point. Runners matched with Tents earn you 2 points. Sleepers matched with Tents earn you 5 points, BUT if there are Bears left in the campsite you lose 2 points (in other words you got eaten in your sleep!).

While you're grabbing for dice you have keep an eye on what's out there in the campsite. If you've got some Sleepers, it may be time to try and roll up some shotguns to take out the last few Bears. It's fast and frantic though, so you've got to think and act quickly.

The game ends when someone scores 100 points, or if you want a shorter game you can play to 50.

Trail Mix'd!

There's a nifty 1 d6 expansion for the game that adds just a little more variety to the game! Before each round you roll the Trail Mix'd die, and it affects the game play for that round in different ways: Lock n' Roll forces you to lock in one die before getting to reroll again. Big Game: Whoever shoots the most bears scores 3 points per bear that round! Twofur lets you lock in 2 Bears for each gun you've rolled. On the Double: Players who lock in the most Runners and Tents score those double. Helping Hand: The lowest-scoring player that round gets an extra 5 points. Safe and Sound: one pair of Sleeper and Tent for each player is protected from Bears should there be any left at the end of the round.

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I really, really like the expansion. It adds some nice variety to an already fun game. None of the effects are too powerful or add too much to keep track of. Everyone can use the effect (except for Helping Hand) so it just adds a small but fun wrinkle into every round!

The Verdict

This game works great with ANY gaming group (except maybe that animal lover/activist that might be offended by all of the shotgunning of bears). My kids love this, my gaming friends love this, and everyone in between. The game sets up super, super fast, has an incredibly fast learning curve, and aside from all of that is REALLY fun. 

All of the aesthetics work on this, from the fun cartoony box cover, to the bright easy-to-distinguish icons on the dice. It's a true filler in the sense that it can be played in about 10-15 minutes in between larger games or waiting for folks to show up for game night.

There's no reason to not play with the Trail Mix'd expansion. It adds variety to the game, and really fun little effects that don't need to be in every round but are certainly fun each time.

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Bears is a really nice family night game, but one that can be the main event for a lighter/shorter game night with non-gamers, as well. Bears is a really fun, addition to your dice-rolling collection!