Does this count as a Gen Con game? I’m really losing track on the consistency, here, and we’re getting into Essen releases, also, anyways. Things are pretty much only going to get more confusing before the year’s out, I guess. Either way, this arrived in my mailbox the day before I left for Gen Con, so, I’m going to say it definitely counts. I mean, I kind of make the rules, here, so why not.
Anyways, in Welcome To…, one of the newest titles brought to the US by Deep Water Games, the US publisher of other favorites around the blog like Mystery of the Temples (and Herbalism, which I also enjoyed). Outside the US, Blue Cocker’s got it. Your goal in this is to build the single greatest town in the 1950s by … aggressively numbering houses. You’re going to have to do more than just that if you want to be successful, though. You should hire landscapers, pay some real estate agents, and definitely build some pools. Literally, build a ton of pools. Do nothing else. Will you be able to bring home a victory?
Only a few things to do, here. Give everyone a sheet:
Shuffle the cards and set them in three piles of the same size:
Now, decide if you’re playing the Basic or the Advanced Game. The Basic Game has certain objectives, called City Plan cards:
And the Advanced Game has other, different ones:
Choose one each of Blue, Yellow, and Red, and reveal those. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start!
Note that if you’re playing solo, set the game up the same way, but divide the cards into two piles instead of three. Slide this card into the second pile, shuffle it again, and put it below the first pile:
Essentially, your goal is to do the best job filling in house numbers on the various homes on three streets in your development. That means, of course, before you do anything, you should name your development by writing a name on the sign in the top-left corner of your sheet. I suppose you could name it after, but that seems less fun, implicitly.
The game is played over a series of rounds, where each round is started by flipping the top three cards of the piles over to reveal three new cards and the backs of the previous ones, which are one of six types:
Now, each player chooses a row and writes the number on a house and optionally performs the action listed on the back of the card in that row. Writing house numbers follows Qwinto rules: You may write the number anywhere you want such that all numbers to its left are strictly less than the number and all numbers to its right are strictly greater than the number. These are houses; you can’t have two houses with the same number! How will they deliver your mail?
The actions are as follows:
- Surveyor (Brown Fence): You may add a fence between any two houses in your development (note that you do not have to add a fence adjacent to the house you just numbered). Note that the leftmost house has a fence on its left and the rightmost house has a fence on its right. Sets of fenced-in (and numbered) houses form what’s called estates. An estate can have between 1 and 6 houses, inclusive. You’ll score points per estate at the end of the game.
- Landscaper (Green Trees): You may check off the leftmost space on the Park Track in the same row as the house you just numbered. You’ll score points for the leftmost unchecked space in each row’s Park Track at the end of the game.
- Pool Manufacturer (Blue Pool): If the house you just numbered has a pool, you may fill in the pool behind the house and check off the lowest number in the Pool Track (bottom of the sheet). You score more points the more pools you add. Pools are great. Crave nothing else.
- Temp Agency (Orange Cone): This one’s interesting. It lets you modify the number you just placed by +2, +1, +0, -1, or -2. In doing this you increase your available range from a 17 (15 + 2) to a 0 (1 – 1), which can be helpful. You also can check off one of the Temp Agency boxes. If you’ve checked off the most at the end of the game, you earn 7 points, second-most will earn you 4, and third-most will earn you 1. In a solo game, you only earn points if you’ve crossed off at least 6 Temp Agency boxes.
- Real Estate Agent (Purple Arrow): Real Estate Agents help make your estates more valuable. Pick a number and cross off the top-most available number in that column. Now, estates of that size are worth the next value. At the end of the game, each estate of that size will score the top-most available number points.
- Bis (Red Mailbox): Nobody’s perfect, and this will help you remember that. You may cross off the first available number in the bis area (near the bottom-right of the sheet) to place a bis to the left or right of any house in your development, provided there isn’t currently a fence between the two. You may duplicate a number multiple times, but not for free; at the end of the game you’ll lose points equal to the first open number in your bis area.
As a variant, you may also play with Roundabouts; if you are, you may optionally cross off the topmost number in the Roundabout section (top-right scoring section on the bottom of the sheet) to add a Roundabout to your street. Draw a circle and place two fences on either side. Sure, you take a mild penalty, but you can restart numbering on the right side of the roundabout. That’s gotta be useful.
As you add fences and form estates you may eventually fulfill the requirements of one of the challenges (usually some distinct number of estates of a certain size, though that changes with the Advanced ones). When you do, wait until everyone is done placing their numbers and announce that you’ve gotten the bonus. Fill in the fence behind the homes used; you may only use an estate for these bonuses once per game. You cannot, as you might guess, subdivide the estates further after scoring a bonus. If you’re the first person to score this bonus, flip the card over — players will now only score the second, lower value when they get this bonus. You may also request that the cards be shuffled and re-dealt, if you want. If you have gotten all three bonuses, the game ends; move on to scoring.
If you cannot place any of the three numbers, cross off the top-most number in the penalty section (bottom-right scoring section on the sheet). If you cross off all three penalties, the game ends; move on to scoring. If not, flip three more cards and go again!
Play continues until one of three conditions is met:
- One player has filled in every home in their development.
- One player has scored all three bonuses.
- One player has taken three penalties.
When that happens, add up the values of your various scoring sections. The player with the most points wins!
Solo Mode Changes
In the Solo Mode, rather than having three sets of pairs, you’ll draw three cards each round. From those three, choose one card for its number and one card for its effect (you cannot choose the same card for both), discarding the third, unused card.
Your play continues until you hit the Solo Card:
This causes all City Plan objective cards to flip over to their less lucrative side, and play continues. The game ends when you run out of cards to play, you take three penalties, you number all your houses, or you complete all the City Plan cards! Then you score. Keep in mind that you, again, only score 7 points or 0 for the Temp Agency, and that’s contingent on you getting 6 boxes checked off.
Player Count Differences
So technically there are none (similar to Avenue or Kokoro, this can scale fairly infinitely). In practice, there’s contention for various things (similar to MetroX) that will cause them to get taken more quickly at higher player counts, which means the scores will be a bit lower at higher player counts than at lower player counts. While that doesn’t bother me that much, the logistics of setting up such an event are a bit too much for me to handle so I usually keep this around 5 – 6 people, tops. That’s how many sheets I laminated, at least.
- Pools. That’s my only concern in this game. My parents never had a pool on our house growing up and, dammit, I don’t want kids to suffer the same way I suffered if I can avoid it, even if they are fictional and this is all some sort of weird internalized thing. Either way, it’s usually my default strategy in games because it’s kind of fun to shoot for something inane, and they’re spaced out enough that you can usually get 6 or 7.
- Plan ahead. Don’t put a 5 in the leftmost spot or a 10 in the rightmost spot unless you want to have a bad time. Also, keep in mind that there are more numbers in the 6 – 10 range than 11 – 15 and 1 – 5 (it’s a bell curve…ish), so it may be worth skipping numbers on the lower and higher ends and optimizing for the middle. I’d especially recommend always placing 7 / 8 / 9 and not skipping any of those; they’re very common.
- Know the development. You’ve got rows of 10, 11, and 12 houses. Have a good idea of where you need to add fences for certain City Plans and where you want to try to fill in first.
- You kind of need to go all or nothing on Parks. If you don’t hit the last value, they’re not worth very much; it’s kind of a waste of your time. If you can hit that last value, though, they’re very lucrative. That’s my general attitude when I try to balance them and it mostly works. It’s just not really worth going for one space in each or something.
- Keep an eye on your opponents’ Temp Agencies. If they’re 2 ahead of you, it’s usually rough to try and overtake them (unless they don’t notice), but it might still be worth the effort. Just make sure you’re not wasting too many actions on trying for … 7 points. That’s only like, two pools.
- Unless you’re planning to make zero size 1 Estates, it’s usually worth getting the Real Estate Agent upgrade for that section. That bumps them to 3 points per single estate; a 200% increase. Nothing else will go that high that quickly, so it’s kinda worth it.
- Going for the bis isn’t always a bad idea either. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to give yourself a bit of extra flexibility. I can’t recommend trying to go for that -28, but, I mean, one or two doesn’t seem to be completely unreasonable, especially if you can use that to score a City Plan.
- Roundabouts are expensive, but you really can use them to dunk. If you have the right numbers in the right places at the right time, you can drop a roundabout to close off the estates and snatch a City Plan card (hopefully out from under your opponents). That might be worth the mild penalty. Plus, then you can start renumbering! That’s a huge boon, probably.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- For some reason going for pools is a fantastically fun way to spend time in this game. I think it’s because it’s a bit inane and I tend to enjoy latching on to inane things in board games, for some reason. It gives me something to do. One day I’ll get every pool.
- It’s very portable. I’ve played both this and Avenue (a similar style game) on airplanes and I could see playing this solo in a car, as well, if you had the right stuff to hold the City Plan cards.
- The solo game is a lot of fun, too. It’s basically the same as the main game but you’re racing the game on the City Plans rather than obnoxious other players. It’s a nice puzzle.
- Easy enough to teach. The major hangup is how the various bonus actions work and most of those are just “check off the thing”, so that doesn’t really junk it up too aggressively.
- Plays pretty quickly. Ideally, if your players don’t get hung up, you can bust out a game pretty quickly.
- I really enjoy most roll-and-write-style games. It’s just a fun type of mechanic and I feel a sense of accomplishment after I’ve built whatever it has me build. I just laminate enough sheets to play, also. That reminds me, I need to laminate Roll to the Top at some point.
- Fun theme. It’s 1950s suburb construction! It’s an endearing theme, though I’m not really sure why I like it. Maybe just the novelty? I liked the adjacent theme of Suburbia, as well.
- I’d be really interested in more bonus maps. This seems like the kind of game you could build more maps for, and I’d absolutely love to see if there are more, homebrew or official. Plus, the name basically writes itself; it’s just Welcome 2. So easy.
- Splitting the cards into three decks is mildly annoying. Congratulations, after countless reviews, you’ve found it; the nittiest of nitpicks. I’m whining, and I get that, but it is a tiny bit annoying.
- Pretty high potential for analysis paralysis. You can imagine a lot of situations where players aren’t just deciding where they want to put something, but also what they want to put down. For a game with simultaneous turns, this can be particularly frustrating as it slows the entire experience down to a crawl with the wrong group.
- I’m not as convinced as the box is about its player count. I’ve played large player counts with this and it’s a bit underwhelming, since you’re racing for certain objectives. It seems like more of a theoretical maximum than a practical one, in my experience.
Overall: 9.25 / 10
Overall, I’m a huge fan of Welcome To! It’s rapidly become a mainstay in my game bag (both when I’m going to work and when I travel), and I’m a huge fan of the solo game. I definitely haven’t figured out everything it’s got going on, yet (I’ve kinda skipped the advanced drafting variant, you might notice), but that’s partially because I’ve been having enough fun with it at its base to keep going with it. The general metric I use for a really fun game for my groups is if they ask me to bring it back, and a few of my coworkers have been clamoring for it since I brought it a few weeks ago. While I’m not convinced I’d enjoy it at 100 people, I’ve definitely been having a ton of fun at 1 – 6 players, even if I spend the entire game just kinda aggressively pursuing pool construction to the detriment of all else. Either way, I’d say if you haven’t checked it out, yet, I’d highly recommend doing so.