Full disclosure: A preview copy of WAYK was provided by Fisher Heaton Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Alright, we covered TANGL last week, and they both arrived in the same box, so it’s time to talk about WAYK! This is another one of the most recent games from Fisher Heaton, packaged under their Analog Apps collection. Every month is Kickstarter month, now, so why not get into a couple? Or, at least, that’s what I said when I decided to review all these. Anyways, let’s not dally on talking about my prior planning and let’s instead hop right into this game.
In WAYK, you play as a few robots left behind on a long-term generation ship rapidly leaving the solar system, the galaxy, who knows. Unfortunately, you’ve run into some trouble and now, well, it’s time to bounce. Your charges are still asleep in their various chambers, so, you kind of have to take care of them first. Asimov’s Three Laws, all that noise. You can be robots and still have a bit of fun, though, so make a race out of it. Which team can save the most people the fastest?
So first thing you’re going to do is set up the Stasis Room Tiles:
You do this by placing them face-down and then rotating them to change their orientation, then flip them up and into this configuration:
Now, you need to place the Stasis Chambers:
At every intersection of three tiles, place one flat covering all three of the adjacent spots. At every intersection of two tiles, place one standing up covering the two adjacent spots.
Placing the robots is next, but it’s hard to describe, so just look at the setup image and do that if you need my advice:
Now, shuffle the Escape Pod Cards:
Make three columns of six cards each, returning the remaining six cards to the box. Choose a player to go first and you’re ready to start!
Your goal is to outpace the other team’s robots in getting your Stasis Chambers into Escape Pods before the ship explodes. Do the better job and you win!
WAYK takes place over a series of turns. On your turn, you must move. When you move, you must follow three rules:
- The space you move to must be on an adjacent Stasis Room Tile. You’re a robot, not a superhero; you can only clear one room at a time.
- The space you move to must have a Stasis Chamber on it. You aren’t allowed to just waste time. Also, you can’t move to that space if another robot is already there.
- The space you move to must be a value one higher or one lower than your current space. Wraparound is okay in this game, so you may move from 6 to 1 and 1 to 6.
When you land on a space, the Stasis Chamber changes state. If it’s currently Secured (covering three spaces), it changes to Raised (covering two spaces). If it’s currently Raised, it’s removed from the board. When you remove a Stasis Chamber from the board, keep track of its final number (the number you didn’t land on that it was covering when it was Raised). This determines how it scores:
- If an available Escape Pod (bottom of the column) has a matching value: Take the Escape Pod card and place the Stasis Chamber on it in Secured (laying down) position for 2 points.
- If there is not an available Escape Pod, but you have a card with an available slot: Take the Stasis Chamber and place it in the Raised Position on that card for 1 point.
- If there are no available Escape Pods and you have no available slots. You just jettisoned that person into space. Real nice. Keep the Chamber nearby as a tiebreaker penalty.
The game ends when one of these things happens:
- The last Stasis Chamber is removed.
- The last Escape Pod is taken.
- A player, at the start of their turn, cannot make a legal move.
Once that occurs, score! Players earn 2 points for each Secured Stasis Chamber on an Escape Pod Card and 1 point for each Raised Stasis Chamber on an Escape Pod Card. The player with the most points wins! If there’s a tie, break ties as follows:
- The player with the most Escape Pod Cards wins.
- The player who yeeted the fewest unsuspecting civilians into the cold, dead maw of space wins. Kind of logically, if you ask me.
If you want to play solo (or cooperatively, honestly), you just control all four robots, and you play without Escape Pod Cards. Simply clear all of the Stasis Chambers to win!
For an extra challenge, remove any Stasis Chambers that would sit on an area that sums to 7 or less.
Player Count Differences
Well, I think the solo game is kind of easy without the Hard Mode variant, but I actually quite like playing the “solo game” as a two-player cooperative game on Hard Mode. It’s a lot of fun! The competitive version is an interesting puzzle to solve, as well, since you don’t want to set your opponent up for a lot of success, so you need to make moves that accomplish two goals: allowing you to make additional, better moves, and preventing your opponent from doing the same. They exercise different parts of my brain, so I’d say I enjoy them both. It’s nice to have both options available, as well.
- Always have an exit strategy. You really can’t just do things in this game. You need to be thinking a few moves ahead and plan for contingencies, otherwise you’re going to get stuck. Normally, the puzzle of the optimal route would be challenging enough, but you’ve got two robots to deal with and a potentially malevolent force by way of your opponent. The routes you think you have you may suddenly find blocked, and you need to be flexible with your strategy and always have more than one way to get where you want to go. Or be far enough from your opponent that it doesn’t matter. Just be careful; the board isn’t that large, so if you’re far away from them they might be closer to your other robot than you’d particularly like. That may also be bad.
- Trap or strand your opponents if you can. Keep at least one robot out of your hair for a while by maneuvering it such that it can’t move without jettisoning a pod into space. Better still to maneuver such that it can’t move at all! Then you only have to deal with one of your opponents’ robots wrecking your plans.
- Plan ahead. You need to keep in mind that the available Escape Pods are shifting, too. What numbers will become valuable in a turn? Can you make the numbers you want come up more quickly? Will that, in turn, make your opponent more likely to try and hop onto your strategy? How do you feint them out? If you want to end up winning, you’re going to need to be able to answer a few of those questions as they come up.
- It’s worth taking a 1 if your opponent is about to take it as a 2. You need to remember that it’s not just important for you to score, it’s also important to block your opponent from scoring on your moves. Even if it’s taking fewer points, it’s worth it if it blocks your opponent from getting up by 2. I’m not as convinced it’s worth it to jettison some poor sleeping person into space; that’s starting to seem a bit petty.
- Remember also that you’ve got two robots. You should be trying to set each of your robots up to play off of each other, if you can. Or, at least, that’s one strategy. Having your robots each choose an opponent’s robot to grief and try and steal from aggressively is another, though I’ve yet to see that work pretty convincingly. Your opponent needs to have pretty colossally bad luck or poor planning to end up getting clowned like that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Really interesting theme. I haven’t seen generation ships used a lot in gaming. I see them in sci-fi from time to time, though; they’re a really interesting conceit when not being used in a super creepy way like Passengers. I generally like sci-fi anyways, so, I’m 100% here for this game.
- Very puzzley in a satisfying way. I think the simple math path of it makes it less complicated than, say, Lovelace & Babbage, but still mathy enough for people who like math. There’s a pattern to the path, and you need to solve the mystery of it if you want to be successful.
- Setup seems complicated at first, but it’s visually not too bad once you look at the board. I think the easiest way to think about it is cover all the triples then cover all the pairs. Once I figured that out it made my setup a lot less stressful. The first time is still a challenge, though.
- Even the prototype components have a nice weight and feel to them. I wonder how the game is going to look when it’s completed? I’m excited to see the final product.
- The idea is pretty simple, also, so it doesn’t take a long time to teach, which I appreciate. It’s basically just moving around along +1/-1 pathways to hit blocks from multiple directions so that you can move them onto escape pods. Once that clicks, the game becomes pretty easy to play.
- If you use marbles or stones instead of the chunky Stasis Chambers, you could probably make a pretty portable version of this pretty easily. Just shift the bead around to between the numbers that are remaining. I’m pretty sure it could work (and also I’m pretty sure that’s how they did the initial prototypes, which boosts my confidence).
- The complex spatial and logical components of this game can make for a really bad game for people with any sort of analysis paralysis. I wouldn’t recommend playing this with players who have a hard time choosing what to do on a turn, especially because this game is best played with some understanding of what the plan for future turns is. They’re liable to just spin and spin and spin, which isn’t great.
- It can be a bit annoying when a player has a really good starting move just from luck of the draw. This happens a decent amount; usually one player can score 2 points on the first turn depending on the initial setup of Escape Pod Cards. It’s a bit frustrating, but it does feel like it balances the second player having to not go first.
- The solo mode does feel a bit like you’re a meat bag implementing an algorithm that a program could do in seconds. It feels a bit less that with Hard Mode, but it’s still essentially what you’re doing. That’s kind of why I like splitting the solo mode into a cooperative game, as it also adds the challenge of having to alternate robots when you move.
- Getting stuck and ending the game can mean that a player wins by virtue of scoring quickly, which can be unsatisfying. In general, I dislike abrupt endings to games, because it kind of messes with the long-term planning potential (especially for a game like this), but it feels like you might be able to be rewarded for not planning far enough ahead if you manage to trap your robots. Then again, Tonari has a similar premise and execution and I appreciated that one, so, your mileage may vary. I think it works better for Tonari because movement isn’t as complicated, whereas WAYK that’s most of the game is figuring out where and how you can move.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think WAYK is a super fun little puzzle game! I generally have a soft spot for a lot of sci-fi-themed games, which is nice, but I also think that this particular theme is fairly unique among the games I’ve played, which always draws me in. I’m gently amused by how macabre the idea of just jettisoning someone in stasis into space is, but the game just kind of reads clean through it like it happens on the regular or something. It appeals to the math and logic parts of my brain that tend to like those sorts of things. The game also has a nice tactile sense to it, even now, which is impressive for a prototype copy. I think what I find interesting about it is that you’re essentially crafting an algorithm to determine the shortest / safest path between a bunch of nodes, but you have to shift that algorithm on the fly as your opponent gets in your way or takes things that you were planning to take. Once you make a mistake, you might end up trapped, which is bad. I think that makes the solo mode a smidge unsatisfying (since you control everything, so there’s very little real danger from other players), but I still like playing it from time to time. As with most puzzle games, I wouldn’t be surprised if players with bad Analysis Paralysis might get stopped up pretty quickly, so try to help them through if they’re getting trapped in their own heads. My one major gripe is that the game ending because someone got themselves trapped is unsatisfying, since it’s an abrupt end to a game ostensibly about tactics and planning, but that’s relatively small in the grand scheme of things. If it upsets you that much, just reset it and play it again so that your opponent doesn’t get stuck this time. I think that’ll work. Either way, if you’re a fan of puzzle games, generation ships, or sci-fi, I think WAYK is a lot of fun! I’d recommend checking it out.