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Wabash Cannonball (Chicago Express)
if no image probably out of print
Although originally published as Wabash Cannonball (Winsome), this review refers to the Chicago Express version picked up a year later by Queen and Rio Grande Games. Since its first appearance this game has since spawned a whole series of similar railroad games known as the Historical Railroads System including Baltimore and Ohio, Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, Preussische Ostbahn and Texas & Pacific, but it should be noted that in each of these not only the geographies, but also some rules elements change. Shared fundamentals in the series include: one action per player turn, option to either put a railroad share up for auction or build track for railroad in which one has shares, and most money being the arbiter of victory. Games from Winsome not strictly in the series, but having signficant similarities include Age of Schemes, SNCF, Colorado Midland and Rails of the Rising Sun.

Another general rule in the system is that the more a railroad expands, the better dividends it pays its owners and the higher its share value, which will count as more cash at the end of play. Encountering this system for the first time can be bewildering, not least because in many cases when one's turn comes around it's preferable to do nothing at all. That is because this system is largely about delaying. The intermediate goal is to have the most stocks in the railroads that expand furthest. But at the start, identifying which railroads these will be, their expansion depending only on the players, is extremely difficult. Buying a stock probably ensures that no one else will try to help it. But expanding a railroad's track probably ensures that others will buy shares in it, possibly even more than the player, thus gaining the larger bounty. Keys then are to lay back and save money so as to have the most to win the key auctions when such opportunities present themselves. All of this tends to be counter-intuitive to the aggressive approach many bring to games so it can be a real learning process. Clearly evaluation is very important in figuring out how much to spend on a share, but tactical considerations are very important as well, if players choose to use them. For example they can build a rival railroad to nowhere or use one to cut another off. They can try to trick other players into buying less valuable stocks in order to reserve better ones for themselves. Perhaps it can also be a mite unfair at times as it is often probably better to be last in the turn order to achieve the above goals; these players may have an advantage which is not even immediately recognized. There is also some fragility unstoppable lead which, however, is saved as it's over in forty-five minutes, and two, there can be kingmaking, sometimes going unnoticed. In this case the hexagonal map stretches from New York to Chicago with the costly to build over Appalachian Mountains interposed between. Four railroad companies are available, one reason four is probably the ideal number of players. The Queen edition offers a large number of wooden locomotive pieces which are quite nice to use, but a rather garishly yellow board which will probably take some getting used to. It's certainly not boring at least. The are also printed action gauges and separate indicators for them plus a lot of paper money which around here tends to be replaced by Poker chips. This can be worthwhile with a group that can handle the fragility; some later entries in the system, such as Texas & Pacific, add considerations and possibilities that raise interest even more, but do not offer the same level of physical quality. [Italian Rails] [6-player Games]
MMHH6 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6)
Harry Wu; Winsome-2007/Queen-2008/Rio Grande-2008; 2-6; 45 Buy the Rio Grande edition
Waldmeister
Game about forest management has an educational flavor. Subsidized by the Bavarian forestry department, it contains sufficient bits to have required a small woods. Each player has a personal plot and therein attempts to grow the highest quality forest, with the most diversity, least pollution and most animals. Inherent in play of the game is a fair amount of information about the various threats to a forest. These come up via a wide variety of event cards which are played by an inexact mechanism that is mostly bluff and very much hit-or-miss. Winning the game is not so much a matter of strategy but of carefully tweaking a number of mind-numbing tiny details, often those buried in the rules details of cards one is not even holding. Luck in card draws – both from the deck and from one's fellow players (best to know well their tendencies) – can play an important role.
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Walnut Grove
Did you know there are towns named Walnut Grove in twenty-six states? I have even been to one, but that quiet, little river and canning town is a far cry from what's depicted here. This is a game of the Old West, but the title is a bit odd as there are no Walnut Groves in Old West states like Colorado and Wyoming. This is no surprise: the arid West was notably free of trees. There are Walnut Groves in Texas and Utah; perhaps one of these inspired. Or the Walnut Grove in Minnesota where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born. This is a game of hardships in which players mostly contend with the system itself as they struggle to keep their workers fed and warm. Play is over eight years representing the passage of 32 seasons. In the spring players add one or two new random square tiles to their player boards. These come in four terrain types, each of which produces a different commodity. It's a wise rule that lets players draw three and keep one or draw four and keep two. Even so, when one cannot draw what's needed most, this becomes the most frustrating element. In summer players deploy their workers into areas, i.e. parts of tiles sharing the same color. They then harvest a number of goods (cubes) equal to the number of tiles participating in the area. Each summer there is one random type that produces a bonus cube to tempt a player away from his original plan. In autumn players take turns making one move clockwise on the common board. Representing a Western town, there is a circular road with buildings along the outside edge, each providing a different advantage. Some permit hiring more workers, some give victory point providing improvements, some extra barns for storage and some permit selling of certain combination of three cubes. The main rub is that each location only permits one player to use it per turn. The other is that passing either of two points on the board requires paying a tax. Thus one doesn't want to move along too fast, making this a limited version of the rondel mechanism. Selling cubes permits drawing three coins from a bag which come in values 0 to 2 (each of which will be worth points in the end). Coins take up barn storage space so so buying extensions is often required. Tiles also contain fences running through them. Extra points are earned for having fenced in areas by the end. In the winter players must spend cubes to feed their workers, each of which requires one of three types of diets, and also burn wood or have huts to keep them warm, some winters being colder than others. The presentation via icons is fairly intuitive, but some of the rules, e.g. those on heating are worded a bit ambiguously. This is not a pretentious affair. It's quick. It's intuitive. The seasons are programmed into an A and B deck, becoming more difficult as one goes. Decisions of where to deploy workers can be quite challenging. There may be a certain sameness in the year disks after a while, however. This is the rare game that makes one actively wish there were expansion kits to vary play more and introduce more wrinkles. This might be good for non-gamers except that having to fight the system it's too easy to make a major error early and then suffer for a long time. This heavy system element does lend itself to solitaire play, however.
LHMM7 (Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7)
Paul Laane & Touko Tahkokallio; Lookout Games-2011; 1-4; 45 Amazon
War
Questionable whether this card exercise for children with absolutely no decisionmaking is actually a game.
Was Sticht is one
of the games in
this package:
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Was Sticht
Trick-taking card game with title a pun on taking tricks and being stung by a mosquito, literally "What Sticks". Players start the game by drafting what sorts of games they wish to win, then before each hand draft the cards they will use. Thus everyone can know what cards each player is holding before play begins which will be a distasteful memory element for some. The game could be played with all cards on the table, but not knowing the card distribution is part of the fun risk management of most trick-taking games. Another issue is that it is possible that at the end of the hand no one has managed to satisfy a victory condition so the game may go on for quite a long time. [Buy it at Amazon]
Web
Card placement game about expansion of servers and websites seems a bit subject to luck of the draw and kingmaking. Perhaps it is best played as a two-player game to avoid these problems. [Jeroen Doumen] [Splotter]
Weinhändler, Die [Piatnik]
Multi-player game of carrying wine and passengers up and down the Loire River amidst the chateaus. Wine is picked up at several ports and always sold at Nantes while tourists are picked up and delivered at various destinations. Each turn these demands appear in the form of cards specifying their origin and destination. If a sun card should appear, all of the extant wine cards disappear, the wine having been spoiled. As in Montgolfière, also by Dominique Ehrhard, movement is entirely via card play. While in that one cards are chosen from one's own hand, here they are drafted in turn from a common offering. Cards are played out one at a time reminiscent of another game by this designer, Condottiere. Stokers permit movement up and down the linear depiction of the river. Boatswains help in reaching the ports, there being one per river segment and only one boat allowed to land at each. Anglers permit a player to dally and see what others are up to, although it is advisable to not wait too long. A "BOOM" card causes another player to have an engine explosion and lose a stoker card, probably disrupting his sailing plan. Wine pays two points if the favorable Nantes port is used, one otherwise. Tourists pay one point. Victory is achieved at twenty. There may be too much chaos for some as it is possible for a large load of several cards to appear at a single port. Whichever player collects them, and one player must collect all of them, will have a huge and nearly unassailable advantage. Once aboard the boat the collection cannot in any way be sabotaged and while the delivery may be delayed through concerted action, eventually it must be delivered for a large number of points. This can also cause some problems for the game since there are relatively few demand cards and if a player cannot deliver a large load, there may not be any new loads to pick up for a few turns and players may be idling their boats on the river for a time. A way to get more demand cards out might have been a good idea. At the very least the game requires an alert team of players ready and able to play defensively to stop a leader, even if such is not to their own immediate benefit. And there is more chaos in the random way that new demands appear and get extinguished. Which boat operations appear each turn is also luck-dependent. A rule permitting the use of wine to bribe boatswains never seems to be worth using. At the end of the day, the question for most may be whether the theme succeeds in ameliorating the chaos. Strategically, there are some interesting choices about whether to make a grab or to bide one's time and build a stronger hand. Much will depend on the playing style of one's opponents. Presentation is average although one would have hoped for more with such a romantic topic. The cards are rather thin which is surprising from the great card games company Piatnik while the otherwise gorgeous cover strangely marred, perhaps by some PhotoshopTM effect. Title means "Wine Merchant." [Tourist Games]
Weinhändler, Die [Amigo]
Multi-player auction and set collection card game, the second for inventors Roman Pelek and Claudia Hely (see Santiago). It shares with James Ernest's Lamarckian Poker and Reiner Knizia's Money the idea that the same resources being collected are also used in bidding. A second shared feature is that in addition to the main offering, others' bids constitute awards. (High bid receives the main, next highest the high's bid, and so on.) But here bidding is not blind, but sequential. Scoring is rather different as well. Players try to create pyramids of wine bottle cards which match a color and number. Play passes through noticeable stages from the outset where everyone is just looking for good value to the end when all are fairly locked in to particular needs. The usual auction evaluations become somewhat warped when players deliberately aim for targets not at the top. On the other hand there is perhaps an inherent fragility in the system if a player can win the main offering too easily due to others undervaluing it. A rather strict hand limit helps work against this however. For auction fans, the unusual way that items are distributed makes this worth playing and having. Title is shared with another, unrelated game and means "Wine Merchant." Apparently the duplication is possible because the earlier one came from Piatnik, which is in Austria rather than Germany. [Holiday List 2004]
MLMH (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High)
Welt der Winde
Multi-player game set in a science fiction "World of the Winds." Gliders fly to a central island, pick up a fictional precious mineral and then fly home again. Minerals are represented by actual small rocks. Winds come from the four cardinal directions, apply the same for all players and are represented by six dice which hold the four colors. Movement of a glider is handled very satisfyingly as the additive result of these dice. Players dial their movements simultaneously and one hopes without error. But one must beware of other gliders which if they land on one, send the glider immediately home without the mineral, much as in Backgammon. Turbulence points in the four corners behave like "warp points" and permit gliders to teleport across the board. Unfortunately they seem too tucked into the corner to be of much use. Optional additional turbulence points may address this. Overall, an innovative design deserving of attention, but which asks a fair amount of its players and thus requires an enthusiastic and dedicated group of planners. Mere casual play may seem too chaotic to be rewarding.
Werewolves of Thiercelieux, The (Die Werwölfe von Düsterwald, Werewolf)
Moderated party game set in an obscure village in which each player is assigned a secret role. While others have their eyes closed, werewolf players choose one to be murdered. Between murders the others try to figure out who the werewolves are and vote to lynch them. Of course the werewolves participate and often seek to derail in this process. Helping out are some other characters such as the Hunter who gets a final strike as he dies, the Seer who once a round can test a player's identity, the Witch whose potions can once save and once take a life and the Little Girl who can try to peek at what the lycanthropes are doing. Not that anyone believes her. Actually, this character can be problematic if she succeeds at seeing the wolves and not dying (perhaps being saved by the Witch) as she can then announce the identities of all the wolves and perhaps end the game before all the fun has been wrung from it. While it may appear that there is nothing here but negotiation, lying and catching lies, actually there are strategies which can be pursued. For example, the following is due to Bobby LaBoon, a villager who got all the players around him to vote in a bloc. By this method the bloc got a player nominated and then voted him innocent. But in doing so, he carefully noted which players had voted for the death of this innocent and these became top wolf suspects. When later one or two members of the bloc refused to support lynching these suspects, they too came in as suspects, which indeed provided to be the case. So really the only limit to strategy is the imagination. On the other hand, although huge numbers can play, lengths of many hours are possible (have food and beverages close at hand) which is not very fun for those eliminated early. One also needs a moderator, not necessarily a fun job, but one which must be done quite carefully unless an identity accidentally be spoiled. Fans are probably those who want a very social experience akin to that of a role playing game or something very different than the usual. [Party Games] [Periodic Table of Board Games] [Buy it at Amazon] [Buy it at Amazon]
West Riding
Railroading game about the early constructions in British Yorkshire. Although featuring crayons used to draw track, the stock market seems the key subsystem, giving a feeling much more akin to the 18XX series, although in this case lasting only about three hours. In fact, most of what occurs on the board is basically meaningless – there will be maybe one or two cutoffs during the game – so unless one wanted to re-enact the history, it could have been fairly easily abstracted out and probably much to its profit as the time to play would likely have been cut in half or more. (Considerable effort is spent re-calculating profits on each and every turn.) More interesting for potential stock manipulators out there are which of the six railroads to invest in, particularly with a view to acquiring the somewhat valuable director's share (although it does not seem to be as important as the proportional size of the actual share would seem to indicate). These six minor railroads are eventually bought out by one of two major ones and again crucial is the decision when to swap stock of one for the other. Strategically, it seems to pay to stay under the radar and look hopelessly out of the win. Then perhaps one can avoid being ruinously bid up on the auctions and manage to earn some money, in particular if one can manage to create a railroad with not too many shares extant and the player holding most of them. Knowing the true value of every item bid upon is the crucial talent in the game and for that reason it might work better as a play-by-email game allowing a fuller analysis. Although 18XX is not at all to my taste, this might work well as a shorter version for those who are. Does accept six players and said to be related to Dutch Intercity by the same designer. One rules ambiguity was the one stating that routes must be built in the shortest way. It is not clear whether this has the more restrictive meaning of only the shortest route between two given points or the more global one of the shortest route needed to add the new city to the existing network. [6-player Games]
[Winsome]
Wettstreit der Baumeister
Essentially a card game (although instead using attractively-illustrated cardboard tiles) about building a medieval town. Suffers because the mechanism which should be usable by the losing players to catch up is not usable against the leader. Use of one of the variants floating around the web is recommended for this reason. A minor aesthetic thought is that it would have been nice if the tiles could have been illustrated with more variety. Title means "Competition of the Architects".
Wheedle
Reiner Knizia card game of turnless trading clearly based on the old warhorse, Pit. There are also similarities to the more recent Zaubercocktail. The main innovation here is the unowned card on the table which may be traded out by anyone and which causes penalty points for whoever holds its match when the round is over. While a significant development, play can be interrupted by argument when multiple players try to grab it at the same time. Moreover, one needs to watch this card so closely that it tends to swamp the trading activity. Indeed, many trades will happen in de facto fashion by repeated swaps with the center. As this seems to take the science and tactics out of trading and simply emphasize the center, it leaves a feeling of the game not being fully developed. It's possible that it should go back to turns, possibly even eliminating all trading except with the center. Overall it appears that neither Pit – which features the mystery of not revealing what is being traded – nor Zaubercocktail, with its more fair and tactical round ending condition, have been bested here.
Where's Bob's Hat?
Trick-taking card game by Alan Moon for two to five akin to Oh Hell. Three suits are numbered 1-20 with ten hands being played, the first dealing five cards each, then six, then seven, etc. up to fourteen. Players bid to take the most cards of a particular suit or suits, or to take the least cards. The taking of cards is a rather different wrinkle on the usual trick-counting scheme as it forces players to consider their tactics in more detail than usual. A further layer is the Bob's hat card which the dealer sets at either +10 or -10, a significant quantity, and which changes hands based on the last player to take a 14 or 15 card. The result is tricky and entertaining, especially for hardened card sharks. The hats theme, juxtaposing an Indian headdress, a Puritan hat, an Assyrian helmet and a baseball cap is silly fun. This is a re-issue of Piatnik's Wer Hat Mehr? (Who Has More) from 1990 which lacks the hat rules and uses chips instead of cards for bidding. Considering the titles of this game and that of Who Stole Ed's Pants? what will we see next? "How's Pam's Teddy"? [Holiday List 2002]
Alan R. Moon [Buy it at Amazon]
Which Witch
Game for children from 1970 involves rolling a die to move about a haunted mansion. Periodically an instruction card was drawn. The most exciting instruction was to drop a ball down the chimney which would emerge out onto one of the four quadrants of the house. If it struck any of the player tokens, that token would be sent back. The goal was to get to the top of the stairs first. Fun atmosphere, but mostly luck based.
Who Stole Ed's Pants?
The motif of English drawing room murder, also Cluedo, the original game on the topic, are turned on their heads in this investigation of a silly theft of a pair of pants. For the usual system of evidence holders competing to find the missing evidence is here replaced by one in which the facts of the case can completely change by mere play of a card. Also variable are the sources of information, e.g. the merchants, the outlaws, law enforcement, etc. (I missed the used car salesmen), which is really a stand in for which players may plant evidence on which. The only fixed thing in fact is the evidence which gets attached to a player, making the acquisition of case-related (as opposed to player-related) evidence extremely important in the second half of this two-part game. The result remembles much less a crime investigation than a fairly straightforward state machine, constantly being tweaked by the players, reminiscent of Fluxx, but without the game randomly changing its rules. In fact the system is intriguing enough to sustain repeated play, but it appears that bad luck of the draw can be a serious impediment to a fair game, especially the partnership game. Probably a larger hand size would have addressed this matter. There is a feeling of the system wanting more development, or maybe just a third round? but difficult to quantify what else to do. The limitation of only three or four players seems unfortunate. Overall, should appeal to players who like the "take that" style of card playing games and the atmosphere of reading out the text of the flavorful cards. Once the perpetrator has been pinned, there will still remain one mystery, however: just who is Ed, or Edna, and why is he or she so particularly anxious for us to know that he or she has been rendered pantsless? Thereby must hang a tail. [Two vs. Two Games] [Take That! Card Games] [Eight Foot Llama]

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Wie Verhext (Witch's Brew)
The fourth in Alea's medium box series is a card game that's all about outguessing. Each player has an identical set of a dozen cards in various color-coded categories. Three let you get potion drops in one of the three colors. Three let you spend said drops to get one of three types of victory cards. Two let you steal either drops or money from others to get other sorts of cards. A couple others let you convert a drop or money into several of the other. One gets a couple of victory points immediately. One activates a randomly drawn spell card which will have some beneficial special effect. Etc. The guessing comes in two places. First, at the start of the hand each player selects just five cards to form the hand, the idea being to select cards that others won't, usually. The second opportunity comes during play at which point the starting player chooses a card, plays it and announces its character name, e.g. "I'm Mixy." The next player to have the card must also play it and either state "I'm Mixy" in which case the first player will get nothing or admit "So you are" in which case this latter player gets a smaller reward and the first player still stands to gain something. So it goes once around the table until there is only one standing. But after collecting the reward this player must now lead, generally the worst position to be in. Play continues until a certain number of cards showing ravens have been taken. The vaguely witchy or druidic cards are illustrated in charming fashion and the powers explained with remarkable clarity. Play tends to be quick and full of ups and downs as players one-up one another or wonder if that will occur. Intuition plays a very strong role here, but a lot can be gleaned also from what supplies others on hand. A player having few drops is likely choosing at least some cards to gain them, for example. Thus a nice mixture of talents is required. Expanded by Treasure Chest.
MMHM7 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7)
Andreas Pelikan; alea-2008/Rio Grande Games-2008; 3-5; 45 [Shop]
Die Wiege der Renaissance
The "Cradle of the Renaissance" is created by the same folk who made the offbeat, yet interesting An den Ufern des Nils, Campanile and T-Rex. This is another in that vein, actually their seventh published title. What's happening in this board-less affair set in Florence is that random cards are placed, as in Scream Machine, between each pair of players – in which only they participate – and more go in the center – available to all, although a card is still limited to two players. Locations on the cards show a network of placement locations in red and blue. Each player lays one cube per turn. After the first one, new placements must extend out from an existing one. In addition players get two actions, any combination of card drafts and playings (blue cards are face up, red face down). When all of either the red or the blue spots are covered, the card is resolved, not by the marker count, but by cards. The card color in which the conflict is resolved depends on which color was covered. If it was blue, then only face up blue cards whose icons match the card – if there are multiple icons the player must choose just only one – can be used. If the conflict is in red, then the player can use any red cards he has placed face down plus hand cards containing any matching symbol. With blue, everything is determined immediately, but with red players go back forth iteratively. Also with red, but not with blue, every pair of the same cards earns two extra points in determining strength. With blue, the loser forks over cubes in the amount of the difference, but the card goes not go away, instead having a new card placed over it. With red, the winner gets cubes equal to the number of cards in the pile and then they do go away. The reason to go into all of this is to show how fun can be niggled to death by small, pernicious details that in the long run make no difference at all for any apparent thematic or mechanical purpose. It's as if the two inventors couldn't agree so they decided to torture us by including both subsystems. Or maybe it's the fault of the publishers who normally make role-playing games, those systems known for their many special rules. The production is nicely realized with attractive cards showing icons such as ships, cathedrals, doves and flying machines. The placement cards each cite a different historical event such as Charles V becoming emperor or Pizarro conquering the Inca. Supposedly blue spots signify culture and red leadership, yet the Inca card is entirely blue. Was no leadership involved? If a thematic connection was intended, it's certainly hard to find. But these cards present a problem of another sort. As only a fraction of them are used, and which ones will spring forth from the deck is unknown, players must draft cards in the dark and the one lucky enough to get the right ones has considerable advantage. Overall, while this game does some things right (card playing and drafting dilemmas, pursuit of multiple goals at the same time), it has also missed in some crucial ways. Perhaps in this example we can see what an established editor/publisher provides in terms of finishing a game, or rather, what one that isn't, doesn't. Games of the Italian Renaissance]
LLHL5 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 5)
Hanno & Wilfried Kuhn; DDD Verlag; 2007; 2-4
Wikinger (Vikings)
This multi-player auction and tile-placement game is yet another illustration that we are more accepting of luck when it comes from a card draw than when it comes from a die roll. Here the cards are laid out in a circle with prices ranging from 0 to 12 and are each paired with a randomly-drawn viking-headed meeple. The meeples are grouped by color and an innovative price wheel can be rotated within. When the last meeple of a color is purchased, the 0 cost location of the wheel is moved to the next group. Players buy a meeple in combination with its tile, being able to place the meeple on the tile in their personal display if conditions are right. This display is of cardboard, a large upside down "L", indicating rows and columns. Each row is designed for a different meeple color and each color enhances the player's position in a different way. The tiles are segments of islands, which come in three different types: left, right or middle, which is important as the player tries to finish as many islands as possible, or, to create the largest island on the table, or both, however unlikely. There are also ship tiles that players do not welcome, but are forced to buy and place. These are attackers who shut down the column which they inhabit, unless the player acquires a protective warrior meeple. Tile placement is tricky and it's surprisingly easy to make a subtle error early that has profoundly negative effects down the road without much ability to save the situation (why not is hard to fathom). The game is attractively made – all bright greens and blues – and the wheel works well. The contiguous island placement gives a nice feeling of exploration. The heart of the game, however, is evaluation, in this unusual form of an auction. But even here the number of choices is limited as it's not practical to more than once or twice spend more the extra coins one needs to get that expensive, but likely to disappear meeple or tile. By the way, these are peaceful, trader/explorer vikings, not the marauders seen in other games. Perhaps the poor vikings are finally getting their equal time.
The advanced version introduces an auction and more tiles. The extra bidding occurs each turn. The winner removes from the game one of the thirteen meeples which have been extracted from the bag. In addition he chooses the group to be placed at the high end of the cost range. As this player will also purchase first, this is mainly useful for lowering the price of a single must-have meeple, which the player accomplishes by placing first the largest group. Alternatively, the player might hamper a leading rival by removing the one meeple he needs. As otherwise winning the auction offers little advantage, most of the time it seems unwise to bid on it very much. Now for the extra tiles. These are not mixed in with the rest, but treated specially as they tend to be more valuable. Four of them are laid out face up at all times. Whenever a player purchases the most expensive meeple in a group, he is entitled to draft one of them. Many have the effect of intensifying an effect of something the player already has. One example is that the gray boatmen lose some of the power they already have and a tile is required to restore it. Another gives a bonus based on having an excess of blue fishermen. Others give gold or a better gold to points conversion ratio. Another class replaces certain types of tiles, which the player then attempts to surround as much as possible à la Carcassonne's monastery. This advanced variant is a useful addition; it adds replay value with out re-making the original. Over the longer term players will usually want to stay with this version as it offers more features, while for newbies the original remains best as there's plenty to learn already.
LMLH6 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6)
Michael Kiesling; Hans-im-Glück; 2007; 2-4 [Buy it at Amazon]
Wild Life
Wolfgang Kramer game of prehistoric evolution on a continent vaguely resembling Australia. Players represent one of six different animal types: eagles, snakes, humans, mammoths, bears or crocodiles, strange because most of these types don't really compete in the same niches. Nor are they much differentiated, apart from how they relate to the six terrain types featured on the gridded board. The personal player charts show that each species has one of four relationships with each terrain type, defining what the species can do there. From best to worst these are attack, expand, enter and nothing. Players hold cards showing the terrain types, the playing of which dictates where they may operate. A clever mechanism is that one of the played cards is instead auctioned to others. A player who can figure out what others desperately want and which is useless to himself can thus earn a lot of food points. Some cards permit upgrades to the species' ability in a terrain and others permit taking special ability cards, from other players if none are available in the general supply, but only from a player having more victory points. Similar to the author's Princes of Florence, food and victory points can be converted into one another on a one-for-three basis, particularly when buying cards, quite significant as will be seen. Movement, more than in Ursuppe, even more than in American Megafauna, is very tactical, featuring outflanking moves, pinching off connections and permitting shifts from one end of a herd to the other. In a good fit with the theme, there are no attacks until a region is already filled. But sometimes these attacks feel like pointless back-and-forths, quickly undone, although one hopes to be on top when a scoring round occurs. These are triggered by filling a region, a clever side effect which provides points for the acting player. In addition, these events are counted and every few becomes a major scoring round in which every region is toted up for dominance. Points are also given in a number of other categories, some of which seem like a wholesale, ill-advised giveaway: individual herd size (gamey rather than thematic), number of adaptations (already advantageous so giving points seems unnecessary), the abilities (ditto) and finally the food chips (not very thematic, but an incentive for savers). Perhaps the most unusual aspect here is the advantage of last place. In Ursuppe, it is a good idea early, but somewhere in the middle one wants to jump forward (and is forced to if successful). But here the advantage is unprecedented, so powerful are the special ability cards and so immune the trailing player from robbery. Of course, it requires careful management to remain in this position throughout and then time a huge leap forward to conclude in victory. Consider six players competing for last place and perhaps the unusual structural nature begins to be visualized. Strategic in terms of the cards and points and tactical on the board, Wild Life would seem an attractive proposition, but somehow the finishing of the design does not seem quite right. Perhaps this is to be laid at the door of the lesser known publisher? Is it possible the original design was more spare and ought to have been left that way? As it is, recommended for players with an interest in a more complex, tactical endeavor and a willingness to tinker. One presentation problem is that the abilities should have been presented on the main board where all could read them at a glance – they are too hidden on the personal boards. One very nice feature: each species has printed on it the time period when it first emerged. As this determines the turn order, some actual scientific information has a bearing on play.
Willi
Trick-taking card game reminiscent of Cosmic Eidex and others which count points taken to reward the high and low earners. There is a unique following rule though: by suit or by rank. The trick is ordinarily taken by the lowest card led, but anyone save the concluder of a trick wins it merely by saying "Willi" (that's veally pronounced "Veally" which sounds like "will ich" = "I want") as he plays his card, that is, as long as he he hasn't already taken two. Of course, declaring a win early can be quite dangerous if you're not sure what opponents will do to sabotage the rest of the trick. As with all point counting systems, a good memory is especially helpful, but at least a hand only lasts eight tricks. The mysterious theme seems to be based on the German cartoon character illustrated in various scenes on the cards, but maybe was just invented to lend more fun to the proceedings. The system works only for four players – inventor Günter Burkhardt seems to be most at home in this game format, cf. Volltreffer – but is quirky and demanding enough that it's probably best reserved for trick-taking aficianadoes. One irritation: when two players tie, neither gets any points, which feels completely unfair. Tips for beginners: (1) diagnose your hand as either high or low and think in that direction; (2) when discarding, it's usually good to drop a 4, 5 or 6, or to create a void suit; (3) watch carefully to see who is collecting for which purpose and try to avoid conflict; (4) the best seat from which to call a trick is the third player so try to take advantage of that, but don't be afraid to call it in the second seat if a good card was led, you can play a good card and you have a good chance of replacing another card with a good one from your hand; (5) a good single trick score when going high is 25 or over; (6) when going low, try for 12 or under per trick. In 2007 re-packaged as Meinz and included as part of 4 in 1 (English title: Mü & Lots More) where with three, uses a dummy player who can sometimes play quite well.
MLHM7 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7)
Günter Burkhardt; Hans im Glück; 1999; 4
Win, Place, and Show
About horseracing and horse owning. Horses are rated with various abilities before the game and players try to own one of them and make bets on three different horses as well. The outcomes are often too predictable and it's not difficult for some player to get out to such a big lead that he can ignore the game for the last two-thirds and still win.
Wind River
if no image probably out of print
So much time passed between the German-only appearance and subsquent arrival of this one that its inventor has already come out with two more: Santa Timea (Argentum-2009) and Sumeria (Reiver Games-2009). The others have not yet been tried, but those seeking something nicely thematic, but with simple rules and difficult decisions would do well to look here. In the American West players represent native tribes migrating with the buffalo on an abstract board of large hexagons, teepees in front, buffalo in the back. A player turn consists of moving a number of buffalo equal to the number of one's teepees, making sure there is enough food by counting one buffalo or previously stored food for each teepee and then taking a special action. The options here are moving a teepee, moving another buffalo, "taxing" – collecting a food for each excess buffalo in one's hexes – or birthing a new teepee (which costs three food). The goal is to have as many teepees as possible move off the edge of the board. Along the way matters can get a bit hostile, though not so overtly so. Players tend to divert buffalo away from others, but often just because they need them themselves. They may also move into the hex of another's teepees which makes all teepees involved pay a food. But when it comes to feeding time, if a hex contains more natives than buffalo, it is the current player who suffers. A lot of the trickiness stems from not knowing exactly what others plan to do; this originates from the clearly different possible valid approaches. One can try for a quick exit or on the other hand for a large tribe; someone may feel it's most vital to protect the tribe, others that it's more important to disrupt others. The personalities at the table will have a significant impact on play. It may be best to have four players as otherwise the situation is fairly open, even with part of the board walled off, unless a low interaction affair is wanted. It's important in this case however, that no player be left alone on the board with too many resources lest a devastingly high score result. The buffalo are brown, flattened wood pieces while the teepee are thin cardboard that must be assembled, but have the virtue of being stackable. Warning: the included English rules are worse than any that have been seen in some time. Try this rewrite to ensure correct play.
MMMM7 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7)
Dirk Liekens; Argentum Verlag-2008; 3-4; 60 Amazon.de
Wise & Otherwise
Multi-player word game intended as much for humor as for thought. The setup is quite similar to Balderdash except that instead of word definitions, what's guessed and invented are proverbial sayings from around the world, most of them quite obscure. For example, a card reads "According to a saying from Cameroon: if you pull a squirrel out of the river ..." Few players will imagine that the correct ending is "... he will contrive a plot against you." This obscurity keeps me from enjoying this as much as Balderdash where it's more possible to have already heard the word or recognize its root, permitting an intelligent attempt at its definition. Of course, others may consider this cheating. This game is for them. It's also for those who have already gone through every card in Balderdash and Beyond Balderdash. By the way, point handouts are more generous in this version and it could end as soon as three cards. [Party Games] [amazon.com]
LMML (Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low)
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Wits and Wagers
if no image probably out of print
Trivia and gambling game in which every answer to a pre-printed question is a number. The nature of questions vary from the well-defined, like the minimum age to enter the Senate or the number of rebelling Confederate states, to the hard to know precisely – the world population – to the rather obscure – the number of US households owning a dog. No doubt like many trivia games it's too US-centric for non-American audiences. At any rate, the players write their guesses on an erasable card with one of the provided dry-erase markers and simultaneously reveal. In what is the cleverest aspect, these are sorted onto a bell-curved odds chart where the 1-1 payoff is at the center and odds grow higher toward the extremes. The median answer is placed at 1-1 and the rest expand out from there. Players simultaneously allocate up to two bets before the sand timer runs out. I might have preferred that this be done player by player so as to provide more tactical play. I likewise dislike the very strict betting limits on all rounds save the last one, which is wide open. This can make a mockery of the six preceding rounds if someone should get lucky and put everything on the right answer in round seven. Probably the main impetus for the rule was insufficient chips (at the end such a lack doesn't matter), but it could easily have been solved by simply writing the amounts on the cards. As a variant I would recommend doubling the current bet limits on rounds 1-6 and limiting round 7 to thrice this amount. There is nevertheless some scope for bluffing, especially if you know an answer cold as you can write a ridiculous one and see if you can sway anyone toward it, meanwhile betting correctly yourself. This may be less productive however if there are few players as the bonus for writing the correct answer is more valuable. Player by player betting would enhance bluffing too. In these ways it seems the game's makers have chickened out somewhat, though not in quality of materials, especially the thick betting mat. Maybe a bigger issue though is that numbers themselves are the domain of guys, who love their sports and stocks. Not all, but many women are more into qualitatives and so won't have as much expertise here.
Update: The second edition changes the center payoff to 2-1. More importantly, there are now no longer any restrictions on the size of bets. These are both positive alterations, but unfortunately now it's almost inevitable to run out of chips by turn 4 or 3. This can be addressed by players deducting some of their holdings and recording the amounts on their player cards. Or better, provide your own chips. When it comes to betting, we now employ a "switchback" variant. The first player (which rotates around the table) makes one bet, then the player to the left makes one bet, and so on, until reaching the last player, who makes two bets, then the second to the last player makes the second bet and so on all the way back to the first player who makes the final bet. This permits each player to gain at least some information for one of their bets and gets rid of the sometimes silly last minute changing of bets. Note that this game can have some problems if there are two few players; if anyone gets too far ahead, they can effectively hedge their bets by matching others and keep anyone from catching up. To address this, allow players to take loans up to the amount that the current player holds. [variants] [6-player Games] [Party Games]
LLMH7 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7)
Dominic Crapuchettes; North Star Games-2005; 3-21 [Buy it at Amazon]
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Wits & Wagers Family
This standalone version of Wits & Wagers is once again a matter of numerical trivia and deciding which of the player-contributed answers is most correct, but with three major differences. First, the wagers are of fixed size, each player having only a large and a small meeple which are used to bet. This is simpler as befits a game for kids, but can be slightly less interesting for adults as a key decision is missing. Second, winnings are fixed at two and one, respectively, and recorded on an eraseable scoreboard. Finally, the question topics bow considerably in the direction of children around eight or so, which is a considerable equalizer as how many adults know all the details of Harry Potter or the Disney films. There are also some questions that are more teen oriented and probably difficult for, say, grandparents, e.g. the number of songs on a Hannah Montana soundtrack. On the other hand some questions seem much too easy, e.g. the number of states bordering Mexico, but perhaps it depends on where one lives, but also, maybe that's okay since this is more about betting than answering. The package is conveniently-sized, the materials well made, the instructions mostly clear. There is no longer a board, the cards simply being laid out in order. Although this supports up to ten players acting in teams, there are answer boards only for five and it would have been nice to provide a few more. Note that it's not difficult to support a sixth by using the board which is simply not written on. Overall this is a worthy edition which works well for young and old. [Party Games]
LLMH7 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7)
Dominic Crapuchettes; North Star Games-2010; 3-10; 20; 8+
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Wit's End
General knowledge trivia game featuring questions categorized by type. Typical challenges provided a list and the answerer must sort them in correct order or indicate which one doesn't belong. There is also a "wild card" category which has a mix of question types. Categorization on this basis doesn't offer as much planning as would sorting on topic or difficulty. But there isn't much planning anyway as so many of the board spaces simply instruct the player to re-roll the die. Players simply use these spaces to keep moving until a space capable of promoting the pawn to the next level is reached. Maybe this was intended to build tension, but mostly it seems to induce boredom and lengthen the playing. Once at the top level, a player is set to win upon answering one more question, but 'tis the player who gets to choose the type, not the opponents who might at least pick something the answerer does not like. It can lead to the anti-climax that the winning question is the easiest one of all. Another unwise feature are the automatic promotions and demotions on certain cards, which sometimes affect opponents. I could envision this as a leveling tool, but they are entirely unrestricted and the clear leader can demote a player struggling to catch up. In terms of the questions themselves, they are original and pitched at a fairly high level of difficulty. How many know whether Austria or Switzerland is larger? Some are a bit subjective – probably not everyone thinks the encyclopedia was invented in Ancient Rome (Varro), but the game does. Some cards need careful reading, such as a true-false question about whether Greenland is three times larger than Britain. Some will read this as meaning three or more rather than as the game thinks. Then there are the questions comparing years of movie releases. Considering that the movies are for teens these days and most adults see them months later on cable or DVD, these are less knowable and interesting these days and becoming even less so. But most of the questions are enjoyable on the whole, once one gets used to them, and are often enlightening. It's just a pity that the strategic aspects were not more clever. [Party Games] [Buy it at Amazon]
Wizard [US Games]
Trick-taking card game is an enhanced version of Oh Hell including specialized cards. Purists will probably prefer the original while those not normally enamored of trick-taking card games may find fantasy perspective makes the game.
Wizards [Avalon Hill]
Unusual in many ways, the game features wizards, sorcerers and druids attempting to complete very specific card-driven tasks in order to gain more abilities and eventually identify the traitor threatening the land. Although can be quite long – especially when one is being played by the game rather than the reverse – has many interesting features, not least of which is the nicely-realized fantasy theme including all the usual characters and locales thus creating a strong feeling of story. Additional attractions are that the map is composed of tile islands laid on an all-sea map so the game is quite different every time depending on the layout. Reminiscent of Republic of Rome and Arkham Horror in that although players are competing, they must cooperate to complete tasks quickly – otherwise evil begins to destroy the lands too quickly and all players lose. Each type of wizard has his own advancement track and the number of tasks is large so players will take quite a while before they have seen them all. One objection is that the highest level of ability is only achieved when the wizards have no further need for abilities. Other systems which are no longer state-of-the-art include rolling to move, die roll and table lookup to determine encounter type, having to remember game state for animal companions, advancing a game turn marker and losing turns/getting trapped. [6-player Games] [summary] [Two vs. Two Games]
MHMM7 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7)
Coral J. F. Mosbø & Thomas J. Mosbø; Avalon Hill; 1982; 1-6
Wo ist Jack the Ripper
"Where is Jack the Ripper?" indeed? He is nowhere in this "take that!" card game. Instead players represent reporters playing cards in three categories to be the one to publish the current story about the serial murderer. Cards portray characters, scenes and objects which may be meaningful for those steeped in the topic. Instructions are short and simple and only fifteen cards require translation. The artwork is attractive, dark, with some of it resembling Japanese anime. The brilliant blue card backs are quite appealing, but unfortunately too similar among the three decks and players sometimes draw the wrong ones. The main mechanism is contract fullfillment in three categories, familiar from countless earlier games. Matters can take a long time to be resolved – especially in the five-player version – as a nasty event card usually foils whoever is most likely to publish. Worse, there is little decisionmaking and most plays are rather obvious as there are few options. Having some lookahead to see what the next story will be is a good idea in general, but doesn't really bear fruit because there is too little difference in the requirements from story to story. Although maybe only fans of the topic should be interested, despite all of its problems this still somehow generates the laughter that is, I have come to believe, the real goal of this publisher. How come the reporters can never seem to finish a story? Just what are they doing when they're supposed to be working? Are they "sharpening their pencils" with Christine Talbot or Jesseica Sheamus? Or maybe they're deliberately squelching all news of the Ripper. "If I can't get any notoriety," thinks the Ripper, "what's the point? I might as well devote my efforts to Good." Maybe the real title should be "Reform the Ripper". And so on. [cards translation] [Take That! Card Games] [Krimsus]
Wongar
Mostly abstract game refers to the Australian aboriginal "dreamtime". Fairly innovative design may take a while for players to fully grasp. Players try to achieve dominances in three different categories, often playing a bluffing game about whether they are able to remove another's token or bring in some of their own pieces from the outside. There can definitely be a "get the leader" phenomenon. Tactically, usually it is a mistake to have just one token in an area as the usual result is to have the first player remove it and thus one is locked out of the area altogether for the rest of the scoring round. Holding the first player token is important.
Alan R. Moon
Word Power
Word game which depends on vocabulary knowledge and being able, for example, to state whether two words are synonyms or antonyms. Not much strategy and sometimes one wants to argue with the rulebook. The purpose seems to be more instructional than fun.
World Cup Tournament Football
The progress of teams through soccer's world cup is strangely depicted via a voting system. This reminds of another voting system, Schrille Stille, which, however is more believable as it represents the music industry where the votes can represent media manipulation. What votes, and the player themselves, represent here is completely mysterious. Some unknown gods of soccer perhaps? For each player secretly favors two teams and takes turns consisting of playing two cards (of the five in hand). Card values range from 0 to 3, the extreme cards being the best. One card is placed face up on a first round match and one is placed face down on a subsequent round match, although it is not yet determined which teams will be playing it. Only three cards can be played on behalf of each team. When all of the slots have been filled, the teams which have garnered the most points advance to the next match, at which point those cards are revealed, the winner progresses again, etc., until an overall tournament winner is determined. Increasing numbers of victory points are granted depending on how far one's teams have advanced. Teams with long pedigrees such as Deutschland and Brasil are given bonuses, making their success more likely. A player may not get any such team on the initial draw, however, which can be unfair. The card play is challenging as one doesn't know whether to help one's own team or hurt the opposition. Try to support both of teams or put all of the eggs in one basket? How much effort should be put into getting through the first round versus putting good cards into the second round match? Bluffing support on a meaningless match risks not being able to affect your match by time your turn comes around again. One has to develop a feeling for what others are trying to do and harmonize one's own plans accordingly. All of this speaks well of the system, but it can also fall down rather easily. In a six-player game, for example, there can be so many plays on a player's match of interest that by the time he receives another turn, it is impossible to really affect it. So the number of players should probably be limited to three or less, but as there isn't much feeling of soccer here, interest is probably limited to world cup fanatics. The board and tiles are not as easy to read as they might have been. The cards, which are readable, take up too much board space and given that there are 192 of them, become unwieldy to shuffle. Tiles in a bag may have been easier. The board is printed on both sides, one for the old sixteen-team tournament and one for the more modern one of twenty-four. There is no support for the most recent thirty-two team version. Amusingly, Australia has reached the cup only once, yet it is one of available teams in this Australian Design Group product.
Wortelboer
Gerald Mulder card game about the biology of carrots, rabbits and foxes. The game is of the tableau variety in which players can also affect one another's tableau, faintly reminiscent of Suzerain. As in many Dutch games, "funky" mechanics baffle initially, but it seems to devolve into a series of cycles with the first player always having the advantage if everyone plays to maximize their own fortune. The title translates to "carrot farmer." [Take That! Card Games]
Wucherer (Landlord)
Card game with a rather cynical take on landlords and lodgers is yet another in the long line coming from Touring. Here, players force non-paying squatters on one another. Unfortunate kingmaking aspects attend the endgame. Original title means Profiteer. [Take That! Card Games] [Buy it at Amazon]
Würmeln (Vermi)
Board-less Alex Randolph game of racing worms across a table. Largely a matter of bluff and outguess as opponents who simultaneously choose the same number miss a turn. At first this seemed not particularly engaging, but it has acquired classic status around here with many regrets about its out-of-print status. Anyway, even if some peculiar person finds it not his cup of tea, it's usually over in about five turns anyway. If nothing else, it's fun to step back and just watch the worms realistically wriggle across the table. Vermi is the Italian edition published by Venice Connection.
Alex Randolph; Venice Connection; 1994
Wüstentruck, Der
Christwart Conrad-designed game about trucks racing through desert terrain. Black plastic trucks each carry a twelve-sided die which indicates how much fuel remains. Any trucks forced to zero must return all the way to the start. Multiple paths are available, the shorter ones through the deadly desert, the longer ones including refueling stations. Each player holds three cards which permit movement in varying amounts as well as cards to wreak havoc on others, including moving them backwards or rotating the die so that the current up number is on the bottom. Although nicely-presented, there is probably too much unrestrained ability to whack others to make a reasonable game. In addition, vagaries of the draw may be telling. On the other hand, may still appeal to those who have one foot in the "nice bits" camp with the other in the "V for Violence" one. The best strategy tip is never to look like a leader until just before the victory. Untried, but an interesting possibility is to see how this would work as a partnership game. Title means "desert truck". [6-player Games]
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Wyatt Earp
Mike Fitzgerald-designed card game originally intended for the Mystery Rummy series, but instead published by Alea. Up to four players attempt to collect evidence against famous Western outlaws which places increasingly large bounties on their heads, collectible by the most assiduous players at the end of the hand. The random element in gunfights is accomplished by flipping over the top card from the deck. The usual Rummy idea of a player collecting nothing but sets and laying them all out at once to go out is here turned on its head because no set is worth anything unless it includes at least four cards. In practical terms this means scoring points requires the cooperation of opponents. A flavorful, pleasurable and worthwhile addition to the series, but scoring is a bit complicated. [Take That! Card Games]
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