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Subject: It's a Wonderful World Pre-Production Copy Review rss

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Scott D
Australia
South Australia
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Game: It’s a wonderful world
Designer: Frédéric Guérard
Publisher: Origames and Laboitedejeu.
Published: 2019
Availability: Kickstarter May 14th 2019.
Style of Game: Card Drafting and Engine Building.
Player count: 1-5
Average play time:40 minutes.

This is a review of a Prototype copy of the game It’s a Wonderful World. Components and artwork may not yet be final and things could change upon its full release.

This review is split into several sections. If you are looking for a topic, they will be covered as follows.

VISUAL APPEAL
COMPONENTS
GAMEPLAY
OPINIONS
VERDICT
TLDR


Ok…we’re all good now. Excellent. Let’s dive right in.
First up…Visual Appeal.


I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for a beautiful game. I mean, we eat with our eyes as they say, and I am very inclined to impulse buy a game based on its looks with nary a second thought as to whether the game is good or not. There are several games in my collection that I purchased on impulse, only to find out later, that they were…essentially the cardboard and wood equivalent of your takeout menu. Looks nice on the advertising, but when you get it home and open what you expect to be something gorgeous and full of substance, only to be presented what can only be described as the lovechild of the toxic avenger and yesterdays bowel movement. Garbage.


Those games generally find a new home in the loving hands of those with less discerning tastes and a collection of games that can be counted on one hand. You know, the folks who when you say you’re into Board Games, they immediately respond with “oh, like Monopoly and Scrabble”


So, it's of no real surprise that I was instantly drawn to the artwork on Origames and Laboitedejeu’s latest baby, It’s a Wonderful World. The box, which measures in at 290 X 290 X 70 mm (this could change as I am reviewing the prototype) is emblazoned with a very striking red and blue artwork depicting two of the main characters in the game, the Financier and the General.





It’s a very odd beast, because, despite the name, which is done is some wonderful typography that is simple yet striking and doesn’t detract from the box art at all; the left side doesn’t really depict a wonderful world, instead portraying a world at war in all hues of orange, complete with futuristic looking airships, a soldier firing his rifle and other assorted armaments. This is contrasted nicely on the right side with a futuristic city, tinged all shades of blue with the central financier character looking smug whilst holding a champagne flute. The box art is gorgeous and the complementary colours of blue and orange look stunning and really have shelf presence which is so important in what has become a crowded market.


Thankfully the components look pretty damn good too. Each 65 x 100mm card features some very nicely illustrated imagery linked to the cards title and type. There’s some real variety and love put into these cards, that’s for sure. You have your obligatory space stations and researchers and the like for the various technology based cards, all looking painted and beautiful; but then you also have cards like Blackbeard’s Treasure, featuring a skeletal pirate and his treasure chest, the Bermuda Triangle, Virtual Reality, Secret Society and many, many more.





There are over 150 cards in the base game and another 50+ included in the Campaign expansion War and Peace, which was included in my prototype copy, which thankfully has some wonderfully clear iconography that doesn’t detract from the visual appeal of the art, or make it hard to understand each cards ability, purpose and title. The supplied rulebook was also very well done with illustrations throughout showing visually, just what to do at each stage of the game.


The board, whilst nothing special, serves it purpose well and is clearly illustrated with spaces to place the relevant components, tokens and cards. The main player boards, depicting various cites were also nicely illustrated, if somewhat a little brown and identical across the 5 sheets. Mind you, this is a Prototype and all components are not final, so this may change in the final release.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about….


COMPONENTS…


Ok, so here is the Caveat. I have the Prototype copy, ergo, things could likely change, however, that said, I think the current component are just fine.


So, what do you get? Well, aside from 150 cards which were of good quality, had a nice snap and were promptly sleeved because I’ve become one of those anal sleeving jerks (Hey, don’t judge me…we all have our issues), you also get 35 8mm wooden cubes in the fetching colours of Blue, Yellow, Green, Black and Grey, 15 red 8mm wooden cubes, 30 each of Red General and Blue Financier Tokens, a Codenames-esque Red General and Blue Financier tile, A larger red tile to store your red cubes on and a segmented 2 part arrow like mainboard in which to place aforementioned coloured cubes on and 5 double sided empire cards. Everything is of good quality and functional enough for game play.




Of extra note, the cube spaces on the cards, on which you place your resource cubes is the perfect size and shape to place your little wooden blocks on. This is nice, as occasionally I’ve had publishers get this slightly wrong and then things don’t align properly, and it really irks me. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to see that it’s done right.


So…GAMEPLAY.


OOOOOKAY… Now this is where it gets really interesting. This game plays 1-5 players. That’s quite a range and I’m honestly appreciative that the developers and designer have given some thought on how you can cram such diversity into one box. Just so you know, I’ve played this game with the following demographics. Experienced Gamers, Gateway Gamers and Non-Gamers. I’ve also played this game solo, with two players, three players and four players in each of these demographics a total of 5 times each. In short, I play tested the heck out of this thing. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many games I’ve played…but I can tell you, I know all the cards and the rough chance of getting it in a game. I’m not soured on this game yet, but we may need to see other games for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my first 8 games, I was keen to try new strategies for the next 8 or so games, I drunk copious amounts of Coffee and punished myself with the solo games for a while, supervised a bunch more games and then got suckered into playing another few games by the smack talking Alpha gamer who was certain they had a winning strategy that could not be stopped.


So, after all that, how does it play? Honestly, really, really well. The basic crux of the game is that you are building an Empire/civilisation using various developmental milestones to further your growth. The cards are drafted, ala Sushi Go, so there is immediate room for dickery. This is especially prevalent in the two-player version, where you know who you are giving your cards to. The game is quite tense at this stage as you initially get dealt a hand of 7 cards (or 10 in the two-player variant) and you can only keep 1. Not only this, but you won’t be seeing those cards again for a couple of passes, so if you get a few desirable ones in your hand, it’s an agonising wait until they get passed around to the other players and arrive back to you. This coupled with the addition that the cards that every player selects are placed face up in front of them for all to see means savvy players can cotton onto opponents’ strategies early and essentially screw them out of the cards they want.


This game does have the capacity to be very cut throat if played with a bunch of competitive alphas. You will get screwed over…but, advantage is, you can do the same to them, so it all balances out. This could be mitigated by lacing the cards face down, but that’s up to you.


After the draft, you get to decide which cards you are recycling for their resource (one of the coloured cubes) and which ones you are going to attempt to get built. Each card has 3 main sections. Their cost to construct (various amounts of different coloured cubes and tokens)
Their benefit (what they give you on a round to round basis during the production phase and on occasions, one off benefits upon completion)


And


Their Recycling value (what coloured cube you get upon scrapping that card to the discard pile)


The cool thing was, if you were savvy enough to get enough resources from recycling, you could get a sneaky development or two constructed before the next phase, production, therefore getting some nice advantage on your rivals and potentially netting some bonus tokens too.


After the Draft/Recycling/Construction phase, you move onto the production phase and this is where the engine you’ve built, generates resources for you. It’s your standard engine building mechanism. It’s done well and simply enough with only 5 resources being produced. The player board, which is dual sided has some starting resources which you get regardless if you have added to you empire and on one side, the ‘easy’ side, you also get some form of score multiplier, which can help kickstart your strategy in a certain direction and was very welcomed by new players and those who lacked conviction…you know the type. The ones that stand at the service counter in your local coffee or takeout joint and take another 5 minutes to decide what they want to order, despite the fact they already had 5 minutes whilst waiting in line to make up their mind…but you know…choices. Yeah, those guys are the worst. Thankfully the ‘easy’ side fixes that…now if only there was a way to transfer that to the coffee shop…hmmmm.


ANYWAY…


Unlike some other engine building games, you can’t stockpile resources. You must use what you make otherwise you must transfer it to the holding bay, where it gets converted into Red Krystalium cubes, which act as wild resources, are needed in a few cards and are WORTHLESS at the end of the game. That’s right. WORTHLESS. You know what else is worthless at the end of the game...POTENTIALLY EVERYTHING apart from the tokens. Yep, you could have the most awesome engine and tableau in the entire game and still walk away with ZERO points…


BUT…


this is the beauty of this game. Bear with me, I’ll explain.


The way scoring works in this game is surprisingly eloquent and straightforward.


Some of the cards have victory points on them. Some of them have a multiplier tied to a specific colour card. Others have a multiplier on them tied to one of the two colours of tokens. Now, in order to score points at the end of the game, you must have some of these cards in your tableau.



Victory points are self-explanatory. They straight up award you victory points. Done and dusted. On their own, they’re not worth too much. There are a couple of 15-point cards, but they’re fairly tough to build. It is possible to get a good score just focusing on small sums of victory point cards. Its reliable and safe.


The gamble comes in with the colour multiplier cards. On their own, a colour card in your tableau is worth nothing. Boo Hoo. So sad. But, if you happen to have a colour multiplier card in your tableau, every card of that colour is now worth something. You get a few of these in the same colour and BLAM, Point City. Your cards are now worth point…sometimes lots of points. BUT…it’s a gamble. There isn’t a huge amount of these cards in the deck and there is a chance that somebody could draft them on purpose to stuff you up. But that’s how it goes.


You can also get multipliers for the tokens. Each one on their own is worth a single point and each X1 multiplier card for that colour token increases its worth by 1, so if you happen to get a bunch of a particular colour and happen to get a few multiplier cards. BINGO…points ahoy!


Unfortunately, they’re not all that easy to get. You get awarded one by having the most of any individual resource generated during the production phase and you can get them from cards as extra rewards during construction, but that’s it.


At the end of 4 rounds ( which in all honestly always feels a little short, but not painfully so), you tally up any victory points, any card multipliers (remembering that unless you have a multiplier, a card is worth nothing) and any tokens with or without multipliers and the person with the highest score wins.


Two players works just like the above guide with the exception that you deal 10 cards, draft 7 and discard 3.


Solo mode is a different beast altogether though. It has you create 8 decks of 5 cards, and you essentially pick up a deck of five cards, recycle or slate for construction what you want and then rinse and repeat it again with the second deck of five cards. You also have the option of discarding 2 cards from the five and then drawing five cards from the deck, picking one and discarding the remaining 4 you just drew.


You would then enter the production phase as per normal with the caveat that you do not get a token for having the most production of a resource. You only get this token when you produce 5 or more of a resource during that phase. You then build your engine and rinse and repeat 3 more times with the remaining 6 decks. It’s a very thinky variant and one that was less fun than the other player counts, but hey, it still works just fine and isn’t broken and its nice to have an engine builder that plays one player as well as up to 5.


It doesn’t feel like multiplayer solitaire, which in my opinion is nice but it doesn’t exactly feel like It’s a Wonderful World either. I think that the feel of the solo variant is so far removed from the general feel of the core game that although not alien in its mechanisms, it does feel like a very different game. And that’s ok. Change is good…or so I’m told by my daughter every time she want to play Vudu; one of those pretty face, shame about the personality games I mentioned earlier that I’m absolutely forbidden to get rid of by decree of death because in her words…‘you have like 400 games and I don’t like them all, so I think its fair that I get to keep this one even if you don’t like it’ which was promptly backed up by her sister and my wife, which is where the death part comes in. Anyhow, I digress…


So what do I and the others think of the game.


OPINIONS


I think 3 to 4 players is where it really shines. Its competitive, fun and tense. There was very little procrastination most of the time and this certainly lessened as players got more comfortable with their strategies and the cards themselves. Initially, the game took a while, but that’s common. The Rulebook was very well put together and it clearly explained in under 7 visually appealing picture laden pages, how to play the game step by step and a few hits on how you can play defensively and offensively to screw with other players. However, after several playthroughs, players were drafting cards in seconds and smashing down resources like a dramatic battle in a Yu-Gi-Oh cartoon. There was very little pause and we got game time down to a brisk 20 minutes. We all knew what we wanted to generate in our tableau, we all knew what resources we wanted to get via recycling. The only decision to be made was which card would screw over the other players more. It all ran very quickly. I’m sure it looked like a high-speed chess game to onlookers. But that was because we were a competitive bunch and we soon learned that speed is key in putting pressure on other players to make their move…and make mistakes.


Now don’t get me wrong. You can indeed play this game peacefully and without such competitive nuances; and it did get played this way lots of times. But its nice to know that it can play mean, fast and nasty if you have that type of group.


2 player games are also fun and came a close second in preferred player count. There was slightly less player interaction as players tried to be more secretive and sneakier with their decisions. It can still be played peacefully with two players also. You don’t have to screw over your opponent. You could just focus on your own city and let them have some cherry cards too.


Single player had a different feel and I think that’s why it was the less appealing of the player counts. Feedback wasn’t that it was bad. It just didn’t feel like the same game. People liked the interaction.


As far as game balance, my players and I have tested out what I believe to be every viable strategy in the game and its balanced. Like really, really balanced. Often, I would hear two common exclamations from players ‘I didn’t think I’d win’ AND ‘’What, I lost?’. That’s because the games scoring is a beautiful thing. There is no run away strategy. There is no guaranteed win. You could get screwed out of a card multiplier for the entire game and still win. I’ll give you an example that happened on one of my playthroughs.


I was focused on WAR IE the Black cards. I was generating an almost entirely black Tableau, amassing huge stock piles of Black Resources and was hunting for a black score multiplier. Unfortunately, my opponents knew this and would always recycle them on me. However, as I had the majority in Black every round, I would also get a General Token each round. I also had some cards that gifted me General Tokens as a build bonus. So, I had around 13 of these by the final round BUT no Black Multiplier. I did however manage to get in the final round, 2 of the Token Multipliers and grab some victory points as well, so my generals went from being only worth 13 points, to a staggering 39 points, clinching me the win at the last second.


This is not uncommon as there are various ways to play and win. You can focus on victory points alone, you can focus on getting heaps of tokens and trying to grab a multiplier along the way, you can focus on a set colour and try and get a multiplier that way, you can focus on a mixed salad approach and get a bit of everything, you can focus on screwing out your opponents and lowering their score by limiting their opportunities. Each is equally viable and efficient and can get you the win. I never saw a difference larger than 12 points between first and second place, and often the score was as little as 2-3 points. Sometimes this was across all players and it was anybody’s game.


Normally, if you lost, it was because you made an error or just got unlucky. And this led to everybody wanting to play multiple consecutive games. There was that just one more game appeal, because even if you lost, you know you could do something different and take the win. It was a thing of beauty.


I won’t spoil the campaign mode, but I will say that it weaves a nice narrative that gives some substance to the theme and a tip of the hat to the Legacy genre that has sprung up as of late. I’m not sure I’d want to play with it every time I played the game, however I can certainly see myself recycling some of the cards into the main game in some home brew variants. It does add a nice layer of theme onto the game and give some of the existing cards a bit of new context. It’s a nice touch and I’m glad it was included.


SO, what’s the VERDICT?


Well, I will be adding this to my collection for certain. I like engine builders when they’re done right and whilst they’re not my favourite style of game, this makes the whole process effortless.


It’s got the looks, it’s got substance, its playable with children as young as 12 in my experience and is simple but deep enough to get your non gamer friends into the hobby and having a go.


It’s got a very solid core game, a pretty solid campaign mode which adds to the feel and cashes in on the legacy game craze that’s taken off.


Its pretty hard to fault it to be honest.


If I had one minor gripe, its that the 4 rounds did feel a little short, like you could always use just one more round…you really needed just one more round. BUT all good things must come to an end and I guess that’s a sign that you are engaged with the game.


I will try and house rule a 5th round and see if that makes a difference but I suspect it wont as I’ll most likely just want a 6th round…and a 7th...


The advantage is, being short in length allows you to get stuck in and play multiple games. So it could function as a filler or a staple. Either way, it’s a bloody good game and a fun time for certain.


If you want to get into this game, look out for it on Kickstarter on the 14th of May. I do believe it will be hitting retail also, however the campaign I’m led to believe will be a separate purchase at retail and come some months after the core box is in stores.


Thanks for reading and I hope you found this informative and fun.


Take it easy, play some games and grab that victory.

TLDR


It’s a Wonderful World is a light Engine Building game centered around creating a better Empire than your rivals. It utilises a card drafting mechanic and is played over 4 rounds. It utilises a Cards can be played for the resource or effect game style and plays in around 20-40 minutes. It looks very pretty, and the interface and iconography are beginner friendly. The game is simple to grasp but has good depth and there are many ways to win, despite only featuring 5 common types of resource, 2 uncommon and one rare. The game is coming to Kickstarter on May 14th, 2019. The game was well received by my gaming group and I would recommend purchasing it if you like light to medium weight engine builders.


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Jason Brown
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Thanks for the thorough review, I’ll be watching this one.
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Abram Towle
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Appreciate the review - I'm intrigued!
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Joel Mann
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Thanks for the review. I will for sure check this one out. I hope they go to 10mm cubes, 8 are a little small to handle. Looks like the larger cubes might create a space problem though.
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