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How To Play Wayfarers of the South Tigris


Wayfarers of the South Tigris is the beginning of a brand-spanking new trilogy of titles from Garphill Games. Shem Phillips, S J MacDonald and Mihajlo ‘The Mico’ Dimitrievski have teamed up once again. We’ve dabbled in the North Sea games. Then we ventured into the West Kingdom for another trio of fun. And now a new location: the South Tigris!

In Wayfarers… you play as explorers, cartographers and astronomers in Baghdad, 820 AD. Your aim, like hundreds of other Euro-style board games, is to score the most points by the game’s end. How do you do that? Well, my job today is to help you find out! So unfurl your maps and dust off your telescope. It’s time to learn how to play Wayfarers of the South Tigris!

First Things First: How Do I Win?

We’ve already established most points wins. The scoring in Wayfarers occurs at the end of the game. There’s no score track that you progress along throughout. The game ends once a player reaches the final column of spaces along the main board: the Journal. Timing when you trigger this can be key – do you want to stretch the game out to squeeze in a few more points? Or do you need to race to end it while you think you’re ahead?

The majority of your points will come from the cards that you acquire throughout. Don’t worry; I’ll explain how you buy these, soon. It goes without saying: the more cards you buy, the better chance you have at winning! But there’s multiple strategic paths to take, which is part of what makes Wayfarers such an enjoyable challenge. There’s a lot of things going on here; I can’t take you through everything, but we’ll cover the basics to get you started.

Set-Up: Big Table Footprint

Before you set the game up, check the table size. I’m not kidding! Wayfarers takes up a gargantuan amount of space. The game plays 1-4 players, but my own personal preference is to play it as a 2-player game. (In part because it’s an unpredictable table hog! But also because it can cause Analysis Paralysis and you often have to react on your turn, rather than plan ahead.)

The Journal itself comprises three separate boards that sit together. They’re double-sided, providing a modular set-up. Furthermore, the small Journal Tiles need to get shuffled and then sit in the blank spaces along the board. Thus, no two games will have the same starting set-up. Some static game-to-game set-up parts remain, though. Green meeples, and pink/green/yellow/blue Upgrade Tiles sit on corresponding spots.

Cards need separating into their own decks. Each deck requires a shuffle and then four cards drawn from them, face-up along the Journal tracks around the edge of the board. Place the Townsfolk deck in the top-left, the Land deck bottom-left, the Space deck top-right, and the Water deck bottom-right. The Inspiration deck sits on the far-right.

Individual Player Set-Up

Meanwhile, every player gets a starting player board and five dice in their colour. They keep three, and their other two dice sit on the Journal by the minarets (on the right). They place their Player Marker on the far-left of the Journal. They also get 15 Influence Tokens in their colour, and one yellow worker and one blue worker. You also get starting resources (Provisions and Coins) depending on turn order. Last of all, turn order also dictates how many of your Influence Tokens start in the minarets. All good? All righty then! We’re ready to play…

What Do I Do On My Turn?

There’s no set number of rounds or turns in Wayfarers of the South Tigris. It’s not a race to rush along the Journal, per se. Rather, it’s a question of timing about when a player decides to trigger that end-game condition. With this regard, you can start to predict when the end-game is coming!

There’s three main actions that you’re going to pick between on your turn. Placing a die, placing a worker, or Resting. Let’s take a look at these three options in greater detail. We’ll start with placing a worker, because that’s the easier of the three to digest!

Placing A Worker: Then Waving Goodbye To It

This element of the game is, in the grander scheme of things, a worker placement mechanism. Place a worker here > do this! You’ll note that you start the game with one blue and one yellow worker. You’ll also note that 16/20 of the outer edges of the Journal have workers on them with specific colour. (They’ll either be green-yellow, green-blue, just-green, or green-yellow-blue. The spots below the Space Cards are not worker locations.)

You can only place a worker on a spot if it is one of the corresponding colours. Then you get to do the action associated with that space. Wayfarers is, like many Euros, a language-independent game, meaning it relies on iconography. If ever you’re unsure which icons mean what, there’s a list of them all on the back of the rulebook.

When you place a worker, you don’t place it on the board, but on the face-up card itself that sits below the action space. There’s no limit about how many workers can sit on a card, so there’s no blocking. But, if another player has placed an Influence Token on that card, you have to be able to pay that player 1x coin or 1x Provisions. If you can’t afford it, you cannot place there.

However! It’s important to grasp that once placed, these are no longer ‘your workers’. You don’t take them back ‘at the end of the turn’ or anything like that. They stay on the card until someone buys that card! Then that person gains the worker to use later on. How do you buy the cards, then?

Placing A Die

You also start Wayfarers with three standard, six-sided dice. You roll these, and keep them close by. Instead of placing a worker, you can allocate one of these dice according to the abilities within your ‘Caravan’. This is the 3x6 grid in the centre of your player board. It starts part-empty, meaning some spaces have asymmetrical iconography on them.

Below your Caravan, you’ll see Baghdad, with open land to the left, and open water to the right. To trigger the action associated with Land, you need 1x Camel and 2x Provisions. This allows you to gain one coin, and take any one of the four face-up Land Cards by the board (and any workers on them). You then place the Land card to the left of your Player Board, building a panorama.

Camel? To get a ‘Camel’, check your Caravan. See how there’s a Camel underneath the 1-pip die column? (Likewise, there’s a telescope beneath the 6-pip die.) This means if you spend a die that’s a 1, you can trigger that Land action. Therefore, look at the Land Cards you could buy. What’s the action on the bottom of them? Could it be a valuable asset to your tableau? Do they provide a one-time immediate bonus? And/or do they provide a passive benefit, contributing towards an ‘engine’ of sorts?

Wait, Where’s My Boat?

All right, so Water Cards… (I can picture you looking at the Caravan to where the Sail Boat icon is, to see which die pip that sits.) However, your Caravan doesn’t start with a Sail Boat on it. You have to buy an Upgrade Tile with a Sail Boat on it, and place it onto your Caravan to gain access to it. One of the worker spaces has an option to buy a blue Upgrade tile (for three coins).

When you buy any Upgrade tile, you sit it somewhere within your Caravan grid. If you cover up any iconography, you gain that bonus. The key thing is placing it somewhere with the corresponding die pip in mind. Some tiles let you +/- a rolled die by 1 value. This means you can manipulate unlucky rolls into better ones. You can therefore match the icons you need to trigger certain Land/Water cards!

With the Water cards, note how they have up to four rewards on the right, and up to four lightning bolts on the left. This means when you buy a Water card and slot it to the right of your previous Water Card, you check what lightning lines up with what reward. You gain those rewards straight away, meaning some are appealing over others!

But Wait… There’s More Dice Options!

Between your starter Land and Water locations, there’s four more dice options. These let you:
● buy Space Cards
● move along the Journal Board
● take workers off cards
● buy a Townsfolk Card
● buy a green Upgrade tile
● or gain Provisions/Coins.

The latter aren’t die pip-specific, thank goodness! Meaning you always have access to these options.

Townsfolk Cards cost coins. They’re well worth it though, because once bought you tuck them under a (icon-dependent) Land/Water card. This is another way you can ‘engine-build’ or become a lot more efficient with your actions.

Space Cards also cost coins. They have end-game points up for grabs in the form of set collection goals. At certain points in the game you can also earn Inspiration Cards. You tuck these under your Space Cards to double its reward (if you’ve met the requirement). Yes, you’re going to want to buy all of The Things! So working out a way to afford everything you want is half the battle. And your resources at some point will run dry…

Taking A Well-Earned Rest

Resting: this is the action you won’t want to take, but it’s necessary when you run out of dice and workers. If you’ve played Everdell, this is akin to the ‘move into the next season’ option. And like in Everdell, Wayfarers feels like the game where you need to squeeze efficiency out of your actions to the max. Do action X now, so you can afford Y on your next turn. When you Rest, you gain Rest rewards (some Townsfolk provide bonuses here, if you’ve bought some). You also gain back your dice to reroll and use them again, but you do not claim back any workers, as stated earlier.
More important, though: then you get to move along the Journal (left to right one space, from one piece of parchment to another). But in order to progress, within your tableau you need to have present the stated quantity of sights/locations. This could be a certain number of, say, Harbours or Libraries, or a certain number of stars/planets (found on Space Cards).

The benefits you gain for progressing along the Journal can be crucial, such as unlocking extra dice, gaining Upgrade tiles, and so on. Remember: when someone reaches the end of the Journal, that triggers the end-game! And there are other opportunities for progressing along it, besides Resting. Keep an eye out for the ‘Journal’ icon in this regard.

Check The Card Icons: They’re Crucial!

There’s a few things to consider with the Land and Water cards besides what action they provide, then. Check the card’s category in the top-left corner. Land Cards are either Cities or Vistas, and Water Cards are either Harbours or Open Water. Observatories and Libraries can span across either. Depending on which path you take along the Journal, you’ll require certain quantities of these icons to progress.

Plus, at the end of the game, the card categories score you points in a set collection manner. The more you have of a certain type, the more that set scores. But you also score 5 points for owning one City/Vista/Harbour/Open Water. So if you had, say, three of each, that would score you 15 points (3x5). But you’d also score 3 points for having three cards in each set. (Don’t worry, this is all listed above your Caravan as a constant reminder!) It’s worth noting that sometimes you can gain these icons via upgrade tiles, too.
End-Game Scoring

Phew! There’s a lot going on in Wayfarers, especially once your tableau grows to be about 10 cards wide! Your worker placement options are vast, and your dice-and-card engine is unique every time. Once someone gets to the end of the Journal, play continues for one more turn (the player that triggered the end-game also gets one last turn). Then it’s time to add up the scores!

You gain set collection points for those City/Vista/Harbour/Open Water icons present. You gain points for your Space Cards (and extra for Inspiration Cards, if applicable). Some Upgrade Tiles provide extra points. There’s also the minarets at the end of the Journal, which you can add your Influence Tokens to, throughout. If you have the majority in a minaret, you score points. (Throughout the game you have options to add Influence to these minarets. But also you can remove Influence from them to perform important actions. So you have to weigh up their value!)

It goes without saying that there’s a complex series of mini, amalgamating mechanisms that form a grander scene. For your first time playing Wayfarers, don’t focus on trying to win. That might sound odd! Instead, aim to experiment and have fun. It will click by around the 66% progress point, where you’ll go “Ahh. I see!”. Then you can go into your second game with a better idea of what it is you want to achieve!