GoPlayListen: Welcome To... A four-sided board game review

GoPlayListen: Welcome To... A four-sided board game review

Welcome to… board game* is a roll-and-write game (think Yahtzee) with a difference – the difference being, it uses cards instead of dice. Each game lasts less than 30 mins.

The box says 1-100 players, and while it can be played solo the realistic player range is more like 2-6 (although in a group setting you could probably double that).

In the small (eight-inch square) box you’ll find 110 cards, four player aids and a pack of 100 player sheets. There’s also an app link where you can instead have the player sheet on your phone. It has been met with mixed responses, but hey – it’s a free app so there’s no harm in seeing if it works for you.

The theme sees players planning and building housing estates during the 1950s baby boom. The art style reflects this perfectly, while the iconography is clear and the components high quality. For a game that costs around £20, I don’t think people will have any complaints about value for money.

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Teaching Welcome to…

Players each take a score sheet (depicting three streets of houses, with 10/11/12 houses respectively) and the 81 construction cards are split into three even piles.

You also draw three (city plan) scoring cards from a set of 29, which give players a steer in terms of available bonuses. The first player to complete each gets a nice points boost, but all players can still complete each plan for a slightly smaller reward.

As the game begins, one of the construction cards from each pile is flipped over. Each card has a number on one side and an action on the other. You place the flipped cards next to their draw pile, giving you three number/action combos to choose from. Each player picks one of these combos, and marks off the appropriate parts of their sheet. Cards are numbered 1-15, with much higher numbers of the middling numbers (there are only three each of numbers 1&2 but nine number 8s, for example).

There are six different actions in Welcome To. ‘Surveyors’ allow you to draw fences, splitting your roads into estates that help score many of the planning cards (and end game points). The ‘agent’ allows you to score more for these estates (so you may use an estate card to increase the points you’ll get for two-house estates). Each road has a parks track and some houses with pools. The ‘landscaper’ allows you to mark off the next tree number, giving bonuses if you put enough in the same street, the ‘pool manufacturer’ pays if you build pools in the right homes.

The ‘temp agency’ and ‘bis’ actions are more like get-out-of-jail cards. The temp agency allows you to change its respective number card by 0,1 or 2 digits, helping you fill awkward spaces. Similarly, bis allows you to put the same number next to one already written (you usually have to make each road run from low left to high right, with gaps allowed but no duplication).

Eventually though, someone is likely to run out of options. Your second failure to write a number on your sheet loses you a few points and the third ends the game. Otherwise, the game ends when a player has completed all three roads. The ways you score are clearly marked out across the bottom of each player sheet. Simply add up your points and whoever managed to get the highest score is the winner.

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The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I’m cynical about roll-and-writes, as most fall flat for me, but this (and Ganz Schon Clever) really won me over. Using cards means you can play the odds, while they’ve done a great job of using the extra art space. As with most games of this style, Welcome To also works well solo. It works as in the expert variant (see below): draw three cards, use two in any combination and try to beat your high score.

  • The thinker: The advanced variant adds quite a bit too, giving trickier city plans to complete and another way to get out of trouble – but that costs you. The added expert rules see each player instead drawing three cards and using two (in any combination). You pass the remaining card to your neighbour, then draw two cards for a new hand of three. This gives something else to think about, pushing your decision space up a notch. Not a favourite, but a very solid filler.

  • The trasher: The ultimate in multiplayer solitaire – sorry, but there’s nothing for me here. In fairness the theme is nicely done and the game looks cute. But for me a game with literally no interaction isn’t much of a game. And no, I don’t think the expert version really counts as interaction. At least it is as short as the box suggests, so I guess it’s just about passable as a filler!

  • The dabbler: Loved it! From the incidental card details (some of the cards have dogs, cats etc on them) to the player aids (thematic adverts). There’s so much attention to detail. But it’s great fun to play too! A few of the actions can be a little tricky to remember at first, and the player aid is sadly lacking (it confused more than helped lol). But after you’ve played through once everyone will have the hang of it.

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Key observations

Some complain Welcome To… takes a long time to teach and/or is difficult to explain. While it isn’t as simple as many roll-and-writes, I’d suggest the problem is the teachers. This is the kind of game you should play and teach, rather than explain for 30 minutes. Once players have done each action they should be fine – and they’ll do that by playing.

Complaints the game is tedious, with no interaction, are valid for certain types of player. If you have to have players at each other’s throats to have fun this is definitely not for you. And the same if you don’t like multiplayer solitaire games. Horses for courses.

One concern I do share is the lack of variety in scoring cards. I’d be surprised if anyone played just the basic game more than once (unless with non-gamers or children). And the advanced plans are limited in scope. What the lack of dice luck adds in strategy it of course takes away in tactical play, which could lead to people making very similar decisions. Thankfully a raft of score sheet/score card expansions are arriving in 2019 – from zombie outbreaks to ice cream trucks…

Conclusion: Welcome to… board game

I didn’t go into Welcome to… expecting too much, having been won over by the style rather than the mechanics. But boy was I wrong. The game is now up into the Top 20 family games on board Game Geek on merit. Simple, stylish and just thinky enough to engage a gamer. It’s one for the euro-style gamer, with lots of ways to score and less luck than normal. But also accommodates a wide number of players while only lasting half an hour. Great stuff.

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* Thanks to Blue Cocker Games (via Asmodee UK) for providing a copy of the game for review.

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