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Minecraft Builders & Biomes Board Game Review and Rules

Minecraft Builders & Biomes Board Game Review and Rules

Minecraft is arguably one of the most popular video games of all time. While I wouldn’t consider myself to be one of the biggest fans of the game, I still find the game to be quite enjoyable. How could you not enjoy a game that allows you to explore and create almost anything you want? With how popular the franchise has been, it has lead to a lot of merchandise over the years. I have to admit that I was kind of surprised that there haven’t been as many board games created for the series as I was expecting. It somewhat makes sense as it would honestly be pretty hard to adapt the video game mechanics into an enjoyable board game. Around five years ago there was a card game made, and last year Minecraft Builders & Biomes was released. While I am a fan of Minecraft I was a little skeptical about Minecraft Builders & Biomes as I was worried that like most games based on licenses it would just be another game that was created to make a quick buck. Minecraft Builders & Biomes is not perfect, but it does a surprisingly good job adapting Minecraft for the world of board games.

For a complete look at the rules for Minecraft Builders & Biomes, check out our how to play guide.

The main reason that I didn’t have high expectations for Minecraft Builders & Biomes is that I didn’t think it was really going to be possible to translate the video game into a board game. Minecraft is a complex game featuring lots of different mechanics that I didn’t think could be replicated in a board game. In addition to the obvious mining; there is also crafting/building, exploration and combat. While I thought a game could maybe be created around one or two of these mechanics, I didn’t really expect a game to incorporate all of these elements. Minecraft Builders & Biomes incorporates some of the elements better than others, but I was genuinely surprised by this aspect of the game. Instead of a quick cash grab, you can tell real effort was put into trying to make Minecraft Builders & Biomes a genuinely good Minecraft game.

Lets begin with the exploration mechanics. A key to Minecraft is exploring the world and going on adventures as you look for new things to do. This element of the game is basically implemented in the movement mechanic of the board game. For one of your actions you can move around the grid revealing the tiles on your neighboring spaces. While it sucks to waste an action moving, it is key to the game as you can’t just stay on the same space all game. You need to move around the board in order to acquire buildings for your player board as well as fight mobs. This mechanic is nothing special, but it is a necessary mechanic that helps bring the other mechanics together. I will say that I am not a fan of revealing the neighboring tiles and then having another player move in and take the tile you want before you have an opportunity to acquire it though.

While on the topic of exploring lets move onto combat. The combat in Minecraft Builders & Biomes is kind of basic. Throughout the game you can acquire various weapons to help you out. These can either allow you to deal more damage or give you other benefits. To fight a mob/creature you basically draw three tokens hoping to deal more damage than the creature’s health. If you acquire more weapons you increase your odds of defeating the creature, but there is still an element of luck as you will always have three tokens that deal zero damage. This mechanic is simple and quick. I just wish there was a little more depth to it as in some ways it kind of feels like an afterthought.

With the exploration and combat out of the way, lets move onto the mining mechanic which really intrigued me. I honestly was curious how the game would handle this mechanic where it felt like the video game while still being enjoyable. This is the area of the game where I think Ulrich Blum (the designer) deserves the most credit. The mining mechanic does a surprisingly good job recreating the video game while also being a fun and unique board game mechanic. Basically the game has you create a small chunk of a world by randomly forming a large cube with individual blocks. When you choose to mine you will then take blocks from the cube slowly disassembling the cube. This genuinely feels similar to mining in the video game as you take out one block at a time to get to the resources that you truly want.

What I really liked about this mechanic in Minecraft Builders & Biomes is that I can’t recall ever playing another board game that has utilized a similar mechanic before. The mining mechanic is basically used to acquire blocks which are then used to create buildings. On your turn you can choose two blocks. The only rules for which blocks you can take are that it can’t have any blocks on top of it and at least two other faces have to be visible. Outside of the first couple of blocks, this leaves a lot of options open to the players. At times it will be obvious what blocks you should take. Other times you really need to analyze your options though as you might need to take one block to open up another that you want. You also don’t want to leave valuable blocks for the other players to take on their turn. In theory this mechanic isn’t that difficult, and yet there can be quite a bit of strategy at times.

Acquiring blocks are key because they are used to acquire buildings which ultimately score you most of your experience in the game. Basically each building in the game has three elements. Each tile has a biome, material, and type. Each of these characteristics will be scored during the game. The key to doing well in the game is deciding which characteristics you are going to emphasize and then acquire tiles that have those on them. You will then try to connect these tiles together on your player board in order to score more points.

In general I liked the scoring in Minecraft Builders & Biomes. I think it does a good job balancing between simplicity and yet having enough strategy and planning where it feels like you have an actual impact on what happens in the game. Basically most of the game’s strategy is built around choosing the characteristics that you are going to emphasize in each scoring round, and then planning ahead to acquire tiles to create a large connected group. The game gives you four different options for each scoring round. Some of the options score less points, but are much easier to acquire so you can build a larger group. Others are harder to acquire, but are worth more points. Because of this players have to choose between quantity or quality. Unlike a lot of games it is actually quite a bit easier to score more points from the first round than later rounds, so it is best to have a strategy ready to go from early on in the game.

I was impressed by how well Minecraft Builders & Biomes utilized the Minecraft theme. Beyond that though it is a genuinely good game. Fans of the franchise will obviously get more out of the game than someone who knows nothing about Minecraft. I think those who could care less about the theme can still enjoy the game though. I say this because the game does a good job finding a group of mechanics that work well together to craft an enjoyable game. The mechanics feed into one another well where you need to plan ahead in order to implement your strategy. There is a sense of accomplishment when your plan comes together, and you are able to score a lot of points in one of the scoring rounds.

One of the reasons that I thought Minecraft Builders & Biomes works so well is that it does a good job finding the right balance between simplicity and strategy. I will admit that the game may take a little while to teach to new players as it has a number of mechanics that won’t be familiar to people that don’t play a lot of board games. You have a number of different actions that you can take which entails a number of different mechanics to learn. It may take a couple turns to fully grasp what you are trying to do, but then the game is really easy to play. The various mechanics are quite straightforward and on most turns you likely will figure out pretty quickly what you want to do. This is a good thing for the game as it allows the game to be played by children as well as adults.

For the most part I thought the game was around the right length. Early in the game it seems like the game is going to end really quickly. Players will likely take a lot of blocks early in order to start adding buildings to their player boards. As you progress in the game though the cube begins to shrink and it becomes quite a bit harder to get blocks that you need for specific buildings. The cube usually has a few straggler blocks in each layer that no players seem to want which extends the game. Maybe it could just be due to how the cube was constructed for our group, but it took until at least halfway through the game for the first scoring round to be conducted. The scoring rounds can then move really quickly as you could have two or more scoring rounds within just a couple turns. For this reason you have to always keep track of how close a scoring round is so you can maximize your score beforehand.

Minecraft Builders & Biomes is a good board game and much better than anything I would have expected from the Minecraft license. The game does have a couple issues though that prevent it from being as good as it could have been.

Probably the biggest issue that I had with the game is that it is not the deepest experience. As I mentioned earlier a few of the mechanics are kind of basic. The exploration and fighting mechanics in particular aren’t particularly deep. The game relies on some strategy, but usually the best decision to make on your turn is pretty obvious. This ultimately makes the game rely on a little more luck than I would have liked. You could have a good strategy, but if the right tiles don’t get revealed you will have to adjust your strategy on the fly. This doesn’t mean that Minecraft Builders & Biomes is a bad game. It just isn’t going to be for people that are looking for a really deep experience as some of the mechanics probably could have been fleshed out a little more.

I also kind of question how much player interaction there is in Minecraft Builders & Biomes. In a way the game kind of feels like each player is trying to complete their own little puzzle in order to score the most points. Pretty much all of the player interaction in the game comes from players messing with one another. Between the other players taking the blocks or tiles that you need, to fighting mobs that you were planning on fighting; they can have a decent impact on your fate in the game. Outside of this though it kind of feels like each player is playing their own game and then comparing scores at the end of the game.

As for Minecraft Builders & Biomes’ components there were things that I liked and others that I thought could have been better. The thing that I liked the most were the wooden blocks which are used to create the large cube. The blocks were considerably larger than I was expecting and it was surprisingly easy to form the cube. I thought the game also did a good job utilizing the Minecraft theme with the artwork. Any fan of Minecraft will likely really appreciate the components. The biggest complaint that I have with them is just that the game relies on quite a bit of cardboard where the components feel a little cheap at times.

Based on how most licensed games turn out, I can’t say that I had high expectations for Minecraft Builders & Biomes. I was genuinely surprised by the game though as it is much more than a simple money grab. I never thought Minecraft could be translated to a board game very well and yet it works. Minecraft Builders & Biomes builds mechanics around all of the major elements of Minecraft and they do a good job translating the game into a board game. The exploration and fighting mechanics are kind of basic, but still enjoyable. The mining mechanics are the most interesting part of the game as they do a good job replicating the video game while also giving players some interesting strategic decisions. These work well with the building mechanics as you try to create large groups of tiles that share the same characteristics. The mechanics do a good job working together to create an enjoyable experience that the whole family can enjoy. The biggest issue with the game is that parts of it seem kind of basic where there is a reliance on luck and not a lot of player interaction.

My recommendation depends on a couple factors. If you are a fan of Minecraft you likely will really enjoy Minecraft Builders & Biomes, and should consider picking it up as you are unlikely to find a better board game based on the franchise. Even if you don’t really care for the video game though, you can still enjoy the board game if the mechanics sound fin. If you want a more complex game though or don’t think it sounds all that interesting, it may not be for you.

Buy Minecraft Builders & Biomes online: Amazon, eBay

Minecraft Builders & Biomes Board Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play - Geeky Hobbies

Friday 24th of March 2023

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