14 July 2022
We all go a little mad sometimes
Aristotle famously said “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness,” – a quote perfectly befitting, perhaps even underselling, Lewis Carroll and his work of literary nonsense. But, the premise of Wonderland’s War threatens this sentiment. In this bag-building area control game from Druid City Games, the looking glass has shattered, draining the land’s inhabitants of madness and ushering in completely sane tea parties and cleanly calculated warfare. Regardless of Wonderland’s fate, only one will emerge as the realm’s new leader.
Wonderland’s War follows a clean two act structure for each of its three rounds. First players will attend the tea party, securing the help of allies, Wonderlandians, and various other abilities, with the general aim of bulking out their bags with various chips and placing followers on the board. Following this, players march into battle in each of the board’s five regions. A strong start is dependent on the strength of a player’s leader (an upgradable stat on player boards) as well as any castles and recruited Wonderlandians. But the meat of the War Phase comes down to the bag drawing.
Here, players will simultaneously pull a chip, reveal, and add the indicated strength to the Battle Track alongside performing any associated abilities. Abilities from ally chips can vary from game to game depending on which set of ally cards are used, whilst other unique abilities can stem from unlocked abilities on player boards or Wonderlandian cards. Amidst all of these moreish chips though is the lurking threat of madness. These chips are added to players’ Madness Track, with each banishing a number of followers from the battle. If all followers are evicted from the region, that player busts. Providing all goes well though, players in first and second place will score the points depicted on the region, complete any fulfilled Quest Cards, before moving onto the next battle – albeit with a slightly lighter bag.
Excuse the cliche parlance but this really is Quacks of Quedlinburg on steroids. Quack’s addictive drawing and chip selection – alongside that ever-present fine line between luck-fuelled joy and greedy foolishness – is here, bulked up with beefier mechanics, unruly aggression, and an increased appetite for ‘just one more chip’. There’s also the added anabolic side effect of mood changes with whatever sense of whimsy shared between the two games becoming somewhat more chaotic and malicious in the case of Wonderland’s War.
Whilst these parallels might point toward Wonderland’s War lacking originality or possessing a mechanical framework at risk of crumbling under a heap of new rules, the game ultimately manages to stand on its own legs – a feat made all the more admirable and improbable when first beholding the borderline garish smorgasbord of content and colour the game bestows upon the tabletop.
Indeed, Wonderland’s War is big, bold, and beautiful – at least when studying the game’s wealth of art in isolation. Viewed in its entirety though, the game displays an incongruous merging of heavily violet-tinted gaudiness but surprisingly tight readability. Gathering five players around this generous piece of tabletop real estate might be a challenge, but, somehow, its size, clear iconography, and deceptively simple layout lessens the chance of in-game confusion.
Mechanically, the game feels tight and smooth thanks in large part to its engaging pace. The distinction between the tea party and war phases conjures an undulating rhythm which, whilst occasionally running long, gives the game a dramatic bounce despite the lack of a traditional narrative. Tense, fun, and full of character – you’d be mad not to try it.
PLAY IT? YES
Its aesthetic might not be to everyone’s taste, but its addictive fun and interactiveness more than makes up for it whilst somewhat erring on the long side.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED QUACKS OF QUEDLINBURG
A feisty step up from this bag-building favourite that feels both familiar and new.
Looking for more?
This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
If you want to read more about one of the most hotly anticipated games of the year, check out our interview with Cole Wehrle on ARCS! A new game from the designer of Root and Oath, and we've got all you need to know.To infinity and beyond
Join us in person
We can't wait for Tabletop Gaming Live 2022! An epic weekend in Manchester full of board games, card games, roleplaying games, wargames and more, with amazing exhibitors, great games, and an opportunity to game together in person.See you there!
Have you visited our game store? We have everything from mystery boxes, to games and accessories – including the above Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid, with a great discount! Head over to find your new favourite game.Visit the Game Store
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products