Today, I’ll be taking a look at Berrymandering- a game about berries and gerrymandering. I unfortunately won’t be getting the game until after the Kickstarter ends, so I decided to write a preview based on the rulebook. I plan on updating this review once the game arrives and I have the chance to play it!
In Berrymandering, one player will “cut” a grid of 36 squares into groups of 4. These groups must be continuous shapes- which is why the above cuts look like the shapes that you would see in Tetris. Then, the next player selects a group of 4 that was cut and tallies the points from that cut. Berrymandering is winner takes all- and whomever has the majority will score 1 point (nobody scores anything in the case of a tie). To add to the suspense, there are several mystery tiles that can contain 1 or 2 berries of either type. Once the selecting player has selected a group of four, those tiles are flipped face-down and the game continues with the players swapping roles (the player who selected gets to cut, and the player who cut gets to select).
There are nine rounds, so the first player to get 5 points wins the game.
Theme and Strategy
I really like the theme of this game, and I think it can be very illustrative of how powerful it can be to “cut.” Just like with actual gerrymandering, by grouping all of your opponent’s berries into one group, it becomes really hard for your opponent to choose it: that’s because they’ll then lose all of those berries for the rest of the game. On the other hand, by giving yourself a slight majority in some groups, it also becomes very tough for the opponent to choose (because then you’ll get a point, but not lose that many berries!)
I think that this game could be a really powerful teaching tool for that reason- I imagine that some players who are new to the game might initially decide to try and “even out” the berries while cutting (kind of like as shown in the example cut!) before a potentially more dominant strategy of grouping all of the opposing berries in one group emerges. In addition, there is a lot of spacial reasoning in this game that adds to the challenge.
I’m not sure how frequently ties would occur- I imagine that they are somewhat infrequent since the cutting player would probably want to avoid creating tied situations. In the three player game, the third player wins if the two players are tied at the end of the game- and has the special power of determining what the mystery pieces are after they are chosen. This seems like an interesting twist on the game, but it might not be that fun for the third player as a lot of the fun in the game seems to come from the cutting of the slices.
Analysis paralysis might be a problem at the beginning of the game, but as pieces are removed the game would naturally speed up. Additionally, every time a player scores a point, they also are losing more berries of their type than the opponent: ensuring that the game is self-balancing. It seems like the second player to cut would have an advantage, since they get to make the last cut. The last cut seems to be particularly powerful because it is worth 2 points.
Check out Berrymandering here!
What are your thoughts about Berrymandering? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!