Review: Beasts of Balance
Designer: George Buckenham, Alex Fleetwood
Artist: Tim Burrell-Saward, Lyall McCarthy, Chris Shaw
Publisher: Sensible Object
Category: Dexterity, Stacking
Beasts of Balance is a stacking game with some serious innovation. The game’s base takes batteries, and connects to a phone app via Bluetooth. What you stack on the Plinth (the base) affects your “world” on the app as you find animals and assist them with relics. The cost of this innovation is a $99 (!) price tag, though the app is free. Is it worth it? Let’s find out!
Players are simply stacking animals to create them in the app. There is some cross-breeding of animals (nothing is shown) on the app, and a scary volcano shows up when you drop pieces.
First, let me explain more fully the way this game works. In the app, you see a wilderness landscape and as you add items to the plinth, your score goes up. However, as you add animals, they interact in unexpected ways, mostly because the game doesn’t tell you how to play nearly at all. You then adjust for what happens by stacking artifacts on top of the Plinth together with the animals. If it falls over, you have to quickly get everything back on top of the Plinth to keep going.
After that…? I don’t know. There’s no turns. It’s just… exploring for a high score. The box says 1-5 players, but it’s not clear what that even means. Once you get “game over” you have someone else go, I guess. The game gives you nearly zero direction, other than how to connect (with a glyph) items to the Plinth and that they need to stay on top. The game is aimless, encouraging you to explore and find ways to make connections and score points. That might be fun for solo play (for others, not me), but it doesn’t make sense for sitting down and playing a board game together. Furthermore, why is this even a stacking game? Why does it even have physical components? This could have been an exploratory app “game” for $7 instead of $99 worth of big (beautiful, admittedly) plastic pieces. (And the app looks really nice too, I also admit.)
It’s entirely possible that little kids would enjoy it, although my 3-year old was too young to care about the app interaction or to understand that concept. It’s a shame, because the pieces are big, chunky, and gorgeous. The ratings on BoardGameGeek seem to suggest that I “don’t get it,” but that’s okay. Even if my kids enjoyed it, I would never pay $99 for this. On top of everything else, the expansions, as far as I can tell, are just more plastic pieces with hefty price tags. If you really want to play a good stacking game (and an actual game), look for the excellent Junk Art.
Thank you to Sensible Object for providing a review copy of Beasts of Balance.
The Bottom Line
Beasts of Balance isn't all that fun or interesting to begin with, and the $99 price tag makes it a definite pass.