Posted by: gschloesser | July 14, 2011

Beetlez

Designer:  Eligio Cazzato
Publisher:  Mayfair & DaVinci Games
3 – 6 Players, 15 minutes
Reviewed by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

If one believes the old adage that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, then keeping a spotless kitchen is essential.  Playing Beetlez by designer Eligio Cazzato only reinforces the wisdom of this practice.  It seems that if you leave an abundance of food items scattered about your kitchen, the bugs will emerge when the lights go out, intent on gathering as much of the tasty morsels as possible. 

That is the premise of this new Mayfair / daVinci Games release:  hungry bugs scurry about in search of food, hoping to gorge themselves on the food that they find tasty, but avoid those that they dislike.  When the lights come on, the bugs scurry for the safety of the refrigerator lest they be spotted, suffering the unpalatable consequences. 

One-hundred tiles are mixed face-down and spread across the table.  Most tiles (91) depict a variety of food items (sandwiches, lettuce, steaks, fish, etc.), while 5 depict refrigerators and 4 light bulbs.  Each round, players receive a menu listing the food items they seek to collect, as well as the item they should avoid.  After studying their cards, players place them face-down and may NOT look at them again.  So, there is a bit of a memory element here, but it isn’t too taxing. 

The race is on.  Using one hand only, players must frantically flip tiles, hoping to find food items they desire.  If one is found, the player keeps the tile and continues to search for more food.  If the item depicted is not one the player is seeking, he re-inverts it and continues hunting.  If a player uncovers a refrigerator tile, he should try to remember its location, as it will soon be needed.  

If a player uncovers a “light” tile, he immediately shouts “light”, and all players must then abandon their search for food and instead look for a refrigerator tile.  When one is found, a player bellows “safe!” and no longer inverts tiles.  Since there is one less refrigerator tile than players, one player will ultimately be unable to locate one of these safe havens.  That player will be forced to take a “spotted” card, which will reduce his point tally by 2 – 4 points. 

At this point, players tally the value of the food items they collected.  Desired items are worth one or two points, as indicated on a player’s menu card.  If a player inadvertently grabbed a food item that is listed as undesirable, he suffers a 2-point penalty for each tile taken.  The player who was spotted loses the points listed on the card he drew, and the player who grabbed the most food tiles is labeled “greedy” and loses four points.  This is likely intended to be an equalizer, trying to prevent someone who is skilled in speed games from dominating play.  It probably works in that regards, but it is not satisfying.  It seems akin to stripping a sports team of victories if they win too many games.  

Three rounds are played, and the player with the greatest cumulative total wins the title of Best Bug

The game is harmless, but really isn’t that much fun.  The main problem with the game is that there are too many light bulb tiles in the mix.  Four-out-of-one hundred doesn’t seem like a lot, but with players rapidly revealing tiles, one is almost always located within just a few seconds of beginning a round.  This means players will have only collected a few tiles before being forced to abandon their search for food.  This occurs WAY too quickly.  Fortunately, this problem is easily resolved by removing 2 or 3 of the light bulb tiles from the mix.  This will allow players more time to collect food. 

I am also not fond of the greedy card, as it penalizes a player for good play.  Again, this is easily resolved by simply not using this rule.  

Finally, the memory element of the game is almost inconsequential.  Each player’s menu card lists three items of food the player desires, and one they should avoid.  So, all one has to really remember is the three items desired.   That is not difficult to do.  As such, the only really skill required in the game is speed.  Turn over tiles as quickly as you can and hope to find the food you need.  There is not much more to the game than that.  Frankly, that is not enough.

Speed games are not normally my favorite genre, but there are some decent ones.  Beetlez is not one of them.  While the game has a novel theme, there isn’t much to the game inside.  In the future, I’ll stay out of this kitchen.

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