I’ve played a terrible video game adapted into tabletop experience before. The Super Mario Bros. The Powerup Card Game is one of the worst video game adaptations I have ever played. With that in mind and a love of Minecraft, I wanted to take in the Minecraft Builders and Biomes board game with much higher hopes.
Now, when I thought of a Minecraft tabletop game I expected some sort of PVP or building, but Minecraft Builders and Biomes is actually unlike any other game I have ever played. The game design is somewhat reminiscent of the Minecraft video game, but is much more than a branding-transplant and contains no killing of other players.
Each player is given a random playing card, as well as a character, a skin (color) and a deck of potatoes/weapons. The potatoes/weapons must remain face down in a pile, shuffled together. There are various Minecraft characters to choose from, and the skins come in the form of the color of the stand. This color matches your base weapons pack. To explain your player card, it’s basically the part of the world you spawned into, covered with various biomes that you can build in. The rest of the mob and building cards are shuffled and dealt out into a four by four grid, in piles of four. Around the edge, at each junction, there are face down chests that work as additional weapons to add to your pile.
The issue with this layout is my biggest issue with this game. These different piles need to have a sort of path through them, as each junction counts as one move. This means that as you are collecting buildings, fighting enemies, flipping over cards, and moving, the piles can run out leaving empty spots or just sort of move in a way that obscures the paths. I wish there was some sort of fold-out placemat that could better provide space for these paths and keep things organised after a few of the piles run out. Having a mat would really help with this!
Finally, for components, there is also a big block of little material blocks on the table, off to the side. These blocks have a case-type thing that allows you to easily stack all of the little blocks inside of it, which is a wonderful design and quite fun to do!
Once you have everything set up in Minecraft Builders and Biomes, you can start playing the game. Each player can do two of the following: move two spaces (and flip the cards that have corners touching the junction), purchase a building, collect two blocks from the block pile, grab a weapon that is near them or fight a mob.
Fighting a mob is pretty simple, as you just need to flip over the top three cards in your face down chest pile and hope it does equal or more damage to the enemy you are attacking. Enemies, when defeated, increase your experience, which appears around the side of the biome. They can also be worth more at the end of the game, or be exchanged for bonus moves. Experience is your final end score.
Taking materials from the block on the side of the board is a big strategic move. Not only should you be taking blocks that you want, but you can only take blocks which have nothing on top as well as two exposed sides. When a layer of blocks is completely eliminated, that round of the game is over and scored, before moving onto the next round. Scoring depends on the phase, with the first phase being about connected biomes, the second connected buildings by materials, and the third connected buildings by type.
Despite this game sounding like a lot is going on, it’s relatively simple once you get playing. Moving, setting up your buildings and fighting — it all becomes second-nature as you race around the board, flipping over tiles and trying to kill the skeleton your friend just failed to defeat. Rounds become faster as people mine into the lower levels. Weapons start to have great bonuses like allowing you to flip over an extra card in attacking or grabbing a block of material without having to use that action in your turn. Even without the Minecraft theme, it’s a really fun game to play.
The balance between the various actions, pricing on the different houses, the hearts and abilities of enemies — it’s all very well balanced. Everything feels fresh, fun, and unlike any other game that I’ve played before. If you added a mat to the box, this game would be completely perfect in every way. I really enjoyed the biome map that the players got and the little cards that told the players what options they had as well as the scoring. It’s very clear and understandable, even for younger players who are just playing because of the association to the game. For adults that haven’t played Minecraft and don’t know that villagers now look like witches, there still is a very fun experience that’s worth playing again and again.
I feel like Minecraft Builders and Biomes will come back out to our kitchen table again and again, not just because of the association to the video game, but also because of the amount of fun that can be found behind that IP-based game.
You can purchase Minecraft Builders and Biomes on Amazon.