In Waggle Dance, players take on the role of members of a bee colony hoping to be the first to gather and convert pollen into a certain number of honey combs. Players perform these actions by rolling a pool of dice and placing those dice, one by one, onto various cards which represent the game’s available actions. Once one player have converted a set number of their combs into honey, the last round is completed and the player with the most honey (or leading among the game’s frequently triggered tie breakers) is the winner of the game.
Game play commences with each player receiving four honey comb tile and 6 dice (their bees).
At the start of each round, the players role all of their dice and keep their results visible in front of them. (When fewer than four players are playing a set of dummy dice are also rolled. These dice will block positions on the action spaces during each round. The dice will be re-rolled at the start of each round.) Players then go around the table, in turn order, placing one of their rolled dice; this is referred to as the Day Phase.
The available actions are, in order of resolution: gain a honey comb; convert an egg token into a die (worker bee); obtain an egg token; place a die on one of six available pollen spaces; covert either one egg or two pollen into a pollen of the player’s choosing; convert a tile to honey or move pollen between honey comb tiles; and obtain a Queen Card. Notably, some of the spaces require two dice of the same value in order to trigger them, others have space for only one die of each value and others have no restrictions.
After all of the dice have been placed, the Night Phase commences.
During the Night Phase, the actions are resolved in the order described above. While all players that places a legal and sufficient number of dice on any action card are able to take most actions, the pollen action is resolved differently. As referenced above their are six pollen cards and each card may only hold dice of a specific value (one to six) and will only produce pollen of a specific color (yellow, orange, pink, white, red and purple). On those spaces, the players are able to take pollen only if they have either the most of the second most dice upon the relevant card, with the first place finisher taking two pollen cubes and the second place finisher taking only one.
Additionally, in order to covert any cube into honey the player must not only trigger the appropriate action card by placing two dice of the same value on the appropriate action space but they must also have four pollen cubes of the same color upon a single comb tile.
The example below shows a turn’s resolution in a two player version of the game. In this example, orange is playing against yellow and the turquoise dice have been rolled as a dummy player.
The actions will resolve as follows:
1) each player will get one honey comb;
2) the yellow player will convert her egg token into an extra die;
3) the yellow player will receive two egg tokens and the orange player will receive one;
4) the yellow player will receive two pink and one orange pollen cubes and the orange player will receive two purple, two yellow and one orange pollen cubes;
5) the orange player will be able to convert one egg or two pollen cubes into a pollen cube of his choosing;
6) the orange player will convert the comb with four yellow pollen cubes upon it into honey; and
7) the yellow player will receive a randomly drawn Queen Card.
After, each turn is over the board refreshes, bees are retrieved and re-rolled, and the next Day Phase commences, with the first player card rotating to the left.
A few other rules that can substantially impact the game include placement limitations and the previously referenced Queen Cards.
As to the former, only four pollen may be placed upon a tile. Moreover, only one egg can be placed upon a tile, no pollen may share a tile with an egg and nothing may be placed upon tiles that have already been converted into honey.
As to the later, during each game, ten of the available Queen Card sets will be compiled into a randomized deck which may be drawn by players taking the last available action. These cards are drawn blind and kept secret, giving the player that holds them the ability to perform various rule breaking actions.
The exemplar cards below allow a player to: gain one bonus pollen when taking pollen; gain a free egg or comb tile; convert a comb into honey by using three (as opposed to four) pollen cubes; move a die from one pollen card to any other pollen card; change one of their die to any result; and draw three queen cards, keeping one.
Once a single player has converted a set number of combs into honey (determined at the outset depending upon the game length desired) the final Night Phase is completed and the player with the most honey combs is declared the winner. In the likely event of a tie, the winner is the player with the fewest dice (bees) and if the players are still tied at the point the player with the most pollen is the winner.
Waggle Dance has hit the table in our house many times. When I first opened the box and started to sort through the components, my daughter, a somewhat reticent game player, immediately asked to give it a go. We did, she won and it has shot to the top of the list of games that she ask to play.
Now, I will not comment upon the win to request ratio present within my daughters preferred play list, but I will note that she continues to pull this game out to play with friends, even after a number of defeats. When I asked her why she likes Waggle Dance so much she offers two reasons, the turquoise “bee dice” and the relative ease of play. As far as I am concerned, she make a compelling case.
There is no doubt that the look of this game contributes to its appeal. The art is unique and attractive. This is a game that boast not only exceptional art, but exceptional art design. The game designers have embraced a specific and evocative look and applied it consistently throughout. Additionally, while the iconography can be a little perplexing at first, the rule book (actually, a fold out large format single sheet) is easy to use. Moreover, once you understand the iconographic conventions, the cards and action spaces are easy to interpret, regardless of language skills or reading ability.
The game play mechanics are familiar and while I can’t say that Waggle Dance breaks any new ground, it does what it sets out to very well. The game requires players to plan ahead and balance priorities and boast several viable routes to victory. Additionally, since actions are triggered by dice roles, players are forced to adjust their tactics in order to accommodate the randomness that natural derives from this mechanic. However, since multiple dice are, used luck does not seem to predominate. Especially since players can mitigate against bad roles by using their resources to increase their dice pool and using their actions to draw Queen Cards .
The game also employs a sufficient, though not an overwhelming, degree of player interaction. By limiting the number of dice that can be placed on many of the action spaces, the game allows for strategic blocking. Likewise, by conditioning pollen creation upon dice placement majorities players often jockey for supremacy on key spaces. Moreover, because many of the easily obtained Queen Cards allow players to adjust their placements, perceived advantages may often be overcome. That said, the game is no overly aggressive, and therefore is suitable for play with a broad class of new and young players.
The one major drawback for this game is that it apparently is not widely available in North America, as of yet. However, I am hopeful that its small British publisher, Grublin Games, will find a way to distribute this game outside of Europe, as I believe it will find considerable success as a more complex, but engaging family game. Beyond some light card sorting, the game is very easy to set up and can play in as little as 30 minutes. Moreover, it comes in a fairly small box and has a small footprint, allowing for use as a travel or café game, which is likely to continue to engage for quite some time.
I would describe Waggle Dance as a fun and worthwhile addition to the collection of anyone looking for a light or family game that even heavy gamer’s will enjoy. While some may be put off by the theme, I found it to be refreshing and well incorporated into a finely crafted game.
The designers have printed the rule book in a fold out sheet. While this creates an appealing aesthetic, navigating it can be difficult, at first. However, once you have adjusted to the unique layout, the sheet is easy to read and the rules are clearly described with helpful example and illustrations. Moreover, the portions of the rule that you may need to reference during early plays, fold out so that they can be quickly referenced.
The dice in this game are lovely, featuring carved pips and a bee icon, in lieu of the one face. Moreover, they come in unique colors that are a pleasure to behold. I know this is a small thing, but there is no doubt, it has increased my daughter’s desire to play this game many times. So I would count it as a notable advantage of this game and a mark of its appeal.
One of the rules that can be hard to grasp is the placement of dice upon the egg hatching and honey production spaces. Early one we placed both dice at one time, but the rules require that these dice be placed one at a time. The reason for this became apparent to me during a later play when I wanted to use a card to undo a prior placement. The point is, certain Queen Card can allow a player to use a placement on one of these spaces as a feint. Therefore, I would advise everyone playing the game, to adhere to this rule.
The Queen Cards are probably my favorite feature of the game. During any one game play only a certain number of these card sets will be used. While these cards can be drawn randomly, I have taken to randomly drawing half of the cards from a set of card that can only be used during the Day Phase and the other half from cards that can only be used during the Night Phase. In my experience this ensure that player have more options to use these cards to their fullest effect.
The margins of victory in this game are very small. Which is a big part of its appeal. However, the tie breakers are somewhat counter-intuitive. Significantly, ties will usually be resolved in favor of the player that has done the most, with the least. Specifically, in most of the games I have played that player that was able to reach the end game trigger by using the fewest number of dice (bees) usually won the game. However, it is possible to set one’s self up for a move that will allow the player to reach the end game trigger and exceed it, thereby likely ensuring victory. These options contribute to an interesting tension between maximizing capacity and timing the triggering of the end game to maximum effect and creating an efficient engine that allows for the careful deployment of worker bees. I enjoyed this subtle tactical element, and have found that it makes game play far more challenging then it might otherwise have been.