Thanks to Atomic Automaton for providing a review copy of this game.
Today’s title is a solo game currently on Kickstarter. It’s called
Weavlings in the Wilds is a a game designed by Jonathan Flike to be published by Atomic Automation. The game is currently on Kickstarter. In the game, you are trying to rescue some Weavlings from the Wilds before they get eaten by various Beasties. Weavlings in the Wild is a card-only solo game.
To set up, you’ll simply take the deck of cards, shuffle them up, and deal them into a 4×3 facedown grid. You’ll then take your Trapper card and replace any of the cards from the grid with it, discarding the displaced card, and then flip the other eleven cards face up. If there are any events, you’ll resolve those, then you’ll begin play.
In a game round, you’ll follow four phases: Trapper, Lure Weavlings, Beasties Feed, and Travel.
TRAPPER: In the trapper phase, you have three actions you can do with your Trapper. You can move to an orthogonally adjacent spot, swapping positions with the card that is there. You can also pick up an orthogonally adjacent trap card, as well as any traps that are in a straight line with that trap (chained). These traps go into your hand, and can be played for another action. There are several different kinds, and each one does something a little different based on what they are. In general, they are used to capture Beasties to your hand (where they will be used as meat), or move cards around. Traps are usually banished when used, which means they’re out of the game.
You may also pick up and use Wilds Spirits on your turn, though you don’t have to use an action for these. The boons provided here give you extra meat, collect previously banished traps, or even convert wounds into meat.
Whenever you remove cards from the grid, the cards above them collapse down, and empty spots at the top are filled with face down cards.
LURE WEAVLINGS: In this phase, you use the meat collected to rescue Weavlings off the board. Each one has a cost in meat they need, and you’ll discard Beasties or Wilds Spirits you have collected to pay the cost for each Weavling. These go into an area where you can see how many you have collected.
BEASTIES FEED: Each Beastie has a few chomp icons on various sides of their card. If there’s a Weavling on that side, it gets Chomped. The Weavling goes into a Lost Population pile, and the Beastie is discarded as it is now satiated. If a Beastie doesn’t get satiated, it remains on the board.
TRAVEL: The final thing that happens in a round is that the bottom row of the grid is removed. Any Wilds Spirits are discarded, any Traps are banished, any Weavlings become Lost Population, and any Beasties become Wounds (in easy mode, Traps and Weavlings are discarded). The Trapper and any unrevealed cards are not removed. Collapse down the remaining cards and fill empty spaces with facedown cards, then reveal all unrevealed cards.
When the deck of cards runs out, reshuffle the discard pile. Any Wounds and Weavlings collected are now rotated counterclockwise. For Wounds, they will usually get stronger. For Weavlings, they may become unhappy with a broken heart icon, so you’ll need to spend an extra food each to keep them from becoming Lost Population. If you collect 10+ population of Weavlings, you win. However, if you ever gain 10+ Wounds (15+ in easy mode) or lose 10+ population, you lose.
There are also two expansions – Zadarra’s Baubles and Brews gives you six new traps that can be substituted in, and Star-Touched Predators gives you new Beasties and Events to try.
I received a preproduction copy of this game, so things are probably going to change somewhat before publication. I like a lot of the art, though I’m not really crazy about the design of the Weavlings themselves. But the other stuff, especially the events, works well. The graphic design is good, with things laid out fairly well as long as you know where you’re looking. Some of the trap wordings could probably be a little less clunky, and it would probably help if it were spelled out in the rules somewhere what each trap does with clarifications so the trap text could be a reminder rather than the only indication of power.
Speaking of the rules, I’m not crazy about how they’re laid out. This is a general complaint leveled at a lot of rulebooks, not just this one, but I’m not a fan of how a lot of them give all the game concepts before they tell how the game is played. I feel like I’m more of a linear person, and I want to have a general idea of the game flow before I start learning what all the things are for. I’m curious about other people’s learning styles when it comes to rulebooks – am I in the minority for this? I have no idea, but I have the same kind of reaction when I read a rulebook that explains all the concepts before telling me any context. (EDIT: After publication, I saw that the rulebook has been updated so that the gameplay now comes first. So that issue for me has been fixed, but I’m leaving this section in the review just for posterity.)
Thematically, Weavlings is a kind of fantasy game where you’re trying to rescue these little critters before they get gobbled up. There’s a little bit of a story, and that helps with guiding your actions.
Mechanically, the game is fairly straightforward. Trap Beasties, collect meat, save the Weavlings. The game has a fair amount of input randomness – you can’t control where cards will come out, you just have to be able to react to what’s there. The game really becomes a big puzzle, as you try to figure out how to best use your traps, which Weavlings to save, and how to manipulate the grid so you don’t take as much damage.
Speaking of damage, this game can be quite brutal, even in setup. There’s an event called Sunlight which moves every card down a row, meaning the bottom row is just taken off right away. I had a game where this showed up in setup, and my bottom row was almost all Weavlings. So I started the game with six Lost Population, as well as a Wound from the Beastie that was also in the bottom row. That was hard to come back from. (FYI, I lost that game. Badly.)
The events really are the most random thing in the game. Apart from the randomness of the setup, the base game events could lose you cards, or make it so you have to draw from the deck until you get a particular Beastie. It could show up right away, or you could draw half the deck looking for one. Since the deck is your game timer before Wounds get worse and Weavlings get unhappier, this could really mess you up.
At the same time, you get Traps and Wilds Spirits to help you out. These go into your hand when collected so you can use them at the proper time, and that adds a nice tactical element to the game. Wilds Spirits don’t even need actions to use, but they can only be used once. Traps can also be used once, but they can also be set and affect more of the board – capturing particular Beasties, poisoning several at a time, and so on.
Collapsing the board when cards are removed is a good way to keep the game dynamic. It also will sometimes mess up your plans. You may be keeping a Weavling immediately next to a Beastie because the Beastie’s Chomp icon is in the corner, meaning it will eat diagonally. But then you take a card from under the Weavling, and now the Weavling has dropped into a vulnerable spot. So you still have to think a few moves ahead before doing something.
The Wounds and Weavling population being affected every time you go through the deck is another way to keep the game moving. I think it’s interesting that Weavlings could run off if they sit aorund for too long. I also think it’s interesting that the Wounds get worse as time goes on, but I’m less happy about this game mechanism. The wheel you rotate could mean that your four Wounds is now nine, and you’re suddenly very close to losing the game. Or you could even lose just from shuffling. There aren’t enough ways to get rid of wounds (one Wilds Spirit will turn a Wound into meat), so you’re just kind of stuck if you can’t keep a Beastie from running off the bottom row. Also, there are four possible places you can rotate to on a Beastie or Weavling, but I’ve never gotten past the second, so I’m not entirely sure that the third and fourth spots are necessary.
In the end, it’s all part of the puzzle. You have to try to react to what’s in front of you and make the best moves possible. Randomness happens in the setup for each round, but beyond that, it’s all on you to make the best choices. And that’s a definite positive for the game.
Let me quickly mention the expansions before I wrap this up. Zadarra’s Baubles and Brews puts in new traps, and has a system to allow you to customize which traps you use (it will only be a total of 12). I wouldn’t suggest using all of the new ones at once, because there are very few ways to gain meat. Star-Touched Predators gives you new events and Beasties, but these should be substituted in rather than mixed with their counterparts in the base game. Both expansions add a little bit of variety to the game, but don’t add much beyond that.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I’d say that Weavlings of the Wild is a good puzzle-style solo game that gives you an interesting mental challenge to figure out. It does have a fairly high luck component, but its tactical nature gives you some good decision space to live in. If you’re interested in checking out the Kickstarter, it’s over half funded and runs until September 29.
Thanks again to Atomic Automaton for providing a review copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!