Waggle Dance was released in 2014 by Grublin Games and designed by Mike Nudd. As is standard operation for Cornwall-based publishers Grublin Games, the game was crowdfunded by a Kickstarter campaign and is now available from retailers. Speaking personally, it can be frustrating when a game is created for a Kickstarter campaign but then unavailable for those who didn't back it. No fear of that with Grublin Games: we salute you!
What is it about?
Waggle Dance is a 2-4 player light-medium worker placement game about competing beehives racing to be the first to produce seven batches of honey (standard game). At the start of each round every player rolls their handful of bee workers (represented by dice in your player colour). The values you rolled then dictate what your workers will be able to accomplish this round. They must then be assigned one at a time to some or all of the action locations (represented by colourful cards): take a hive tile, take an egg, hatch an egg, take different types of nectar, convert nectar or eggs to the nectar of your choice, make honey and finally take a Queen Bee card. This is all accomplished in the Daytime phase.
Each player starts with 6 workers and 3 hive pieces so expanding your work force can be very useful to give you extra actions as well as increasing your chances of rolling the particular numbers you want for this round. Honey is made by collecting 4 nectar of the same type on one hive tile; once the honey has been produced the hive tile is turned over to the gold-coloured side and can no longer house nectar or eggs. The six flower cards in the middle of the display give 2 nectar to the person with the most workers present when the actions resolve in the Nighttime phase (the second most gains 1). Actions are taken in the order of the cards i.e. hatching an egg takes place before taking an egg so players must plan their future turns to make sure they don't waste actions.
Queen Bee cards are rule-breakers; they give very powerful single-use abilities such as adding the temp worker bee to your workforce this round, being able to make honey with 2 different types of nectar, or even depriving another player of one of their bees. They add in an extra level of tactics which will particularly appeal to more hardcore gamers as you can plan your whole game around what is in your hand. Your opponents will only be able to guess what you are holding.
Worker placement, dice rolling and set collection blend seamlessly together in this game to create an intuitive experience that flows very nicely. In 2 and 3 player games spare dice are used to block off some action spots which keeps it feeling tight and difficult to accomplish everything you want to achieve in the coming round.
This is a very aesthetically pleasing game with attractive artwork on the cards. The dice are vibrant and lovely to handle; they are smaller than your standard dice which is probably just as well by the time your workforce has been increased as you wouldn't be able to hold them all to roll! One gripe is the cubes used to represent nectar. Looking closely you will notice that 1/6 of the cubes are grey; they should be purple, to correspond with the no.5 flower card, but something obviously went array in production. It's not a huge issue but if you buy a copy of this game, be aware that grey = purple.
While some Euro-style games can be exercises in efficiency, and largely lacking in any interaction, this is not true of Waggle Dance. Once everyone has rolled their workers at the start of a new round, you are all immediately eyeing each others workers suspiciously and trying to work out which spots they might be destined for. The six flower cards are often hotly contested as it's the player with the most dice on each card that gets the 2 nectar cubes. The Queen Bee cards also offer a little bit of 'take that' (though not too much) as some of the abilities can directly hinder an opponent, rather than improving your own situation. However, it never feels vindictive or mean because there will be other things you can do; there is always the possibility of adjusting your targets for the round.
While there has been no official word on any upcoming expansions, Mike Nudd did confirm that he has completed one. Let's hope that this finds its way into the public's hands soon. What I would say is that while some games are absolutely crying out for expansion material to keep it fresh or add concepts that should've been in the base game, I would not put Waggle Dance in that category. It's deliberately simple to learn and play so as to cater for a wide audience- indeed it won Best Family Game at UK Games Expo 2015- so I would put an expansion for it as desirable but certainly not essential.
I think this is a delightful entry-level worker placement game with enough going on to satisfying hardcore gamers as well as younger players and gateway gamers. There is a level of planning involved which means that some thought is required during each round; this doesn't result in a lot of downtime but it does leave you feeling challenged and satisfied when you achieve what you hoped for. If this is what you're looking for in a worker placement game then I'd highly recommend picking up a copy.
Available from reddicegames for £20.25 delivered.