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Dice Game Review: Bears!

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Many hours of every good middle school education should be spent playing the game “Spoons” (also known as “Pig” or “Tongue”), the next level of musical chairs in which there is one less goal than there are players. Players trade cards until someone gets a matching set, then the madness begins as everyone goes after the spoons in the middle. The person left out is the loser, which no one wants to be. Many people carry scars from Spoons, showing just how seriously fun the passionate battle to collect spoons in the game is.

Fireside Games kicks the idea of grabbing up a notch with its dice game Bears!. While people outgrow musical chairs and perhaps even Spoons, the idea of being the first to achieve a limited number of goals is lifelong. In Bears!, the scoring comes in the grabbing itself rather than waiting for a particular signal, creating a game requiring logic and planning as well as the speedy hands of a Spoon-champion.

Bears! comes with two sets of dice: a white “Campsite” set and black “Player” dice. Each player gets five black dice to keep and five white dice that are added to the center “Campsite” area in reach of all the players. All of the white dice are rolled, revealing bears and tents. All of the players roll their black dice in unison and then rush to grab white dice (one at a time) to pair them with the black dice.

Pairs give points as per the scoring cards, which helps keep players reminded of what is what. Each black die has a gun, a running man, and a tent. A gun paired with a bear means a shot bear, giving one point. A running man with a tent means fleeing the tent for two points. A sleeping bag with a tent means sleeping through the madness, which can either be a very good thing (five points) or a very bad one (minus two points), depending on whether there are any rogue bears remaining in the Campsite.

While the real soul of the game is the frenzied grabbing dice from the middle before anyone else does, there is a good deal of mindfulness and planning required. Only one die may be grabbed at a time, and the tents statistically outnumber the bears two-to-one. However, the tents are worth more points, meaning they will be a sought after commodity. Again, however, if there are bears left in the middle, any sleeping bag/tent pairs become detrimental rather than a big bonus.

All of this had to be considered while the swarm of hands is grabbing the dice away. A good strategist might grab remaining bears, giving a negative point for an invalid pair, but gaining five points from sleeping bag/tent pairs. More conservative players might go for matching guns and bears and running men to tents carefully. On top of it all, players are allowed to reroll their black dice for a preferable pair, but they would have to take time out of their opportunities for dice-grabbing to do so. When the Campsite has only bears or only tents remaining, the round is over, and players add up their haphazardly snatched points.

The rules recommend playing to one hundred points but also suggest a shorter game of 50 points. Bears! is a game for two to four players (the more the better… there are even rules for combining multiple sets of Bears!) ages seven and up. Keeping track of the points with so many combinations can be confusing, and the rules are tricky at times. Still, it makes for a fun and energetic game while still mentally challenging. Full games take about twenty minutes to play, creating a short, fast, fun game for those who like matching and grabbing alike.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.