Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a tea party? Freshly brewed tea in fancy pots, hand-cut finger sandwiches and delicious cakes that bring an air of sophistication to the table. Mix all that with 5 guests battling it out for power over Wonderland, recruiting aids along the way to help their cause, whilst trying not to go mad in the process.
Welcome to a Druid city games tea party and trust me you won’t want to miss it!
We’re All Mad Here…
Wonderland's War made a surprise appearance at our games weekend, and I must be honest I was sold on the box, a huge image of a very sinister looking Cheshire cat grinning with menace left me intrigued.
A successful Kickstarter campaign designed by Tim & Ben Eisner along with Ian Moss and some truly fantastic artwork by Manny Trembley. They have created an absolute beauty. The version I was lucky enough to play was the deluxe version with the upgraded chips, and I must admit it did make the game feel even better and would definitely be worth the extra investment.
Down The Rabbit Hole
Whilst this game was being set up, it looked complicated with lots of elements and things going on, but I promise you it’s not. Playing 2-5 players, each person chooses a faction leader who they want to send into battle. You have the choice between the Cheshire cat, Queen of hearts, Jabberwock, Mad hatter and of course Alice.
They are all represented by their own figure. Each leader has their own unique special ability and can be upgraded throughout the course of the game, which you can keep track of on your own player board.
This game boasts multiple mechanics which are split over 2 phases of play. Draft cards to gain chips for a bag drawing battle, complete quests for victory points, place supporters in battlegrounds to raise your influence, recruit Wonderlandians to help your cause and forge items to increase your power. But before any self-respecting faction leader goes into battle, they have got to have a nice cuppa!
One Lump Or Two?
The first phase of the game is the tea party. The game is played over 3 rounds, with a separate deck for each of them. These are laid out around the table and have varying effects on them. Players take turns collecting cards that they feel have the benefits to help them most. You will keep going until you have amassed a hand of 4 cards.
You can move to any unoccupied space in a clockwise direction which has a card available but be careful if you go back round to the head of the table you will have to collect some madness which is determined by a dice roll, but as you will find out it does help to be a little mad sometimes.
When someone reaches the head of the table, all spaces that have had cards taken will be refilled from the current round deck. The cards vary in what they offer to players, some will offer all positive rewards while some might require you to take a negative effect along with it. It’s up to you to strike a balance based on what works for you.
The ability to place supporters from your supply into the battle areas that you want to compete for. You normally know where you want to battle based on quest cards that you draw. Gain ally chips for your battle bag and recruit Wonderlandians that will help you in your battle phase.
The Wonderlandians are represented by some brilliant figures that can be placed onto the game board, and upgrades to your faction leader can also be collected. It does sound a lot to take in, but it has all been streamlined perfectly and you never feel like your left not understanding what is going on.
This game does add a great deal of strategy and forward-thinking to your game, especially if someone takes a card you were hoping for, but once all the pleasantries are out of the way, let the battle commence!
All Out War
What could be better than finishing off a tea party with a battle? Well, that’s exactly how it plays out in the battle phase. Players will battle it out in the areas they have placed supporters in. A battle could range from a 5-way royal rumble to a 1v1, but if you are the only player to have placed a supporter you will automatically take the win.
This is something that does not happen too often. So how are these battles settled? Well in a truly Quacks of Quedlinburg style that’s how. The ally chips that you have been collecting during the tea party phase went into your draw bag and players simultaneously draw chips. Chips can have values on when drawn will move your counter up the battle track.
Other chips offer positive effects and some will cause you to lose supporters from the active battlefield. If all your supporters are wiped out in battle your opponent will claim victory, and as a result, can place a castle there. This will score you points at the end of the game. If you have any Wonderlandians you have recruited in areas, you are battling in they will also provide you with their own unique powers to aid you in battle and they will also increase your influence in that area.
Curiouser And Curiouser
All chips that are drawn during a battle are placed in your exhausted area and cannot be used in any of the other battles in the round. So, picking your battles wisely can be key, saving the bulk of your chips for your important battles could be the difference but, after all, Wonderland is a strange place and the rules can follow suit.
Each player has a madness chart because let’s face It, we should keep track of how mad we are. Madness is represented by shards which are little pieces of our crumbling sanity that are collected throughout the game. Some are collected during the tea party phase and others are on chips that you draw. Fill up your chart and all of your exhausting chips can be placed back into the bag ready for another area battle.
Once an area battle has been concluded you will score the points on the battle track that you have built up. Some values on the battle track will have a forge symbol on it and if your score finishes on one of these you will be given the opportunity to take one of these actions to increase your powers on your game board.
This action can be activated if you draw a forge chip during a battle, so you can potentially get a double chance to forge. Once all the battles have been settled over the 5 areas then the game reverts back to the tea party phase.
Off With Their Heads
Once the dust has settled and the cutlery has been washed, let’s reflect on this remarkable game. For me, Wonderland's War is truly fantastic. It may initially look daunting to some whilst it is being set up due to the number of components on display, but it sure looks good when it’s all laid out.
Once you get going it really is straightforward and such a joy to play. The quality of the components is top-notch, from the cards to the madness shards, everything oozes quality and feels great in your hand. The player figures have impeccable detail to them, which brings a new level of enjoyment to the game.
The artwork on display is fantastic and gives the game a feel of darkness which suits the theme perfectly. As mentioned earlier on, the version I was playing was the fully upgraded model with deluxe components and upgraded ally chips. These chips are quality plastic, they feel great to hold and also make that satisfying clanking noise in the bag as you mix them up.
The upgraded chips also come in their own storage box, resembling a poker set. But this is hardly surprising based on the attention to detail already on display. If you decide on just the core game then fear not, the quality is still there.
The figures are cardboard that slots into stands, but the level of detail and quality is still there. The ally chips are of identical quality to that of Quacks. The gameplay still brings the same level of enjoyment, it just depends on how much you want to invest. Either way, you will not be disappointed. With multiple mechanics in this game, it’s sure to appeal to whatever game style you like. And for me, it’s one of my new favourite games and I cannot wait to get my own copy on my board game shelf.