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Subject: It's a Wonderful World - A surprise for a card drafting veteran rss

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Holger Schmid
Germany
Koblenz
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It’s a Wonderful World - impressions from a pre-production prototype

What makes a board game interesting and appealing? Admittedly, the personal taste surely plays an important role. However, today I want to report about a game that really surprised me and I want to share my experiences with you. When I read about this new board game from La Boîte de Jeu, I was excited because I really love the ease of play in Huns, the “disaster management” in Outlive and I’m really looking forward to Nētā-Tanka: Deluxe Edition whose pre-production prototype I was testing and enjoying very much. After seeing some pictures of the components and reading the designer’s diary (check it out here, it is a great read) I decided to test a pre-production prototype. First, I noticed the gorgeous artwork on the cards: its style reminds me of late impressionistic sceneries – with all the vibrant colors and sometimes slightly abstracted forms and shades. Reading and understanding the rules was fast and easy as the rule set is slim and full of examples. At this point I felt a little skeptical because I love drafting games and a new board game with this core mechanic has to offer “a little something” that is unique and special. So, does “It’s a Wonderful World” have this pinch of uniqueness that makes it stand out? Or is it just another “7 Wonders” clone?

There are three aspects of “It’s a Wonderful World” that feel fresh and though I play loads of games I cannot remember having played any game featuring one of them:

1. The first thing that strikes the eye and that is noteworthy is the huge game board that enhances the table presence being a clever eye catcher as well as a neat storage space for the required resources and tokens. “What kind of resources?” you might ask. Well, there is materials (grey), energy (black), science (green), gold (yellow), exploration (blue) and krystallium (red). The tokens are military (generals) or civil (financiers) specialists. So the game revolves around good old fashioned resource management and building up a super-efficient engine? That’s right but there is a twist: the production cycle always follows the specific order 1.materials, 2.energy, 3.science, 4.gold, 5.exploration with every player performing each production step simultaneously. On the one hand, this mechanism is a great thematic element: production of some industrial goods is much faster than scientific breakthroughs or exploring new continents. On the other hand, a challenging dilemma is created as each type of resource is only produced once per production phase and some cards might produce resources of a previous production step. In addition, surplus resources cannot be spent later on in a 100% direct way. Every resource produced that cannot be spent immediately goes into the player’s transformation area where it will be stored. It must stay there until any five resources are gathered which instantly creates one krystalium. This red resource constitutes a wild resource that can be spent any time. But is it always worth burning 5 other resources? Well, the cards scoring the highest amounts of points even require multiple units of krystallium as building material. But how likely is it that I will see one of these cards? And there are some cards that provide krystallium as part of their construction bonus… You see there are tons of short-term and long-term decisions when managing your resource engine.


The colorful game board stores the resources, tracks the round and dislays the different consecutive steps durig each production phase (prototype components).


2. The second aspect is the specific draft format that ties in with the resource engine system. As with all card games or drafting games, a certain luck factor is always present. However, “It’s a Wonderful World” features two very clever elements that help a lot mitigating this luck of the draw. The first one is a draft format where each player first drafts all cards and decides what to do with each card at the end of the draft phase. This concept has already fascinated me in “Bunny Kingdom” where you could push your luck with that juicy level three fortress hoping to see a fitting mountain card before the round is finished… However, when combining it with the second element in “It’s a Wonderful World” this concept is taken to a totally new level: each card not only provides benefits when constructed, during production or at the end of the game. There is a recycling benefit displayed on each card. This means that if a player chooses not to start constructing a specific card (but discarding it), that card will provide an instant resource. This is brilliant because recycling a card offers a variety of new options: you can produce resources that you otherwise would not produce and/or you can speed up the construction of a card so that it is finished before the next production cycle and can start to generate resources. In addition, hate drafting becomes even more attractive if you are not just denying cards to an opponent but receive some resources on top.


Some examples of the 140 cards of the base game: the upper left corner/column displays the construction costs, the bottom row shows card type as well as the construction benefit (points, tokens and/ or produced resources) while the symbol at the right corner above this line shows the recycling benefit (prototype components).


3. The last feature is the campaign mode that lets the players experience a small story over the course of several games. Without spoiling too much, everything deals with the question if the world stays peaceful or war breaks out. Players will face public and private objectives and will acquire individual cards to enhance their civilization. In this context, winning a chapter will provide a slightly better bonus than everyone else will receive but in the end the overall winner takes it all. Everything is not overwhelmingly complex: after each chapter each player adds one card to their civilization and can use it or deal with it in the next game/s. There is no permanent/ irreversible change e.g. due to labeling or stickers like in a legacy game which allows playing each campaign multiple times. Due to this addition, the appeal to play “It’s a Wonderful World” over and over again is increased. The base game already offers loads of different things to explore but the small campaign is sure to come back wanting for more.


One example for a player's civilization at the end of the game: some cards provide straight victory points, others multiply the points from specific cars or tokens. In this example each specialist token is worth trhee victory points and each golden card is worth one victory point (in addition to the straight six victory points from the cards)(prototype components).

These three aspects result in a game that has much more hidden depth than visible at the first glance or during the first few games. I have played it more than 10 times now and still find exciting new combos - there is still this exciting push your luck element when you ty to shoot the moon before you run out of resources. While the central idea is clearly “find and construct as many multipliers as possible while collecting as many corresponding cards or tokens”, each game will play slightly different and provide a new challenge. Managing your resource engine is equally important as keeping an eye on your construction line: you want to make sure that your produced resources can be spent. On the other hand, producing some krystallium can come in quite handy as it offers lots of flexibility… In addition, the competition for the maximal production for each resource is an interesting element of direct player interaction. As a consequence, “It’s a Wonderful World” almost feels like a 4X game disguised as a straight forward card game: It offers lots of exploration – be it the different exploration cards that can score loads of points or the fact that you will explore the deck in order to find huge scoring card combinations. There is expansion as each player develops their civilization and builds up their resource/ point production engine. You will find exploitation due to the fact that you will have to recycle/ burn some cards to fuel your engine and/or the slow your opponents down a little and there are even some elements of extermination as players are fighting for financiers/ generals, hate drafting and trying to sabotage each other with some little pinpricks during the campaign.

All in all, I was really surprised how much interesting decisions could be packed in a game that takes under an hour. I can only recommend “It’s a Wonderful World” to every lover of drafting, resource management and engine building and cannot wait to see the final game.
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Jason Brown
United States
Crofton
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Great write up, thank you!
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Joel Mann
United States
Gladstone
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The more I look at this game the more I like it.
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Fuzzy Llama Reviews
United States
Columbia
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Excellent write up! I am seriously thinking about backing this. At first look I thought it was a pretty basic engine builder but i'm happy to see there are interesting aspects to the gameplay to make it unique.
 
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