End Results can be wonderful in the board game space. When that last tile or card is placed and you’re able to sit back in your chair away from the table, and stare in wonder at the unique creation in front of you. In the case of Megacity Oceania it was a full three dimensional structure that graced the table that you could almost imagine living in. With the likes of Akropolis and Kingdomino, your tiles form a unique habitat unlikely to ever be repeated. Often board games become a thing of beauty that tell their own tale. In the case of Wayfarers of the Southern Tigris, you’re charting the history of exploration starting in 9th century Bagdad and spreading your caravan as far you have resources. At the end of the game, your unique tableau will tell the tale of your efforts, of your journey and there’s something rather special about that.
Wayfarers of the Southern Tigris is a worker placement and tableau builder with aspects of an engine builder in tow. This means that you will be placing meeples or dice in order to collect resources on that particular chosen space. You’ll also be purchasing cards to add to your own player area that increase the effects of your dice and help you to score victory points at the end of the game. In the centre of the board you’ll be moving from space to space, gaining resources and the ever so valuable green meeples that act as universal workers that can be placed anywhere on the board where spaces allow.
It is easier to look on this in a number of parts as opposed to the whole as Wayfarers requires the learning of some key concepts before you can truly tackle the gameplay. Firstly, you have two types of workers. Meeples that will change ownership over the course of the game and your own set of dice that you’ll be using on your own personal tableau in order to activate effects on your ever expanding player board. Unlike Viticulture or WaterDeep where your meeples are returned every round, meeples are played onto the cards that sit around the main board and only come into your possession when you claim the card the meeple is sitting on.
When you claim a card you add it to your own tableau joining to your smaller player board on the appropriate side. You’ll be wanting to do this as it starts to build an engine for you to increase the number of resources you’ll have at your disposal as the round progress. You’ll be using dice to act as your workers when you place them on the cards and different numbers will mean different resources based on how you have upgraded your caravan. You might decide to journal instead which means moving your player piece along the centre board collecting additional resources or even the coveted green meeples. Or pay influence into a guild which can be then utilised down the line. Buy an inspiration card that will hopefully bring in victory points providing you fulfil the conditions at the end of the game. Upgrade your caravan to make your dice more resourceful.
Once you’ve done all that? Well, take a load off and have a rest and maybe claim some of the rest rewards from villager cards you’ve bought. Surprisingly, there’s no real rounds here, with everyone deciding independently when they stop and rest or if they continue to play one more action.
Once a single player has made their way to one of the furthest right spots on the main board, then the various victory points are added up and the winner is the person with the most points. In this case, and especially in this case, the end destination isn’t the winning point. It is the journey to that point that is the entertaining part.
After looking at the other compass point games in the Garphill Games Catalogue, Wayfarers seems to be travelling towards the more gentle side of the scale. We’re looking at a palette here that consists of yellows, blues and greens, with gentleness and subtlety. This is a game that oozes a calmness across the board, with the guilds appearing to slight touch of presence. I personally feel the character cards look a little out of place. I know that they are trying to tie themselves back into the art style we are familiar with in respect to the other games in the series, but I’m not convinced they don’t detract from the elegance of what is on offer. Iconography is clear and crisp and easy to understand. You always feel that you’ve got access to all the information that your need immediately without having to consult the rulebook again. Even if you do, they’ve done us a solid by having the ever so lovely reference sheet on the back of the book.
The main things is that this game looks wonderful and enchanting on the table after a few rounds. At the end game point where everyone has their own tableau created its going to draw some interested parties at the local game club. It doesn’t as much as shout, but whisper gently to come over and take a look. Due to the modular basis of the cards, then no two games are going to end up looking the same though make sure you have enough space at larger player counts as this will devour the free wood as the game progresses.
Wayfarers is like driving a car in terms of learning. The rulebook does a good job with both the explanations and examples of how to play, but I feel it does itself a disservice by not having the main three actions sooner in the rulebook. You get through thirteen pages of set up and explanations and cards and you’ve still no idea what you do on a turn. Then when you do, you realise, oh? I’m only doing one of three things? Then all of a sudden it seems less intimidating, and straightforward. You’ve all these little mechanics that you’re trying to remember and make sure you are doing and only because unlike most games you’re choice here is pretty open. Then part way during the game, you’ll see it all click into places and you’re changing gears, flicking indicators and automatically checking your mirrors and moving across lanes without a second thought. Wayfarers is nothing like learning to drive a car.
It’s probably closer to learning to drive a camel. Get yourself a good stick and grab some fur and watch for the bumps and you’ll do just fine. Wayfarers is probably just like learning a board game in all honestly. Yeah. You didn’t really need to pay attention to this last bit. Easiest thing to do is to set it up and dive in, because the beginning game is pretty much going to be the same across the table and things only diversify after a few rounds. It’s worth watching a playthrough to see how simple this game can be once you know what you are doing.
Give yourself a good hour and a half to two hours to play through. The lack of down time really helps this game to feel swift and always moving forward and there’s no huge pause as everyone rests all at once. Or you could take your time and enjoy the scenery and let it take up an entire evening.
As someone who hasn’t touched a Garphill Games product before, I went into this without much (if any) expectations of the quality and enjoyment of one of their games. Worker placement can be a very tricky genre to get right, as it can end up either as a race for that one good spot, or at it’s worst, three or four people all playing a solo game on the same huge board. Wayfarers looks daunting and complicated, and with the number of icons on the player boards alone, you’d easily be forgiven if you set this up a couple of times before putting it away for another less complicated day. There is a lot going on here but it’s actually not too far away from the like of Viticulture, where your main worker placement also involves a secondary player board dealing with your own little production line. I’m reminded of Stonemaier’s gem because aesthetically Wayfarers becomes prettier as the game goes on. The additional vista cards and night sky really add a thing of beauty to your table as you play, though as I mentioned above make sure you play on the big table as it can take up a bit of room. Tableau creation works very well together with the dice worker placement and mixed with the Caravan mechanic, you never feel like you have no options when it comes to playing. While there seems to be a huge number of options in a turn, I applaud the restrictions placed on the player by only allowing them one specific action. It means that down time for most of the game is never going to run into long slogs as players decide their third and final action. It will take some time to get used to all of the things you can do and I found that some of the time I was playing catch up when it came to journaling, as I was always trying to build my ongoing expanding tableau.
There’s a wonderful confidence with Wayfarers as I feel if it was in the hands of another designer, either the guilds or number of types of cards would have been stripped away in order to make this game more ‘elegant’. This is quite clearly a design team who have found their stride, know what kind of game they would like you to play and have no embarrassment in showing you their entire private gaming journal.
I’m going to have to check out their other games now, aren’t I? FFS…
Remember to journal and also remember to upgrade the caravan as soon as you can. Cards are quite easy to come by but there nothing worse than having a nice spread and not being able to place the dice because you’re lacking a camel.
Game Design – Shem Phillips & SJ MacDonald
Illustration – Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Graphic Design – Shem Phillips
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.