Full disclosure: A review copy of BONK was provided by Buffalo Games.
So this is another weird one, kinda like DropMix. It’s not quite a board game as much as it is more loosely a tabletop game, in that it’s a smaller version of the kind of game I’d expect to see in a bar or some place. There’s no real theme or story, here, it’s a lot more of a functional game.
In BONK, you’ll go head-to-head or 2v2 in a very simple contest — knock the big wooden ball into the other player’s goal. You’ll find that might be harder than you anticipated, though…
Setup is super easy. Put the playing area on your table, and insert the slides into the four holes:
Now, take the balls:
Give each side six balls (putting three in each corner) and place the wooden ball in the center.
Once you’ve done that, you’re all ready to start!
There’s not much to say, gameplay-wise. Your goal is to slide the steel balls down your slide(s) to knock the wooden ball into the other side’s goal. If you do, you score a point. First to five wins.
There are, however, some rules about how the game must be played:
- If one side runs out of balls, the other side MUST give them one ball. That ball is called the Silver Bullet, which, makes sense.
- You must begin each round by high-fiving the player across from you. Not only is this polite, but it ensures that your hands are empty. You cannot start playing BONK with balls in your hands.
You’ll note that the board is curved, sloping downwards towards the sides. This means that the wooden ball, once moved, is not going to stop until it ends up in a goal. You’ll need to balance offense and defense to be successful, here.
Player Count Differences
Two is a bit more strategic; four is a bit more hectic. I’d say the whole thing is pretty crazy at any player count, though, With two, you need to focus on both offense and defense simultaneously, since each hand controls one of the slides. With four, well, now you need to make sure you’re blocking shots while also not getting in your opponent’s way! And you only have half as many balls to deal with, so your personal ball management problem increases somewhat.
Also, there’s the whole “trying to balance offense and defense with a teammate” thing that may or may not work out for you. Your mileage may vary.
As with most fast-paced dexterity games, I dunno how much in the way of “strategy” there is; this is a fairly fast-paced tactical game.
- If you’re playing two-player, it’s not a bad idea to hold a ball for defense. This will allow you to hit the ball before it ends up in your goal.
- If you run out of balls, you’re basically toast. Don’t shoot too fast. If you run out, your opponent(s) must give you one ball, but you know.
- In four-player games, pass balls to your opponent if they’re using too many. This way, you won’t run out.
- If you shoot two balls in quick succession, you might be able to “dunk” the ball on your opponent. If that happens, then it’ll be pretty much impossible to defend against. Rough.
- Be gentle with the slides. They can kind of pop out from time to time, if you’re handling them too aggressively.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Super fast. Seriously, you can play games in minutes. It’s great.
- SUPER easy to teach. There aren’t really that many rules that someone can even break. You use the slides, you hit the balls; that’s about it.
- High speed gameplay makes for really short rounds and really good shots. You can usually get a highlight-reel-worthy shot once per game and it’s super satisfying.
- The steel balls have a really nice weight to them. They’re well-made. The board is, too. I’m not that high on the slides (see below), but everything else is really nice.
- It would be kind of nice if you could rally a bit more before a goal. Most of my rounds have been a few good moves leading to a score, but I’d love to see a longer rally. That’s part of what I like about KLASK, for instance. And KLASK has magnets, which are super cool.
- Definitely not a backpack game. It’s a great game for traveling if you wanna put it in your trunk and take it to your beachhouse, but you’re not getting it in a backpack to a convention.
- The slides kind of pop out occasionally, and that can really mess with gameplay. That’s the sort of thing that will lose you a point. I get that they need to be freely rotating, but it’d be nice if they weren’t so easy to remove from the board by mistake.
Overall: 8 / 10
I mean, I really like BONK. It’s fast, it’s light, it’s fun, there are great moments, which are pretty much all the things I like most from my dexterity games. I’d say I prefer games like Ice Cool or Mars Open: Tabletop Golf a bit more because you can be a bit more methodical as opposed to hectic real-time games (like Captain Sonar or even BEEEEES!). I find those tend to stress players out a bit more than the others. That said, this is a great game for families, especially since it’s kind of a nice fixture to keep out in a playroom or something where you expect that people can just sit down and play a game. It’s short, simple, and neat, and honestly, that’s never a bad combination for a game.