Friday, December 1, 2017

Wildcraft Game Review - A So-So Cooperative Family Game For Learning Strategy

Our oldest, KJ, loves to study the medicinal uses of plants.  It's not my thing, but it is hers.  Maybe someday she will become some sort of pharmacologist spelunking the wilds of the Amazon to find rare and unique plants that could cure cancer.  Who knows!?

So, anyway, while reading posts on a homeschool forum, I saw a number of posts about a game wherein you collect plants to solve various maladies!  HOW DAMN COOL!!! I couldn't wait to order the game, it is called Wildcraft.  (Wildcrafting happens to be the name of foraging wild plants to help with various physical issues or for food).

As is our approach to all new games, each of us read the instructions on our own.  We got together to have a discussion of the rules and make any aggreements or clairifications before we start.  We found the rules to be VERY simple and we were able to get into game play very fast.  As a side note, I particularly enjoyed the family friendly tone and nature of the instructions, along with how the was created.... which was by a family!  It make it feel more genuine to us all, knowing that another family made the game and is seeing success selling it.
The layout of the game is simple, with near zero set up time.  All you have to do is create a pile of tokens, segment the cards, unfold the board, and viola, you're into game play mode.

The game is listed as a cooperative board game.  As a family that plays a lot of games, we love these kinds of games as the mission is all about all of us succeeding together.  It becomes a nice joint mission.

At a macro level, the goal of the game is to get up the mountain, collect some berries, and return to grandma before it's dark.  Alas, you do get some bumps and bruises (and other ailments) along the way that require your skill as a Wildcrafter to handle.  For a basic ailment, like being tired, you (or another member of the party) need to have collected a plant to resolve that issue. The plant is represented by a card, so either you have the card of the planted needed or you don't.  The pictures of the plants on the ailment cards are very helpful.

It doesn't take long, however, to realize that the game is tremendously chance driven.  There really isn't a whole lot of "strategy" thinking.  That is, choices really don't have a huge impact either way and smart choices actually have negligible impact in the game. The creators of the game made it clear in the instructions that really the rules are guidelines and that they expect people to morph and modify as they go.  We've begun experimenting with rule tweaking to help make the game involve more decision making versus blind luck.

As game playing adults, the game is neat the first go around, but after that it is kind of lame.  Our daughters, however, enjoy playing the game and pull it out on their own to play. (the pictures in this post were taken on a Sunday afternoon when they did just this).

As far as ages go, a 7 year old could do this.  I suspect that many boys would find the game too girly to keep their interest.

If you want to teach strategy, I would not recommend this game.  If you want to learn about the basic uses of some plants, then maybe (the biggest common online criticism of the game is that while the game tells you which plant(s) solve an ailment, it does not say what part of the plant to use nor how it should be prepared).  If you have some daughters that like plants and flowers and picking berries and the notion of hiking up a mountain to pick berries for Grandma, then this game is a winner!

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