Beasts of Balance is a new tabletop stacking game that combines strategy, communication, and competition - my whole family loves it
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- A high-quality stacking game has pieces in a variety of shapes and sizes, involves varying levels of strategy, and is fun enough for the whole family to keep coming back over and over again.
- I like the Beasts of Balance Family Stacking Game because it works with your iOS or Android device to really liven up the game, you can compete against others, or youngsters and adults alike can have fun playing on their own.
- Though it's more expensive than your basic stacking game (currently $48 on Amazon), the game play options blow away the alternatives, and there are several expansion packs available for continued enhancement of your experience.
Finding a game that my wife, two sons, and I can all enjoy is virtually impossible. At 16 and 5 years old, there's a seemingly unbridgeable chasm between my sons' interests. The 16-year-old enjoys FPS video games. The 5-year-old spends more time in Candy Land. So, when we can find a game they're both willing to engage in, it's something special, especially when my wife and I also enjoy it.
Beasts of Balance is one of those games that everyone can have fun with. The game was launched in 2016 on Kickstarter by Sensible Object, a London-based game studio that uses connected technology to create gameplay that brings people together. Beasts of Balance introduces brains and technology to the stacking game genre. Below, I'll walk you through the amazing job it does engaging whole families in play.
How It Works
Beasts of Balance comes with:
- 1 Plinth, the base you stack the artifacts - or pieces - on
- 6 beast artifacts
- 2 miracle artifacts
- 3 migrate artifacts
- 3 cross artifacts
- 10 element artifacts
At it's most basic, you scan each artifact on the plinth then stack it on top. You earn points for each artifact you stack. You keep playing until artifacts fall off of your stack. You use the app - available for iOS and Android - to track how you are doing.
However, this is the over-simplistic explanation. There is a degree of strategy involved that is loosely based on real-life resource management. For example, the beasts need elements - water, air, earth, and fire - to prosper. By stacking the element artifacts, you can nurture the beasts and earn more points.
The miracle, migrate, and cross artifacts have additional powers. For instance, the cross artifact causes the beasts you already have stacked to merge to form a new animal. A warthog and shark combine to form a "shoggle." This adds even more points. The migrate artifact causes creatures to leave their natural habitat, like a sea creature may move to the air. The miracle artifacts - oddly shaped pieces that are hard to balance - help you capture points and perform other special actions.
If your stack falls over, you have one second for every point you've earned to re-stack it. If you fail to re-stack it, the game is over.
There are two modes: co-op and battle. Co-op is ideal for single players or for working together. Battle mode involves two or three players competing to see who can get the most points while taking turns stacking one artifact at a time.
Getting the game set up and ready to play only took about 10 minutes. All I had to do was install three AA batteries, download the app, and follow the step-by-step instructions. The instructions guide you in pairing with the plinth and learning what each of the artifacts does. With minimal help from me, my five-year-old, Bucky, was having a blast within a couple of minutes.
What makes this game stand out
This first time Bucky played Beasts of Balance, he was occupied for at least an hour. This allowed me some free time to write. I always appreciate toys that challenge Bucky and keep him engaged. We received the game about six months ago, and Bucky still asks to play it, even though it's designed for ages seven and older. He especially likes playing when friends are over. The game is always a hit.
I like that there's virtually no learning curve to play the game. If you can stack - an activity that develops fine motor skills - you can play. Bucky does not quite grasp how the different pieces interact to win more points, but he has fun with it nonetheless. Plus, as he gets older and starts to understand the concepts being taught, he'll appreciate the game even more.
The game is marketed as a great option for kids, which it is. However, everyone in the family enjoys. There were a few nights when we'd play as a family right after dinner. There were other nights when my wife and I would mess around with it after the kids went to bed. It was fun to idly try to beat my top score while watching a movie.
There are also plenty of expansion packs available with new creatures. We tried out the More Beasts Expansion. It comes with flamingo, angler fish, and chameleon, which have become our favorite pieces. You don't need an expansion pack to have fun, but it's a nice option to have available once you've grown tired of the same pieces.
The artifacts and plinth are incredibly durable, and can withstand being thrown around without any noticeable damage. We only had one minor issue with the pieces when the legs on the flamingo came off. We just stuck them back on, and the piece is fine.
Cons to consider
It always bugs me when products that require batteries don't come with batteries. This is just an added unnecessary chore that I have to put on my "to-do" list. Often times, it also delays the enjoyment of the item. So, I was bummed that Beasts of Balance didn't come with batteries. Build it into the price. Make it a selling point. Don't make more work for me! Fortunately, most people have AA batteries on hand. And, I liked that I could choose to install reusable batteries, which I happened to have on-hand.
Another con is that the battle card expansion pack didn't work for us. The plinth didn't seem to recognize the battle cards. This could be a problem with Android or with the battle cards themselves, but I couldn't find any reviewers online who had the same issue.
The bottom line
Overall, Beasts of Balance is an outstanding game. I love that we can play it together as a family or just have fun messing around with it on our own, and I like that there's so much more to it than just stacking. You really have to use strategy. And, I appreciate that it keeps Bucky entertained.
If you like playing board or stacking games, I strongly recommend adding this to your collection. At $48, it's more expensive than your average board game, but I think it also has better a "replay value" than most alternatives. This is something you can keep coming back to.
What are your alternatives?
Beasts of Balance is really in a class of its own. There are no other stacking games that have such a useful app and require as much cerebral engagement. The most popular stacking games involve blocks or cups, and there really isn't much to them. You get bored quickly. They just don't stack up.
Also, I'm not aware of any board games that do such an excellent job of combining real-life pieces with app connectivity. Beasts is really something special.
Overall, if you want to impress at your next family or friends game night or you are just tired of playing solitaire and want a new challenge, pick up Beasts of Balance.
Pros: Fun for all ages, can play alone or with as many players as you want, compatible with iOS and Android devices, expansion pack availability
Cons: Doesn't come with batteries
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