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Outrun the Bear Review

Updated: Feb 2

WBG Score: 7.5

Player Count: 2-6

You’ll like this if you like: Exploding Kittens

Designed by: Samuel Barmettler

This is a review copy. See our review policy here

Being from the U.K I’m lucky that having a bear disturb your picnic is never going to be an issue. In fact the only animals we really have to worry about is an ambitious dog or if we’re at the beach, seagulls! But let’s face it, being from the U.K we rarely get the weather for picnics anyway. I’m gonna talk about the game now because I can Bearly contain my excitement (I assure you this will be the only bear pun……maybe, but don’t be grizzly if it isn’t))

Outrun the Bear Review

How to outrun a bear (FYI, you can’t!)

First build the park by setting aside the campsite and parking lot, shuffling the rest of the tiles and choosing three randomly with either side face up. There’s also a first play variant for your first game if you want to follow that. Place the bear standee at the end of the board and each player's chosen characters at the campsite. Give each player the card for their character. If you're using the “park pass” variant, flip the card over to use that runner's ability. Deal each player two cards, give the last player the bear token and you're ready to go.

On your turn first trigger the effects of the terrain type you’re on. This could be moving an extra space, moving back to another terrain type or it may even stop you from performing a sprint action. Once resolved you can take one action. Crawling which will move you 2 spaces. You can sprint by discarding four cards from your hand to move 5 spaces. You can also play an action card from your hand which will have a variety of effects on you or other players. Lastly you can play an equipment card which will stay in front of you (unless told otherwise) and give you an ability to use throughout the game. There are also reaction cards which you can play at any time (not just on your turn.) The card will tell you exactly when it triggers. After taking an action you draw 2 cards from the deck. 

Once all players have gone it’s time for the bear to activate. The player with the bear token counts all the paw prints between the lead runner and the end of the board where the bear is coming from. They then draw that many cards from the bottom of the discard pile. If there’s not enough cards they draw from the top of the deck. They then total up the numbers in the top left side of the card and move the bear that many spaces. If the bear overtakes a runner then that runner is removed from the game. All the cards in the discard pile are placed in the bottom of the runner deck. The bear token is passed to the right and the player on the left will go next. It essentially means that the last player from the previous round will go first in this one.

The game will end when there are no runners left either because they’ve made it to the car park or they’ve all been bear food, or if there is one runner left standing. There are also four different variants you can use, including the park pass (as I mentioned earlier, a co-op version, a version where everyone starts with equipment and a last man standing game. You can also set the difficulty. 

Outrun the Bear Review

You should stand tall, wave your arms and talk loudly and calmly

Before you bring this game to the table you need to ask yourself one question. What type of friends are you playing with? Should you ever be chased from a picnic by Paddington's bigger, angrier cousin, what would those friends sitting across from you do? Would they come back to save you should you stumble or would they quite happily leave you as a distraction for the disgruntled Yogi. The answers will probably determine what version of the game you should probably play. I personally wouldn’t want to play the co-op version with someone who would happily throw me under the furry bus. 

The main game of Outrun the bear is very much a “sacrifice your friends and get out of the woods” style of game and is, with the right group, a whole load of fun and weirdly, I’d imagine, thematic? With reaction cards getting thrown about and the game state changing fairly quickly it’s the sort of chaos I’d imagine would ensue if a bear appears while you were munching on a pork pie. 

The most important thing of course is that the game (in its base form) is a lot of fun!. You definitely need to try and keep some strategy in mind. Which terrain you start your turn on is always going to be an important decision and choosing how to use your cards can be a genuinely tough decision depending on what you have in your hand. Ditching four to move five spaces is a tempting proposition, especially if your lagging behind……but on the other hand, keeping hold of those reaction cards for future use could be the difference between being lunch and a narrow escape. But! Be careful what you discard and how you discard it. Having the bear move based on cards you discard is a really clever idea. It’s throws another layer of things to consider when you play a card and it gives you (some) level of control in how the bear moves.

Outrun the Bear Review

Back away slowly and stop moving if it follows you

The looming threat of the bear edging ever closer is the thing that for me stands this game above other “take that” style games. It starts off as a mild threat and moves at  almost a snail's pace. So much so that you can see people thinking “well this is going to be easy.” However, as you make your way down the path and those footprints pass you by, the bear pursuit really starts to ramp up and panic ensues. You quickly go from a state of thinking you’ve got loads of time, to, I need to book it and if I have to sacrifice my friends to do so then so be it. 

Screwing over your friends doesn’t necessarily have to be a result of you playing a card directly on them of course. It could be from playing a card that just affects you. But! Discarding a card with a high value on it can massively affect how far the bear moves and if you plan it well it could be just enough to feed your friend to your ursine pursuer. There’s one card that lets you move 5 spaces but it’s a 3 value card and specifically tells you to place it at the bottom of the discard pile. Of course giving an evil grin to a person on the brink of being bear food as you place this card down would be a bit mean………but you should absolutely do that, oh and also feel free to wave at them as you sprint away.

Unless of course it’s attacking then it’s a different story all together

Given the “take that” nature of the game which also includes player elimination, it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’ve bounced off these style games in the past then I don’t think the regular game is going to change your mind. Luck of the draw can still determine how your game goes and how or if you can react. Now if none of that bothers you and this sounds like your jam then it’s well worth picking up (I probably wouldn’t have jam near a bear, I’m not totally sure how much they love it but better safe than sorry. Before you ask, yes I did google “do bears like jam” don’t say I don’t do research for the nonsense I spout)

The game does have a co-op variant where the goal is to get everyone to safety. I’ve not tried this version since the groups I’ve played this with prefer the regular style. If the game does sound fun to you then this variant could be worth trying out if you can. The cards are all worded in a way that they’re easily applied to a co-op game so there’s no changes to the rules. 

Outrun the Bear Review

Whilst we’re on the subject of variants there are a few in the box. You can opt to use the characters special abilities found on their card. These are good to change things up a bit with some being passive or ongoing abilities while some are quite situational which is great, if the situation occurs, if it doesn’t then your ability can easily go rarely used or unused. I’ve had a couple of games where I didn't get to use mine because the situation didn’t arise.

We’ve not tried the last man standing game yet but I’m sure that’s going to be on the cards at some point. We’ve tended to play this as a last game of the night so we’ll probably do it when we’ve got a bit more time just in case this version goes on for a bit longer. It does sound like fun though. Essentially you don’t use the car park and keep rotating the tiles until only one person is left. 

Outrun the Bear takes a quite divisive game mechanism and adds an element of tenseness and agency to it that for me makes it stand above the rest of the games in this genre. It invokes all that fun table talk and laughter that I love about board games. Now if they can just make Outrun the Seagull for a British audience that would be great

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