Wayfarers of the South Tigris

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Wayfarers of the South Tigris is set during the height of the Abbasid Caliphate, circa 820 AD. As brave explorers, cartographers and astronomers, players set off from Baghdad to map the surrounding land, waterways, and heavens above. Players must carefully manage their caravan of workers and equipment, while reporting back regularly to journal their findings at the House of Wisdom. …
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Category Tags , , SKU ZBG-RGS02509 Availability 3+ in stock
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Engine building, engine building, and more engine building
  • The huge number of strategies you can try
  • The evocative art by The Mico
  • The tension as someone nears the end of the journal track
  • Did I mention engine building?

Might Not Like

  • It is a table hog
  • It’s not the easiest game to get into
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Wayfarers of the South Tigris is set during the height of the Abbasid Caliphate, circa 820 AD. As brave explorers, cartographers and astronomers, players set off from Baghdad to map the surrounding land, waterways, and heavens above. Players must carefully manage their caravan of workers and equipment, while reporting back regularly to journal their findings at the House of Wisdom. Will you succeed in impressing the Caliph, or lose your way and succumb to the wilderness?

The aim of Wayfarers of the South Tigris is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at the game's end. Points are primarily gained by mapping the land, water, and sky. Players can also gain points from upgrading their caravans, by gaining inspiration from nobles, and by influencing the three guilds of science, trade and exploration. As they make discoveries, players will want to quickly journal their progress. The game ends once one player’s marker has reached the far right column of the journal track.


Wayfarers Main Feature Image

I have been looking forward to the release of this game since it was first announced. Garphill Games doing dice placement. I was salivating at the prospect. To put this review into context, Paladins of the West Kingdom, also by Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald, is in my top ten games of all time. The rest of the West Kingdom trilogy would also make my top 100. So, does Wayfarers of the South Tigris live up to my exceedingly high expectations?

What’s It All About

Wayfarers of the South Tigris is the first game in Garphill Games’ new South Tigris trilogy. All three games will include dice in some way. Wayfarers tackles dice placement. Just as the designers experimented with the worker placement mechanism in their previous games, they’ve put a new spin on dice placement here.

How Does The Dice Placement Work

Initially, you’ll roll three dice. Let’s say, for example, that you get a 1, 2, and 6. Each number has tags associated with it. At the start of the game, 1 has the camel tag. This means that you can go to a dice placement spot with a camel on it, put your 1 down, and do that action. On the first turn, a 2 is pretty much useless apart from getting you 2 coins or 2 provisions. But by placing tiles you can upgrade the tags linked to each number. So, on turn one, you could buy an upgrade tile which means 2s will be associated with the ship tag. Now, on the next turn, you could place the 2 on a ship dice placement spot and do that action. Sweet.

It all sounds very interesting. In practice, I thought the dice placement was the weakest aspect of this game. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just a smaller part of the game than I was expecting. After the first few turns of the game, I rarely found that I wasn’t able to do the action I wanted. Yes, you can make actions cheaper by adding upgrade tiles and also change the value of your dice by adding + and – tiles to mitigate your dice rolls, but I didn’t find the dice placement aspect of the game that engaging.

This is definitely one of those occasions where I went into a game expecting one thing and it turned out to be another. Wayfarers of the South Tigris is an engine building game. I’d go as far as saying it’s 95% engine building and 5% dice placement.

Wayfarers Text Image 5

Engine Building

I have a love/hate relationship with engine building. I love it in games like Scythe where you gradually build your engine over the course of the game without any randomness. I hate it in games like Roll for the Galaxy where someone can make a stunning engine in the first turn and you can see that they will win the game instantly, and funnily enough, they do. That is my test of engine building games: can I accurately predict who is going to win after the first few turns? If so, I class it as a duffer.

Does Wayfarers pass the test? It certainly does. I have no idea who’s winning, even halfway into the game. There are just so many ways to build your engine and so many ways to get points. In one game, I pretty much ignored the caravan, the area where you upgrade your dice tags, and I won. Whereas in other games, I have upgraded my caravan so that every dice gives me the ship tag or the camel tag and then I’ve bought loads of sea and land cards. This also turned out to be a viable strategy. There are so many routes you can take. Everyone can build a good engine, have fun, and then work out the points at the end of the game and see who’s won. You’ll notice the words ‘have fun’ in the previous sentence and that’s the key to this game. It’s fun building an engine and using it to get lots of lovely points.

Points And More Points

How do you get points, then? And why are you building an engine and placing dice? It’s all about the cards.

There are five different types of cards you can acquire in Wayfarers. Land cards give you either more dice placement spots for even better actions or abilities that trigger when certain things happen. For example, acquire a card with a planet on it and you can reclaim a worker (more on those later). Sea cards are similar. Some also give you new dice placement spots but others grant you with one-time bonuses such as getting a blue upgrade tile for no cost. When bought, Townsfolk cards get tucked underneath either land or sea cards and beef them up. Every time you activate that land or sea card you also get the benefit of the townsfolk card. You can even tuck a townsfolk card that gives you one provision under an action that requires two provisions, getting you that action for just one provision. Space cards give you end-game points. For example, one point for every townsfolk card you own. Inspiration cards get tucked under space cards and can potentially double the number of points gained if you can meet the criteria such as having 6 comet symbols on your space cards.

Going back to those workers, and yes, there is a bit of worker placement too. You can place a worker on a card and take the action above it on the main board. These workers do not belong to you and can only be gained by certain actions or by buying the cards they are on.

There is also a daunting-looking board in the middle that is called the journal track. When you recall your dice, you will very probably move along the journal track getting bonuses, new workers, more dice, inspiration cards, rare upgrade tiles, and moving the game to its conclusion. The end of the game is triggered when someone reaches the end of the journal track. This can happen faster than you would think so you need to keep an eye on others players and whether they can rush the end.

If that all sounds intimidating, well, it is. I’d read the rules, and watched a how-to-play video, and still, when I sat down to play, I didn’t really have a clue how to progress. My first game was spent learning how everything works together and where you can get things like coins, provisions, cards, workers, etc. The second game was a lot smoother though and I could concentrate more on building an engine and following a strategy. It certainly helps if you’ve played other games in the previous series from Garphill Games. The iconography is familiar as are some of the concepts.

Wayfarers Text Image 1

Influence Tokens

One new mechanic they’ve added is that you can put your influence tokens on cards. If someone wants to interact with that card, they have to pay you either one coin or one provision. In this game, coins and provisions are not quite as rare as fox eggs, but they’re not exactly abundant either, so losing one to another player is a big deal. In one game, my wife got cards that let her put out her influence virtually every time she placed a die. I had to pay her so many coins and provisions it crippled my engine and she won easily. If you can work out which cards your opponents are going for, it can be a nice source of income, or you can just put them on a card you’d like to dissuade someone else from buying it.

Player Interaction

After a few plays, I now find it quite a relaxing game. There is player interaction in people buying cards you want, advancing the journal track, placing influence on cards, and also placing influence in the guilds which score at the end of the game based on area majority. But mostly, you can potter about building your engine and maximising the number of points you get. I enjoy games where you play the game without a score track and then work out who has won at the end. I can enjoy the game without worrying about being miles behind or miles ahead on the score track. I can play a fun game and work out who has won in the last few minutes.

Wayfarers Text Image 6

In Conclusion

I like Wayfarers of the South Tigris. It’s not what I was expecting, but it is a very strong game. Where does it sit with the other games in the series? For me, I’d put Paladins of the West Kingdom at the top, then this and Viscounts of the West Kingdom at joint number two, followed by Architects of the West Kingdom as my least favourite but even so, it’s still a good game.

You could call Wayfarers a sandbox euro game. There are just so many paths you can take. Many times, I’ve gone into the game wanting to try a certain strategy and then, after the first few turns, seen a better opportunity and pursued that strategy instead. So far, I’ve played eight games of it and every time I’ve done something different. Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald are two of my favourite designers and Wayfarers has just solidified this for me. I wait with anticipation for the second game in the trilogy Scholars of the South Tigris…

Time To Explore

Have you ever wanted to explore Baghdad and chart the skies but can’t find anyone to come with you? Don’t you worry because Garphill Games has you covered, for this is the premise of Wayfarers of the South Tigris. Luckily, this game also has a solo mode, meaning you can map out the stars without any interference from your friends. There’s a fair bit to go through, so let’s jump straight in.

Solo Differences

Wayfarers plays exactly the same for the human player – taking your turn by playing dice and workers out to the different action spots and competing them as necessary. Between your turns though, you’ll have an AI to deal with. Happily, this AI isn’t too tricky to manage. First you need to set the game up like you do for a two-player game. For the AI set up, flip over one of the player boards to the AI side, choosing whichever AI focus you feel like playing against.

This can be Space, Upgrades, Townsfolk or Journalling. The AI player does gain a Yellow and a Blue worker but doesn’t gain dice. You will need to use the other two unused player markers on the AI board, one in the bottom left on the Comet track and one on the top left of the Resource track. The AI player’s colour icon goes on the Journal track as normal and plays second, so set them up as a second player in the regular game. Shuffle the six scheme cards and place them facedown. These will determine the AI’s turn and if they will take an action or rest.

On an AI turn, reveal a scheme card. Move the marker clockwise around the Resource track equal to the silver value on the card and resolve any effects of the track if the marker moves over it, such as gaining a comet, applying influence or gaining a townsfolk card. Then resolve an action. If possible, the top action is resolved, and if not, the bottom action is resolved. Only one action is resolved per turn. Some of the actions have familiar iconography, such as paying influence to gain a card, but others introduce the Focus action, which is specific to the AI you’re playing with.
If at the beginning of a turn, the AI has three scheme cards with the same colour revealed, the AI will rest instead and not draw a new scheme card.

The rest action has a few steps, but ultimately it will involve gaining a card or upgrade tile and Journalling. When gaining a card, or upgrade tile, there’s a few rules over prioritising which card the AI will take, depending on their position on the Resource track or the sum of the values on the two most revealed Scheme cards. That number will relate to the diagram in the middle of the resource track and shows you which card to take, ignoring any prerequisites. Placing workers uses the same prioritising rules, and you’ll then take the action for the AI that is shown in that spot. Only workers of the matching colour can be used on each action spot.

Journalling is the last thing we need to look at that changes for the AI. Firstly, the direction they take when given a choice is dependent on which colour of Scheme card is in the majority. Upwards if it’s blue, downwards if red. You also need to look at your own positioning when journalling for the AI because this will impact the number of influence from the black guild the AI will expend to move an additional space. If the AI is behind you, it costs one influence. If they are level with you, it costs two, and if they are ahead, it’ll cost three influence.

The end of the game in Wayfarers of the South Tigris is triggered in the same way, with one player reaching the end of the Journaling track. The AI gets a final turn if they are the one to trigger the end game. Scoring is pretty easy for the AI. They score 1VP for each Townsfolk they’ve gained; 2VP per Water or Land card; 3VP for each Space card; 4VP for Inspiration cards; then add any VPs on the Upgrade tiles and Guild Majorities. The AI doesn’t score the Comets but they do make an impact on if you have the majority or not for your scoring.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely adore the West Kingdom series, so I thought I’d love Wayfarers of the South Tigris. So far, with two playthroughs, both solo and competitive, I’m yet to be convinced that I love it. I enjoy it quite a bit, enough to want to keep playing and exploring. That said, this is a review on the solo mode, which is that the solo mode is as good as those in the West Kingdom Trilogy. The turns are pretty snappy because it’s a straightforward flow chart on what happens and it progresses the game fairly quickly. At least, as fast as this game seems to be. You lose the AP of an opponent, but you still have a pretty long game. That said, once you come to the end of the game, you have a pretty good understanding of how to play, which I think is the best thing of this type of solo mode.

Don’t expect to win though. This game is incredibly tough. When I played, I lost to the AI by 40 points. I did make the mistake of playing against the Space AI though, which does mean they got a lot of 3-point cards. I enjoyed myself though, and I think the more I play, the better I’ll get at this game. If you have a couple of hours to kill and want to explore the game, I can recommend it.



Zatu Score


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

You might like

  • Engine building, engine building, and more engine building
  • The huge number of strategies you can try
  • The evocative art by The Mico
  • The tension as someone nears the end of the journal track
  • Did I mention engine building?

Might not like

  • It is a table hog
  • Its not the easiest game to get into