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[Review] Birds, Bugs, and Beans

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I made two assumptions after first getting Birds, Bugs & Beans (R & R Games, 2003 - Stacey Merrill). The first was that it was solely a kids’ game (and indeed, it wasn’t advertised as anything else). The second was that the game would be too simple and easy for kids and that the game wouldn’t be much fun. I enjoyed the artwork, and it looked like a cute kids’ game - one that my four year old would really enjoy.

Well, I was correct that my four year old would enjoy it but was wrong on all other accounts. Yes, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt a kids game, but I’ve seen some of the most staid adults really get into the playing of this game with lots of laughing and shouting. It is one of those fantastic games that both adults and children can play together, with neither of them having the advantage. The game, while simplistic, actually was trickier to do than I thought, and it can be made even more complicated and fun with the addition of some optional rules.

The game is simple, utilizing only a deck of fifty-five cards, each with a picture of some living creature from the animal kingdom (and Bigfoot). The cards are dealt out to each player playing the game until the deck is depleted, and each player has a deck of face down cards in front of themselves. Each player shuffles and puts their deck in place, preparing to start the game. The dealer then shouts out “Flipper!”, and each player turns their top card over and throws it into the middle of the table. If no special cards are in the middle, all of the cards are left in the middle of the table; and another round begins. If there are any special cards, the players must do the actions for each and every special card on the table immediately. The cards that produce the special actions are:
- Flies: For each fly card on the table, players must clap their hands together.
- Birds: For each bird card on the table, players must whistle (or tweet).
- Cockroaches: For each of these cards, player must slap their hand on the table.
- Beans: For each of the bean cards, players must make the “raspberry” sound

The person who does all the necessary actions first (in any order) wins all the cards.
In case of a tie, or contested call, the dealer decides who was first. All won cards are placed on the bottom of that person’s stack, and play continues. Whenever a player runs out of cards in their stack, they are out of the game. Play continues until only one player remains, who is then declared the winner! An alternative way is to end the game when two players are left, declaring the one with the most cards the winner.

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The cards have wonderful children’s type illustrations on them, looking very much like they come from a child’s coloring book. The colors are bright and the animals are usually quite easy to tell from one another. Card quality is very good, which is crucial to a game like this, where the cards are thrown around a lot. The cards come packaged in a plastic insert in a colorful, illustrated box. The plastic insert is fairly flimsy, but it does hold the cards well, even when turned upside down.

2.) Rules: The rules are simple and are printed on a small folded piece of paper. They are written simply enough that a child could probably understand them, and the formatting is well, with a few examples of how game play works. The game can be taught and understood in less than a minute.

3.) Beans: The bean cards are “disguised” as other cards, with one bean wearing wings, looking like a bird, etc. When I first saw the game, I thought that this was rather silly, and that no one would be fooled by such an obvious disguise. But I was again mistaken. In the heat of the moment, people were often doing the wrong thing when a bean came up. “I glanced at it, and thought it was a cockroach!” is often heard, and then everybody laughs at the mistaken cretin.

4.) Optional Rule and Fun Factor: The dealer can select one or two other animal cards and select the noise for those animals. This makes the game more complicated, but even more fun. And of course, the rules don’t state it, but you could add some kind of noise for five, ten, or even more animals. This will probably lead to a complicated chaotic mess, which some would find no fun but which other groups would thrive on.

5.) Ages: The game plays well with a group of children, who will have a blast, or even with teenagers, who will have a blast (whether they - show it or not), and even with adults! Of course, I doubt very often that a group of adults will sit down and play the game; but it happened with me, and everyone had a good time. My four-year-old daughter wasn’t too quick on the draw, even though she did understand the game; but I’m sure after playing the game a little more, she’ll catch on.

If you have kids, or play games with them often, then this game is a no-brainer. It’s fun, fast, and noisy, three things all kids love. It works well with different age groups, and young children can kick the snot out of older, wiser gamers. If you like a loud, good game, one geared towards children but playable with adults; then Birds, Bugs, and Beans is the game for you!

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

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