As readers of this blog know, I'm a big fan of DIY RPGs, and I love to discover, play, and review those games that have that self-produced aesthetic. Today, I'm reviewing the first self-produced boardgame I've played, and it's becoming a favorite here at the house.
Wayward is a fantastic boardgame by Bruce Hirst of Hirst Arts, better known for fantasy architecture models and molds. Bruce not only designed the game, he also created it, produced it, manufactured it, and sells it directly from his website and at conventions. (Click here if you'd like to see Bruce's site where he discussed how he created Wayward!)
Before I blather on with my opinions, you'd probably like to see the game in action and hear about the gameplay. Well, Bruce has also thoughtfully produced a playthrough video of the game, so rather than having me summarize the game, I'll let him show you how the game works...
I stumbled across a discussion of Wayward on Facebook and, from the description, knew I had to get my hands on it. The initial description gave me a Dungeon! vibe, which is a good thing, as it's one of my favorite games. However, when the huge box arrived and I unpacked the contents, I saw that this game had much, much deeper gameplay.
Rather than just randomly move about the board, the game encourages you to explore and plan your actions. (After all, those 12 actions go fast on your turn!) According to the rulebook, the board is deliberately designed to be "busy" with a lot of objects and things to inspect. Some of those items can be retrieved from the room you're exploring...if you see them before moving on! Grabbing a weapon lets you try to push past the guards and monsters lurking in the shadows. You can access secret passageways to other parts of the complex if you've found a torch. Locked doors will swing open if you have the right lockpick in hand (There are three different ones!) Hourglasses give you more actions on your turn, and tarot cards allow you to reroll the dice. And as you explore, you have to keep an eye on the ever-dwindling endgame goal, as you'll never make it out in time if you're on the other side of the board!
Speaking of the board, look at the size of it! When you've explored every nook and cranny of the dungeon, flip it over and explore the city above ground.
One side features Darrowell Dungeon...
And the other side features Darrowell City!
With two huge areas, there's a lot of explore. And there are a TON of things you can do during the course of play in either area, as there are many unique rooms and zones to discover and explore. Each of these special rooms is marked with a brazier icon with a unique number. You then refer to the rulebook (or the hardy reference card) to determine the specific actions available to you in that area. Fighting a dragon, pickpocketing a guard, and outrunning a flaming gauntlet are just some of the challenges you'll face in the game's 25 special areas. (But I won't discuss them here, and I'll let you discover them for yourself.)
The quality of the game's various parts is very high quality and are built to last. The player inventory cards are laminated for durability, and the gameboard is made of a heavy vinyl. The player pawns, endgame marker, and "retrieval pillar" are nicely designed and cast. And you can spend a LOT of time just looking over the gameboard, as it's truly magnificent. Here are a few scenes (from the creator's website):
One thing that drives me nuts when learning a new game is trying to grok the rules, especially if you're trying to learn the game on your own without an experienced player there to help you out. To combat any rule confusion from new players, Bruce has thoughtfully uploaded videos on his website showing the various rules and gameplay that a player may encounter, walking you through the nuances of the game. So if a special room's conditions are confusing, watch the video for the corresponding room as the game's designer walks you through.
And if this isn't enough, you can download and read the rules now before you commit to a purchase. You can also download and print the game for free, so you can try it before you buy it!
This delightful fantasy adventure boardgame offers plenty of replay value and hours upon hours of dungeon-crawling adventure. And for only $35 plus shipping? It's a no-brainer. I'll be bringing my copy to North Texas RPG in a month. If you want to try it out, look for me there! Sniderman says, "Check it out."