Board Game Bento Impressions

Introduction

In December, I saw that Board Game Bento was having a sale.  In case you don’t know, Board Game Bento is one of those subscriptions services that sends tabletop games every month.  I’ve tried a few of the services.  Some (the original Minechest and Tinker Crate) have been worth it, while others (Loot Crate and the Loot Crate Minechest) have not endured for longer than the initial shipments.  Mostly, unless you like those Pop! vinyl figures, nothing from Loot Crate is worth it in my opinion.

I have seen the various “Bento” subscriptions come across my social media feeds.  They have one for comics and another for anime.  I have considered the comics one just because I like comics, but I’ve had to stop buying them again.  A box of comics/TPB would be welcome.  I never bit on it, though.

Unless, maybe, it’s this comic book. I Googled “comic book sad” and got this. I, I’m not even going to argue.

We play a lot of games as a family.  You may remember my article about Ticket to Ride.  The boys also like Clue, Stratego, Othello, and Scrabble.  I want to teach them Backgammon and chess.  Always looking at things through the lens of how it will affect us as a family, that was enough to get me to consider the board game subscription.  When they ran the sale, there was little reason not to give it a try.

The first box that I got came with three games.  The second box just came (even though I didn’t necessarily want it, so more on that later) and it also had three games.  Two of them were board games and the third was a card game.  The first game that we played was a board game called Flag Dash.  The other game we played was the card game, which was called Water Balloon Washout.  The third game, that we didn’t not play yet is called Cottage Garden.  I suppose the theme of the box must have been spring or something.

Oh, Spring, how I’ve missed you. Please come back soon.

(Note:  I am going to go out of order for this particular article and do “The Bad” first.  Always lead with the bad.  Aside from that, “The Good” references “The Bad”, so it just makes sense.)

The Bad

As I mentioned, we played Flag Dash first.  Quinn wanted to play both that and the Water Balloon game, we had time on Sunday evening, and everyone else was busy.  So, I grabbed the game and asked him to play.  We sat down, I pulled out the instructions, and started to read.  And I read, and I cross referenced, and I read some more.  Quinn was getting antsy, so I started to set up the board to get him interested.  That required me to read even more.

This is a bad sign.  Sure the game recommended 8+ as the age range.  But, any game that requires you to spend more than 5 minutes setting it up is not a game meant for children of any age.  They simply don’t care about your stupid rules set and interactions.  They just want to put their pawns on the board and roll the dice.

That’s the other thing.  There aren’t dice in this game.  It’s movement cards coupled with something known as a priority card.  Basically, you establish turn order according to the priority cards and then move based on the move card.  Call me old fashioned, but that is simply overly complicated.  Quinn just kept wanting to move, but I had to keep reminding him that we had to establish turn order first.  He got frustrated and it almost got to the point where I just put the game away to prevent a Sunday evening meltdown.

I’m not against a priority system.  There’s one present in D&D and we spent 4 hours playing that the other day.  It’s just that for a game that is supposed to mimic capture the flag, you’d think that they wouldn’t want to interrupt the flow of the game so much.  I mean, capture the flag is about running around like crazy people and trying to grab a flag.

In that regard, it is a poor simulation of the game that it supposedly simulates.  In other regards, there are just too many damn rules.  I have no idea if we even played the game correctly because I just started ignoring the stupid rules and playing more simply.  The game moved more smoothly and we finished quickly.  Thank goodness because I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on a game that could ruin the last free hours of my weekend.

Granted the game is made for 4 players and we played two with one of them being below the age limit.  As a result, we had to both act for two players and that might have bogged the game down.  I don’t know.  All I know is that this game was not an enjoyable experience and there’s no way I would pay the $17.50 that I saw quoted when I went searching for the game picture earlier.

The Good

We played the Water Balloon Washout game second.  Okay, now this is more like it.  I wish that we would have played it first.  It was, by far, the better of the two games.  I’ve often read that the best games are ones that don’t have a large rules book.  While there might be exceptions, that was certainly the case with these games.  Unlike the complicated rules of Flag Dash, the rules of this game were so simple as to be printed on a pamphlet that fit inside of the card box.  We were up and playing in no time at all.

Quinn enjoyed this game far more than the other one.  He didn’t get a chance to get bored during set up because set up took no time at all.  He was able to grasp all of the rules immediately because there weren’t that many.  He was able to put together a strategy that allowed him to compete in the game and eventually beat me.  It was just a much more well designed game for kids.

This game was also suggested for 8+ and 2-4 players.  It scaled much better to only 2.  Also, I can’t see why it would be 8+ other than the reading required.  Apparently our 6 year old reads at an 8 year old level.  I knew that, but I just wanted to write it to brag that my kid is a super genius.

The Ugly

You’d think that with three games and three sections that the last game would go here.  It would line up neat and tidy, but we didn’t get a chance to play the last game.  It is a board game, though, so hopefully it doesn’t have the rules book similar to Flag Dash.  It’s something about building gardens, though, so I doubt that there can be that many rules to placing garden tiles on a board.

No, the ugly of this service is the same as most of these other services.  They set you up for autorenewal and you have to go in to the page to actively cancel it and avoid being charged for a second subscription.  I only signed up for a month and I thought that I had canceled.  Then, the charge appeared in my account again.

What the hell?  I wondered.  In case you are wondering, no, they aren’t the type of company to charge you without your consent.  I had signed up via PayPal and while I had changed my subscription status on the Bento website, I never did so through PayPal, so I got hit with a second charge and a second box.  It’s my fault and I could look at it as a positive because now I have a second box to weigh and decide if I want to continue with the service.

The Verdict

One good, one bad, one unplayed.  One additional box with three more games to try.  Overall, I’m happy with the service, even if it is a bit on the expensive side when it comes to these subscription boxes.  It is 50 dollars plus 12 dollars shipping and handling.  But, you are getting 3 games.  The MSRP of the 3 games in the “Spring” box was 17.50 for Flag Dash, 39.99 for Cottage Garden, and the Water Balloon Washout isn’t commercially available right now.  So, just taking the two games into consideration, you are getting almost your money’s worth from the box.

It also introduces new games into a house that sometimes can’t decide what games to play because we’ve played them all multiple times.  That’s a service that can’t be given a price.  While I haven’t kept the subscription to every service (I just don’t like what Loot Crate has to offer monthly), I do keep the ones that I enjoy and that seems worth it.  I can’t say yet whether this one seems worth it, but we did get great enjoyment from one of the games and I’ll be able to make a more informed decision after trying the latest box.

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