Bärenpark is a tile laying game, the aim of which is — as the name suggests — to build a bear park.

Each player starts with a park area board and a single tile and each turn consists of three steps. Firstly, the player places a tile; then he takes one or more additional tiles (depending on the icons covered) and finally, if all the available spaces on an area board have been covered, the player places a bear statue. Different tiles have different vales and, once all of the area boards have been filled, these values can be totted up and a winner declared.

Bärenpark is a really simple game and one that is very easy to learn. Moreover, the design of the game is such that it is very easy to understand, at a glance, exactly what is going on. As with the best of games like this, however, this simplicity hides a surprising level of depth. While, on the surface, the game is essentially a spacial puzzle derived from fitting together the different shaped tiles, there is also a reasonable level of planning that needs to be taken into account.

The area board has various icons printed on it and the icons you cover determine which tile or tiles you can draw. This means that you have to think ahead a bit and to determine what tiles you will need in two or three turns time to most effectively fill the available space. Or, you can do what I do which is grab the highest value tiles first and then start trying to figure out how to fit them all together.

The fact that there is very little direct player interaction (grabbing a tile before an opponent is about the limit) gives the game a very gentle feel which gives rise to plenty of discussion about how best each of the players can solve the various puzzles in front of us. This is quite a change of gear for me — I usually want to crush my enemies and see them driven before me — but it does make for a genuinely pleasant game-playing atmosphere.

Bärenpark is a great little game — one that is easy to pick up but that retains enough depth to make it worth coming back to again and again. The indirectness of the competition also makes this a game that can be brought out and inflicted on people that aren’t used to (my) normal game playing behaviour.

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