This week our On The Tabletop report is on Osprey Games' Wildlands. Wildlands is a diceless adventure board game set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting, where warbands seek arcane shards.
Off The Shelf / On The Tabletop articles come in two halves. In Off The Shelf we will look at what's in the box along with covering how the game plays. This is followed by On The Tabletop where we talk about our first playthrough games and finish with feedback from the On The Tabletop team.
The On The Tabletop playthrough articles catalogue our initial experiences with a game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
Off The Shelf
Unboxing[gallery size="large" ids="271664,271665,271666,271667,271668,271669"]
From the outset, Wildlands is a beautifully presented game. The art on the front cover is colourful and eye-catching and the map, while full of image detail, makes the lines and space numbers clear. Everything in the two tiers in the box sits nicely inside for easy access and storage.
The rulebook is a very straight-forward 16 pages of large font and detailed images and examples. Osprey Games link to video tutorials in the rules, but after reading through the rulebook, it all felt very clear.
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Wildlands includes four warbands, all of which can be seen in the gallery above. Each has their own playstyle and deck of action cards.
The setup mechanics for Wildlands are extremely simple. There are two sides to the map, the dungeon, which is recommended for player's initial games, and the ruins, which have some extra mechanics like higher ground.
For game set up, players draw 10 cards from the map card deck. Each map card has a number on it that matches a number on the map. Players pick five cards and place them facedown on each of the five character cards they have. The map cards are used to show which map square to deploy their miniatures on to and the remaining five map cards are passed to the player on their right which they deploy their shards to. Shards are counters that earn points for players during play.
All of a player's miniatures start the game hidden and are placed onto the map during their turn. Players have to reveal at least one miniature if they have some hidden, but can deploy any number of hidden units. Hidden units, when revealed, are placed onto the map tile that matches the numbered map card placed on them during set up.
During a turn, players can play as many action cards from their hand as they like. Each action card has several options, and players chose one action to take. Some actions require several action cards to complete, such as claiming a shard, which requires three actions. Most actions are set to one of the characters from the warband, shown by having their icon beside the action. If there is no character symbol beside the action, then it's an open action and can be used by any miniature in your warband. There are also some Wild Action cards, that can be used by any character to get their effect.
Above you can see the character cards for the Lawbringers warband. Each character card shows their health and character symbol. Under the character cards, there is a deck breakdown card, and three action cards. The first card on the left is a Wild Action, which can be used to move, draw cards or interrupt, an action that let you play another card out of turn. The second action card allows James an area of effect attack or to move, as moving is a default action for any card showing the character's symbol, or Moira to move (as there is no symbol beside their character symbol). There is also an open action at the bottom of the card which can be used to let any character in the group make a melee attack. The next card allows Afan to make a shield (defensive) or move action, Matilda to make a melee attack or move action, or Joanie to make a cover or move action.
Players gain points for knocking out enemy characters or claiming shards. To claim a shard, three cards must be used displaying the character symbol for a character in the same location as the shard. A player wins Wildlands when they have five points (in any combination of knocked out characters or shards). Play can also end when a player's warband is removed completely, in which case the surviving player with the most points at that time wins.
Wildlands has a very simple concept, that has a lot of tactical play. From the initial set up deciding between where you want to deploy, over which cards to give your opponent to place their shards, to the card/action currency. The game is very beginner friendly and the art and components are solid. We've been looking forward to getting it on to the tabletop for a while.
On The Tabletop
Wildlands was incredibly easy to explain to the rest of the team, and then to set up. The to the table time is quite impressive and really reinforces how beginner friendly Wildlands is. We did have a few misunderstandings with cards and actions, but it's to be expected in a new game. Once we were all playing however, things went very smoothly and the rules were rarely referred to, outside of the actions reference on the back of the rulebook.
Lizi chose her group first, and picked the Gnomands, Sam chose the Pit Fighters, I chose the Lawbringers and that left James with the Guild.
We played both of our games on the dungeon side of the map, just to keep it simple for everyone. The set-up mechanic is very interesting, controlling where your opponent's shards are deployed can be more important than your own units set up. You don't want all of your opponent's shards group together to give them an easy ride, but you also want to make sure you've got a good deployment spread for your own force as you don't know where your own shards are going to go. Everything is kept very simple and tidy by the numbered cards mechanic and allows players to focus on the tactics of deployment, even in their first games.
I had a very clear game plan going in, I was just going to go straight for the shards, and I revealed most of my warband in the first few turns to get them moving towards the shards. An unexpected attack from James made things personal though, and we descended into a small melee in the top corner of the map, allowing Sam and Lizi to chase their shards. Sam eventually won by stealing a kill from me and having captured a majority of his shards.
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We let another James take over from Sam in our second game, and he acted as a wildcard, silently prowling around the map with the Pit Fighters while James, Lizi and I tried to fight each other in the centre of the map.
By the end of the second game, we were slowly getting the hang of each of our warbands. The Lawbringers are pretty solid at damaging dealing and also taking damage, but I tended to push towards huge turns by spending lots of cards, then struggling to have meaningful turns again until I'd managed to build up some cards. There are several ways that you can attack Wildlands, and it felt like we'd only just scratched the surface of what the game is and can be.
Player Thoughts[gallery columns="4" ids="264469,264471,264520,267469"]
Adam - I've been looking forward to playing Wildlands for a while. I find diceless games incredibly interesting, for the mechanics and also from a tactical view. Wildlands didn't disappoint. It's incredibly easy to get into. The time from purchase to play is fast and the tactical depth is surprising. I thought that I completely understood the tactics required before our play-through, but actually it's a lot deeper than the rulebook lets you believe and what you think you have is only top-level understanding.
There's clear difference between the different warbands and although there are only two ways to win, through collecting shards or defeating enemy characters (or a combination of the two) there are several ways to approach it, and also attempt to stop your opponents winning. Keeping control of all five of your characters, as well as managing your cards in hand, which are your action currency, is a tactical balance. Twice I got caught up in petty fighting, when I should have been chasing shards and positioning my other characters to put pressure on the others who were going for shards.
I was very impressed with Wildlands. It can be used as an entry level experience to a miniatures skirmish game, and also a bridge from board games to miniature skirmish games. The rules are tight, the gameplay is fun and there's a lot of gameplay to have, learning the four different warbands, straight out of the core set. I'm looking forward to trying out the Unquiet Dead expansion and also the upcoming Adventuring Party Expansion.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who's favourite games include Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter - @StealthBuda.
Lizi - Well I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy this one. It has all the cool things like great miniatures and the lovely translucent coloured blocks that I love in games. The concept is really easy to learn, it's just a case of either picking up 5 shards, killing 5 other characters or a mix of the two.
I was playing the Gnomads, who had small health but a fair few attacks and moves, by the end of the second game I was sure I was going to win... but just didn't get there soon enough. I liked how you chose your starting positions and the starting positions of one of your opponent's shards; which just added an element of tactics to the game instead of random assignment or pre-set maps. It was a good type of challenge to decide which combinations of cards to use for each go, to make the best of each turn without screwing up the next, and it was a friendly type of game where there's not too much thinking going on that you can't chat and have a good time.
The only thing I found difficult was that by the time everyone's pieces were on the board, you then didn't know what colour each player was controlling. Maybe just everyone having a counter next to each person would be handy. Overall, two thumbs up from me.
Lizi is a mathematician, the closest she's ever been to being a gamer is almost completing Lego Batman on the PS2. Her favourite games are Codenames and Zombicide.
James - Wildlands was great fun. It was very knock about and I found the fun of the game to be more about attacking and defending from other players rather than trying to win. Playing tactically, you should go after gems, only occasionally stopping to attack slightly weaker enemies that are targets of opportunity. However, it felt like that would make for less fun in game, so I just declared war on everyone and let pandemonium ensue. The biggest smiles and most enjoyable back and forth for me was in the grudge with Adam and doing silly things like having my bruiser try to bully Lizzie’s cyborg hobbits.
The mechanics themselves were slightly disjointed to start with. Working out who can and can’t act and what they’re best used for took until the end of the first game; for a quick pick up and play it would need a little changing. That said, once that was established it was clear sailing, and the speed of the games meant that it didn’t take hours to get comfortable with how everything worked. I didn’t even notice when people won both times, I was having too much fun chasing other characters around or running away (mages can dish it out but they can’t really take it).
James is a long-time tournament wargamer (but he’s not as horrible as all that), RPG and board game player. He works designing and producing games of all types, and is launching his own company Black Cats Gaming in 2019. Follow him on twitter @Guilensturn and @followblackcats and check out his company at Black Cats Gaming.
Sam - Wildlands was a fun game, but I didn't understand the card symbol mechanics at first. It confused matters that they included art on the cards of characters that the card didn't necessarily belong too - that and as a left hander the cards weren't designed with me in mind (with all the symbols on the left. The way left handers hold cards... Oh never mind.)
The game overall reminding me of fantasy tabletop version of laser tag. Fun, confined area to get around with people getting in the way, and objectives to grab. I managed to win the first game by the luck of where my crystals and concealed characters were and being opportunistic with my attacks. Overall, good fun, would definitely give it another go.
Sam Webb is a role playing game developer and twitch streamer. He has been playing games of all types for years, and is now the head of RPGs at Modiphius Entertainment. He is also the Creative Director at Black Cats Gaming. You can find him @RPGwebby on twitch and twitter, and @followblackcats.
On The Tabletop is going to be taking a little break as I move countries. The series will be back with a new team when I'm settled and have found the right people for the job. Tabletop coverage will still continue as normal. Thank you for reading the series so far.
This copy of the Wildlands was provided by Osprey Games.
Have you played Wildlands? What do you think of it? What do you think of diceless games? Let us know in the comments below.