Huge shag pile carpets like miniature forests, sofas and chairs furnished in material that almost looks like one of those stereoscopic 3D images that if you stare long enough at it would turn into some kind of horrific fashion monster. Televisions with four channels and four buttons to select those channels with NO remote control. Your gran coming round to your house and smoking in the house while dishing out a packet of Opal Fruits, a Marathon and a packet of Beef Monster Munch for each of the kids. Men with non ironic moustaches and mutton chop sideburns and hair almost down to the shoulders. Surrounding it all, keeping it all together in the most wonderful over patterned way is That Old Wallpaper.
That Old Wallpaper is a competitive card selection game where you will try to win cards that will complement your existing tableau of wallpaper cards. You will try to create patterns that will ultimately score you points at the end of the game. It’s designed to be played at three players and above, but there is a two player mode that involves using a dummy player to play in one of the roles instead.
For a game that comes in a small enough box, there’s a reasonable amount of things going on in That Old Wallpaper. Central play revolves around a blind bidding process, where every turn you’ll select a numbered card from a choice of five in your hand, reveal them and then order every player’s card in ascending order above columns of wallpaper cards. If players play matching number cards, then the winner between those two is decided based on a separate ever changing row of coloured ‘Perfect Recall’ tokens that match each players colour. The winner then takes the chosen column and the loser takes a single ‘hazy memory’ card that can be used as a wild card to finish patterns at the closing section of the game. The fun part is then placing your wallpaper piece in your ever growing tableau of wallpaper as you are doing both a mixture of forward planning and current management. Often you’ll be hoping to be bumped in the selection process you are lucky to win a wild card which becomes more valuable as the game progresses. Once you’ve played a total of fifteen turns, then the points are determined on the numbers of completed patterns you’ve achieved. There’s not a lot of flash going on here and what you have is a fairly straightforward game once you have a grasp of the rules but it’s a shimmering flash at that.
The winner is decided by the player who has scored the most points by collecting coloured sets of wallpaper patterns. There are additional points for those who have collected unique mementos and a points penalty if you’ve managed to collect the most red oval shapes. The whole process of scoring is made much simpler by the layout of the scoring sheet and how the various patterns are tallied and it help to remove the normal mental arithmetic headache normally associated with these types of games.
Abstract, colourful, bright, shiny and tinged with nostalgia is the aim on the looks front and to be fair, once the game is in full swing, That Old Wallpaper doesn’t disappoint. The mixture of bright primary colours gives the game a bright footprint on the table and there is adequate different between the symbols that you place that even those with severe colour blindness should be able to play the main game. The gilt on the hazy memory cards looks striking once the cards have been placed, adding to the overall picture on display here.
Pick a card, reveal a number card, determine order, sort out any conflicts, place wallpaper, Pick a card and so on. That is all that is to it on how to play That Old Wallpaper. The manual contains well written instructions, with examples throughout the booklet on how to play and you’ll only need to run through a couple of examples before you’ll grasp the basic of how to play. You’ll need to learn how to keep an eye on the cards other players are looking for and plan accordingly, something which will come with time. The only thing you’ll really need reminded on is making sure you’re adding extra cards to the columns that have the red oval marker on the wall paper, as that was something I forgotten so many times when I played the game.
Even when you play with a full compliment of players, once everyone gets a hang of what they are doing, then this game will easily land and leave the table within 45 minutes, if not much shorter. While you are playing a reasonable number of rounds, play happens simultaneously, so there’s next to no down time and you’re possibly feel that you have less time than you need rather than more. This is a game that you’ll play before the main event, or several times over a lazy sunday if the TV is boring and you don’t want something too heavy.
There’s more here than That Old Wallpaper would have you believe. On the face of it, it seems like a simple tableau building affair, where you’ll often try to do the best with what you select according to the wallpaper columns available. However, on multiple plays, you realise that the main thrust of the game is in the blind bidding, trying to remember what other players might have fielded in previous turns and hedging your bets on where your card might end up at. It is possibly going to be several games before you even start to notice the cards the other players are vying for and more games when you decide it’s actually not too bad to lose columns to gain a hazy memory card allowing you to mitigate and complete the incomplete patterns you’re left with at the end of the game. Sometimes, with so much noise in front of you it might feel a little bit overwhelming when you are planning your next move and it’s not uncommon in the first couple of games to forget you need to collect pairs of large and small patterns in order to score. These are all things that will come with time and multiple plays.
My only gripe, and one that is becoming more common over time, is the claim that this game is two player when it clearly has been designed for 3 to 5. The two player variant is functional, but misses out the fun of the blind bidding process at the beginning of the game. That Old Wallpaper plays very well at the three player count and above and to be honest, i would think twice if it is only going to be you and a friend. Nostalgia at smaller player numbers just isn’t what you remember it being. Otherwise, you’re going to have some tableau based fun and nothing rose tinted about it.
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. Our Six Degrees of Expectation have been written to make it easier for you to find out what is important to you as a player. Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played.