Come on, who really likes eating their vegetables? And beets are the worst! If I had a time machine, the first thing I’d do is travel back to the moment when someone first pulled one of the dirty, purple roots out of the ground and thought, “Hmmm, this looks good. I think I’ll boil it and eat it,” and then I’d slap that person. If you’re like me, you tried anything as a kid to get out of eating roots and shoots and leaves. Mashing them up to make it look as if you’ve eaten most of it. Insist that you’re full and simply can’t eat anymore. Maybe you tried gagging to convince your parents you couldn’t get them down? Then there’s always the dog…
How it Plays
Bad Beets is all about being the first eater at the table to get rid of your serving of nasty Beta vulgaris. (I did not make that up. See, even its scientific name makes them sound gross!) You’ll do anything you can to get rid of them. Even lie! But be careful, if someone catches your bluff, you may end up having to stuff the unpalatable plants down your gullet after all!
This simple social bluffing design comes with a small deck of role cards and some beet tokens (some ice cream tokens are also included to keep track of wins). You begin the game with eight beets and one card. Each turn, you’ll receive one card passed to you from your neighbor and then you pick which to keep between that and the one already in your hand. Then you claim an action, allow opponents to call any bluffs or play a reaction card and then resolve your action. The first player to dish out all of her beets wins.
There are five different role/action cards. Three of them correspond to actions you can claim on your turn. There’s Feed the Dog, which lets you discard three beets. You can Tattletale on another player by guessing what card is in his hand. If you’re correct, you give him four of your beats. You can also Share two beets with any other player.
You don’t have to claim the action that’s on your card. Instead, you can outright lie to get rid of a bunch of veggies. Here’s the rub, though. If another player calls your bluff and catches you purple-handed, you lose your turn and she gets rid of a beet. On the flip side, if you were indeed telling the truth, your false accuser gains one beet as a penalty. If you don’t have an action card and/or don’t think you can bluff your way out with an action, you can simply Eat a Beet. It may be bitter to swallow, but it does let you safely discard one.
To add more chaos at the dinner table, there are two cards you may play as a reaction when someone else declares a role. If another eater claims Feed the Dog, you can reveal Copycat to discard two of your own beets. And if someone tries to Tattletale on you, you can reveal Nuh-uh! and give them four of your beets, instead!
Just Beet It? Or Just Eat It?
I joke around with my kids. A lot. And most of the time with a straight face. I’m not sure they believe much what I say anymore. I’m the dad who cried wolf. Now after even the most benign statements, they often accusingly declare, “Dad, you’re lying!” To which my only replies are, “No, I’m serious this time,” or “Hey, I don’t lie, I tease.” So Bad Beets is a hard game for me to play with my kids because they never think I’m telling the truth. Which is unfortunate for me, because I’m usually not…
Essentially, Bad Beets is a condensed version of the old card game I Doubt It. Some may know it by a different name, but game play is the same. You’re trying to empty your hand of cards by laying them face down in a certain order. If you’re not holding anything that needs to be laid down next, then without missing a beat, you throw something out anyway, lie about what it is and hope no one calls your bluff!
Bad Beets mixes a limited role (or action) selection to this bluffing and deduction mechanic…and considerably compacts it. There are only five actions with three cards representing each. You might think that would make it easy to keep track of cards. To some extent you can, especially at lower player counts because you can keep better tabs on the roles your pass to your neighbor. Except cards keep circulating. Any time one is revealed through calling a bluff, Tattletelling or playing a reaction, it gets discarded and its owner draws a replacement. However, if there are duplicates of any action in the discard pile, the whole thing gets shuffled back into the deck!
The compactness also means you’re going to have to lie at some point – unless you want to take the slow and boring way out and just eat a beat on your turn. Invariably when you need to get rid of lots of beets, you’re going to end up with a reaction role that’s completely useless on your turn. Or maybe you only have the Share card but want to offload more than a couple beets. You know what to do.
All the mechanics make for an enjoyable and quick game, but the real heart and fun of Bad Beats is not in what you play by how you play. Do you go with a straight poker face the entire time? Giggle and laugh? What tells and giveaways can you gleam from around the table and can you mask your own? Do you try to throw off the others by hesitating when claiming an action when you have the card all along? The only thing more satisfying than getting away with a lie is duping another into accusing you when you’re actually telling the truth!
The only quibble I have is there’s really no big penalty for getting caught in a lie. The only consequence is you don’t get to resolve your action – essentially losing your turn. It’s not a tremendously intimidating deterrence. So when you’re stuck with a reaction card, it behooves you to try and pull a fast one. It’s not like you’ll get stuck with a bunch of extra beets. Alternatively, the safer course of action is to simply eat one and discard it. But it’s not significantly more attractive than risk being caught for potentially dumping more. Besides, is eating them really in the spirit of the game, anyway?
Bad Beets is way more fun with four or five players. It affords more chances of passing beets around the table. I found it harder to keep track of my passed cards. And most of all, there becomes what I’ll call a “third guessing” within the second guessing. When players have the opportunity to call a bluff after the active player claims an action, everyone around the table sort of looks and smiles at each other. “Are you going to call her bluff?” “Me, no, why don’t you?” Hesitation sets in as visions of another taking the fall for a false accusation dance through your head!
On a final note, many may wonder how children cope with Bad Beets. Mechanics-wise, the game is a breeze. After one play-through, kids as young as 1st grade will have the rules down. Obviously the trick is in the lying bluffing. It’s not because kids can’t lie. Believe me, it’s not because of that! However, they’re not generally good at it. And don’t get me wrong, for that I’m thankful! The obstacle for some younger players will be pulling off convincing bluffs. My 6th and 7th grade boys seem to have little qualms (which might not be good, now that I think about it?!), but my 2nd – 4th grade girls stumble and do show a little frustration. Hopefully Bad Beets won’t teach them to be pros at deceit. On a positive note, they positively delight in calling out their old man – usually because they’re always right.
Appropriately enough, this game about veggies doesn’t have any meat to it. It’s light and simple fare. And even though it’s not about dessert, it should hit a sweet spot for family and casual players, and even gamers looking for a fast filler to humorously trip each other up. If you can get into the game’s mood and get over the fact that you’ll be lying a little – or maybe a lot – Bad Beets is a fun bluffing game that you can take pretty much anywhere and teach to almost anybody.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Stone Blade Entertainment for providing a review copy of Bad Beets.