Circle The Wagons
Designed by: Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka
Art by: Beth Sobel
Published by: Button Shy Games
A Preview by Eric Booth
Circle The Wagons is yet another game in the long line of what has become known as “Micro Games.” IE: “Love Letter” Or in other words games with a very minimalistic amount of components, are very portable, and usually play in around 15 to 30 minutes. So what sets “Circle The Wagons” apart from other micro games? Good question. And I have a good answer for you. “Circle The Wagons” feels and plays like a much bigger game. Yeah, yeah, we've all heard that before. Well I can tell you it's the truth with this game. There are many hard decisions that have to be made with a minimal amount of components, and only 2 players.
The game comes with only 18 cards, yes 18. But each of these cards have a wealth of information on them. They are all dual sided. One side will have 4 territories depicting one of 6 different territory types. Then each territory has a symbol on it depicting one of 6 different symbols used for end game scoring.
And this brings me to the other side of the cards. Each of the 18 cards has an end game scoring goal on it. During set up you will randomly choose 3 of these cards as goals to shoot for. So not only do you have these to work towards you also have the base scoring which is 1 point for each of your territory types containing the largest groups of each territory type.
Now how do you get these cards and what do you do with them once you have them? Well, at it's heart this is a tile laying game. You will be drafting these cards from a circle of cards that surround the 3 end game scoring cards. Players will take turns drafting these cards from the circle. If the active player decides to skip the next available card or cards, these skipped cards are given to the other player as “Free Cards” to put into their town square. I really like this mechanic as it gives you a meaningful decision on which card you want and what you want to leave for your opponent. And also what card is going to benefit you the most for end game scoring. Cards are placed in your town square as per most tile laying games IE: “Hanging Gardens.” You can place them orthogonal to your other cards already in your town square. You can place them on top of other cards but you are not allowed to place cards underneath cards or diagonally, corner to corner, to other cards that are already in your town square.
So that is a basic overview of how the game is played. Now how do I feel about the game. I'll tell ya partner. I've had a rip roaring good time playing “Circle The Wagons.” Oh, the first two games where a bit meh, but that was only because I misread a rule, several times in fact, that made the game very confusing. Once we got the misinterpreted rule correct we played several more games and it just started to shine. And it plays quick enough that we just jumped right into another game, then another. The more games we played the more I liked it. Each game felt different enough with all the options you have for end game scoring that it never felt repetitive at all. Oh there is the opportunity for “Hate Drafting” but that is very minimal as your opponent is trying to work toward whatever end game goal they've decided to shoot for. But yes it does happen and sometimes it is very necessary to keep that one card out of that dirty scoundrel's town square.
Final verdict? I give this two rootin' tootin', beer bottle shootin', hollerin' and a hootin', thumbs up. If you're looking for that quick game to fill in while waiting for the rest of the gaming group to show up, or just something to play while waiting for Cookie to finish cooking them beans, then this is the game for you.
Full disclosure. I was supplied a copy of this game for review at no cost to me. But I assure this had no bearing on my review. Trust me. If this game turned out to have been crap I would have let you know. Look for “Circle the Wagons” on Kickstarter start April 4th.