DESIGNER: Frederic Guerard
PUBLISHER: La Boîte de Jeu
PLAYERS: 1- 5
TIME: 30 – 60 minutes
TIMES PLAYED: 8 plays, with a copy I purchased
My husband and I are both boardgamers, and we often buy each other games as gifts. Someone asked me once if that wasn’t really more like buying a gift for myself, since I’d also be playing. I had never really considered that angle, but after thinking about it a while I decided it was not. Sure, I am likely to be playing any game I buy him with him at some point, but generally I use a gift-giving occasion as a chance to find a hidden gem, something off the beaten path or something that did get the love it should have when it was released that I know he will enjoy, and he does the same. Mark’s birthday was a couple of months into the pandemic, so my shopping options were a bit limited, anyway, and my strategy of giving an experience instead of a thing was right out the window. A friend had been talking about how much he was enjoying this game, which I had never heard of. After a little research I decided to pick it up, and I am very glad I did.
It’s a Wonderful World is a card game in which you are attempting to create and expand your empire faster and better than your competitors are. It combines the mechanics of card drafting and engine building, and takes place over four rounds.
There is a central board that contains materials of five different colors as well as a small board that holds three different resources – generals, financiers and krystallium. There is also a deck of 150 development cards.
Each player gets an empire card, of which there are five in the game. Players can collectively choose to use the easier side, where each player starts with a different set of materials, or the harder side, where each player starts with exactly the same materials.
Each player is dealt a hand of 7 development cards and the game begins with card drafting. Each player looks at their hand of cards, chooses one to keep and then passes the remaining cards to the left (rounds 1 and 3) or right (rounds 2 and 4).
After everyone has selected a card players simultaneously reveal the card they have selected, placing it face up in front of them. They then pick up the cards they were passed and continue this process until everyone has seven cards in front of them.
Next up is the Planning Phase; players must decide what to do with the seven cards in front of them. Cards they want to build are put into construction by placing them next to the empire card Cards that they do not wish to keep are recycled, players collect the recycling bonus printed on the card (one of the five basic materials) and discard the card to the discard pile. The bonus is either placed on a card under construction if a matching space is available or, if not, is placed on the player’s empire card. Cards that are constructed will give you income every round, but sometimes you need a particular material to help with that construction, so recycling is a good option to help with that.
The final phase is the Production Phase. This phase progresses through all five of the materials in order across the board. Players look at their empire card and any buildings that have been fully constructed to determine how many of a particular material they produce and announce that number; all players take that number of the material and the player with the most takes the bonus item printed on the board as well (a general or a financier).
Materials are immediately placed on any available cards under construction if possible, and on your empire card if not. As soon as a card is fully resourced it is built and can be used immediately for the rest of the income round. Materials on your empire board can never be used for construction, but once you have five you turn them in for a red krystallium, which can be used as a wild resource.
At any time during the game you can choose to discard a card under construction to get the recycling bonus; you lose any materials that had been allocated to the card and the card is then discarded.
After all 5 materials have been distributed a new set of cards is dealt and play continues for a total of 4 rounds.
At the end of the 4th round players tally their victory points. You get the points printed on the cards, any bonuses for having cards of a certain color and points for your generals and financiers; they are generally one point each, but there are cards that will increase their value. The player with the most VPs wins the game; ties are broken first by the number of constructed cards and then by the number of financiers and generals.
There are slightly different rules for the 2 player game; each player gets ten cards, and you draft, passing the cards back and forth, until you have three cards in your hand. You keep one and discard the other two. Everything else remains the same.
There is also a solo mode that has you drawing a pool of cards from the deck and choosing from those cards, and that modifies the bonus structure for producing the majority of a material.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
About halfway through the first game of this I thought “how have I not heard of this game before?”. I am a fan of card drafting and engine building, and this game does both of these very well in a very short amount of time. It’s nice to find a game that feels meaty but is quick to set up and quick to play; our first game took about 45 minutes, but since then they have lasted no more than 30 minutes with 2 players.
The game mechanisms work very well. The cards are interesting and are balanced between their difficulty to build and the reward you get for that effort. The fact that every card can be useful to you means you are never stuck with something bad; if you don’t want to build it, you recycle it and get a material. It may not be a material you need, but once you have 5 “useless” materials you can get a krystallium, so you’re still making progress.
That said, you are definitely going to be best rewarded for building an engine that flows materials to you so you can build more cards and maximize majority bonuses for victory points, and it is very satisfying when you can do so. Since you see the cards you will potentially have for the round during the drafting you have an idea of what you will have available to build and what may be available to recycle.
The fact that they included adjustments for 2 players is great, and while I haven’t yet tried the solo game it seems like it will give you much of the feel of the regular game, and it is especially relevant in our current situation.
The components are of good quality; the cards are holding up well, and the other components are well-produced.
My only concern is minor, and it’s that I have a sense that the game may start to feel repetitive without expansions to add new cards. One expansion was funded on Kickstarter; it appears to be due out in November 2020. Unfortunately I didn’t play this until after the pledge period closed, but I look forward to its release. It’s a minor concern, though; the game comes with a very large deck, and it doesn’t yet feel repetitive, but I am worried that day is coming soon.
And, if like me, games (and everything else, really) make you think of songs, this one has an obvious choice right off the bat.
COMMENTS FROM OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS
Mark Jackson: Nine plays in… and I’d agree with Tery. My solo games have been enjoyable (like NEOM, Wonderful World uses a packet system to ‘imitate’ card drafting & pass that works very well)… but it really shines as a 2-3 player game. The trickiest decisions are deciding which cards to build and which cards to chuck for resources.
When I first saw this played post-Essen, other groups seemed to be agonizing over their choices and stretching out the game. Once you have a game or two under your belt, it’s easier to pick a strategic lane and make decisions without quite as much angst. (Note: you’ll also get better at hate-drafting cards the other player[s] might need to burn them for resources.)
Joe Huber (1 play): Needs more Louis Armstrong. I’m not a fan of drafting, as a central mechanism for games, and this did nothing to change that for me. Everything works, but I didn’t enjoy the game at all and have successfully avoided a second play.
Craig Massey (3 plays): I had the chance to explore this a bit back in November as part of the Lobster Trap collection where it saw pretty regular play during the event (Tery, how did you miss it?). I definitely enjoyed the game. It was easy to learn and teach and felt refreshing. I do have a similar concern that over time the game might start to feel repetitive. After some general confusion about what I was doing in my first game, everything clicked in future plays and play time was down significantly as Mark noted above. I will absolutely look forward to seeing what an expansion adds.
RATINGS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS
I love it! : Tery, Mark Jackson
I like it.: Craig M.
Not for me: Joe H.