It’s a Wonderful World

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RRP £38.99
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It’s a Wonderful WorldIt’s a Wonderful World may be one of the strangest names for a game, especially one where the theme doesn’t exactly pop of the cards, but when the game is one of the best drafting games of recent years it doesn’t matter. It is a game of efficiency and engine building, taking its core from games like 7 Wonders and Sushi Go and dialling up the fun without…
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Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Brilliant artwork throughout
  • Asymmetrical setup keeps things interesting
  • Multi use cards

Might Not Like

  • Minimal player interaction
  • No real progression in the cards you draw
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Description

It’s a Wonderful World

It’s a Wonderful World may be one of the strangest names for a game, especially one where the theme doesn’t exactly pop of the cards, but when the game is one of the best drafting games of recent years it doesn’t matter.

It is a game of efficiency and engine building, taking its core from games like 7 Wonders and Sushi Go and dialling up the fun without raising the complexity. Using the usual card drafting mechanic players will draft 7 cards in each of the four rounds. Depending on player count this is done by taking 7 or 10 cards choosing one and passing the rest to the left or right, again depending on the round.

Each card you take can be discarded for a resource cube as pictured in the lower right, or played into your tableau to be built. Cards have resource costs down the top left side and during the production phase you will place resources on these, adding them to your city once fully built.

Cards added to your city will either produce more resources or provide scoring opportunities. During production resources are gained one at a time in a strict order meaning it’s possible to build cards that then produce in the same round. In a short game that is only four rounds this can be hugely important.

A few important quirks here and there add some more decisions, like exchanging 5 resources for a wild red resource, or gaining a bonus for producing the most of one of the resource types, rounding out an incredibly confident and satisfying package.

It’s a Wonderful World is easy to learn, fast to play and incredibly satisfying. Within it’s tight, streamlined gameplay you can build some amazing engines and combos and find various ways to gain points. It’s a Wonderful World is the 8th Wonder!

Players: 1-5
Time: 30-60 mins
Age: 14+

it's a wonderful world feature

I back a lot of Kickstarter games. Some, including my better half, would say too many. I am running out of creative ways of storing the latest ‘All-In’ pledge and all of the miniatures that inevitably come with it. Occasionally though, it’s not a mountain of plastic that catches my eye. Sometimes it is an attractive art style, a neat concept or an interesting setting. It’s a Wonderful World comes under the umbrella of all three of these.

Is it Drafty in Here?

It’s a Wonderful World funded back in summer 2019. It is a card game for 1-5 players that will have each player trying to build their own little empire. At its core, it is a drafting game. Think Sushi Go or 7 Wonders. Players will start with a hand of cards, pick one, and then pass the rest around the table. Everybody will reveal the card they chose, much to the interest of the other players and then each player will get a new hand of cards from another player. You then pick one from this hand, pass it around the table and reveal what you have chosen. And then repeat.

Each choice will have one less option for you to choose from as the cards get whittled down around the table. I do love a good drafting game. It forces players to make some tricky choices if there is more than one card in a hand they want. Depending on how early in the draft it is, there is a chance that card comes back around to you. But do you take the risk? There is the chance that it may be useful to another player, or worse yet, they may see that it will really benefit you and take it to deny it to you. All is fair in love, war and card drafting.

Once you have your cards it is time to decide how you would like to play them. In It’s a Wonderful World, you have two options. Firstly, each card has a recycling value which will allow you to discard the card and then take one of the five basic resource types. Your other option is to try and build the card. Each card requires a bunch of resources to build. But once built will give you some kind of benefit each turn and maybe a little bonus when you first complete it too.

its a wonderful world 1

You Gotta Spend Money to Make Money

This payment each turn takes the form of resource production. After all of the players have decided what to do with their cards, everybody produces resources. The five basic resources are produced in order one at a time. Every resource produced needs to either go onto a card that is being built or onto the player’s empire card. Each player has a few resources that their empire produces from the start. But after you have completed some buildings, you can really get the resources rolling in.

If you can complete a building early in the production phase that produces resources later in the production phase, it will be able to produce the turn that it’s built. In a game with only four rounds, this can be critical! Especially as the person who produces the most of each resource gets a supremacy bonus. This bonus will be either a general or a financier, these are the two people on the box cover by the way. Some buildings require one of these two in order to finish construction. So they are very important, and even if you don’t use them for building, they are worth points at the end of the game.

The last resource is Krystallium and this can only be produced as a bonus to building something or by trading in five resources on your empire card. Krystallium is required by some of the most powerful buildings but it can also be spent as a wild resource to fill in for any other resource in the game.

These three advanced resources are the only ones that persist from round to round, everything else vanishes off into the ether. This use it or lose it approach to resource production means players should try and be as clever as they can with their choices of what to build. A well-balanced selection of buildings should mean very little goes to waste.

That is essentially how to play. To win you need the most points. Some buildings will grant you a set value of points. Others will give you some multiple of points for each of a particular building type in your empire. It’s pretty straight forward.

its a wonderful world 2

Accepting All Applicants

What is really nice about It’s a Wonderful World is that it works well at all player counts. I can think of very few drafting games that play solo and not many more that play well at two without large modifications to the rules. Not the case here, as both solo and two-player modes require very small rules modifications to work.

And that is pretty much it. It’s quite a simple game and the joy comes from spotting the combos that will slot neatly into your empire. There is one elephant in the room though. If I asked most board gamers to name a card drafting empire builder, most people would say 7 Wonders. So how does It’s a Wonderful World stack up against this giant of the board game world?

I’d say favourably. 7 Wonders has some advantages, for sure. The higher player count shouldn’t be discounted, (although an expansion to It’s a Wonderful World also takes it up to 7 players). 7 Wonders definitely has more interaction than It’s A Wonderful World. With the war mechanic as well as the neighbour resource trading, you are definitely more invested in what at least some of the table is doing in a game of 7 Wonders.

It’s Lonely at the Top

It’s a Wonderful World is definitely a more solitary experience. Outside of drafting cards and getting the supremacy bonuses for production, there is little interaction between players. Competing for the supremacy bonuses feels like the most interactive part of the game, but that it is not as engaging as the war mechanics found in 7 Wonders.

Beyond that though, I have to say I prefer the moment-to-moment gameplay of It’s a Wonderful World to 7 Wonders. The fact that buildings can be built over successive turns means that every card feels like it is a wonder. It also means that you have a little more flexibility with how you progress. There was always that turn in 7 Wonders when every card you draw just doesn’t work for you, or perhaps you couldn’t buy the resources you need.

That doesn’t really happen with It’s a Wonderful World. Each of the cards can be discarded for a particular resource. If you don’t get the resource you need that way, you can always trade-in what you do have for a wild resource. It may not be the most efficient way to play but it does mean you never feel like you’ve got no way to progress.

Progress is another interesting point of comparison. As 7 Wonders has its distinct age decks, there is a real feeling of progression as your society advances. Not so much with It’s a Wonderful World as all cards can show up from the beginning of the game. This means that a late-game card can show up in your opening hand. You can take this in one of two ways, get annoyed that it is something you can’t use, or look at it as a goal to build towards. That is probably the biggest indicator of if you will like this game over 7 Wonders. It’s a Wonderful World feels more free form in how you progress. If you want to build that very expensive time machine on turn one, then more power to you! You probably won’t win though.

its a wonderful world 4 (1)

Cubes, Cubes and More Cubes

I’d love to say that the theming of the cards comes through in how your society progresses. In reality, it all kind of fades into different coloured cards that produce different coloured cubes. I’ve never once found myself thinking, “I need to find a card that produces science so I can build my cloning vats”. I’m a lot more likely to be thinking, “I need greens so I can build my card that makes blues!” Theme isn’t everything, but at least the art is lovely.

So, there we have it. I think this is a worthy challenger to 7 Wonders’ crown of medium weight drafting games. Personally, I’d rather play It’s a Wonderful World over 7 Wonders. The setup is quicker. The rules explanation is quicker. And although the player interaction isn’t as strong, it is still a really fun game that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

The small differences in the starting empires can really change up how you progress and what you are looking to build to score points. This gives the game some decent replayability too. I think there is room in a collection for both It’s a Wonderful World and 7 Wonders. I certainly won’t be getting rid of one of them as it stands. There is enough differentiating them to make them their own games.

I am very excited to see how It’s a Wonderful World evolves with its upcoming expansions.

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.

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Brilliant artwork throughout
  • Asymmetrical setup keeps things interesting
  • Multi use cards

Might not like

  • Minimal player interaction
  • No real progression in the cards you draw