Weekly PnP: Wonder Tales

  • Designer: John Kean
  • Artist: Marty Cobb
  • Publisher: Button Shy Games
  • Where to Find It: PNPArcade

Luke: In my eyes, Button Shy has always best excelled at making 2-player games. The wallet format and card limitations certainly support smaller play groups, and while a lot of their games have solo modes, the 2-player-only games they make create some fascinating dynamics between players that make for experiences that are unrivaled.

Phil: Enter Wonder Tales, a concise card game in which players tell the stories of various fairy tale folk. Will the Frog Prince encounter the evil Witch that put a curse on him? Will Hansel and Gretel be reunited? And what sneaky mischief is the Stepmother up to? All these questions and more will be answered, with players scoring each round based on if they play their cards right or find themselves surrounded by mistakes.

Luke: On their turn, players will choose which of their cards in hand they’ll play to the board, a malleable shape that takes form as the round progresses. Each round presents a different shape for the combatants to explore, making certain card plays more or less difficult to orchestrate.

Phil: The key element of the game is that you can always see what cards are in your opponent’s hand and what card you’ll be receiving at the end of the turn. In other words, you are constantly jockeying for position, trying to set up your cards to score positively while avoiding cards your opponent may have in hand that will make you score negatively.

Luke: It can be hard to balance this, especially with imperfect information, but that’s what can lead to those laugh-out-loud moments as you stumble into a terrible position.

For example, I may have been building up a section of the board to connect all 3 of the Little Pigs, as one of them will earn me 5 points if all 3 are connected at the end of the game. So when I draw my card at the end of my turn and reveal that my opponent will get the Big Bad Wolf, a card that can earn me a ton of negative points, I can’t help but laugh at my misfortune.

Phil: But now you have a turn to try and protect yourself; how will you position cards around the board to make it so the Big Bad Wolf can’t reach those cards, or to make it more worth more negative points to your opponent than you? You’re always given enough time to make some decisions on how to wiggle your way out of a bad spot.

Luke: The most interesting aspect is how the board builds. Suddenly, you realize that the board is as wide as it can get, which wildly limits how many spaces are next to the Princess, and now you’re not earning nearly as many points as you would have if she was able to have more cards neighboring her.

Phil: It’s a neat system to see play out, and while you’re always looking for similar card combinations, what cards each player gets each game and when varies so wildly that there’s a lot to consider with each game.

Luke: It honestly reminds me of Wonderland by Renegade Games, a title that recently got its own free PnP file, another game in which players are playing cards into a grid to see who gets how many points each round. But where I think Wonder Tales does it better is that the information you have is more concrete and allows for cleverer plays.

Phil: Now, is Wonder Tales the best thing Button Shy has ever released? No, I certainly think there are stronger 2-player offerings in their library. Like I said, which card combinations are good remains consistent, and this can lead to the game feeling slightly stale, as matches can feel samey because of this. But I think this title has a lot more meat on its bones than it lets on at first, and is certainly worth people’s time.

Verdict: Wonder Tales provides a clever back-and-forth area control experience that feels more nuanced than it may let on at first. Players who appreciate the storybook art and informed choices the system provides will be charmed by this short story again and again.

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