#598 – Welkin [Mini]

Box

Base price: $35.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~45 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Welkin was provided by Luma Imports.

Alright, we’re back with another mini-review. I’m going to try to loop these in every so often; it’ll hopefully also give me the additional oomph I need to review titles that I’ve been trying to get to for years, like The Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena, Spirit Island, and who knows what else. We’ll see how that shakes out. In the meantime, though, we’ve got Welkin, another game from Ankara, who brought us the delightful Draftosaurus. Let’s crack into this one and see what’s going on with it.

In Welkin, you’re taking on the role of architects who have gotten a bit more … lofty with their ambitions. You’re a celestial builder, now, and your goal is to try and earn your keep by building homes and buildings that keep with market trends. But those trends are fickle and houses take a while to build, so you may end up with a worthless property if you’re not too careful. But, maybe if you wait a bit longer, it’ll be seen for the treasure you know it is. That’s real estate! At least, that’s what people tell me. I live near San Francisco and the prices have never dropped. Manipulate the central market to determine resource value, and then build houses out of those resources to earn money and one-time use abilities! At the end of the game, the player with the most money wins! Do you have what it takes to build these homes in the sky? Or will your ambitions come crashing down to Earth?

Cards

Contents

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Player Count Differences

So, similar to Dadaocheng, which, also reviewing this week, this game relies a lot on a shared resource that can be manipulated, dropped, flipped, and reversed by other players. That’s sometimes good for you, if you end up grabbing the same houses that other players want to build, resource-wise. You can ride that wave. At higher player counts, though, if you err and take unpopular houses (statistically, there have to be some), you’re going to get a lot of dead weight as players devalue the resources that you need for construction. That’s difficult to fix, since they get up to three turns to your one, which might be unsatisfying as you have to eat the loss. The market can change quickly, which might also be to your disadvantage. As a result, I tend to prefer the game at lower player counts, since there’s less aggressive market manipulation and I feel like I’ve got a better grasp of it. At two, you have equal share of the market and I feel like there’s a lot there that works for me (or, at least, works for me more than at four players); that’s too chaotic for my tastes.

Strategy

  • There’s a lot of advantage to piggybacking. This is the big one; if your opponent hurts you and you share a lot of resources with their cards, then they hurt themselves. That’s not great for them. The trick is cashing out and then hurting them before they cash out and hurt you. It’s a delicate balance to strike, truly, but it can be done.
  • Using the card abilities to chain together combos can be very lucrative. I had a turn where I used a card ability to get a card, grabbed a bunch of resources, and then used another card ability to place them all and immediately sell them. There wasn’t much my opponent could do, and then suddenly I’m, to quote Jean-Ralphio, flush with cash. It does do a quick and easy job of justifying why using card combos is useful.
  • If you see a player get a card with more than two of the same symbol, it’s time to make that symbol worthless. Just keep it down; worst case, you successfully waste a lot of their time, and best case, you waste a lot of their money. Either way, it’s going to be costly if you start working against them. Just make sure that your other opponents are on board; it’s going to be hard if they’re also countering your offensive.
  • If a player has completed a card but not sold it, yet, you should help them out by devaluing the symbols on that card. This is mean, but useful. Just drop the highest-valued or most lucrative one by a bit; that makes the cashout action they’re going to do next turn almost certainly less valuable. Which is great for you! Less competition. One particularly cruel way to do this is by using the ability on a card to flip two discs over when your turn ends; that will make anything of your choice either much more valuable or much less valuable. Unless it’s a two-player game, though, you’re likely better served by making something you want more valuable before you build it.
  • The wild cards are a great way to stay flexible, but you do miss out on any abilities. If you can get them to work with the most valuable resource, though, it’s incredibly worth it.
  • Don’t forget you can pay a coin to flip over an extra tile when you get resources. It’s a super useful way to make sure you can get as many resources as you want or that you can get the resources that you need for a particular task. It just costs a tiny nugget of money.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Love the art style. It’s very upbeat and bright and colorful! I really like it a lot. It looks great on the table, too; the board is particularly eye-catching. All in all, very pretty game.
  • The combo options of the cards can be immensely satisfying. It’s nice that the cards can be used to perform actions that would normally take an entire turn to do. It allows the game to start speeding up over the course of playing it, which is always nice when a game does that.
  • I appreciate the zero-sum market, also. It’s a cool concept. I think I like them in general, but having to flip one resource to its other side is a very nice way to represent that and it presents some interesting challenges.
  • I also like the discs a lot. I’m going to mention a similar thing in my Dadaocheng review (weird that they synced up like that), but I think it’s nice how they were designed so you easily know what’s on both sides of them. It’s just funny that both reviews are being published this week.
  • love the way you get resources in this game. I think it’s very elegant. Negate the opportunity to get one resource in order to get more of the remaining ones. It’s very clever and really codifies the idea of opportunity cost as a gameplay element to manage.

Mehs

  • I worry a bit about variance if you’re only using a subset of the cards every game. It just means that there are many configurations of the cards in which certain resources are less common, which may make the game feel a bit nondeterministic. I’m not convinced that it’s a massive problem though, to be honest.

Cons

  • If you’re getting the game for the first time, keep the used punchboards in the bottom of the box, otherwise stuff inside it will go everywhere. I didn’t, and I store games vertically. It’s a real problem, now. The insert is well-made, yes, but there’s nothing really keeping the game inside of the insert. It’s not like Sorcerer City, where there’s just a plastic cap or something to keep everything tacked into place.
  • The high volatility of the market at higher player counts can pretty easily screw you over if you’re not piggybacking. Yeah, it’s possible to get almost totally shut out if you’re ignoring what I’ll call “market trends”, or getting things with the same resources as other players so that you’ll all mutually raise the value of those resources. If you’re the outlier, they’re going to just keep clowning you, but with more people it’s going to happen a lot more quickly.
  • It can sometimes feel like it takes a while to get things done. It takes three turns, minimum, to build a card. You have to get the card, get the resources, and place the resources. If you need a wider variety, it might take four. That can often feel a bit slow, especially as the market rapidly changes around you. Combos can help speed this up, if you can get them.

Overall: 6.25 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I think Welkin is decently fun. For me, a lot of the interesting part of the game is the art; I really like the bright colors. The variable market is interesting, but I prefer games where it’s a bit less chaotic, like Inner Compass; in that one, you merely devalue the thing you just purchased, rather than openly manipulate the values of various market elements. In this version, it can come across as take-that-esque, which isn’t my favorite element. Additionally, it makes the market extremely chaotic at four players. Two is definitely, in my opinion, is a lot less volatile. My problem is, even thinking of games with variable markets, there are just games I like better than Welkin. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game by any measure; there are just lots of games. Where it succeeds is again, great art, and a relatively low rules overhead. You literally just pull a card, get some resources, and then get that as money. I will say that its best mechanic is, in my opinion, the way you get resources; that flip-one-gain-from-the-unflipped is a really clever mechanic, and I’d love to see how it can be used in other games. If you’re looking for a casual title, though, and you really like bright, colorful games, you may enjoy checking Welkin out!

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