Have a Honey of a Time With ‘Bees: The Secret Kingdom’

Box front. Image by Paul Benson.

You may have heard the name Awaken Realms before, as they’re the publisher behind 2018’s biggest Kickstarter campaign Tainted Grail. But did you know they also publish a line of family-friendly games under the imprint Awaken Realms Lite? I certainly didn’t until recently, when they sent me out a couple of their “Lite” line of games to take a look at. Today I’ll be discussing a fun and breezy card game called Bees: The Secret Kingdom.

What Is Bees: The Secret Kingdom?

Bees: The Secret Kingdom is a hand management and set collection game for 2-6 players, ages 8 and up. It plays in 10-30 minutes, and retails for $24.99. It is available to purchase from Miniature Market or from other online game retailers and your friendly local games store.

Components. Image by Paul Benson.

Bees: The Secret Kingdom Components

This is a small box card game, so there’s not a ton inside. Here’s what you get:

  • 22 Gathering Cards
  • 48 Honey Cards
  • 5 Beehive Cards
  • 80 Pollen Gems
  • Manual

While there may not be that much that comes with the game, everything is of fantastic quality. The box is thick cardboard with a linen finish. Sharing that linen finish are the game cards, which feel fantastic in your hands. And the illustrations on all the cards are very pleasing to the eye, in both color and composition.

Linen finish on card. Image by Paul Benson.

The plastic Pollen Gems are also satisfying, aesthetically and in a tactile way. The colors, much as with the cards, are vibrant, and the irregular shapes are fun. As one father of a nine-year-old noted, kids are going to be attracted to those gems and some of them are sure to disappear from the game box if you’re not careful. Thankfully, as the manual notes, there are more Pollen Gems in the box than will be needed for the game, “in case some of them are lost.”

Pollen Gems. Image by Paul Benson.

How to Play Bees: The Secret Kingdom

You can read the rules here.

The Goal

The goal of Bees: The Secret Kingdom is to earn the most victory points. Victory points are earned primarily by purchasing Honey Cards with Pollen Gems.

Honey cards. Image by Paul Benson.

Setup

  1. Shuffle the Gathering Cards together and place them face down in the play area.
  2. Shuffle the Honey Cards and create a Honey Deck of 5 cards per player, plus 5 additional cards. Place the deck in the middle of the deck and draw the first four cards, placing them face up.
  3. Place the Pollen Gems within reach of all the players.
  4. The youngest player goes first, taking one Pollen Gem of any color. Each other player takes two pollen gems of any color.

Gameplay

Starting with the first player, on your turn you will take one of just two possible actions: Gather Pollen or Produce Honey.

Gather Pollen

To gather pollen, you will draw two of the Gathering Cards from the Gather deck, choosing one to play and then discarding the other. With the card you have chosen to play, you will then take the Pollen Gems indicated in the upper right corner of the Gathering Card. All other players will then get Pollen Gems based on the symbols from the lower left of the Gathering Card. If there is a white line dividing two Pollen Gem symbols, then the other players will take their choice of one of the two gems. On cards where all four color Pollen Gems are shown, the other players will get one of each color gem.

If the Gathering Deck ever runs out, shuffle the discard pile to form a new deck.

Note: you may only ever hold a maximum of three Pollen Gems of each color.

Gathering Deck. Image by Paul Benson.

Produce Honey

If you choose to produce honey for your action, you can use Pollen Gems to pay for any one of the four available Honey Cards, placing it face up in front of you. If the card has action text, you must immediately carry out that action as well. Finally, draw a fresh card from the Honey Deck to replace the one purchased.

Game End

After the final Honey Card has been drawn, each player will have one more turn, and then the game ends. Winner is whoever has the most victory points from: Honey Cards, leftover Pollen Gems (1VP for every 3 Gems) and Beehive Card bonuses if you are playing the advanced game.

Advanced Game

During setup, also draw three random Beehive Cards and place them face up in the play area. These provide various endgame bonuses or win conditions.

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Beehive Cards. Image by Paul Benson.

The Verdict

When I was contacted by Awaken Realms to review some of their lite games, my first reaction was, “Wait, I’m one of the few writers for GeekDad who’s not a parent… I shouldn’t be reviewing kids’ games!” But looking at Bees: The Secret Kingdom, it’s clear that this isn’t a game specifically geared towards children. Rather, it’s a family game that has rules that are simple enough for kids to understand, but with enough gameplay options and strategic choices that adults will enjoy it, too.

As I don’t have children of my own, I decided that I would play with a group of dads whose kids are 9-10 years old. While the kids weren’t free to play thanks to it being the time of year they’re off selling Girl Scout cookies, the dads and I got together and ended up having a good time with the game. One of them even said that he’d be purchasing a copy to play with his daughter, as he’s sure she’s going to love it.

Optionally adding in the Beehive Cards to the game injects an extra bit of strategy, making Bees just complex enough to appeal to teens and adults.

Bees: The Secret Kingdom is a fun and fast game to play. The rules are clear and concise, and you can go from a closed box to teaching and playing the game in under five minutes, which is a rarity in board and card games these days. The components are wonderfully crafted, and feel fantastic in your hands while you’re playing. It’s a great game to enjoy with your kids, or can be a warm-up or filler game for adults on a game night. I highly recommend it.

And be on the lookout for a review I’ll be doing of the 2nd printing of Flick of Faith, another Awaken Realms Lite game. It will be hitting stores late this spring.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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This post was last modified on February 24, 2020 5:23 pm

Paul Benson: Paul is a comic book writer, screenwriter, an avid board and tabletop gamer, reader of comics and collector of statues and figures. He is the creator of the webcomic "Heroines for Hire" and co-writer of "Disaster!: The Movie." He currently writes "E.I.: Earth Invasion" for Wunderman Comics.
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