Written by Chris King
Today, I’ll be reviewing Bethel Woods by Garphill Games This game was successful on Kickstarter . Bethel Woods is a co-operative game for 2-4 players ages 12 and up, and about 40 minutes to play.
In this game you and the other players are trying to construct all 6 pieces of the Daydreamer machine to protect the orphanage from the terrors of this futuristic world that this game is set.
Setup for this game couldn’t be easier. The game comes with a double-sided game setup/ malfunction player aid on the back. NOTE: When setting up, none of the machines can be in a critical state. More on that later.
Randomly deal 1 of the 8 available character cards to the players.
There are enough cards for everyone to have a character and an unused card for the player aid which is a nice touch.
So this is what a game will look like when all done:
The start player will take all pawns at 1 machine in a single direction, start dropping them off 1 at a time using a mancala-type mechanic. As soon as you drop of a pawn onto a machine, check to see if the pawn you placed matches at least 1 of the colors of the Malfunction at the machine. If the colors match you get to take the malfunction off the board. (ex: your last pawn is a blue on #5 and 1 blue is already there. Therefore you remove 2 blue malfunctions from #5.) Any malfunctions removed this way are taken off the board and now known as Knowledge You can never hold more than 7 knowledge at one time, discards any extras/
Once knowledge is gained, it can be used in 3 primary ways
- Constructing the Daydreamer
- Uncovering spies
- Using your character’s ability
To end your turn, you must place 3 malfunctions from the bag and place them accordingly The next player in clockwise order now takes their turn.
Spies/Machines Going Critical
If at any point a machine gets a 4th malfunction, that machine goes critical and a spy will enter the board. When a machine goes critical 2 things happen.
- The malfunction tile next to that machine is flipped over. This will affect the game immediately.
- The top spy from the spy stack is drawn.
A spy will lower the number of malfunction needed at a machine to go critical by 1
On the spy it tells you where to place it, and which two colors are need to remove him.
In order to remove a spy you must drop your last pawn at the spy’s location and discard the required knowledge. Once defeated, the spy will return to the bottom of the spy stack
Note: Multiple machines can go critical at a time, but only spy will be placed a turn
Constructing the Daydreamer/Winning
To win, all you need to do is construct the 6 pieces of the Daydreamer! Easy right? Nope! Each of the machine are connected to a path in the center of board. Each path has 2 color options Only 1 of the 2 will be used. You need to end you movement in the center with that color pawn and discards 1-6 of 1 type. of malfunction. It doesn’t have to always match the color of the pawn placed.
Keep in mind that once you send a pawn into the center it will stay there for the rest of the game!
Lastly there are 3 ways to lose this game
- all 6 spies are out on the board
- 4 machines are critical at the end of a player’s turn
- When there are no malfunctions left in the bag to draw.
Here are some pictures from one of my last games:
We ended up losing! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
So what do I think of Bethel Woods? This is a very solid game. For starters, this game is a breeze to set up everything needed can be found on the setup card provided! The Mancala style gameplay makes this game really simple to play, but also gives some strategic depth to the game. I am a fan of co-op games and this one fits right in. Bethel Woods could be a cousin to Pandemic but played in less time. It has the same level of tension as the game goes on. On you turn it is very simple. Pick a group, move in a single direction picking up malfunctions along the way. Don’t be fooled though, while turns go quick in this game, the game can turn bad just as quickly with the spies and the machines going critical all around you. I find this balance of your choice will alter the game for better or worse with one move!
Okay, so, on the negative. There’s not a lot to say here but if you play a lot of co-op games this next statement won’t be a shock. Depending on the players this game can suffer from Alpha Gamer Syndrome or AGS! I have noticed AGS once during my plays and it was kind of annoying. I know they mean well but sometimes you can’t think three turns ahead.. So just be aware of AGS!
This games also reminds me a little bit of Five Tribes with the ever-changing board state. In these types of games, I have a little mantra that helps me during games. “Don’t look at the board, don’t look at the board!” It’s hard to plan but I do best when it gets closer to my turn.
So, to date I have played this 4 times now and lost every time. We’ve gotten close but never won! This I think is a good sign of a co-op game.