Waggle Dance 2nd Edition Board Game Review

Waggle Dance 2nd Edition Board Game Review

Don’t be misled by the bright and vibrant art in this game.  Don’t let the cute dice with bees on or the colourful wooden bits distract you.  This game may look light and cheerful, but it is not, the simple rules of this dice placement game quickly build within a few turns you will feel the full weight of each of your decisions.

Waggle Dance, on the surface at least, is a pretty straightforward dice placement game played over two phases: Day and Night.  During the day you will send your good little worker bees (dice) out to do various jobs around the hive.  They might care for some eggs, or maybe gather nectar and perhaps they’ll even make some honey.  Like all busy little bees, they’ll do these jobs all the live-long day and during the Night phase, you’ll reap the rewards of their labour.

Polyhedron Collider Waggle Dance 2nd Edition - Gathering Nectar

During the Day phase, players can place their bees on any available spot, which as the game progresses becomes increasingly more difficult.  Collecting nectar is your primary goal, nectar is turned into honey and honey wins prizes! Where this gets tricky though is that everyone is bidding on the same pool of flowers, and to come away with the lion’s share of nectar you need the majority of dice on any one flower.  Since all players roll their dice openly, you can see what your opponent’s possible options are which creates a delicious sense of anticipation, bluffing and elation.  Knowing that no one can stop you from getting all the yellow nectar is great, but waiting to see what one or more of your opponents do with their number four dice can be tense. 

The first few rounds of Waggle Dance are pretty light, everyone just places their bees and off they go.  As the game progresses, as players create an ever-growing swarm of bees (and thus have more options) the rounds slow as more and more thought is needed, more risks and possibilities have to be weighed, and strategies more closely examined.  Most of this consideration is due to the amount of open information in Waggle Dance.  With just a glance you can see what is going on in your opponent’s hive and their dice pool, and thus reasonably judge what they are probably going to do.  I feel like there is a mini-game here, betting with yourself about what your opponents will do.
Polyhedron Collider Waggle Dance 2nd Edition - In Play Mid Shot

Waggle Dance doesn’t have any direct player conflict or interaction, it breeds tension and has no shortage of competition. Trying to work out what your opponents are doing is a little bit like gambling, and judging whether they are interfering with your plans or just going about their business, and then trying to work out how best to meddle with their plans without derailing your own is a careful balance but one this game subtly promotes.  Keeping dice back until your last few rounds just to act as a looming threat against your opponents is a mind game that gets played every time Waggle Dance hits the table, the only difference between new and experienced Waggle Dancers (that’s what we call ourselves) is how quickly these mind games start.

 A key part of what makes Waggle Dance so very interesting is the order of play.  In the Night Phase, the action cards activate in a specific order (A – G, the cards are alphabetised on the back), following this process flow forces you to consider and plan each turn quite carefully.  It provides a structure for you to plan your strategy on and grasping this concept is key to getting a good start in the game.  It also builds in a kind of (another) mini-gambling game too.  You can allocate dice to create honey before you have the nectar, banking on the fact that you are going to collect it, or trade for it and somehow have enough to put all of your dice to maximum use. 

Polyhedron Collider Waggle Dance 2nd Edition - Making Honey 2

When you’re able to pull this off there is a wonderful sense of achievement and more than a little smug satisfaction because Waggle Dance is a game about optimising your turn and your dice, there is always a perfect move and that is what you strive for each time you place a die.  When you make honey by taking a gamble, winning the majority, using a trade and a queen card; pulling all of these pieces together makes you feel like Danny Ocean running a casino heist. 

Waggle Dance Second Edition comes with an optional extra mode/mini-expansion: Threats and to me, this is a must-include.  Threats present another action option, that of dealing with the hornet or spider which has ambled into your hive looking for an easy meal.  Threat cards, if not resolved, will remove eggs, hive segments, and nectar, and in the event you can’t pay that cost, you then lose a honeycomb.  Further, threat cards just keep coming; in each night phase a new one is added and the damage is cumulative.

Polyhedron Collider Waggle Dance 2nd Edition - Treat Cards

The key difference with Treats though is that the number value needed to avoid taking the damage is dictated by the first player to combat the threat; this is another little mind game/gamble.  Do you allocate one of your dice and “force” your opponents to use up (at least one of) their pair?  But if they don’t pitch in, you’ve wasted a die.  Can you afford to take the damage, can you just take out the Threat on your own?  Threats introduce a Risk/Reward mechanism, but the only Reward is not having our hard work ruined and the interplay between players because of these cards dials up the tension at the table.

Waggle Dance needed a second edition.  I’ve always felt that Waggle Dance is a massively under-appreciated game and one that more people should know about; this is a lot harder when the company that makes the game stops.  I was thrilled to learn of the second edition and although I’m a big fan of the old isometric artwork (mainly because it looks so different) I had to pick this up.  The new art, the streamlining of the rules and the simplification of the queen cards as well as the introduction of Threats make Waggle Dance 2nd Edition an all-out win.

Polyhedron Collider Waggle Dance 2nd Edition - Hive Close Up

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. 
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