The Cardboard Hoard: Initial Thoughts on Wreck Raiders
Wreck Raiders, designed by Tim W. K. Brown and Josh Cappel, just launched on Kickstarter. It is being published by Kids Table Board Gaming, which strives to make family games that are accessible for children and still fun for adults to play. As a father of an eight-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom love to play board games, this is a big selling point for me.
I honestly don’t remember how I had first learned about Wreck Raiders, but ahead of Origins, I knew it was an upcoming family weight game from Kids Table with some dice drafting, worker placement, and a theme I absolutely loved. When I saw that Grand Gaming Academy was running events for Wreck Raiders at Origins, I signed up for one immediately.
The game has a main board, player boards, a bunch of dice, meeples, tokens, cards, and, notably, a box lid that doubles as a dice tray. The copy I played was not a production copy, but was a polished prototype with gorgeous finished artwork from Apolline Etienne.
Wreck Raiders is a competitive game that plays two-to-four players in 30-45 minutes. In the game, players dive for treasures in a shallow lagoon, store them in the displays and vaults on their player boards, and use baubles they find to create aquariums, all of which score them victory points.
The dice drafting is simple, with players just pulling from a pool of five rolled dice, but there is a fun twist in that the dice are rolled in the game’s box lid, which has a number of “bauble zones.” Dice that land in these zones also give the player that selects them an extra bauble, which allows for one-time special powers, or can be used to purchase aquarium pieces.
Remember above when I said that one of the only things I knew about Wreck Raiders was that it blended dice drafting, worker placement, and a theme I love? Well after playing, it turns out that is only technically two-thirds true. I do still love the theme -- and the art does a beautiful job of selling that theme -- and the game does have dice drafting, but it doesn’t have worker placement, at least not in the strictest sense, because you cannot get blocked out of a space by an opponent.
Instead, the spaces function in a friendlier and less cutthroat manner, with any meeples in neighboring spaces also gaining a treasure. If an opponent’s meeple is in the space you move to, it is bumped off to the beach where it gets a bauble reward. Don't mistake my pedantry regarding the definition of worker placement for criticism, as I think the positive interactions in the game serve it very well as a friendly family game, as you’ll never have to tell your children, “no, you can’t go there, because Daddy anticipated you needed to and blocked you.”
The goal of placing meeples is to dive for treasure, which leads to the game’s third main mechanism -- set collection. Players each have a player board, where they will place the different-colored treasures they gain. The player board has two areas, the display side and the vault side, with each side scoring treasures differently. The treasures in the displays are used to claim exhibits, which are face up cards the players compete over, and the game ends when a certain number of exhibits are claimed, with that specific number scaling with player count.
Wreck Raiders looks like a great introduction to a number of game concepts, as it blends dice drafting, (a loose and friendly version of) worker placement, resource management, and set collection. Due to the number of different concepts presented, I see this likely playing better with older children than it will younger kids. In my case, I think my eight-year-old daughter will enjoy playing it with me, but think it will likely be too long and too involved for my five-year old son.
Wreck Raiders is a quick-playing light strategy game with beautiful, inviting artwork and a family friendly theme. Based on my lone play, I think it will excel as a gateway game, a game to play with families, and a lighter filler game for game groups that want a change of pace after playing more intense games. As a day one Kickstarter backer of the game, I look forward to trying it in all of those scenarios when I get my very own copy.