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Queen Bee: What’s All the Buzz About?

Queen Bee Box

Queen Bee Prototype. All artwork is subject to change with the Kickstarter campaign.
(All photos of Elixir Games product were taken and edited by Krista G unless otherwise stated)

Queen Bee, a game designed by Mike and Larissa Brunner and published by Elixir Games, is a board game for 2-4 players that pits rival beehives against one another for control of the field shared between them. Players use their Warrior and Worker Bees to both attack enemy hives as well as defend their Queen. Should she be lost, however, a player is not eliminated, but rather will join forces with their conqueror in a joint effort to continue the fight. Everyone gets to keep playing this family-friendly game so long as they still have bees on the board! Currently available on Kickstarter, the campaign has added cute miniatures, options of more players, and different field layouts to fight for. I especially like the honeycomb inspired game trays!

Queen Bee Mini Prototypes

Sample 3D Minis
(Image from Board Game Geek, credit to mbrunner1984)

Bees and beehives have long been a part of my life in one way or another. Radford University (my alma mater), for example, uses the beehive symbol in multiple facets all over campus to represent “many coming together as one,” thrift and wisdom, industry, and “the busy activity of learning.” Due to this, I’ve both bought and been given a lot of bee-related things, but had yet to try out a bee themed board game. The Queen Bee prototype copy used for this review came with wooden cubes, a 4-player map, dice, and a deck of cards all featuring illustrations from Phan Duy and Sarah Keele. In addition to working on Queen Bee, Keele has provided artwork for Salem 1692 and Tortuga 1667; both from Facade Games. As mentioned above, however, there is a deluxe version available through the Kickstarter campaign that comes with miniatures sculpted by Heriberto Martinez and Joe Larson.

Queen Bee Set Up

A 3-player set up for Queen Bee

To set up a game of Queen Bee, players begin by placing the board in the middle of the table. Each player selects a team of bees and places them in their respective places in their hive: the Queen in her nest, the 7 Warriors in the row closest to the Queen (2 on the outer spaces and 3 in the middle), and the 7 Workers in the last row (same set up as the Warriors). The 87 card deck is made up of Turn Cards, Battle Cards, and Anytime Cards. All 3 card types are shuffled together to form a single, large deck before dealing out 3 cards to each player. The remaining cards are placed nearby in a face-down draw pile. The black and yellow dice are set off to the side. Once this set up is complete, the first player is typically chosen by determining who most recently ate honey, but can also be determined by a simple roll off using the dice.

Queen Bee Cards

Some examples of the cards that can be played during a game of Queen Bee!

Queen Bee is played over multiple rounds made up of individual turns. At the beginning of each player’s turn, the active player first draws a card from the draw pile. They then have a list of actions available to them to choose from: Buzz Around, Swarm, Repopulate, or Sting. Buzz Around is a simple movement action that grants a cumulative move of 5 spaces to a player’s bees. This means the player can move any number of their bees a total of 5 spaces on the board. When swarming, a player will move up to 3 bees from anywhere on the board to join another bee elsewhere on the board. It is important to note that only 4 bees can occupy the same space. Repopulate allows a player to regain up to 3 bees by adding a bee to an unoccupied space bordering the Queen’s nest. However, the Repopulate action is only available as long as the player controls their Queen and the Queen has not left her nest at any time. Much like in the real world, players use Sting when they wish to use their bees to initiate an attack. Sting allows players to move up to a cumulative 3 spaces and declare their attack. Attacks in Queen Bee allow a player to roll a custom die for each bee involved in the attack with the higher total winning the combat. Combatants can play cards from their hands to modify the outcome and potentially turn the tables of the fight. Full rules for combat can be found in the rulebook. After performing their action, the player must discard down to their maximum hand size of 5 if necessary. As stated above, should a player’s Queen be vanquished, that player then joins forces against the remaining player(s) with their conqueror until only one Queen bee remains alive.

Though it doesn’t specify in the rules, I was thankfully given a note that players need to be aggressive instead of defensive when playing. Otherwise, a game of Queen Bee can – and will – take much longer to play than the 15 minutes per player quoted on the box. Overall, I really enjoyed the games we played and found the game to be really easy to teach to others. My only real quip is how 3-player ends up working out. Whichever player ends up in the middle seems to always be the first one to have their Queen eliminated because they have to fight off forces from both sides due to being “on the way” to the other opposing hives. As mentioned above, the Kickstarter has added a 5-6-player map available as an expansion, which rectifies this, though I don’t know what it would do for 5 players as it appears the game plays best when all players are equidistant from one another. Queen Bee not only really seems to shine at 2 or 4 player counts, but is also a very different game at each of those player counts. When playing with 2 players, the game is much more of a fight to the death where being feisty and fast really pays off and at 4-player, there is much more of a balance of offense and defense as attackers are coming in from all sides for all players. My Player 2 and I played quite a bit of 2-player games and it is quite obvious why Queen Bee would be the recipient of the 2019 Best Game award in the 2-player PNP Game Design Contest from Board Game Geek and it is probably my favorite player count. Hands down, I would play this again and am very excited to see what else the Kickstarter campaign brings to the game!

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