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How to play Bear Hugs

Overview

In Bear Hugs, you are wildlife enthusiasts with one goal: befriend the best bears! In this trick-taking meets set-collecting game, you will venture out into the wilderness, encounter Bears and False Bears, and use your Food to try and make these wild animals become your fluffy new friends. But watch out for the Park Rangers who may try to take your new friends away. The player with the most Friend Points after 3 Expeditions is the winner!

Components

Components

  • Bears Deck - 24 Bears + 4 Park Rangers

  • False Bears Deck - 24 False Bears + 4 Junior Rangers

  • 40 Food Cards

  • 30 Berries

Setup

  1. Individually shuffle the two Friend Decks: Bears and False Bears. Set both decks side-by-side (and face down) in the center of the play area (see example setup picture). These decks represent The Wilderness.

  2. Give each player 2 Berries. Place the remaining Berries within easy reach of all players.

  3. Shuffle the Food deck and deal 7 cards to each player to form their starting hand.

  4. Each player chooses 3 cards from their hand to pass to the player on their left. Note that, generally, higher numbered cards are more desireable. However, it may be wise to reserve some lower number cards as well. See the Contests section for more details.

Bear Hugs is a trick-taking inspired game with 3 rounds or “Expeditions”. In each Expedition, you will play cards from your hand in a series of 6 contests to befriend Bears or False Bears.

Possible Friends

At the start of each contest, reveal the top card of both the Bear deck and the False Bear deck. These are the Friends you will be competing to win on this contest.

There are four kinds of Bears you may run into: Grizzly Bears, Panda Bears, Polar Bears, and Black Bears. There are also four kinds of False Bears you may encounter: Koalas, Red Pandas, Teddy Bears, and Tardigrades (also known as “Water Bears”).

The player revealing the cards should call out the Bears and False Bears they see to the group and point out any special costumes they may be wearing. There are three different costumes: Hats, Mustaches, and Sunglasses.

Note: Not every Bear has a costume.

What friends want

The Bears and False Bears that you see in the wilderness will want to be your friend if you offer them the largest quantity of Food, preferably of the type they want. There are four types of Food cards: Fish, Plants, Meat and Honey. Each suit has ten cards ranging in amount (rank) from 1 to 10. Each Bear has a desired type of Food (or in trick-taking terms: “trump suit”):

  • Grizzly Bears always want Fish.
  • Panda Bears always want Plants.
  • Polar Bears always want Meat.
  • Black Bears always want Honey.
  • False Bears on the other hand are less picky and don’t have a strong food preference because they are just happy to be included in the game.

See? Food!

Food cards have a number on the front side (the amount of food) and a suit on the back side (type of food). Always deal starting hands of Food cards face-down with the number-side of the cards hidden.

The type of Food (back of Food card) is always public information and must be shown if asked by a player.

Contests

Starting with the first player (the player who last took a hike) and continuing clockwise, players each take a turn playing a single Food card from their hand (and, optionally, any berries they may have) to try and win the affections of the Bear or False Bear they see. You must play a Food card into the contest, but it may be any type of card and doesn’t have to match the desired Food of the Bear (or in trick-taking lingo: you do not have to “follow suit”).

Determining the winner

Food cards are ranked by a few different criteria in order to determine which is best in the contest.

  1. Most important is the food type. Matching the Bear’s preferred food type is better, regardless of number. In trick-taking lingo, this is the trump suit.
  2. Next, the number on the card is used to determine which card is better. Each berry played on top of a card increases this number by one.
  3. Finally, if there is a tie, turn order determines whether or not a card is better. The earliest played card is better.

Park Rangers

Occasionally a Park Ranger or Junior Ranger might stumble out of the Wilderness. Park Rangers have a desired Food type (they act as the Bear for the round) and Junior Rangers do not (and act as the False Bear for the round). But both Park Rangers and Junior Rangers are “Ranger Cards.”

All Rangers (rightly) don’t want you to feed or disturb wildlife, so if you draw the attention of a Ranger by winning them in the contest, you must choose one Bear or False Bear you’ve already made friends with and cover them with the Ranger Card, removing them from the rest of the game. Ranger-covered Friends do not score points. If you attract the attention of the Ranger AND have no Friends, just place the Ranger in front of you. They won’t cover any future Friends or detract points, but they still can count toward the “Ranger in Training” scoring bonus (see Scoring section).

Spoils of the Contest

At the end of a contest, the winner will take the Bear and place it face-up in front of them. The player who came in second place will take the False Bear and place it in front of them. All other players who did not win a friend will take two berries to use in a future Contest.

IMPORTANTLY, the winner of the previous contest also becomes the new first player for the next contest.

A Table Full of Friends

You can arrange the friends you’ve won along the way however you’d like. Note that you can stack the cards with just the top showing to save on table space.

Ending an Expedition & Next Expedition

An Expedition is over when all players have just 1 card left in their hand. Players then “return to camp,” where they discard their remaining unplayed Food card and then stock back up on Food for the next Expedition. Shuffle the entire Food deck and deal out new hands to each player (7 cards each). Players keep their remaining berry supply from the previous round and any Friends they’ve won.

Just like at the start of the game, players will choose 3 cards from their hand to pass. On the second Expedition, they will pass to the player on their right and on the third Expedition they will pass to the player on their left.

The player that plays first in the initial contest of subsequent Expeditions is the player who currently has the most Friends (Remember, Rangers are not Friends in Bear Hugs, but definitely your friends in real life). Ties are broken by the player with the most bears and, if there is still a tie, the player who currently has the most berries.

End of the Game

The game is over after 3 Expeditions. Players will score all of their friends according to the Scoring section.

Scoring

Players score points based on your Friends, both Bear and False Bear. Berries do not score points.

The friends you’ve made along the way score you points in four main ways:

  1. Bare Bear Points: The number in the top right sun icon.
  2. Bear Pairs: Each pair of Bears or False Bears scores +2 points.
  3. Costumes: Some Bears (and all False Bears) have a sweet costume. Each full set of the 3 different costumes (hat, mustache, and sunglasses) is worth +3pts.
  4. Ranger in Training: If you manage to gather 5 Rangers, you gain +15 points.

The winner is the player with the most points. In the case of a tie, the player with more berries will be the winner. If there is still a tie, the tied players will share in their victory and love of bears.

ROBO-Player Variant

Bear Hugs can be played with fewer than three human players by using Robot Players! To play, deal out a 3, 4, or 5-player game with Robot hands substituting for any absent players. Play the game as normal, except: Deal out Robot hands face-down and then spread it out in a line without looking at the cards. This is a Robot player’s hand and they are part of the turn rotation.

Do not give the Robot any starting berries. They will never earn (or play) berries.

When it is a Robot’s turn, they will always play the left-most card (from their perspective) matching the Bear’s desired Food. If the Robot does not have a matching Food, they will play their left-most Food (of any type).

If the Robot alerts a Ranger, they add the ranger to their group of friends, WITHOUT covering up any previously won friends. If the Robot gathers 5 Rangers in this manner, they too become a Ranger-in-Training and gain 15 points.

Robots have an advantage in that they are immune to Ranger scrutiny, but have a disadvantage in that they do not earn or play berries AND because they cannot love, Robots are sometimes terrible at making friends.

Card Frequencies

Bears

Bear Deck Number of Cards   False Bear Deck Number of Cards
Grizzly Bear 6   Red Panda 6
Panda Bear 6   Koala 6
Polar Bear 6   Tardigrade 6
Black Bear 6   Teddy 6
Park Ranger 4   Junior Ranger 4

Costumes

  Number in Bear Deck Number in False Bear Deck Total Number
Hats 4 6 10
Mustache 4 6 10
Sunglasses 4 6 10
4 Bears: Grizzly, Black, Polar, and Panda

4 Bears: Grizzly, Black, Polar, and Panda

4 False Bears: Koala, Red Panda, Tardigrade, Teddy

4 False Bears: Koala, Red Panda, Tardigrade, Teddy

Jessie, Cody, and Alex are playing a game of Bear Hugs.
Contest 1: The first bear to come up is a Grizzly Bear, which wants Fish.
Jessie goes first and plays the 7 of Fish.
Cody goes next and doesn't have any Fish so he plays an 8 of Honey.
Alex goes last and plays the 9 of Plants.
Jessie wins the friendship of the Grizzly — she was the only player with a card matching the desired food type. Alex wins the friendship of the tardigrade as he played the next highest card — even though it was a non-matching suit. Cody didn't win anything, so he collects 2 berries.

Jessie, Cody, and Alex are playing a game of Bear Hugs.

Contest 1: The first bear to come up is a Grizzly Bear, which wants Fish.

Jessie goes first and plays the 7 of Fish.

Cody goes next and doesn't have any Fish so he plays an 8 of Honey.

Alex goes last and plays the 9 of Plants.

Jessie wins the friendship of the Grizzly — she was the only player with a card matching the desired food type. Alex wins the friendship of the tardigrade as he played the next highest card — even though it was a non-matching suit. Cody didn't win anything, so he collects 2 berries.

Contest 2: The next bear to come up is a Black Bear, who wants Honey.
Since Jessie won the previous round, she goes first again. She plays the 3 of Honey.
Cody goes next and plays the 1 of Honey with 3 Berries on it (This is equivalent to the 4 of Honey now).
Alex goes last and plays the 6 of Honey.
Alex wins the friendship of the Black Bear with the highest matching card. Cody wins the friendship of the false bear with the next highest honey thanks to playing the berries on top of his card (see picture below). Jessie takes 2 berries.

Contest 2: The next bear to come up is a Black Bear, who wants Honey.

Since Jessie won the previous round, she goes first again. She plays the 3 of Honey.

Cody goes next and plays the 1 of Honey with 3 Berries on it (This is equivalent to the 4 of Honey now).

Alex goes last and plays the 6 of Honey.

Alex wins the friendship of the Black Bear with the highest matching card. Cody wins the friendship of the false bear with the next highest honey thanks to playing the berries on top of his card (see picture below). Jessie takes 2 berries.

Scoring Example Dani's array of friends at the end of the game looks like this:  Bare Bear Points = 8 points Bear Pairs: 3 pairs, the Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, and Red Pandas = 6 points Costumes: 2 full sets (hat, mustache, and sunglasses) = 6 points Rangers: No points, but one False Bear was cancelled out.  Total = 20 points

Scoring Example

Dani's array of friends at the end of the game looks like this:

  1. Bare Bear Points = 8 points
  2. Bear Pairs: 3 pairs, the Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, and Red Pandas = 6 points
  3. Costumes: 2 full sets (hat, mustache, and sunglasses) = 6 points
  4. Rangers: No points, but one False Bear was cancelled out.

Total = 20 points