And on the eighth day, God stacked a toucan on top of a shark! And he saw that it was horrifying but worth quite a lot of points so he kept it.
I’ve been playing more and more board games that make use of phone apps recently. XCOM: The Board Game is pretty cool (if a little heavy for some tastes), and Zombies, Run! The Board Game works really well. For my birthday recently (I was 21 again if you must know) my sister bought me Beasts of Balance, a bizarre fusion of resource management and Jenga that makes use of an app to show you the results of your actions.
Beasts of Balance is a co-op game that makes use of animal playing pieces, amongst others, and a pedestal to place them on called the plinth. The phone app informs you that you are the creator of the world you see on the screen and must populate it with creatures. To play, you touch a creature piece to the plinth before placing it on top which causes the animal in question to appear in the game world. Playing animals scores you points – even more so when combined with certain abilities – but there’s not a lot of space on the plinth.
Due to this lack of space, you’ll need to stack the different pieces on top of each other, leading to a more and more unstable tower. If your tower falls, you’ll have a matter of seconds to rebuild it on the plinth before a volcano erupts, destroying your world and ending your game. There are only six animals to place, but there are also a lot of other pieces for modifying the creatures in your world (as well as ones for modifying your score).
If you play a migrate piece, shaped like an arrow, one of your animals will move to a different environment, such as a shark sprouting wings and living in the air. There are also cross pieces that will, well, cross one animal with another to create a new (horrifying, yet cute) crossbreed. These new creatures tend to be worth a lot of points, which is good seeing as this is really a point scoring game.
All animals have a points value and every turn, the lowest value animals will lose points. Should an animal reach 0, they will become extinct (but still have to be a part of your tower). Animals worth over 20 points tend to be immune to this, but there are ways to support the weaker animals using pieces with elements on them. Sky pieces will add points to flying animals, sea ones support sea creatures, and land ones help (shockingly) land beasts. There are also fire pieces that work on whichever creature current has a firefly flitting around it, which moves from animal to animal at random.
It becomes a really tactical game. You need to decide when to let an animal go so you aren’t spending your valuable pieces keeping them alive when you could be maximizing your score through high point value animals. There are also miracles, pieces with incredibly awkward shapes that can help keep your score high in exchange for completing additional challenges each turn. For what is a very simple game at its core there are a lot of moving parts to consider!
I really enjoyed this. The dexterity aspect is a lot of fun, as most of the pieces aren’t shaped in a way to make stacking the pieces easy, meaning you’ll need to think of smart ways to place and balance them. The pieces themselves look fantastic, and I genuinely want to get some of the additional animals from expansion packs. The app looks good, with plenty of bright colours and a lot of different animals to create through migration and crossbreeding. There’s even a competitive mode if the fancy takes you. The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of is that the time limit to rebuild if your tower falls is absurdly small, making building it back up nearly impossible in most cases. Other than that I had a great time with this.
Beasts of Balance is a fantastic game for people of all ages thanks to its simple mechanics and wonderful art style. The only downside is that it’s a bit expensive, although that does make sense considering the technology the game needs to function. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a fun and simple family game with the Christmas season just around the corner!