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Tabletop Game Review – Minecraft: Builders and Biomes

Minecraft: Builders and Biomes By Ravensburger
Price: ~$35.00
2 to 4
30 to 60 minutes
Perfect for:
Families who enjoy playful strategic movement games and fans of the video game franchise.

Minecraft: Builders and Biomes is a game of construction and mob slaying! (Mobs are monsters within the Minecraft world for the uninitiated). Players must decide on a strategy—build the best city, destroy the evil creatures that emerge, or some combination of the two that scores an optimal amount of victory points.

To begin Minecraft: Builders and Biomes, two to four players retrieve a player mat and a character standee. The “board” is assembled by creating a four by four grid of stacks of cards (each with four) with aisles in between them. Around the perimeter of the board are weapon tokens which will be used to battle mobs. In addition, a larger three-dimensional cube is assembled from smaller cubes (4x4x4) which contains five different types of colored blocks representing the various resources in the game (wood, sand, stone, obsidian, and emerald). These will be used to construct buildings which have various specific material requirements.

On a players’ turn, they perform up to two actions, each of which must be different: 1) Move—walk 0 to 2 spaces between the intersections of the card stacks, revealing all face-down cards when the player stops; 2) Collect Blocks—take two materials from the cube; 3) Build—trade in the corresponding materials to construct a building adjacent to the player and place it on their player mat; 4) Collect Weapon Tile—if next to an appropriate weapon, pick it up; or 5) Fight a Mob—use collected weapons to attempt to destroy an adjacent monster. This is done by shuffling the player’s deck of weapon tiles face down and revealing three from the top. If the combined power of the weapons is greater than or equal to the mob’s health, the player wins and scores victory points.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review – In the Hall of the Mountain King

Rounds end and score when a layer of the larger cube of material blocks becomes depleted. When this occurs, players score the tiles on their personal board according to the number of connected spaces by type—round 1 is one self-chosen biome; round 2 one self-chosen building material; and round 3 one self-chosen structure. After the three rounds, players score any end game bonuses they may have unlocked from defeating mobs, and the player with the most victory points wins.

What works in Minecraft: Builders and Biomes is the fantastic translation of the theme and experience onto an incredibly clever and distinctive mechanic. Those familiar with the very popular (read: highest selling of all-time) video game will absolutely recognize how elements have been incorporated into the gameplay in terms of activities, execution, and culture. But even for those who have never indulged the virtual brick word, the tabletop game is so highly engaging and easy to pick up that prior knowledge of the property doesn’t in any preclude a really fun time. The mix of strategy and playfulness shines.

Players craving a heavier, more complicated game may not enjoy Minecraft: Builders and Biomes as much as others. The complexity level is on the low-to-medium end, but worth noting is that there is enough variation in tactics and outcomes that the replay value is relatively strong. In terms of judging a title on its intentions—creating a family game that captures the feel of Minecraft while also providing an entertaining and interactive experience—it’s hard not to give Builder and Biomes very high marks across the board.

Minecraft: Builders and Biomes could come off like a gimmick—the application of a popular franchise to a base mechanic—but instead the game developers were incredibly thoughtful in how to leverage the strengths and flavor of their source material to craft a solid original tabletop game. The fact that prior knowledge and exposure doesn’t change the enjoyment level is also particularly impressive. Highly recommended for all families.

Recommended if you like: In the Hall of the Mountain King, Tiny Towns, Splendor

Final Grade: A+

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