Minecraft: Builders & Biomes takes the world of Minecraft and transforms it into an easy-to-learn but surprisingly strategic game that combines several different aspects of the core Minecraft experience. Minecraft remains a video game juggernaut nearly a decade after its first release, where players explore an open world, collecting materials to construct elaborate buildings that also protect players from "mobs" of enemies that swarm the world at night. The game is basically a sandbox experience, a place for limitless imagination but very few set objectives.
While Minecraft: Builders & Biomes, released by Ravensburger last week, doesn't replicate the Minecraft experience, it does take several core mechanics from that game and translates it into a game that's very easy to play, but offers enough options and strategies to allow for multiple replay, especially if you're a Minecraft fan. Each player has their own player board that contains a different mix of biomes and represents their own personal world to build in. Players add different buildings to their world by collecting different resources from a large cube made up of 64 different wooden blocks and then spending them to pull buildings from different stacks of tiles that form the main "board" of the game. Some buildings cost only one or two resources to build, while others cost five or six, so balancing your resource-gathering is crucial to success.
Scoring occurs at three points of the game, each triggered when a different layer of the resource cube is depleted. During the first round, players score points for the largest connected biome on their board. During the second round, players score points for the largest connected set of tiles made using different resources, and players score points with their largest set of collected type of buildings during the third round. Players can also score points by defeating mobs — enemies that pop up on tiles during exploration. Not only do players get victory points for defeating a mob, but the mobs provide extra criteria from which to score points at the end of the game.
I am a non-Minecraft player, but I thought that this was a fun, lightweight game that could be enjoyed by both kids and adults. However, I recruited my 10-year old nephew to play the game with me to get a Minecraft expert's opinion. He loved every bit of it — from the collecting resources, to recognizing different types of buildings that would appear on tiles, to collecting various rare weapons to use against mobs. While I appreciated the game's multiple strategic routes (a player could either load up on weapons to take on mobs, or focus on a flexible building strategy to accumulate points), he loved that it was a Minecraft game that seemed to "get" Minecraft instead of just being a thinly-reskinned version of an existing game.
Minecraft: Builders & Biomes is a fun game that would make for a perfect present for a Minecraft enthusiast. Although the game is focused on that critical Minecraft demographic, it also offers enough strategy and thinking that non-Minecraft players will be able to enjoy the game when their kids insist on playing it over and over again.
Score: 4 out of 5
Minecraft: Builders & Biomes is available now.