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The Best Bears in Tabletop Games

by on April 17, 2018
 

I recently wrote about Bärenpark, which was a fantastic board game entirely about bears. It isn’t the only one though, as the noble bear has had a role in several games we all know and love. I thought I’d give a shout out to bears in board games.

A quick disclaimer, I may have a worryingly large amount of board games but I don’t have all of the games, I may have missed off a bear in a game you love. If I did, tell me about it in the comments, it’d be really cool to hear about bears in games I’ve yet to play.

All of the bears in Bärenpark (except for the koala)
There are so many bears in this game. It’s all about them, after all (and somehow also koalas who are not really bears). They don’t break loose and murder people, which I can only hope for in the upcoming expansion. Even so, the tiles are so characterful, showing bears pottering around their enclosures, hanging out in their families. The one on the cover looks pretty chilled and happy to be there, which is better than 90% of euro game cover art, which has some pretty dead-eyes protagonists.

Wojtek from Scythe
Wojtek is an orphan whose parents were murdered by a hunter, which makes him basically an ursine Batman. He was found by Anna and joined the Polianian army when she did, which also shows a level of patriotism admirable in a bear.
The thing is, Wojtek (and Anna, I guess), aren’t just fighters. The factions in Scythe aren’t there simply to fight, they need to win over the workers. Wojtek is such a bear of the people that if he reaches any encounter token, he can pick two entries from the drawn encounter card instead of one. These extra choices mean you can do a benevolent and dickish move, which evens out your reputation or somehow still adds to it. That’s how charming Wojtek is.

The Panda from Takenoko
Locked in eternal conflict with a gardener, the panda wanders around and eats the bamboo the gardener is trying to cultivate. It would be annoying if every player was’t trying to fill the panda’s belly as well as building the best garden or a specific combination of bamboo. Not just that, but the panda is so adorable, I don’t think any of us really could begrudge it eating just a little more bamboo.

The Polar Bear from Lost
I… I’ve played the Lost board game before. I can’t remember anything about it. I assume the polar bear was in there somewhere. I just… it’s probably best I move on. Remembering the game hurts.

Beorn from Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game
Beorn isn’t big on questing, but he’s big in every other way. Like Wojtek he’s pretty sociable, but mainly here it is because he needs people to make up for his lack of willpower. Take him along with your fellowship and you’ll find Nazgul wetting themselves in his presence. He’ll beat the crap out of most enemies.
I didn’t even use him myself to begin with, my girlfriend took a Beorn, Eowyn and Na’asiyah deck which I’d built from Rings DB and my word it was impressive to see in action.

Owlbears from Dungeons & Dragons (and Lords of Waterdeep)
I hate owls. They’re sinister, swivel-headed bastards who people credit with far more wisdom than they actually have. Despite that, I have a great deal of affection for the owlbear. Neither really owl nor bear, it’s an aberration trying to make its way in the world. It’s actually not a very threatening monster when you look at the stat blocks, but simply the idea of an owl-faced bear trying to rip your arms off terrifies players. If they’re anything like real owls they’ll also eat you in whole pieces, then vomit out little balls of bone and hair when they’re done.
Fucking owls. They’re the worst. I’d tell you who the worst owls in board games are, but that’s a different article.

The Bear Cavalry from Smash Up
What’s better than a bear? A horde of bears. Maths just proves that. The bear cavalry aren’t just tougher than a lot of decks, they have hugs, they let their cubs in on the action. It’s also a weird combination of both bears and Russian soldiers, so they’re pre-smashed up and ready to be added to anything else like wizards, dwarves, dinosaurs or robots. God, robot bear cavalry… imagine how glorious that would be.

So those are the bears I’ve encountered in board games. I’ve probably missed several (I’ve never played Bears Vs Babies, for instance) so sound off in the comments or on our BGG guild with your suggestions for the best bears in games.

This reminds of another bear game Lonely Bears that I picked up at the UK Games Expo a few years ago, totally worth mentioning here as it has a Stripper Bear a Senile one and a drunk one… I also recall a Ninja Bear…. although I may have dreamt that one. MIKE

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  • Joshua Subramaniam
    March 24, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    Hi Charlie, great post. Thanks for mentioning Lonely Bears, we’re coming back to the Expo in 2019, this will be the year of the Bear ?. You didn’t imagine Ninja Bear- he is indeed real! Check us out at lonelybears.co.uk or on Facebook 🙂

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