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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Co-operative gameplay
  • A traitor in your midst, social deduction
  • Good quality components
  • A physical game

Might Not Like

  • 3 player mode, game is best 4 or 5
  • The physical play with eyes shut
  • Having to accuse your friends or loved ones as a traitor

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Hand To Hand Wombat Review

Hand To Hand Wombat Review

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Hand to Hand Wombat is the latest game from Exploding Kittens that combines the social deduction element you may love in Werewolf with the dextrous joy of building you should remember from childhood memories.  Elan Lee, co-creator of Exploding Kittens had a thought, a reminiscence you might say.  He pondered the wine scene from the immortal classic The Princess Bride and wanted a game that would instil that same deadly necessity of choice and deduction.  Enter Cory O’Brien (who worked on the online social deduction game Among Us) and Carol Mertz and after hours upon hours of playtesting and discussion, the final game dynamics were ready for retail.

Listen, we need to talk about Wombats

But what to call such an awesome game?  Enter The Oatmeal and Matthew Inman’s comic strip about wombats.  Because who doesn’t love a cute furry wombat with a combatant butt.  As with Exploding Kitten’s previous games, Hand to Hand Wombat includes Inman’s cute artwork, and you even get a copy of “We Need to Talk about Wombats”.

Nobody wants to stack Marsupial Faeces Right?

This game involves you working together in a team to stack… fortunately not wombat poop, 6 differently sized square blocks, called bricks, onto spindles in the correct descending order.  Easy you might say, where’s the fun in that you might ask.  Hey, I’ve been building colossal Lego structures for years… where’s my challenge?  Well, for starters you have to build with your eyes shut!  That’s right, you can’t see any of the blocks you’re fumbling around trying to find.  You’re also only allowed to use one hand.  And then to top it all off, there is a traitor in your midst!

Do you have a Wisdom or a Wisdumb?

Hand to Hand Wombat is a game for 3 to 6 players, though in my opinion, I feel like it’s better played with 4 or 5 people.  What’s that saying?  “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”  Well, I feel like too many hands in such a small workspace collide a little too much in the building frenzy of a round, however, not enough hands makes deduction a little easier and if you vote out one poor sap early on there’s not as much surprise when there are only 2 remaining players.

To win the game all your wombat team has to do is reach 3 points.  Sounds easy? Well, it’s surprisingly difficult to build not just 1, or even 2 but three towers with your eyes shut under the pressure of a 90 second timer knowing there is likely a bad wombat among you.

When you first get the game it is recommended that you play co-operatively without the ‘bad-un’ as my dad would say.  This way you can see, or not see as the case will be, how to build up the block towers and get a, quite literally, feel for the game. After your first initial run-through, you’re ready for the real league… game set-up can begin.

How To Play

The game is played within the lid of the box which is used as the play area.  Set up requires building the three towers by easily combining the supplied base and spindles together.  All of the blocks are mixed up and placed randomly in the box lid.

As soon as set up is complete it’s time to be assigned your team!  Shuffle and deal out 1 bad wombat card and as many basic wombat cards as the number of players.  For example, a 4 player game would require 1 bad wombat card and 3 basic wombat cards to be shuffled and dealt.  Now, this is really important.  DO NOT TELL ANYONE whose side you’re on.  Even if you are voted out of the game!  To keep things interesting there is also an advanced play mode where you can assign different types of wombat for example the generous wombat who can hand people blocks but can’t place them on towers.  This added element will keep gameplay entertaining no matter how many times you play the game.

When roles are assigned round 1 can begin.  A 90-second timer is required, I backed the Kickstarter campaign so I have a stretch goal timer but your phone will work perfectly fine.  As long as it makes a noise when it reaches the end.

When the timer starts players will scramble to try and build the towers using the 6 different shaped blocks stacking them in descending order of largest to smallest.  To support players the blocks have little ridges on their sides equal to the block size it is, for example, the largest block has six circular shapes whereas the smallest block has only 1.

The rules for building your towers are, you can communicate with each other.  Talking is good and may be key to your success.  For example, you may ask does anyone have a 6 block, or I need a 4 or this tower needs a 2 block.  But remember the bad wombat is also listening and trying to sabotage.

You cannot open your eyes, blindfolds are helpful in stopping potential cheats but you can also only use 1 hand so when you have to cover your eyes with your hand it helps to stop the temptation of using it by accident.  You know, like those accidental hand touches we see in the penalty area, right Maradona?

You cannot place bricks or spindles outside of the boundary (a.k.a the box lid) or remove the base from the spindles.  However, you can hold bricks in your hand, no hand limit and you can place your hand over a tower to protect it if it’s complete.  You can also take bricks off the spindles, useful if you’re a sabotaging bad wombat but also necessary if your tower has been sabotaged with incorrect brick placement.

Once 90 seconds is up it’s time to score before moving on to the next stage of the game…

Scoring… At the end of each round, only 1 team can score.  Scores are determined depending on how many spindles are complete, or incomplete as the case may inevitably be.  The bad team scores 2 points if no spindles have been completed and 1 point if 2 spindles are incomplete whereas the good team will score 1 point for 2 complete spindles and 2 points if all spindles are successfully completed.

A spindle is complete when all 6 blocks are in the right place on a spindle.

Elementary my dear Wombat

Once a round has been played it’s the voting stage!  Players choose who to vote out of the game.  Count to 3 and then point to the player you think is the bad wombat, or if you’re undecided you can vote to the sky and abstain your vote.  This is where the social deduction comes in.  After the initial vote you can then discuss or plead your case.  Think back to the round you just played… was everyone really as helpful as they could have been.  During this phase, friends are won and lost.

Who do you trust?  Who is… bad? Count to 3 again and make your final vote.  If more than half the remaining players vote for one person that person is out.  Whether they deserved the justice served or not they are ostracised from the game.  Left out in the cold so to speak.  But remember they DO NOT reveal their true identity so you just don’t know if they really were the bad egg or not.

Play continues until the first team reaches 3 points.

So, who is heading closer to extinction?

A sad fact, wombats are indeed considered critically endangered.  This is really sad because when you read the comic strip included with the game you’ll learn all about what truly wonderful little creatures they are.  But what does this have to do with the game itself?  Well, in fairness, aside from the link to the Oatmeal comic strip and the cute artwork on the cards, wombats don’t really feature at all and I guess it could just as easily be Hand to Hand Koala’s or anything really.  However, that said, the artwork on the cards is cute, it’s a good game title and if it brings some awareness to the plight of the poor wombat then I’m all for that.

Final Thoughts

I really liked the idea of the mechanics of this game and, unsurprisingly blogging about games, I have a keen interest in game development so when Hand to Hand Wombat launched on Kickstarter I quickly selected the Prototype Edition.  And it’s been an interesting ride from prototype to the retail edition, which you’ll definitely be wanting to purchase after reading my review.

Benefiting from the experience of playing with a prototype copy I have to say I much prefer the square block shapes for the bricks which have been developed in this final edition of the game.  Plus the mini domes on the sides of the bricks are super useful and add an additional element to this dexterity game.  There are lots of ways to try to determine which size brick you have when your eyes are shut but I find these were the best indicator for me.

I think this is a fun game, it’s not one you’ll spend hours playing in one sitting but it is one you’ll keep coming back to.  The social deduction element can really strike up different conversations and it is definitely one I’ve enjoyed playing with a range of different types of friends to see how that suspicion unfolds in different friendship dynamics.  If you like Exploding Kitten’s other games, I strongly believe you’re going to like this one too.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Co-operative gameplay
  • A traitor in your midst, social deduction
  • Good quality components
  • A physical game

Might not like

  • 3 player mode, game is best 4 or 5
  • The physical play with eyes shut
  • Having to accuse your friends or loved ones as a traitor

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