Roux Dat #37: Wicked & Wise, Summer Camp, and Cascadia!

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more tales of gaming down on the bayou. Our Gumbo Game Nights have been going strong of late, with a couple of dozen people showing up each Wednesday night at Anubis Game & Hobby in Lafayette to try out the latest hotness or our favorite classics. Plus, we are still getting together frequently online with gamers around the country to try new games.

Hit us up on Twitter or on Facebook and let us know what games you’ve been playing during this crisis and what games you think we should play!

But that’s enough blather, let’s get to the games!

This time, we are looking at Wicked & Wise, Summer Camp, and Cascadia!

The Mouse Who Roared

Weird Giraffe Games has a new Kickstarter coming next month, and they sent us a preview copy of the game. It is a trick taking game called Wicked & Wise with a unique twist: players play as partners (a la Spades or Hearts) but have asymmetrical powers! The game is designed by Fertessa Allyse, who designed Book of Villainy, and features art by Beth Sobel and Estefania Rodriguez, and graphic work by Louisiana’s very own Jay Bell!

Each team consists of a Dragon and a Mouse –the Dragon’s focus is on winning the tricks and the Mouse’s focus is on affecting the game state each trick to help the team earn gold. Most gold at the end of the game wins!

The game is played over three rounds, and in each round, the Dragon/Mouse partners try to complete public goals (like winning a certain number of tricks or collecting a certain suit.) The cards have amazing art, and there is a top trump suit called “gems” that will be added to the deck throughout the game through the Mouse’s careful play.

Another cool feature is that whoever wins the trick gets to pick a bonus of either a couple of gold pieces (gold being the victory points to win the game) or adding a treasure to their tableau, with the loser of the trick getting the reward not chosen.

The treasure cards are probably the most interesting part of the game so far. Each one has the potential to radically change how the trick will be played, or give some pretty powerful effects to the partners that played it.

We played a learning game, running through all of the different table talk scenarios (instead of just picking one for the entire game) and with lots of discussion about strategy during the game. The play was at our weekly Gumbo Game Night at Anubis, and so we got a lot of curious look-sees at the beautiful art.

I need a couple of more plays to see if the treasure cards can create a runaway leader situation, but the good news is that I am excited to play this as a featured game at a game night with family and friends. Weird Giraffe is known for their playtesting and feedback with backers during the campaign, so it should be fun to watch the project unfold next month.

ROUX DAT SAYS: The art in Wicked & Wise is stunning — it really draws you right into the game! I love trick taking games, and I love when a designer comes out with a new concept that excites me. The asymmetric powers plus the treasure cards are spicy additions to the genre. It’s not an “intro” trick taker a la The Crew, and there is a lot to wrap your arms around in terms of how the game flows. But, once we got through the first round, my partner and I were in the groove. As the mouse, my goal was to serve as the “setter” in volleyball, pushing good cards to the dragon, or changing the game state to fit our goals, while Dave was focused on grabbing good treasures to ensure we were winning tricks regularly. It worked like a champ!

Badges, We Just Might Need Some Badges

We had a new group of gamers show up at our Gumbo Game Night this week, and they were toting a copy of Summer Camp by Phil Walker-Harding. This has been on the radar of me and my buddy, Steve O’Rourke, for a while because both of us always have our antennae raised whenever PWH releases a new game. You can find this on the end-caps at Target as it is part of their big board game summer promotion.

Summer Camp pits up to four ‘campers’ racing around a scout camp to earn as many ‘badges’ that they can. It really is a race – there are three lanes on the boards that you move your meeples, and you are competing with fellow campers to get the best spots the fastest. The end lane badges geaux down in value depending on your rank as you get there, so that creates some tension in moving the meeples.

How does the movement work? Summer Camp is about as basic of a deck builder as you can get. Players start with 10 cards, most of them only used as money to purchase more cards. But there are a few special cards that give you ‘energy’ (the money in the game) or movement on the path to the activity badges. Plus you can spend the energy to purchase more cards from a market just next to the board. Some of the higher cost cards even come with victory points at the end.

There is some variability in the set up. There are seven different ‘activity badges’ you have in the game box, but you only use three at any one time. I am assuming that each deck handles movement and bonuses a little different, so it was definitely nice to see that implemented well, here. Once someone gets to end of all three lanes using the basic and special movement cards (and path bonuses) — thus getting three ‘activity badges’ — that triggers the end of the game.

The presentation is a nice smaller box format, with good if samey art on the cards, and nice little wooden campers to move around. I liked the tension in racing for the particular badges, and I loved it when my cards lined up with the bonuses on the trails. You get that “bubble wrap popping” feeling that I love whenever one of yoru movement cards pushes you to a space that lets you get more cards, which lets you get more movement to get more snack bars to buy a better card. Very satisfying.

But, even as fast we were playing, the blandness of the basic cards, and the relatively straightforward cards to purchase created some very safe but very vanilla combos. I would have liked a little bit more variety in the cards, and some way to “cull” your deck.

We only played with three decks (Games, Watersports, Adventure), so this might have been just our experience with those particular decks, and I’ll reserve judgment on the deckbuilding until I see more.

Roux Dat Says: Phil Walker-Harding is an excellent designer who can take familiar concepts and string them out in new ways. I can see why Target jumped on this one. It is a perfect intro to deck building, reminding me a little of how The River was for worker placement (or Harry Potter’s Hogwarts deckbuilding game might even be a better example).

But just like The River, Summer Camp did not give us much to offer beyond teaching the basics, and was a miss for me on the first play. I’m willing to play it again because of the theme, but I wonder if the very simple deck building mechanic in Summer Camp with no way of culling your deck, combined with the relative sameness of the cards, might dissuade more experienced gamers from picking it up.

Having a nice gateway to deck building is not a bad thing for any collection, and I am honestly intrigued about what is in those other decks, but I do not see getting a copy for myself or it ever replacing my desire to play more Baseball Highlights: 2045 or Clank!

Even Better In Person

Someone asked us on our recent Twitch stream while we were playing Cascadia, the new tile laying game from Flatout / AEG designed by Randy Flynn, how we liked our roux. Dark? Light? I joked that I just cared about the thickness — I liked my gumbo thick enough to leave the spoon in and it still stands up straight. But really, I like my roux “just right”, not too dark, not very light.

That reminds me of my plays of Cascadia since it recently arrived. (I pledged for a copy and I have a review copy, so not sure which one is which but for full disclosure, let’s just call it a review copy.)

In Cascadia’s category, I’m looking for games that play in about a half hour to 45 minutes, have good puzzles to them but snappy turns, are strong enough to need me to think a turn or two ahead but breezy enough to allow for conversation, joking, and story telling (where are you putting that water bear!), and look amazing on the table. Why? Because those are typically the games that my wife likes to play on date night.

Cascadia fits the bill to a “t”. It’s not as passive aggressively mean as Azul, simpler to plan out your turns than Calico, and less likely to leave you in a pit like Sagrada. Plus, it has a stunning box cover that I know will attract my wife, and quick playing teach-and-turns.

The game is dead simple — players are building out habitats, hoping to score points by placing the same type of lands together (forests, mountains, lakes, etc). Points are given for each of the biggest habitat in a player’s tableau PLUS a small competition for bonus points for biggest among the players in each land type.

Players will do this by drafting them out of a common pool, and each tile also comes with a wildlife token for five different animals. Those are placed on any tile in the player’s tableau that has a matching symbol, and some of them give bonus points (which can be traded in for shenanigans in the draft).

Finally, tons of points are earned for getting the animal tokens lined up on the tableau to match the requirements of the five different animals in the game.

Maybe the bears want a nice family of mama bear and two cubs, meaning three bear tokens next to each other. Maybe the hawks want to fly high but far away from each other. Or just maybe, there is a salmon run and the more you get, the more points you score. The animal cards seem very thematic and in some ways compete and complement each other, so there’s a fun puzzle in figuring out the best and most efficient puzzles.

In all of my games, players took unique routes to victory, but the common theme seems to be doing a lot of things pretty well, as opposed to hammering one particular strategy. Spreading out your points among all of the cards, and getting good returns from your tile laying skills, seems to be the key, although I have plenty more to learn and discover. The inclusion of the nature tokens brilliantly gives you a feeling of control in the game — even with the randomness and chaos of the market of tiles and tokens, I never felt that the game was playing me. There were usually two good options on the table, and the potential to wipe the animal tokens to get even better options. Tough but fun decisions, but nothing so brain-melting that we saw any real AP.

ROUX DAT SAYS: After three plays already, I am hooked. This is a top contender for my family game of the year for 2021. Do I worry that I will burn out on it? Sure, but the fact that Randy has included so many goal cards eases my mind, because every game has played out differently in terms of how we score. This is one of the best date night games I have come across in a while and I am looking forward to playing with my wife this weekend.

THE WRAP UP:

So that’s it for our recent plays. Roux Dat will be back soon with more early looks at recent plays. Board Game Gumbo thanks for the publishers of Wicked & Wise and Cascadia for providing review copies.

Is there a game out there that you or your friends are curious about? Hit us up with a tweet @boardgamegumbo and we will see if we can get our hands on the game!

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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