Beasts of Balance is a game of balancing skills featuring stylised plastic animals and icons. It's also a colourful mobile strategy game involving collecting and evolving fantastic hybrid animals. It's how both of these elements come together that make it a game that's hard to stop playing.
Beasts of Balance comes in a big friendly box. Inside that box is the Plinth, a white base that connects wirelessly to a mobile device and serves as the building base for the physical game, and a collection of 24 lovely polygonal "artifacts" — the animals, elements and transformative pieces used to create teetering towers of creation.
The animals are adorable, in a blocky sort of way.
The game begins by connecting the Plinth to the Beasts of Balance free mobile app. Then the player (or players, if taking turns with friends) begins adding pieces to the pile. Each artifact contains an icon that must be held against the face of the Plinth to be put into play.
When an animal artifact is placed, its corresponding creature will appear on the playfield in the app. Sea creatures appear in the water, birds in the air, etc. The number represents the animal's energy, which ticks down every turn. Once the number runs out, the animal goes extinct, which means it can no longer be used to create hybrids or new creates. It's sad for everyone involved.
Energy can be replenished using special element pieces, strange shapes with colours corresponding to earth, sea and sky.
Some really crazy shapes in this box.
Not only do the element pieces refill animal's energy, they're also a means of evolving basic creatures into something new.
Other stackable pieces add additional strategy to the digital balancing game. White crosses combine two animals into a new, more powerful hybrid form.
Laying down a long, skinny white arrow-like piece causes a beast to migrate from one element to another, evolving into a form more suited to their new home.
Octopus in the sky. I can fly twice as high.
Players keep stacking their artifacts as long as they can, layering on new beasts, modifiers and elements. Each new piece added in the physical world has a corresponding effect in the digital one.
When my stack looks like this:
My world looks like this:
The goal, along with creating the tallest stack of balancing beasts, is to fill the digital bestiary with twisted animal creations. One must catch them all. It's just how we do.
Should the stack of artifacts fall, the mobile game senses the missing weight on the Plinth and gives players far too little time to put everything back on top before it's game over.
Originally a successful Kickstarter under the name Fabulous Beasts, Beasts of Balance has enjoyed great success since its launch late last year, despite being on the higher-end of the board game price range at $US99 ($130) for the starter kit.
The game's been so successful that the company behind the game, Sensible Object, just launched a second Kickstarter to fund a new edition/expansion pack, with new beasts and a competitive battle mode using NFC (near-field communications) cards. The campaign launched earlier this week, and has already surpassed its $US50,000 ($65,518) goal half over.
While a lot of fun playing solo, Beasts of Balance really shines when I play it with my children. Archer and Seamus have a tendency to go nuts with board game pieces. There's a fortune in Monopoly money scattered about our home. But the colourful plastic Beasts of Balance pieces are sacred. They make the iPad do magical things.
This is what family game night looks like in the digital age. I think it's pretty.