- Designers: Frank Crittin, Gregoire Largey, Sebastian Pauchon
- Publisher: Mandoo Games
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 30 minutes
In Wangdo, players are each leaders of a bear clan, and they are canvassing the towns of Northeast Asia to gather enough strength to be the next leader. Though it doesn’t look like it, the bears are mathematical geniuses and they are helping prove the Four Color Theorem.
The board shows a network of 40 interconnected villages – on each of these is placed a random knowledge token. One bear stele of each color is placed on the corresponding temple track. There are four bear knowledge markers on the board, they are each replaced with a random bear stele as well. The rest of the bear steles are mixed in the bag and each player takes three and placed them next to their player board. The player board shows what is needed to win the game – that is having two tokens of each of the four types. Finally the deck of seal cards is shuffled and placed near the board.
On a turn, the active player takes one of two action choices: Get new Steles or Acquire a Knowledge Token.
To Get New Steles, you take any 2 Steles from the temple tracks OR draw 3 steles at random from the bag. Regardless of how you get them, you may only have ten steles in your supply at the end of the turn. IF you have drawn more than this, you must return the excess.
To Acquire a Knowledge Token, you must place a sacred Bear stele at a village. The village must be directly connected to at least one Bear Stele. Your Bear stele must not be adjacent to another Bear of the same color. You must also be able to pay the cost of placement – this is determined by looking at all of the Bear Steles which are adjacent to your newly placed one. You must match the number and color of those adjacent steles and place the matching ones onto the temple area at the side of the board.
If you place a Bear stele on the final space of an altar, the game is paused and a Ritual is triggered. First, all the steles in that particular temple are returned to the bag. Second, the active player may then take a Bear Stele from any other Temple and add it to his reserve. This ritual may happen in the midst of making a payment for a placement – if so, complete payment after the ritual is complete.
Once you have paid the cost, you place the token on your player board in the appointed spot. You cannot collect more tokens than you have space for on your board. If you have completed a column of tokens on your board, you take a seal card from the draw pile. You may not play the card on the turn that you collect it, but otherwise, you may play your cards freely. These seal cards may give you a special ability that allows you to change the basic rules on the turn that you play them OR they might give you an additional action.
The game ends at the end of the round where at least one player has filled up all four columns on their player board. If only one player has done so, that player wins. IF multiple players have done this, the player with the most Dragon seals in their possession wins – the seals can be found on collected knowledge tokens, the back of unused seal cards and on the front of certain seal cards which gives two seals.
My thoughts on the game
I was immediately attracted to this game when I head the story about the initial origin of the game – which was trying to make a game out of the four-color theorem (or Guthrie’s problem). In short, this theorem states that any map on a single plane can be colored in with four colors such that no two adjacent regions will share the same color.
Essentially, this game is proof of that theorem as the array of villages in the game are “colored in” with the four colors of bears. As the rules restrict you from playing a bear next to an adjacent bear of the same color, the game only works if the theorem is true. The theorem was rigorously proved in 2005 by Werner and Gonthier – https://www.ams.org/notices/200811/tx081101382p.pdf
While I’m not innately interested in math (though I’m married to a Math major) – it’s definitely an unusual origin story, and these days, that’s enough for me to take a look at a game. As it turns out, the game is interesting and not quite as dry as I had thought it might be. While the game is living proof of the theorem – really, as you are playing, you simply have to remember that you can’t place a bear next to one of the same color. It’s not math, it’s a boardgame.
The bears are essentially the currency needed to pay for your tokens, and the challenge of the game is trying to maximize your resources which racing against the other players for the knowledge tokens. Luck can play a role in the game – if you are lucky with random draws out of the bear bag, you could be in a great position to get the Knowledge tokens that you want. However, if you need a specific color, you might have to take a reduced number of Bear steles in order to get that needed color.
There are some tight decisions to be made midgame when you decide to take the known bears from the temples versus getting an extra third bear but being at the mercy of Lady Luck when drawing from the bag! Players can also benefit from canny plays – perhaps waiting a turn to collect a seal so that you can trigger a ritual with your turn – thus saving you half a turn that you would have used to draw bears from the bag.
The game can often swing on the random draw of seal cards. The actions or rules changes can be very influential. I would not say that they pose a rich-get-richer issue because you only get them when you finish a column of knowledge tokens – thus, you might not get your first seal card until your fifth token. But, as all players should understand the possible effect of the cards, trying to get matching tokens should simply be a priority. Of course, the first person to get a card may not even end up with an in-game advantage as it is possible that the “worth 2 seals” card is drawn; which is quite valuable for the tiebreaker but really gives no in-game advantage. In my first three games, two of them have come down to counting seals to determine a winner amongst tied players, so I would certainly say that this is some value to those 2-seal cards…
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. Dale Y
Not for me…