Open Seat Gaming: Tabletop Day Preview: Wonderland
Disclaimer: This review is from a production copy provided by Renegade Game Studios to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game. The game was only available for purchase at participating Friendly Local Game Stores (FLGS's) on International Tabletop Day, which was Saturday, April 28th, 2018.
Designer: Daniel Solis
Artist: Anita Osburn, Beth Sobel
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Main Game Mechanisms: Hand Management, Area Control
Number of Players: 2
Game Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Description: Alice has returned to Wonderland and now she's working to try and save Wonderland from the rule of the evil Red Queen.
In this two player game, you're either playing as Alice or the Red Queen. You have a hand of 7 cards, numbered 1 through 7, that you have to place into a tableau that you build together. First, you build the edge of the tableau - the one side is 3 cards from Alice, the top of the space is 3 cards from the Red Queen (the intersecting "spot" doesn't have a card). You play your cards face down so that your opponent doesn't know what you played.
Then, you use the other 4 cards that are in your hand in order to try and control the different rows and columns. You do this by taking turns putting cards down face up in the 3x3 space that has been created at the beginning, and whoever has the larger sum of cards in a row or column will get the points from that row or column. Here's where it gets difficult, though - there are symbols on different edges of different cards. The cakes multiply the adjacent card's value by 2, and the potions nullify the adjacent card's value entirely.
When all of the cards have been placed (there will be 1 empty space in your 3x3 grid), you flip over the 6 cards you played around the edge at the beginning of the game. When you add up a row (without the card on the edge), you figure out who won the row or column and then they are granted that number of points.
Review: First, thanks to Brandon and Kerensa from the What Did You Play This Week Podcast for sending along their preview copy of Wonderland to us when they were done reviewing it.
The art is spot on - you all know that we love Beth's art, and this is no different in terms of quality. The mystical appearance, along with the unique cast of characters on the cards really has an "Alice in Wonderland" feel to it.
The gameplay is really unique and interesting. Sarah and I found that the game was just more than throwing cards on the table and seeing how they scored. We were constantly sitting there, doing the math, and thinking through each of our plays so that we could do what was best for our purposes as well. When I was talking to Sarah, I told her it felt a little like Pocket Ops, which is (essentially, at its core) Tic-Tac-Toe with powers. There's definitely that feel, but a totally different game.
There is also an advanced version in the box, where the player that Alice has a special card that they pick before the game starts. This allows the Alice player to have a special card that they place onto the grid, which can drastically change how scoring goes. We definitely want to play it more, but it helps to balance the first player advantage that the Red Queen player seems to have.
In short, this game really scratched an itch for a game that I didn't know that I had. It's lovely, fun, and thinky. Sarah and I love our 2 player games, and this is a happy addition to our collection that we're glad to have!
Try, Buy, Deny: This game is totally worth a buy for people who love 2 player abstract games and outwitting their opponents - Renegade has not said whether or not it will ever have a full release, however, so it may be hard to find now that International Tabletop Day is over. If you did not get your hands, then try to seek it out and at least try it. It's really a fun, thinky little game with amazing art that will hit our table when we want a quick 2 player game.