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How To Play It’s A Wonderful World

It’s A Wonderful World cover

It’s A Wonderful World is in my top three games of all time. I love the smooth puzzle of drafting and building up your engine to generate more resources. This game plays from 1 up to 5 players straight out of the box with minimal changes to make the game flow at any player count.

Let’s Dive In, Get That Box Open

This is a big box game, but inside the components are pretty simple. There is a huge deck of cards, baggies containing six different coloured cubes, a bag of orange general chits and a bag of blue financier tokens. The board is modular, there are five pieces to it. Two large pieces fit together to give you space for the five main resource cubes.

These are materials (beige), power (black), science (green), gold (yellow), and innovation (blue). We tend to play by colours rather than the thematic actual names although weirdly we always say materials for the beige ones, then black, green, yellow and blue. The other three pieces provide spaces for the krystallium (red) cubes, the orange tokens and the blue tokens. Set up is pretty straight forward, just put the cubes and tokens into piles in those spots.

Shuffle the massive pile-o-cards and deal out 7 to each player. In a two player game, it is 10 each. Give each player their own Empire card which is dual sided. I would always suggest that the B-side which is the asymmetric side is significantly easier than the A-side where everyone starts with the same production ability. This seems a bit crazy, but it is easier I promise. It gives you a bit of direction and a head start to work from.

Solo Mode

At the back of the rulebook, there is a solo campaign which has a number of different scenarios each with a variable setup. But the basic setup is that you create 8 piles of 5 cards. There are still only 4 rounds in the game, but the draft phase is split into two each round, giving you hidden info to work with. So, there are two drafts and then a production phase four times. The solo mode for IAWW feels a lot more tricksy than the multiplayer mode purely because you have to decide what to do with half the cards known before you know what the other half will be in the round.

Let’s Get Playing

The cards in this game are what you are trying to build. These come in five different colours (to match the production cubes). The majority of the card is artwork, but on the top left is the cost to build. You must place cubes of those colours onto the card and once they are all full, the card is considered built.

Once built you move the card to your Empire and the production ability along the bottom is now active. Along the bottom is also the scoring ability. These can be a 1x, 2x, or 3x multiplier on a token or card type or they can be just straight points. This is the main way to score points, so you want to grab the best cards when you see them.

Each round consists of three phases. The first is the draft phase, then the unofficially named puzzling phase, and finally the production phase. During the draft phase, you pick a card from your hand and place it face down on your play area in front of you before passing the cards in the direction of the arrow. In rounds 1 and 3 that will be clockwise, in rounds 2 and 4 the draft will pass anti-clockwise. Once everyone has chosen their card, they are simultaneously revealed and then you draft your next card and repeat until you have seven cards each.

If you have the brain capacity, you can try and hate the draft, I am only able to focus purely on my own game. You will be trying to draft cards that you can build with the resources you are able to produce or drafting cards to get you instant recycle bonuses to help you build cards faster. Each hand of cards you receive poses its own unique puzzle, sometimes you will want all the cards and occasionally it will be the worst of a bad bunch situation.

Second Phase

The second phase of the round starts when each player has 7 cards each. At this point you have to decide whether you move the cards drafted into your “construction area” or whether you recycle them for their one time recycle resource. This is where the real mind melting comes in. You must puzzle out the best use of your cards. Also, you want to build enough cards so that none of the resources you produce is wasted and be sure not to overstretch yourself so your construction area gets clogged up.

You may always recycle cards that you planned to build at any point, but you must place the recycle bonus onto your Empire instead of onto another card, so it does punish you a little for making that mistake. Everyone completes this simultaneously, and once you recycle a card you receive the one time bonus cube and may place it on any of your “to-build” cards or onto your Empire card to eventually become wild krystallium. These can be placed onto cards instead of the required colour.

Production Phase

Once all have finished the planning phase, the production phase can start. This for me is the most unique part of this game, the resources are produced in turn and in order. Which adds significantly more complexity to the puzzle of the draft. You will produce the materials cubes first, so you will want to prioritise cards that can be built in time for their production to be useful that round.

As soon as you have placed the required cubes, you move the card onto your Empire and any production will be active from then on, the points will be the player who gained the most materials that round will get a blue financier token, these are worth one point, but there are cards that can be used to increase the multiplier on these types of tokens.

The end game scoring will mostly consist of multipliers acting on sets of cards or tokens you have collected. You could try and spread yourself thin, but likely there will be more end game points to be had if you can double down successfully on one or two set types. After the materials have been produced and everyone has placed the cubes they gained either onto their cards or otherwise onto their Empire card, the production will move to the black power cubes.

The player who produces the most of these cubes this time gets an orange general token. The same process of cube placing continues before the green production phase, then the yellow and finally the blue.

After everyone has placed their blue cubes, the round is over. Deal out another hand of cards each and repeat but with the hands passing the opposite direction. Now the rounds will proceed a little slower as more production is happening for each player. The game will build up and you’ll be able to do so much more by round 3 than you thought possible whilst playing round 1. By round 4 you will want to ensure that you are able to maximise your scoring and stretch yourself so nothing you produce is wasted. The elusive perfect matched out finish feels so very good.

End Game Scoring

There is no scoring during the game, you save it all up for the end. Looking at people's engines, you might think you can guess who is going to be the winner, but honestly it has always been a surprise to me who wins in the end. You score all the cards you were able to get built, anything that is left unbuilt is discarded and all cubes are returned to the supply.

Expand This Game?

There are two expansions that are available. The first is Corruption and Ascension which brings some additional corruption cards which you are able to draft from as well as the regular cards. They have different backs and each hand has some of each so you will always have some to choose from.

These cards are often expensive and worth mega points or they are powerful producers once built. There is a pay off though as of course the corrupted amongst us must have some element of pushback. This comes in the form of negative production, where you produce one less a colour. So, a card may produce four blacks, but it has one yellow negative production which makes it a lot harder for you to make enough yellows to build yellow cards. You can get a few by recycling cards but you will struggle with yellow cards.

The second expansion is War or Peace which is a scenario based campaign game. It has some surprise envelopes to open as the games progress through and based on the results of each game you will get a different outcome. The gameplay is very similar to the base game, with some subtle twists that change from game to game. I don’t want to spoil anything further but trust me that this is a really cool inexpensive expansion that really accelerated my love of this game.