Back in the day – after my first play of It’s A Wonderful World at a 2019 post-Essen gathering, here’s what I wrote:
A slightly more gamer-y 7 Wonders-ish card drafting game of civilization building. The major difference is that you’re drafting a set of cards that you then use as resources (discarding them) or construction (building them). We were just over 30 minutes with 2 players… but both Dan & I are “play by the seat of your pants” players. I saw other games with more players that lasted nearly an hour – which indicates that the game proceeds at the pace of the slowest player. Good news: it worked just fine with 2 players “out of the box”.
Now, with 36 more plays in the intervening 18 months, I’d call myself a fan.
Which leads me to all of the ways in which you can expand the Wonderful World…
Corruption and Ascension
Corruption and Ascension is a true-blue expansion to It’s A Wonderful World, including a separate deck of additional development cards as well as extra bits to make the game playable with 6-7 players. Also in the box is a dry erase scoreboard which is a particularly nice add-on… and two new empire cards.
The added deck of 56 cards adds two new types of cards to the game:
- Cards with corruption (that take away the production of a particular resource in exchange for a cheaper price and/or a more lucrative payoff)
- Cards with dual scoring bonuses (that reward the player with points for combinations at the end of the game… for example, 6 points for each pair of Project & Financier)
The Corruption & Ascension deck has a different card back than the base deck… so cards are distributed in new combinations outlined in the rules. Otherwise, the game plays exactly as before – just with new possibilities and challenges to building your country into the powerhouse you knew it should be.
This is the easiest to find of the expansions (to purchase)… and is also the easiest to add to the base game without making the game more difficult to teach to new players. I really like the added variety to the decision-making on what to keep and what to pass on.
The Campaign Boxes
As part of the Corruption & Ascension Kickstarter, La Boite de Jeu also published two campaigns for It’s a Wonderful World. Both are similar in structure – the box contains rules for a campaign of 5 games in which the winner of the final game is the winner of the campaign. There are multiple sealed envelopes and “secret” boxes that are opened as a part of the set-up of each game which introduce a variety of variant situations and limitations as well as new game mechanics and cards.
At the conclusion of each campaign, there are booster packs to open that give you cards to add to your base deck to incorporate the twists of the campaign into your copy of It’s A Wonderful World.
While it sounds like I’ve just described a legacy game, none of the choices made in either campaign are permanent. All cards and game mechanics from the campaigns can be reset in order to replay the campaign or to simply the base game without the extra elements.
Both campaigns can be played with the Corruption & Ascension expansion in play with up to five players… and there are rules for solo play as well.
And now we get to the hard part – trying to describe/review two campaign boxes without spoiling any of the fun hidden inside. (Sigh.)
War or Peace
War or Peace is the less complicated of the two campaigns – while there are some unique challenges in certain scenarios, the overall effect on gameplay is relatively simple and straightforward. Players should have a few games under their belts before attempting this campaign… but that’s primarily so that the new twists won’t overly slow down gameplay.
War or Peace should be played before Leisure and Decadence (both for the “history” of the Wonderful World and to avoid some mild spoilers in the rules and mechanics.)
Solo note: for experienced Wonderful World players, I would set the threshold for a win at 60 points – 50 points is pretty easy to accomplish.
Leisure and Decadence
Leisure & Decadence adds two different new game mechanics that create new challenges for players (and should not be the first experience with the Wonderful World for a new player).
Warning: the twist introduced in the third scenario does not carry over into the fourth or final scenarios… but I promise it will reappear at some point. (Is that cryptic enough?)
The same solo note applies here – 60 points is a more challenging threshold for solo games.
Note: Lucky Duck Games imprint is on the War or Peace box as well as the Corruption & Ascension box – but not on the Leisure & Decadence box. This may explain why Leisure & Decadence is only available through the La Boite de Jue website.
Kickstarter Goodie Box
I’m not sure the goodie box of Kickstarter extras is worth the hard-earned money I spent on it… but since this is a game we play a good bit, I love how the little plastic bit bowls and chunky wooden round marker make the game a little bit nicer. (Note: the bit bowls are very thin clear plastic – which means it is easy to pour bits out of them back into their baggies… and they don’t interfere with the art on the board.)
Also included in the KS goodies are 12 additional cards for the base deck with new twists and the same gorgeous art style… and five alternate empire cards with two different options.
And, yes, that’s a pretty serious pair of typos on one line in the list of contents.
It’s A Wonderful Kingdom
The newest offering in Wonderful World franchise is a Kickstarter for a two-player fantasy world game, using a similar card/resource structure… but with a really nice twist on the “I cut – you pick” mechanic. The initial player places two cards down – dividing them between a pair of selection areas (or even stacking them together). Then the opposing player chooses one of the selection areas and takes all the cards. Then the roles reverse… and any cards not yet taken remain on the selection areas until a player chooses that area.
The game has multiple modules – quests, advisors, menaces (and even conquest with the available expansion). As my son & I typically play It’s A Wonderful World as a two-player game, it’s a no-brainer for us to back the whole kit and kaboodle.
If you want to join us, the Kickstarter ends on May 6, 2021.
Interestingly enough, adding all those extra cards to the game doesn’t actually dilute the original mix of card outcomes. I did a pretty detailed analysis of the card decks and the percentages of different card types, recycling bonuses, and cards that produce points all stay very close to the base deck in their mixture. That means that the variety of the deck increases without radically changing the feel of the original game – a triumph of thoughtful design and development.
In another nice touch, all of the expansions have subtle but easy to read symbols to help you sort them out from the base deck.
If you are just going to pick up one of the boxes, I’d strongly suggest Corruption & Ascension – it adds the most to the original game while still being easy to set aside when teaching new players. (And the extra 3x Financier and General tokens along with the dry-erase board are useful no matter which mix of cards that you use.)
I especially like the solo scenarios in the Corruption & Ascension rulebook – the varied win conditions and “rating” my performance makes for an enjoyable solo experience.
My son and I played through both campaigns as two-player games… and while he emerged victorious (twice!), we both had a fantastic time exploring the twists and turns in the campaign boxes. I also played through the campaigns solo after we finished our two-player adventures… and can recommend them as solo experiences. I will say that more players may make things even more interesting with some of the challenges in Leisure and Decadence – but I’m sure he & I will confirm that with friends sometime in the near future.
A final thought: as is normal for reviews of expansions, these are unlikely to change your mind if you’re not a fan of the original game. But, for fans, they each increase the variety of the playing options as well as expanding the base game in interesting ways.
Play #37 likely coming this weekend!
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Tery: In early 2020 a friend told me how great he thought It’s a Wonderful World was and how many times he had played in a short amount of time. He’s not generally very effusive in his praise of games, so I was immediately intrigued and picked up a copy, and I am so glad I did. I love it. There is a lot to this game, but it is well-designed and well-produced, so it’s easy to learn and easy to play, because both the rules and the components are clear. I did worry when we first started playing that it would start to feel old once we got used to the cards (although as it turns out that has not happened yet), so I was excited about expansion. The Corruption and Ascension expansion is a good addition to the game. It adds some new twists to the game, and introduces new possibilities, and although I am loath to play a card that reduces my cube income I did gain some benefits from playing a few of the new cards, painful as it was. . . . I bought War and Peace, but have not played it yet, and handed my money over for the deluxe Kickstarter for It’s a Wonderful Kingdom because I can’t imagine it won’t be a hit in my house.