Barbearian Battlegrounds by Greenbrier Games – Review

The aspect that made Barbearian Battlegrounds a great experience for my group was the blind dice placement. You know what everyone has rolled but you do not get to see how they place their dice

Theme and What is it?

You slowly roll over and look at the calendar. Hibernation time is over. Up and at ’em you lazy bear! You know the routine. Stretch for 90 minutes then grab a bite to eat. Now to the important things in life, like gaining as much glory as possible for your bear tribe. Your village must gather all its resources to begin raiding other tribes. There is so much to do before the other tribes will start trying to raid yours. You hope that you haven’t slept too long. Maybe you should have cut the stretching from 90 to 60 minutes.

Barbearian Battlegrounds is a capture the flag style dice game for 2-4 players.

Gameplay Mechanics

To set up the game, players select a color and collect that color’s player board, screen, dice and glory tokens. Players start with three dice and set the other two to the side. These can be purchased later. They also start with two glory tokens. The rest can be purchased or obtained from completing trials. 

The heart of Barbearian Battlegrounds are the dice. Everyone rolls their dice at the same time out in the open. Every player then moves their dice behind their shield and places them on their player boards. There are three sections on the board. 1. battleground – this is where you declare attacks on other players. 2. barracks – this is where you set up defenses against attacks. 3. Resource production – you can collect honey, faith and ore resources that can be used in the market.

The market allows you to buy more dice, additional glory tokens and support tiles. Support tiles let you collect resources and have defense without setting a dice on that type of space. 

In Barbearians players try to raid glory and resources from other bear tribes. This is done by placing dice on the battleground nest to the color you want to fight. The number on that dice is compared against the defense number for the defending player. If the attacking player is successful, they can take a glory token or two resources (losers defender’s choice). Players can choose to lock glory tokens when they roll sixes. These cannot be stolen during raids.

After a player has collected seven glory tokens the game ends and they are the ultimate Barbearian!

Initial Impressions

I had a full four player game for the first run of Barbearians. It was a quick game to learn and teach. Once I knew what I was doing, I had everyone else ready to play in five or six minutes. We went through one practice round then reset and started playing. The game moves quickly. With everyone rolling and placing their dice at the same time there is very little down time. The combat system was very user friendly. 

Collecting resources is not as fun as combat but is essential. The resources allow players to have more dice in play, and the support tiles let players collect and defend without using up a dice. A couple of players just wanted to attack and defend all the time. They did not spend anytime upgrading. Towards the end of the game it became obvious that they were out gunned by the other two players. It ended in a very lopsided victory.

Even after the lopsided win, everyone said that they enjoyed the game and looked forward to playing again. There a multiple-paths to victory which gives Barbearians great variety. I can see it making it to our table often. 

Game Build Quality

For the most part Barbearians has industry standard components. The dice and tokens are all great. My issue is with the player board and screen. Both are made of card stock. I wish at least the player board would have been a heavy cardboard. I know that the publisher was trying to keep everything in a smaller game box but I would take a bigger box for a more solid board. That is just my personal preference. Some people may prefer to keep it in a smaller box format.

Artistic Direction

Barbearians is wonderfully enchanting. The art work perfectly captures the zaniness of the game. There is no need to take this game serious and the art director knew that. They let the art be fun and engaging. 

Each tribe/clan of bears has its own color and own art. The screens are unique for each color and have their own flavor. My kids loved this about the game and I did too.

Fun Factor

The aspect that made Barbearians a great experience for my group was the blind dice placement. You know what everyone has rolled but you do not get to see how they place their dice. If someone had a horrible roll, every other player was ready to pounce on them for the kill. It made for great play and some really fun “mean” moments. Players had to make their best guess on what others would be doing. If someone only played defense, they would never collect resources or complete any raids. You had to take some risks to gain greater rewards. And sometimes people paid dearly for those risks. It was great!

Age Range & Weight

The recommended age range for Barbearians is 8+. I have played with adults and with kids as young as six. Everyone has loved this game. The six-year-old only wanted to attack every turn. They didn’t accomplish much, but they loved it when they beat people. I think young players should be able to keep up with the game, especially if they have some good gaming experience. They may just focus on one aspect like my kid did, but with some coaching they should be able to build deeper strategy.

Conclusions

Barbearian Battlegrounds has been a big hit in my house. We have really enjoyed it. It has a high luck element because of the dice, but the luck is coupled by lots of strategy when placing the dice since other players are blind to your decisions.

The artwork takes a great game and makes it even better. It works so well that I can’t say if the artwork is the highlight of the game. It all blends together to make for a great experience. 

I would have liked to see thicker player boards, but my issue may be more aesthetic since I do not feel like it took anything away from the game.

Overall, Barbearian Battlegrounds is a great game with tons of replay value. It moves right along and keeps everyone’s attention. It is easy to teach and is right on the border of being a gateway game. I can’t call it gateway because it may feel heavy to newer players. But I say get those newbies started on a gateway game then move them over to this one once they have their feet wet.