That Old Wallpaper
- Designers: Nathan Thornton and Danielle Deley
- Publisher: AEG
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 10+
- Time: 15-30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by AEG at GenCon 2022
The elevator pitch from the publisher: “Remember that old wallpaper we used to have? In that one room? With the funky colors and those weird sunburst patterns of whatever?” OK, good, because that’s what we’re doing… drafting stacks of wallpaper cards and piecing them together to most closely re-create the patterns from your memories.
I received a copy of That Old Wallpaper from AEG at GenCon, and it took a few weeks to get to the table here… (not because I didn’t want to play it, but because we just can’t play 25 games in a single week!). There are 130 wallpaper cards in the game, most of which have full printed designs on them, but 20 or so which are identical “hazy memory” cards that only have a quarter of the card printed with a single wild pattern on it. Each player also gets a set of player cards, numbered 1 to 10 – these are shuffled, and each player deals a starting hand of 5 cards. Tiebreaker markers are randomly placed in a line on the table as well.
The wallpaper cards are shuffled, and a number of columns equal to the number of players is started on the table – initially one card per column, but note that each time you draw a card with a red oval in the center, you immediately draw an extra card to be placed directly below the first in that column. There is an order to the columns with the “low end” being closest to the draw pile. Each wallpaper card has four areas for wallpaper patterns; there are 4 unique colors (red flowery things, yellow sunshine, blue spacey things and green leafy stuff) in two different sizes. There is also a gold foil “wild” pattern. Finally, some cards have purple shapes in the center which represent mementos; which when collected will score points at the end of the game. Other cards have red ovals in the center which always tell you to draw another card for that column.
The game is played over 3 rounds. In each round, there are 6 turns – each played in the same way. Players secretly and simultaneously choose a numbered card from their hand, and all reveal at the same time. The card with the lowest value is placed over the column at the “low end” – that is closest to the draw pile. Cards are placed in order, all the way to the high end. If there is a tie, the tied cards are placed perpendicular across the tops of the columns where they are in numerical order.
Now, any players who have played a unique number this turn simply pick up the cards in the column underneath where their number card is. If there are any tied players, look at their standing on the tiebreaker marker line. Whoever is closest to the front of the line gets to choose any one column from the tied positions, and then they move their tiebreaker marker to the back of the line. All other players involved in this tie get only a Hazy Memory card as consolation. This means that there will be some unclaimed columns of cards which roll over to the next round.
The collected cards are now placed in each player’s play area. They must be placed so that they are adjacent to a card already placed. Cards must be placed so that the card side lengths match up. It is not necessary to match patterns, but you will score more points if you do match. The gold foil side is a wild and can be played next to any color – except another wild – to finish a section.
All players now retrieve their card and make a face up discard array in front of them (so everyone can see what cards have been played by each player). Players draw another card to replenish their hand to 5. Finally, draw one wallpaper card for each column; remembering to draw an extra card for each red oval card drawn.
This continues until the end of the 6th turn, when players need to draw a new number card but the draw pile is empty. This ends the current round; change the round card to show the next round. At this time, take the 6 cards played so far, shuffle them to make a new draw pile, and then draw a card to bring their hand back up to 5. This process is continued twice more; for a total of 18 turns in the game.
The game now moves to scoring. There is a scoring pad included in the box, and it is quite helpful for tabulating your scores. Each sheet only has room for two scores on it, but we’ve found that it’s easier just to give everyone a sheet with at least one blank area on it, and let each person do their own scoring.
First you have to score for the colors. Scan your wallpaper area and count up the big patterns and small patterns of each color. Be sure to look carefully as it’s unfortunately easy to miss the areas completed by the gold foil “wild” patterns. Mark down the numbers of each type in all 4 colors. You will then score 2 VPs for each pair of big/small – that is 2VP times the lesser of the two sizes. You can jot these numbers down on the scoring area to the right.
Next, look at your purple mementos, and score 1/3/6/10 for 1/2/3/4 unique purple shapes amongst your cards. Now, players should announce how many red ovals they collected; the player with the most red ovals loses 2 points, and the player with the least red ovals scores 2 VPs. Finally, the player who is at the front of the tiebreaker line gets a 2VP bonus.
The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the tied player with the fewest red ovals.
My thoughts on the game
That Old Wallpaper has proven to be a good filler for my game groups this summer – the game plays in about 20 minutes (once you know the rules), and I’ve liked being able to work on my own wallpaper wall in each game. There is a surprising amount of difficulty in reading the minds of my opponents to try to play the number which will get me the desired cards. Thus far, in our games, it seems like most of the competition has been for cards with multiple wild sides OR columns with multiple cards.
I haven’t quite yet figured out whether it is easier for me to try to concentrate on a single color or to try to manage all my colors and work on pairs in those colors in a stepwise fashion. In the end, it’s the same 2 points per pair of big and small patterns. Trying to limit your unscored patterns seems to be one of the main ways to distinguish your score from your opponents.
It’s definitely important to watch the discard piles of your opponents – so that you can try to mitigate your risk of duplicating a number card with an opponent (or perhaps when you’re at the front of the tiebreaker line, forcing a tie!). In each round, each player will get all of their number cards into their hand at some point – and there is a bit of memory required to remember which cards were shuffled back into your opponent’s decks – as you won’t have a face up discard pile to refer to….
The graphics definitely remind me of 1970s era wallpaper, and I do like watching my “wall” grow in the playing area in front of me. For whatever reason, I have a hard time tracking matches made by the wild gold foil patterns; mostly because I think my brain registers it a a mismatch. I have definitely found it helpful to give each player their own scoring sheet at the start of the game. I now instruct players to keep their own sheet and make hashmarks in the left side as they make matching big and small patterns. Doing this speeds up scoring at the end of the game; but it also helps players keep track of their numbers rather than having to re-count them each turn.
Individual turns go fairly quick – and remember that there are only 18 turns total in the game. Given that there are only 4 different colors, most every card will match up somewhere to your growing wall – but ideally you’d like the card to fit perfectly on multiple sides; rather than just a single side. It seems like it’s a good policy to just get as many cards as you can, as this increases your chances of matching patterns – sure, there is a 2VP penalty for having the most red ovals is fairly insignificant considering that a single pair of patterns gives you back the 2VP or an additional purple memento generally gives you enough points to overcome the penalty.
That Old Wallpaper is a nice light drafting game; and the use of the number cards makes it different enough from other drafting games. It gives you an attractive tableau on the table as you connect your cards together. Scoring in our first game was a little cumbersome – the only part of the game that wasn’t super easy – but giving players a scoresheet to fill in as they go has really simplified the process for us. The game moves along quite briskly, though there seems to be a mild slowdown in the final few rounds as players try to maximize their final few plays to match up as many things as possible. This game fits in nicely in that 20 minute niche.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, John P
- Not for me…