08 April 2021
A promising land, lost along the way
Learning a new game isn’t always an enjoyable experience. Poring over unfamiliar rules and stumbling through those first initial set ups is part of the hobby, but there’s usually a revelatory moment of understanding and appreciation for how these bits of cardboard and plastic tie together. The Waylanders, unfortunately, makes this difficult.
Coming from Eclipse Editorial and video game developer Gato Studio, The Waylanders is a trans-media project Kickstarted back in 2018. Taking thematic cues from its video game counterpart, The Waylanders is a competitive, strategic miniatures game set in a well-realised, Celtic inspired world of adventurers. Players will be fielding teams of five heroes, traversing the modular board securing strongholds, fulfilling objectives, and battling one another in an attempt to control the land. Sounds promising.
Yet, stumbling toward a point of getting The Waylanders up and running is a clumsy and almost surreally confusing task; like a snake tripping over its own feet.
The general flow of the game relies upon players spending action gems to perform actions. Moving, for example, will require between zero and two gems to move depending on the terrain type costs indicated on a character’s card. Any gems not spent are kept whilst the rest are passed on to the next player, opening up possibilities for strategic withholding.
But first players must contend with the rulebook; an oddly organised document which makes little effort to give visual indication as to what the listed components are and leaves summarised details on win conditions and what we are trying to do until page twenty-five.
Once the game’s contents have been laboriously identified - listed on page thirteen by the way - comes the joy of organising tokens with misaligned print and cross-checking the cards’ questionable symbology.
These production and design concerns spread further too, notably with the twenty-nine included miniatures. Whilst their quantity and level of detail is admirable, there are some indications toward a lack of quality control. The odd drooping sword is forgivable, but when only a few miniatures fit snugly in players’ coloured bases, (with the rest fitting far too loosely) their usability suffers.
Once players reach a point of actually choosing their band of five adventurers, they’re met with the task of matching their character cards to the miniatures. Unfortunately, the cards’ depictions of our heroes are, at times, a far cry from their miniature form, and as no clarifications are given in the rule book, players must resort to poring over the back of the box for answers. Sure, familiarity will make this process less lengthy, but when considering these heroes are individually drafted before each game, familiarity is that much harder to reach.
The drafting itself is, in theory, a nice touch. Given enough time with the game, strategies will arise based on your chosen characters’ potential synergies and the special abilities of your leader. And while this is interesting and certainly adds to the game’s replay value, the lure of more accessible miniatures games supersedes the desire to reach this point of familiarity.
Other elements of the gameplay could have made for an engaging experience under better circumstances too, particularly the idea of ‘formations’. Reliant on careful positioning of your characters, formations grant powerful abilities unique to each leader. The strategic potentials here are substantial, yet the weak explanations offered in the rulebook seem to dilute their importance rather than reinforce it.
Ultimately, there’s some great ideas here, but when the barrier of entry is this vast, recommending The Waylanders over more carefully considered and constructed games is difficult. Combine that with the clear production issues and it’s not hard to suggest investing time and money elsewhere.
PLAY IT? NO
A potentially great idea hampered by production and design issues.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED WILDLANDS
Martin Wallace’s fantasy skirmish game is a clever and intuitive alternative to The Waylanders.
Designer: Jaime González García
Publisher: Eclipse Editorial
What’s in the box?
- 1 Rulebook
- 4 Player Boards
- 110 Cards
- 41 Tiles
- 50 Tokens
- 8 Dice
- 29 Miniatures
- 20 Miniature Bases
This feature originally appeared in Issue 54 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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