Created By: Eliot Aretskin-Hariton and Justin Gray
Art By: Joe Mauro
Released: 2020 - Pre-orders available now!
Player Count: 2
Time to Play: 15 Minutes
Berrymandering is a berry fun, quick, light weight, two player game, where players work to become the next ruler of Cakeland. Players choose to play as either Team Strawberry or Team Blueberry and will spend the game working to section off the cake so they get the largest slices.
Berrymandering comes with everything you need to make the perfect board game cake; lay out the cake tiles in a 6x6 grid, shuffle the mystery tokens and get the candles ready. Give each player their assigned cake base and you are ready to get started. As the fruit and whipped cream featured on the tiles looks real, you may also want to get a piece of cake to satisfy the inevitable dessert craving you will have about 5 minutes into the game. This add-on optional, but without it you will likely spend the rest of the game wishing you had cake in real life. We could really have gone for some strawberry shortcake while playing.
A note on the components for Berrymandering. Everything is made of a nice, thick tile material. The game pieces are easy to pick up and move around and feel well made. Our favorite part is how the candles are designed to fit into the cake.
Berrymandering is played through two main actions, cutting the cake and eating the cake. Each round, one player will be the one who cuts the cake and the other player will decide which slice of cake they want to eat from the available pieces. The next round, the two players swap positions. This continues until all the cake is eaten.
Let's look more at the first action, cutting the cake. The player in charge of cutting the cake, gets to break the cake up into 4 tile slices in any combination of shapes they can arrange. The catch is, no tile or tiles can be left orphaned, or alone. Tiles must ALWAYS be in groups of four so the player slicing the cake needs to plan accordingly.
The other player will then get to select a slice of cake they want to eat, but here is the catch, whichever fruit is more prominent on the slice of cake selected gets the candle for that round. Initially, you would probably think, well that is easy, I would pick the piece that has all of my fruit and none of my opponents fruit. Technically, yes this would earn you a candle. However, it is probably not your best move. You see, one you eat a piece of cake, its tiles are turned over and those tiles are out of the game. So if you select a piece of cake that has lots of your fruit, you may wind up [l]l[[lpaccidentally eliminating all of your fruit tiles early in the game and leaving your opponent open to score a lot of candles later on.
Thus Berrymandering is a careful balancing act for both parties. As the cake cutter, you want to try and manipulate your opponent into either removing a lot of their own pieces in a single slice of cake, or picking a piece of cake that earns you a candle instead. But be careful, because make a slice of cake with too many of your own fruit on it and your opponent could remove that from the game, leaving you down a lot of fruit going forward. As the cake eater, you want to try and remove as many of your opponent's fruits as possible, without actually awarding them the point.
Fruit tiles feature 1-4 blueberries or strawberries. There are also mystery tiles. These question mark tiles allow for some randomness to be introduced into Berrymandering. If the cake eater selects a piece of cake with a question mark tile, they flip over a mystery token and the revealed fruit is added to the total on the cake. These mystery tokens contain either 1 or 2 of each berry and can sway your odds of getting candle or not, so use them carefully and eat them at your own risk.
As cake is eaten, less and less options become available for players to "berrymander", so thinking ahead early on becomes super important. The game ends when the last slice of cake is eaten. Whichever player has the most candles on their cake is the new ruler of Cakeland!
For a compact game, Berrymandering features a surprising amount of strategy. It is quick to learn, easy to teach, and as the board changes each game the replayability is great. Berrymandering also features some fun state map board layouts for those looking for an alternative to the 6x6 grid.
There is also a three player option, which is a neat variation of the game. Two players compete like normal for Team Strawberry and Team Blueberry trying to score the most candles at the end of the game. However the third player, is on no team and is in charge of the random tiles. When a mystery tile is consumed, the third player decides which mystery token to play. The third players goal is to get Team Strawberry and Team Blueberry to tie. If they tie, then the third player wins. This adds a unique asymmetric aspect to Berrymandering and helps increase the game group size it can be played with, making it perfect for third wheels who tagged along on date night.
For those single players, or anyone currently quarantining alone, Berrymandering also offers a solo variant. In this version, the player selects a team and then cuts up the cake. They must then choose 3 slices of cake to eat, gaining a candle for any slice that contains more of their teams berries. The cake that was devoured is flipped over and the cake is reset. This is repeated two more times, until the entire cake is eaten. Depending on how many candles you earned you find out if you get to rule Cakeland. This solo option make Berrymandering a great choice for players traveling, or on a break at work. Why scroll through your social media feed...again...when you can try to rule a land of cakes? But really, the speed at which this game is played, makes it a great filler for when you have a little spare time and want to get a game in.
Overall, Berrymandering is a great choice for those that enjoy abstract strategy games that allow you to try and mess with your opponent. There are limited copies of Berrymandering available for pre-order right now, so if you want to sweeten up your board game collection don't wait or you might miss out on a game that really takes the cake.
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