Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Friday, 8 February 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Wangdo

Game: Wangdo

Publisher: Mandoo Games

Designer:  Frank Crittin, Grégoire Largey, Sébastien Pauchon

Year: 2018


Wangdo is a game about bears - if you like bears, then Wangdo has you covered. From bear meeples, to a bear shaped insert, to a cloth bag with a bear on it, to pandas and red pandas (??). Anyway, if you like bears or bear adjacent creatures, along with light set collection and route building then Wangdo is off to a good start.

Each player takes on a bear clan trying to gain the favour of the king. The princes travel far and wide, gaining the education to be next in line to the throne and erecting statues of themselves in all of the towns they visit, and in return they inherit knowledge of religion, education, military, and commerce.

Wangdo is a competitive game for 2-4 players that lasts around 30 minutes.


Gameplay

Your objective in Wangdo is simple: collect a set of 2 (or 3 in a 2-player game) of each type of symbol from the central map. In order to claim a symbol you have to place one of your bear statues on it and then pay 1 additional bear statue matching the colour of each adjacent statue on the board. No two touching bears may be of the same colour so you'll have to build your hand in a suitable variety in order to succeed.

Refilling your hand of bear statues is done in one of two ways, either you take 2 bears from the open discard pools on the main board, or you take 3 statues at random from the bag and hope for the right colours. Whether it's worth the gamble on colours in order to get 50% more bear statues varies depending on how the game progresses, but an important part about taking randomly is it doesn't deplete the stock of discarded bears. Whenever a colour of bear statues has 5 bears in the discard pile they get thrown back into the bag and the person who caused it gets a free statue as a reward.


Once you have collected both (or all three) symbols of one type you will be rewarded with a seal card. While the game is a straight race to having all the tokens, players will play the same number of rounds, so these cards are used as tie-breakers. Each seal card has a special ability, such as swapping a statue with an opponent or discarding 2 statues to draw 3 at any time. Using these abilities well can easily buy you extra speed in completing the game, but once used they no longer help you in the case of a tie-break.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Like any good abstract game the premise in Wangdo is simple, but the tactics needed to do well are anything but. There is a fine line that has to be drawn between making your own progress and making your opponents life difficult. Since you can always see your opponents hand and the symbols they still need you can play tactically to make the symbols they want cost more bear statues, or require a statue of a colour they don't have. Since the game is a race anything that costs 1 turn to remedy is potentially a game-winning move. On top of that the game has an element of randomness thrown in with the seal cards, which can be used to gain that extra turn you need to win, or simply counter an opponents attempt to slow you down.


Wangdo isn't just a good game though, it's also a gorgeous one. The player boards all sport a large anthropomorphic bear in traditional robes, while the main game components, the bear statues, are far more tactile and appealing than simple counters that could have been used.

The biggest missing part in Wangdo is replayability, for me after a handful of games I felt mostly done with it. Perhaps I'd come back to play it at higher player counts, but the simple gameplay leads to a slight lack of depth when playing two-player. Of course simple gameplay can be a good thing too, but for my tastes I would have liked a slight variant to mix things up a little. Overall Wangdo is a beautiful, if light, abstract game that won me over with it's component quality. While it might be a bit light for some gamers it's also approachable by anyone who gets drawn in by the cute bears!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

I was extremely impressed when I opened the box for Wangdo, it's truly a lovely looking game. I was anticipating a lighter game and the 20-30 minutes game with just 2 pages of rules to quickly learn was just that. Take bears or place bears and pay the cost, is all you really need to know. Otherwise it's just a race to collect enough tokens from the board and to be the first to do so. I love that the game is quick to get to the table and think that would make it a great game for kids or a board game cafe setting, where quick rules are key.


Behind the quick and simple rules, we've actually found that there are some slightly deeper tactical decisions to be made in the game. Overall, you're likely to proceed at a very similar speed in gaining tokens from the board, however there are ways that more experienced gamers might choose to try and implement a strategy. It's possible to try and arrange the panda statues so that the tokens your opponents need are more surrounding, costing more pandas per token than easier tokens you might snipe. The seal cards also add some great moments where you can outwit the other players with a cool special ability, I also like how the tiebreak mechanism is so integral to the game and I have been guilty of focusing too hard and paying too much for tokens with seals on, rather than concentrating on the primary race as the first way to win.

Wangdo is simple, but it's also a really nicely package abstract game, that I think could really suit a mixed group of kids and parents or newer players. It's far more exciting to me than many bland abstract games, so I'd definitely recommend checking it out.


You Might Like...
  • Great component quality and colourful artwork.
  • Interesting special abilities from the seal cards.
  • Puzzly moments of player interaction that allow you to squeak ahead in the face to complete your player board.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game has very simple mechanics from a gamer's perspective.
  • The game can be so tight that it's difficult to identify ways to secure victory.

The Verdict
6/10 Wangdo is a lightweight, family style game, but it's still one that has given us some tense and thinky moments around the table. The component quality and art are charming and it would make a great game to introduce to family or friends into the gaming hobby, that brings in a few special abilities and twists on resource management and planning.


Wangdo was a review copy kindly provided to us by Mandoo Games.

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