Review: Wunderland

Posted by James (admin) on June 11th, 2013

Wunderland gameWunderland is a game set at the massive,  real-world, model village in Germany which covers 1,300 square metres.  Players aim to earn the most victory points (VPs) by completing destination tickets and collecting postcards – the player with the most VPs at the game’s end wins.

Each player has 8 visitor tokens and these all start on the main start space.  The board shows lots of numbered spaces (locations) which are linked by various pathways and are located in 8 different regions (such as Hamburg, Austria, Scandinavia, USA).  On their turn, a player can move any number of their visitors from one single location to another location that is 1 or 2 locations away (so a player can leave some of their visitors behind if they want); then, each other player can choose to move some of their visitors with those that were moved (if they had any on the same location).

This is a nice and simple game mechanic.  Players can move their visitors quite quickly if they tag along with each others’ visitors, but players can also go their own way and be on their own spaces so they don’t benefit anyone else when they move.  It’s a double-edged sword – you don’t want to help other players move towards their goals, but you want to tag along with other players when they move. Also, this game mechanic keeps the game flowing very quickly (as a turn is short) and there is very little downtime (as players are very often involved in moves when it isn’t their turn).

Players have 2 destination tickets which each show 2, 3 or 4 numbered locations and are worth 15, 20 and 25 VPs when completed.  On their turn, a player can complete destination tickets by removing one of their visitor tokens from each of the locations shown on the destination ticket – these visitors are placed back on the start space.  The player then draws another destination ticket (unless they have completed 4 already).

There is a postcard location in each region (these don’t have numbers) and each region has a deck of postcards showing pictures of that region.  During their turn, a player can take 1 of the corresponding area’s postcards for each of their visitors that they move from these postcard locations back to the start space.

The game ends as soon as any player completes their 5th destination ticket, or a player can choose to end the game on their turn if they can show they have at least 1 postcard from each of the 7 different regions.  Once the game ends, players earn bonus points for any postcards they have collected – they score 1 VP for each the cards of which they have most, 2 VPs for each card of which they have the 2nd most, etc.  The only restriction is that only 4 cards from each region count towards scoring.

Wunderland box

Overall, Wunderland is a light game with an atmosphere similar to Ticket To Ride.  There’s a real balance to be struck over how many visitors you move in each direction.  You want to send enough to go to the locations on your destination tickets (and/or get postcards) but you also may want to go where other players are going to piggyback on their moves.

Decisions are simple but constant and you sometimes need to think quick about changing your plans if an opponent offers you a chance to move with their pieces in a direction you weren’t expecting.

The network of locations doesn’t wrap around, i.e. you can’t do a complete circuit – this would make it too easy – so you need to consider which of your visitors you send in which direction.  If you get a new destination ticket and find any visitors are miles from where they would be useful, you can always return them to the start by going to a postcard location and collecting a postcard (if any remain).

The artwork on the board and postcards uses a lot of images from the real-life model village which is nice (and reminds me of the Ticket to Ride: Marklin edition which used lots of images of the real Marklin toy trains).  Each destination ticket also has a small map with arrows pointing to where each location is to make it easy to find them.

It’s not too obvious what other players are trying to do (as their destination tickets are secret) so you can’t really do much to disrupt their plans.  There’s lots of interaction with the simultaneous movement, but not interaction via hostile disruption; however, there are still tactics to be had.  For example, you may want to move your visitors to spaces where opponents’ visitors are placed so you can move with them.  Also, you may want to avoid moving a visitor if another player has a big stack of theirs on the same location as you would help move lots of theirs compared to yours.  Plus, it may not be worth moving to a postcard location if more of your opponents may come with you and take more postcards than you.

Wunderland game close-up

In our game, I was surprised that we collected very few postcards as we were racing to complete our destination tickets.  I think this may have been because we were experienced gamers so our mindset was a race.  For me, I didn’t collect many postcards as I had spread my visitors out quite thin to try and complete both destination tickets in my hand at the same time; next time, I may try to do one destination ticket at a time but take extra visitors with them which gather postcards.

In the end, Wunderland is a charmingly simple game but with lots of involvement and a fast pace.  I really enjoyed it and I think it will work great with lighter gamers and families, and as a quick game for gamers too.

I would actually like to visit the real Wunderland and I’ve just realised it is an opportunity to the play the game at the real location (like when I played Alhambra at the real Alhambra).

[Played with 4 players]

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