A Wanderer In The Forest Of Wyr
Teaching Time: 2 mins
Playing Time: 15 mins
Setup Time: 2 mins
Value For Money: High
Price: Print and Play
Solo Play Review
Todd Sanders is very much the Renier Knizia of the Print and Play world, extremely prolific and very high quality, if you’re looking to try a PnP anything from his Air and Nothingness press I would highly recommend, it’s at least as much of a stamp of quality as Cheapass games in this area. All that said A wanderer in the Forest of Wyr is not my favourite of his game and unless you’re looking for a serious challenge move on, because this is hard as nails, which I’ll get back to.
All of Todd’s games look amazing and Wanderer is no exception, it’s a single page build with a central game board adorned with a great piece of artwork that bought me right back to the 80s Joe Dever Lone Wolf series. There are a few tiny practical issues with the design, the yellow starting space is placed against a yellow background when blue for the space would have served just as well and not have blended into the background. The winding paths are pretty but, in a game that repetedly asks players to calculate the shortest routes to locations, they do become a little tiresome.
The gameplay consists of using 12 cards from a standard playing card deck to fuel both player movement and combat while a set of ravens (your escaped spells) are driven to move and attack you by their own mini deck, built from some of the rest of the standard pack. As you defeat ravens you gain back (largely single use) spells which you will need to use cunningly as the remaining ravens move faster and hit harder. As such much of the game is about picking off the first few ravens then marshalling your resources to deal with the last few, who hit like a ton of bricks.
The game’s engine is elegant enough for the simple job it has to do, a D6 is needed for set up only, which makes it a pity it couldn’t be done with cards, but that’s a minor quibble. The biggest drag in the middle of the game is that calculating attack and defence values involves adding up seven or eight separate numbers for each, which is not too much of an ask but until I cracked and started using a piece of scrap paper to write down values holding one score in my head while totaling the other was twisting my melon. Its not helped by a slightly odd exponential relation between card face value and game value (10=6, 6=4, 2=2). That aside the hunter/hunted relationship between yourself and the ravens is neat and satisfying and cracks along neatly. The big issue for me with this game is the difficulty, now I like a solo or co-op game to be tough, but this thing is nails, its diamond hard. It looks simple, but that’s part of the issue, its too simple to offer many outs or options to learn your way around the game. Fundamentally you move to keep the ravens from bunching up on you and attack them when you have as much of your section of the deck in your hand as possible. The difficulty comes around Raven 6, since it will generate between 18-30 attack strength against a player defence that maxes out at 22 which your single use spells can raise to 32 at best. So, if Raven 6 hits with 28 or more attack then raven 7 or 8 is essentially unstoppable. The upshot is that once you hit the halfway point victory comes largely down to luck, if the ravens repeatedly pull big cards there’s very little to be done in response.
The game is neat and well put together and if you have a slightly masochistic turn its worth a go. If you want a game you can really learn and then reliably beat or if you frustrate easily (or at all), avoid it. This designer has deeper and more approachable games available, look up one of those and then pick up Wander for completion.