Full disclosure: A review copy of Wangdo was provided by Mandoo Games.
Alright, we’re back with more from Mandoo, this week! I think this clears out the initial run of games I was going to look at for them (Papering Duel, Venture Angels, Wangdo, and Spring Rally). Don’t despair, though, I have a few more coming (Dark Horse and Queenz), so let’s get through Wangdo and onto the next ones!
In Wangdo, you play as rival bear clans who seek the ultimate prize: knowledge! You know that’s what bears have always wanted, anyways. Your princes must travel the land to learn more about what they are expected to do, should they become the King, and they should build some statues along the way because, I mean, they’re cool statues, too. Will you be able to rally the masses and prove that you deserve to become king of all the bears?
Take out the board, first off:
You can remove the middle piece unless you’re playing with four players. Speaking of player counts, give each player a player board with the correct side up for the player count:
Take the Knowledge Tokens:
Remove one of each type (with and without the Dragon Seal), and mix them with the Bear Tokens:
Shuffle them, and place them on the board. At each location that ends up with a Bear Token, randomly replace the Bear Token with a Bear Stele:
Place one Stele of each color on the first space of the corresponding color Temple tracks, too. Shuffle the Seal Cards, as well:
You can set them aside for now. Once you’ve done all that, have each player take three Bear Steles from the bag, randomly, and you’re ready to start!
The game is decently straightforward. Your goal is to collect enough Knowledge Tokens that you fill out your board, making you the wisest of the bears. As you do.
On your turn, you may either Get Steles or Acquire a Knowledge Token.
To get Steles, either take three randomly from the bag or take any two of your choice from the temple. If you have more than 10 at the end of your turn, discard down to 10.
To acquire a Knowledge Token, you must place a Stele onto the space with the Knowledge Token you want, following these rules:
- You must play adjacent to at least one Stele.
- You cannot play a Stele of the same color as any adjacent Stele.
- When you place, add a Stele of each adjacent color to the Temple. You must be able to do this in order to place a Stele.
If you place the last Stele of a color on the Temple track, you trigger a Ritual. Return all Steles of that color to the bag, and then you may take a Stele of any other color from its Temple track and add it to your Supply.
Now, when you get a Knowledge Token, you may add it to your board. If it wouldn’t fit on your board, you may not take it. If you complete a column by doing so, take one of the Seal Cards. These cards give you additional Seals or special abilities, but you cannot use them on the turn you acquire them. If you end up not using them by the end of the game, they count as an extra Dragon Seal.
Play until any player has collected all 8 tokens. Finish the round so that all players get an equal number of turns, and then the player with the most tokens wins! If there’s a tie, the player with the most Dragon Seals wins!
Player Count Differences
The major thing you have to watch out for in this game is loss of control. At lower player counts, you can play your opponent into a corner by keeping track of their board and playing Steles such that it’s difficult for them to make cheap progress. Naturally, they’ll hopefully do the same to you, and whichever player does a better job will likely win. At higher player counts, you have to deal with the fact that there’s more information to keep track of and the board changes state more dramatically between your turns. These things might both be very bad for you, if you’re not into that sort of thing. Personally, I don’t mind it; I appreciate that the board expands at four players to add the remaining tokens. I don’t think I have a particularly strong preference for this game at any player count, as a result.
- Watch your opponent’s board. If you know all that they have is white, you should make sure that you make it so they cannot get the Knowledge Token they need without placing something that isn’t white. That will usually cost them a turn, so, they won’t like that very much, but maybe, just this once, they’ll respect it? Only one way to find out.
- Take the Dragon Seal Knowledge Tokens early. They’re used for tiebreakers, so, might as well get them while they’re cheap, right?
- Don’t wait too long to start taking other Knowledge Tokens. This is a common pitfall for players. They don’t want to take the non-Seal tokens because they want to win the tiebreaker, but by the time they’ve overthought that, they’re three turns behind the player who didn’t care and now the tiebreaker is irrelevant. Don’t be that player, as you might guess. This may happen at the very beginning, depending on which bears get placed where (there might be no Dragon Seal Knowledge Tokens adjacent to the starting bears). If you decide to go for it, just make sure that you’re not giving up a Dragon Seal Knowledge Token by doing so, just in case you do end up in a tiebreaker situation.
- Avoid setting your opponents up for a Temple refresh. It’s just giving them a free Stele if you do. If anything, you’d rather have them set you up, but that’s a bit harder to swing unless you can get lucky or you’re a master manipulator. Either way, if you can get it to work, great. In general, try not to give your opponents extra Steles or discounted tokens; in the longer term you’re going to need to make sure that you don’t.
- Try to make everything on the board more expensive to take. Naturally, if your opponent has to spend 2 – 3 Steles and you’re spending somewhere around … 1 per turn, you’re going to be able to do a lot more work than your opponent since you’re refreshing less frequently.
- If you can spend a Seal Card to clown your opponent out of a turn, it might be worth doing. This becomes less useful at higher player counts (since you have more opponents that would need clowned), but at lower player counts if you block them from acting, you may not even need the extra Seal that the card gives you (because you would, in this scenario, beat the game before they have a chance to tie it up).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I always appreciate a modular board. It’s nice that it can expand or shrink depending on the player count.
- The theme is really fun. It’s bears! I love bears! And they want to become the smartest bear on their travels.
- The actual mechanics of how paths are built is interesting. I like that tokens become more expensive as the paths around them become occupied. It creates a nice racing element with some path-building to it. Both of those mechanics are things I enjoy, so naturally, I’m here for this, too.
- The Stele tokens are really nice. They’re like, rubberized bear statues? I feel like that is going to eventually be hard to mass produce, but they’re very nice in their current state, so, keep at it, friends. They add a lot of table presence to the game and they look really good.
- The art is also really pleasant. It’s bright and colorful and super verdant, which I appreciate. I don’t have a ton of green games short of, say, Haven. It’s extremely green, though.
- I like how the setup is randomized, too. Putting the Bear Tokens in with the Knowledge Tokens and placing all of them is a smart touch, and it lets you quickly get the game going with a different start setup every time (generally). Altogether a solid move.
- Not an enormous fan of tiny cards. They’re just hard to shuffle and there’s only 16 of them. This is a place where they could expand the game if they wanted to, though, which I appreciate.
- Stealing / Swapping your opponents’ Steles is a rude thing to do. I am not a huge fan of take that sort-of-behavior in my games, though it’s relatively mild. Here, it might mean that your opponent has to take Steles on their turn because they suddenly have nothing usable, which can be frustrating, too.
- It can be annoying when you miss out on a potential victory due to luck of the draw. Naturally, you just shouldn’t rely on luck of the draw to help you win, and I get that, but players may not have a choice (if the temples are fairly drained, for instance), and pulling the wrong color Steles out and not being able to do anything with them can be frustrating. It would be nice if there were some sort of conversion for Steles of one color to Steles of another.
- The card that lets you take another turn can be a bit ridiculous if you get it at the right time. If your opponents don’t do a particularly good job with their blocking, you might be able to take two very quick turns, which can swing the game aggressively in your direction, especially if you get another Seal Card (or two) as a result.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Wangdo is cute! It’s definitely on the family-friendly side, which is nice, but it doesn’t end up feeling too kiddy while you play it, as some of the decisions are still pretty interesting. My one complaint is that the Seal Cards feel like they have different utilities, and some are more generally useful than others, it seems, and without any sort of trading economy for bears, it’s totally possible to end up in a spot where you need to draw something randomly in order to win and it … never comes. That can be frustrating, but thankfully the game is also pretty quick, so that sting doesn’t linger for a while. What I’d love to see from this game is something akin to Einstein, where you’ve got the family-friendly core and the more complex upgraded game available as an expansion, with new cards, new paths, and more to do. I think that would upgrade this from good to excellent, personally. It’s already got some great stuff going for it: it’s got good art, quick gameplay, and really cool components. I’d just like to see if it can be pushed up a bit more with an expansion. Either way, if you like bears or you’re looking for a quick set collection game for the whole family, I will say that I’ve enjoyed Wangdo! I’ll be interested to see where it ends up next.