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Apiary Review – More Space Bees, Please

I borrowed Apiary from a board gaming buddy a few weeks ago. I was looking for worker placement games for family gaming sessions, and the theme appealed. It might not be the complete opposite of medieval farming, but space bee colonization is about as far away as you can get from the traditional worker placement trope. The space bees aren’t all that appealed to me, either. In a bid to get more of the family into worker placement, I was hoping to find something a little friendlier. Something where it isn’t so easy to screw other players over. The spacefaring stripy insects promised exactly that.

For a lot of you, the mention of space bees will be enough to attract you to give Apiary a try. But, if you’re here, you’re likely looking for a little more information. So, for you odd lot, here’s my Apiary review.

Apiary Board Game

Apiary Queen Bee Mini

Let’s get the boring essentials out of the way first. Apiary is a 1 to 5-player game published by Stonemaier Games and designed by Connie Vogelmann, published in 2023. It was Vogelmann’s first game before she went on to create Wyrmspan, the souped-up version of Wingspan. If these two titles are anything to go by, I will be looking out for her future games.

Apiary proved a bit of a surprise hit when it launched. It flows beautifully, looks great, and the worker bumping mechanism makes a refreshing change. Oh, and it has a beautiful Queen Bee mini in it, too. And did I mention space bees?

Apiary Setup

The board has two sides. One side is for four or five players, and the other side is for one to three players. I haven’t played Apiary solo yet, but I have played it multiple times at two, three, and four player counts so have used both sides of the board.

Every player also gets a hive mat, which is effectively your spaceship. Each mat has different bonuses available when you cover the hexes, and a different ship layout, so they do offer some variance.

On that player mat, each player will place a starting faction tile. The tile consists of four connected hexes. This is where you can initially store resources, and each tile has a different starter setup.

Starting setup consists of a number and combination of the basic resources, which are fiber, water, and pollen. Other resources are wax and honey, and while these are stored on your hexes, only a few of the faction tiles offer these at the beginning of the game – you will have to farm or otherwise earn them throughout the game.

Setup is pretty quick and painless, especially once you’ve played it a few times.

Each player also receives up to four worker bees, depending on the setup on your starter tile. These have a rectangular body with numbered sides. As you level up your bees, you increase the number show on the top of the bee.

The components, including the Qeen Bee mini, the worker bees, and the little wooden resource pieces are well made and attractive. The artwork on the mats, tiles, and cards is also great. Overall, this is a good looking game.

Apiary Board

Apiary Worker Placement Actions

This levelling up is one of the areas where Apiary’s worker placement mechanic is a little different, which I’ll cover in a minute. As with all worker placement games, you place your worker on a designated spot to be able to perform the desired action. The available actions are:


Lets you fly the queen bee mini to new planets, which give designated resources and allow players to choose extra resources up to the planet tile limit. If you gain resources, you must have the storage space available on your mat, or you can’t take them. If you place a level 4 worker bee on the Explore spot, you can take any level 4 action at the bottom of the tile. Some tiles have no level 4 action, but others offer powerful bonuses.

  • Farms cost basic resources and offer resource storage as well as other resources, victory points, or queen track points whenever you farm those hexes.
  • Recruits cost pollen and offer conditional bonuses, such as victory points when you build farms next to that hex.
  • Development tiles cost wax and offer powerful one-off bonuses that are applied immediately.

Some, but not all, tiles offer victory points at the end of the game.


Here, you can choose from three available farm, recruit, and development hexes. The level of the workers in the two worker spots determines which tiles you have access to, but you also need to pay the build cost for the hex you choose. Once you’ve bought a hex, place it on your mat in available space. If you cover up a resource or card symbol on the mat, you get to take one of these for free. Move all remaining hexes in the Advance section to the left and place a new one in the empty space on the right. Placing a level 4 bee in the Advance section also rewards you with 3 victory points.


When a level 4 worker bee goes into hibernation, it drops to level 1 and is removed from the board. The Grow area lets you take one or more of these back bees back. For each bee you return, you use one strength on the worker bee you placed, although that bee does not lose the strength, it just determines the number of actions you can take. For 2 strength, you can buy a frame. A frame is essentially an extension to your ship. It can be placed on your mat touching at least one of your existing hexes. Placing a strength 4 worker in the Grow area allows you to upgrade your start faction tile, which does mean turning the tile over, but it is worth the temporary shift of your resource tokens.


Research lets you take seed cards. For every one strength on the worker bee you place down, you take one card. Choose one to keep before returning the rest to the discard pile. Seed cards have some powerful bonuses that can be used at any time. Alternatively, by planting the seed, it will reap end-of-game rewards. To plant a seed, you must place a strength 4 worker in the Research area and have an available spot to plant the seed at the bottom of your mat.

Apiary Seed Cards


Here, you can convert resources to other resources and swap out the seed cards you have and don’t like. You can perform one trade for each strength on your worker bee. As well as being able to trade basic resources at a rate of 1 for 1, you can upgrade your resources by trading a pollen and fiber for a wax, or two pollen and one water for honey. Wax is used to buy Development hexes while honey is used to pay for carvings. Place a strength 4 worker and you can create your own dance, or conversion ratio. Choose a dance tile and fill in the blanks to create the conversion you want to use. You also get to place your remaining colored player cube on the tile so whenever anybody uses that dance, you move up one space on the Queen track.


For a cost of two or more honey, you can buy special carving hexes. Place these on your mat in the same way as any other hex. You can only land a strength 4 worker at the Carve area, and honey is difficult to come by, but the end-game bonuses provided by carvings can be significant.

Bumping Bees

Some actions have a single worker space, and some have two spaces. When the available spaces are full, rather than preventing further placement, another player can place their worker bee in the first space and bump the bee from the last space. When the player bumps a bee, they can level it up and place it in the active pool ready to take on another role.

If you bump a level 4 bee, it goes into hibernation. Remove the bee from the game and place a hibernation token on a spot in the hibernation token pods. Alternatively, when you bump a bee, you can choose to keep it at its existing level and put it in the landing area. This avoids having to hibernate a level 4 bee, so it can be used to gain other bonuses before hibernating.

Apiary Space Bees

Bee Retrieval

Rather than placing worker bees, a player can choose to retrieve all of their bees that are not currently in the active pool. When bees are retrieved in this way, you can generate resources from their farm tiles. You can farm a number of plots equal to how many bees you retrieve.

Game End

The game ends when one player has 7 hibernation tokens down or if all available hibernation pod spaces are filled. When this happens, every player gets one last turn, and then the scores are added up.

Apiary Review – Is it Fun To Play?

There are some unusual mechanics in Apiary that make it different to the usual worker placement game. For the most part, it is a friendlier alternative because placing a bee doesn’t completely prevent others from taking the same action. When a player bumps your bee, it really isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes it is quite beneficial.

I have played Apiary at two, three, and four player counts. It plays reasonably well at two player, but there is a lot less bumping, and there are better options. Three and four player games have a lot more player interaction in the middle of the table. They are more fun for that interactivity.

It can be a real joy to get a strength 4 worker down and enjoy some chained actions, especially during the scoring stage at the end of the game. We enjoyed Apiary a lot, although I can’t review the solo version because I haven’t given that a go yet. And, in case you can’t tell, I love the space bee theme.

In fact, my only real disappointment with this game is that I’m going to have to hand it back.

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