Beasts of Balance is an unusual, but fun, co-operative board game made by the creative minds of the crowdfunding generation. A successfully funded Kickstarter initiative, Beasts of Balance is a unique and fun twist on co-operative board games that is now available at Best Buy.
What is Beasts of Balance?
The concept of the game centers around discovering different beasts and bringing them to life in your app (then keeping them alive.) The centerpiece of the game is the Plinth of Life, which serves as the playing board. The game comes with 6 base beasts, encompassing the air, water, and land/earth. Fire comes in as a playable element, but only through a secondary “Non-Playable” character boost in the playing field. With 1 to 4 of your closest friends, you take on the role of creator in charge of engineering a vast and colourful realm of a fantasy reality.
There are two game modes. More often than not, you’ll most likely be playing the standard co-op mode, but there is a battle mode option as well.
In addition to the 6 base beasts, you have multiple artefact and action pieces (called miracles) that you use in conjunction with your animals to help you create a unique kingdom. The only catch? You have to carry out all of these tasks on the Plinth, which is a small circular base that sits in the middle of the playing board. While the app shows you a small but mighty kingdom onscreen, your playing board gives you very limited space to harness your creative power.
Getting started with Beasts of Balance
The first thing you’ll need to do is download the Beasts of Balance App for a supported device. Right now, the Beasts App is available for iOS and Android and can be projected out to an Apple TV or Fire TV. There is no registration required and the plinth will synchronize itself to your app when you follow the on-screen instructions via local Bluetooth.
Playing Beasts of Balance
Playing Beasts of Balance is easy enough that your children can pick up the basic concept (the game is recommended for ages 7 and up) but tricky and sophisticated enough that it will make you constantly re-think and second guess your choices, especially as your tower gets larger and you need to carefully re-evaluate where the next piece is being placed. Dexterity is very key here, as is your ability to keep cool under pressure.
There is no right/wrong way to start a game, but unless you start with two base beasts to begin your kingdom with, you’ll basically be wasting the other pieces. You add animals to the plinth by touching them to its “Near Field Communication” touch-point. The plinth then registers them on the game screen and you place them on it. From there you can decide on whether or not to cross-breed animals (through X-shaped pieces) or migrate them (through arrow shaped pieces). On screen, the mixed breeds and migrations play out creating new beasts along the way. Off screen, you’ve got to find a way to balance everything on the plinth. The animals come in different shapes and give you the freedom to place them right-side-up, upside-down, or sideways. As you add and create more beasts, you earn points. However, as you add these new beasts, the less powerful beasts lose a point each turn. When they are down to 1 point they become endangered and you need to save them. When they reach 0, they become extinct. They don’t remain on your playing field, but you need to leave them there as part of the tower.
To save animals from becoming extinct, you can play coloured artefacts. The coloured artefacts correspond to the environment. Green represents land/earth, blue is water, and pink is air. There is one dedicated artefact for each colour as well as ones that are blended with other elements. There are also orange artefacts that look like fire. These fire artefacts are special boosters. A firefly flutters around the screen, and if you touch a fire supported artefact, whoever the firefly is on will reap those benefits.
To add some difficulty to the co-op game, you can apply miracle artefacts. These are the unusual shaped items that don’t correspond to element support. The miracle artefacts are:
Haste: This is an odd, rock shaped artefact. When applied to the plinth tower, it speeds up your turns to where your next move is timed. When I played with haste, I was usually given 10-60 seconds to apply the next piece. You can imagine that this gets tough in the later stages of the game.
Distraction: This snake shaped piece is a bit easier to apply than haste (since it can basically just hang off something if you place it right). This one creates little mini-game challenges that you must do alongside placing your next piece. For example, one distraction task requires you to touch full moons that appear on-screen while you are strategizing or placing objects. Another requires you to keep a finger touching an object on screen while you place.
In battle mode, these miracle artefacts have different purposes. The distraction artefact, for example, becomes a resurrection token and brings animals back to life.
The game ends when your tower topples over. If that happens, you’re given a certain amount of time to clean it up. The plinth only recognizes what’s been placed on it and not how it’s been placed. Therefore, if your tower topples and the countdown on the app begins to where you need to rebuild, you don’t have to re-apply everything exactly the way you stacked it in the first place. Everything just needs to come and sit back on the tower somehow. Should you run out of time, the volcano in the background erupts and all of your beasts become extinct, which signals the end of the game.
Applying these miracles will also bank lost points, so keep that in mind too when you’re shooting for that high score. Games in general can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on how strategic you are.
Creating your Beastiary
Even though there are only 6 base beasts, through migration and repeated cross-breeding, you can have over 100 beasts. These beasts are broken down into standard and elemental categories. The elemental beasts require a lot of breeding and are much harder to obtain than regular cross-bred beasts. They are also worth a lot more points as a result and tend to retain their high values.
Interestingly, I found throughout all of the co-op games that I played that I was getting a fairly limited exposure to the number of beasts that came up. Since the focus was aimed more on the team-based tower build, and ensuring I didn’t let people down with shaky-handed placements, we tended to see the same 12-15 beasts. I found that the beastiary grew throughout the battle mode since there was a lot more reliance on migrating and breeding beasts away from your opponents.
Battle Mode pits you and 1 to 2 of your friends against each other where each takes the role of a specific element (Air/Land/Water) and builds a swim-lane sized kingdom of beasts. The biggest difference to strategy is that rather than working for your team, you want to try to work AGAINST your opponents so that their piece placements topple the tower. Your opponents then have to rebuild the tower within a set period of time (wherein the seconds correspond to how many points they have on the board) or else the volcano in the background will erupt and the game will end.
How much Balance will you get out of the Beasts?
When purchasing a fairly significant board game for your home, you really need to think about the longevity of the game and how much playtime your household will get out of it. With over 100 beasts to create out of the box, you could be at this for a long time—especially with those tougher to obtain elemental beasts. Each beast has such unique contours and different shapes, that no matter how you do it, no two games will end up the same way. Once interest starts to dry up, there are expansion packs available with more beasts, and even cards for battle mode. The expansion packs only appear to be available as manufacturer direct items right now.
I had a lot of fun playing Beasts of Balance. It’s something new and very unique. I took it over to a friend’s house and played it with their family, and everybody seemed to enjoy it. My friend’s 4-year-old son really enjoyed the on-screen visuals and the funny names, while his older son seems to be a battle-mode prodigy in the making. Some of the situations we got ourselves into were amazing, and some of the towers we built were truly ridiculous. In one game we got to within 2 or 3 artefacts of using all of the pieces, but the end score was really low because many of our beasts went extinct. I found that when I was using a lot of the breeding and migration pieces up front, my scores were higher. You’ll really have to figure out the power of unlocking elemental beasts and balancing them with the miracle artefacts in order to achieve the highest scores. And it’s going to take a while—especially with the number of contours each piece has and the strategy of making it all work in one go.
I’d also really recommend that to get the maximum effect out of the game’s accompanying visuals you play it on either a tablet or connect to your TV if you have a supported device. The beauty and sheer wackiness of the visuals from the app itself add so much to the gameplay, and having it as large and as bright as possible in your gaming space really adds a layer of fun to an already enjoyable game.
It’s fun, and it’s unique! Beasts of Balance is now available at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca