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BEASTY BAR is a new take on games like Guillotine only instead of the French aristocracy queueing up to lose their heads we have zoo animals lining up to enter the world famous nightclub, Como Dragon's Beasty Bar.  As is well known in the animal kingdom, all animals have a pecking order and this is represented by the possible actions illustrated (by pictogram) on the bottom of the animal cards. I should say here that the illustrations by Alexander Jung are visually humourous and immediately eye-catching, to the point that young players seeing people playing it would move closer to have a better look. BEASTY BAR is for 2-4 players aged 8+ and the graphics are definitely aimed at the younger player, as is the time per game, usually 20 minutes or less. The immediate interest level would be high for young players because of the bright colours of the cards and the animated appearance of the animals.


Each player is given a set of 12 cards, numbered 1-12 and in player ID colour  - blue, yellow, red and green - all similar numbers have the same animal on them; example all 12s are Lions all 2s are Parrots etc. Each animal has their own specific action (all animals of the same breed have the same action) some of which happen when the card is first played and others (marked with a swirl) recur each turn. There is very little random to the playing of cards, the players, on their turn, select one of the cards from the 4 in their hand - players shuffle their 12 cards and draw 4 to form their hand at the start of the game - after playing a card in their turn they make their hand back up to 4 if possible; the game ends when all players have played out all of their cards.

The animals are waiting for Heaven's Gate to open - this being the magic portal to the nightclub - and of course like all sentient beings they jostle, pull and push, threaten and scare each other so they can get closer to the main door. Like all devious game designers, Stefan Kloß has input a device mechanic so that Heaven's Gate and the Exclusion Card could swap places thus reversing the direction of the flow of animals so that those at the rear of the queue are now at the front and vice versa

There are two other cards, the "That's It" and the "Beasty Bar" cards. When there are 5 cards in the queue the two Animals nearest to Heaven's Gate get into the Beasty Bar and are placed onto the Beasty Bar card. The Animal at the back of the line that gets pushed, pulled or bullied out of the queue when Heaven's Gate opens is placed on the "That's It" card - animals may be jostled onto the "That's It" card during regular play due to the actions of cards as they are played.


BEASTY BAR is fun for all players whatever their age. Learning the special abilities (actions) of each animal comes quickly after a game or two and helps with the speed of play. Although it is often apparent which card should be played into the queue next sometimes it may be prudent or tactical to not play as expected. Playing to your strengths, ie the cards in your hand, knowing what cards you have played and what cards are likely to be left in your draw pile, all help with strategies. However as the winner is the player who has the most of their animals in the Beasty Bar at the end of the game being too prudent can also work against you. Thus it is a very clever game of some balance, some thought, some luck, some back-stabbing, some prudence and some skilful card playing. But most of all it is a game that is a lot of fun.

When all players have played out their 12 cards the game ends and the counting begins, the player with the most of their cards in the Club is the winner. If several players tie for the most cards in the Club then, and only then, do the numbers on the cards count. The tied players each add the total value of all their cards in the Club and the player with the lower total wins. This is because it is harder to get lower value cards into the Club than it is higher value cards - the Lion (valued at 12) for example, should nearly always get in if played correctly. 

I have played this with several different groups with players aged from 7 to 75 and each time the game has been played similarly but just a little different. The younger players tend to go for the obvious, the mid-aged players look for different strategies and the older players tend to let things flow, using their experience to strike at the best time. Games usually last from 10 minutes upwards, the younger players especially like to play their cards quickly and the mid-age tend to take their time.

Probably a bit late to suggest this as a Christmas present now, but if you can get a copy when the shops re-open from Boxing Day it will make for a good distraction from the regular (often repeated) and costly fare served up by the television companies. By comparison Beasty Bar costs around £17.00 from your local games store and will give hour upon hour of entertaining fun and diversification for the whole family (give or take a babe in arms or two and anyone under seven). 


I seem to have said this so many times but in the way I approach games this is true; ZOCH produce games for families and younger players that a lot of the time are better gamer-strategy games than many of the games advertised as strategy games for players a lot older than the lower limit Zoch usually tend to aim at. It is good news for games players that since ZOCH were taken in by NORIS under the great SIMBA umbrella their style of games hasn't changed. This isn't just good news for games players but it is also a feather in the cap of Simba that they neither swallowed up and dismantled Zoch nor made it change direction.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015