Those darn Weavlings. They eat everything, so when Zadarra, a Fate Weaver who’s fed up feeding the little critters, puts them on a restricted eating plan, they break out and head into the Tender Wilds. Free feedings, woot! Problem is, the Tender Wilds is a pretty dangerous place, with lots of evil beasties eager to gobble up those Weavlings before you, a Trapper, can capture them and bring them safely home. Fortunately, you have two really important things: Your wits, and lots of traps. Is that enough? You’ll find out when you play Weavlings in the Wilds, a solo card game by Jonathan Flike and Atomic Automaton.
This fun and fast-playing card game is comprised of a 54-card deck that includes Event cards, Wilds Spirits, Traps, Beasties and, of course, Weavlings. There’s also a handy Player Aid and your own card, the Trapper. Here are a few of the cards up close:
The Vargler is one of the Beasties in the game, the “Weavling Aroma” is a trap (denoted by the chain icons), and there’s an Event card, “Blood Moon”. Events must be acted upon immediately upon revealing, so the Blood Moon will force me to look through the draw deck, discarding every card encountered until I find a Vargler, which replaces the Blood Moon Event. Why is that a big deal? Because each time you deplete the deck and have to shuffle discards to create a new draw deck, the game gets significantly more difficult.
But let’s go back to that Vargler because it has a lot of information. The left, yellow, number is its speed: When you are activating Beasties, higher numbers attack and eat first. The red circle with the claw marks with the four small numbers around it is the wound counter; injuries this Beastie can inflict on you if you don’t trap it and turn it into meat for the Weavlings. Each time you have to shuffle and create a new draw deck, you rotate the card clockwise, so when you are first wounded, it costs 1 injury. But then it’s 2, 3, and finally 4 wounds. If you get more than 10 wounds total, you’ve failed as a Trapper and lost the game.
The blue icon on the right and its associated small number is the “meat value”: Weavlings are loving the Wilds and won’t come to you without an enticement. That’s what the meat is and this Beastie is worth 2. Finally, the tiny chomper teeth on the edges show which directions the Beastie will evaluate when it decides to attack and gobble up a Weavling. This one is very dangerous because it can move in any of four different directions.
The other two cards in the game are Weavlings and Wilds Spirits. Wilds Spirits are always boons, with their benefit shown iconographically along the bottom. The one shown gives you two free actions, darn helpful. The Weavling has three key items of information shown on its card: How big a group it represents (lower left: This is a solo Weavling, denoted by the ‘1’), how much meat it will expect to be lured out of the Wilds (lower right, this only requires 1 meat) and, in the middle, its Happiness Wheel. Going clockwise, it shows that it’s happy in game phase one, but just as with the Beasties that attack you, each time you have shuffle that draw deck, you’ll rotate the Weavlings too, and a broken heart means they need +1 meat to be lured (or retained in your trap).
The basic idea is that you are going to be wandering around the Wilds trapping Beasties before they can attack the Weavlings. As you accumulate meat, you’ll then use that to lure the Weavlings into your trap. Once you get 10 points of Weavlings, you’ve won. Get ten or more points of injury, though, and you’ve lost. There’s no timer, but as you go through the deck and shuffle, every Beastie gets more dangerous and every Weavling gets a bit harder to lure and capture.
SETUP FOR WEAVLINGS IN THE WILD
Now that I’ve shown all the individual cards, let’s look at the tableau. The basic grid is 4 x 3, as shown:
Notice the Trapper card is at position 2,3 [orienting from the top left] and when I placed that, I had to discard the Wilds Spirit, which is now starting the discard deck adjacent to the draw deck, at the top. To the right is the Player Aid, very helpful to remind you of the basic order of play, which is Trapper, Lure Weavlings, Beasties Feed, Travel Phase. As the Trapper you can take up to three actions on each round: move, collect traps, or use traps. You can also collect Wilds Spirits orthogonal to you for free, no action required, and use them any time they are valid too. Lure Weavlings allows you to spend meat in your hand to capture Weavlings in the Wilds [the tableau] and move them into your holding area. Beasties Feed lets the little monsters jump around and eat Weavlings, always a sad moment in the game, and, finally, Travel Phase removes all the cards on the bottom row (except the Trapper who will stick around) then shift cards down and add a new row on the top from the draw deck.
I’ve got a beautiful setup here with the Wilds Spirits, but first I have to perform the Sunlight Event, which requires that I basically perform a Travel Phase move, removing all cards along the bottom row, shifting everything down, and adding another row of cards face down! then removing the Event card from the game entirely (called “banishing”). A drag, but fortunately it doesn’t adversely affect my Wilds Spirits collection, though it does take away all those lovely traps I was going to grab immediately below the Trapper.
Since each time a card is removed, everything above immediately slides down (and the top row then gets another face-down card to fill that hole), if I pick up the Wilds Spirits on my left and right, the one with the purple flame then slides down to also be adjacent, allowing me to pick it up too. All that and no action points spent! Now I can move (swap cards with an orthogonally adjacent card), pick up one or more traps (you can pick up as many as are in a straight line, which meant I would have been able to pick up two traps for a single action until that darn Sunlight event shifted the Wilds layout), or drop a trap.
A bit later on I have finally acquired a trap, a Clamp Trap, and am going to drop it on the Coraxakol to capture it:
Notice that this Coraxakol has diagonal chomper icons, meaning it would attack Weavlings diagonally (the earlier Beastie attacked orthogonal Weavlings), but more importantly, it has a 2 for meat value, meaning I can now trap two 1-point Weavlings or a 2-point Weavling with just this captured Beastie. That’s 1/5th of the way to a win!
You can combine meat values to capture bigger Weavling crowds too, as I show below:
In this instance, the Wilds Spirit is worth a single meat point, which can be added to the 2 points of the Beastie to allow me to capture a tiny web of weavlings worth a whopping 3 points. Adding to the 2 point Weavling I trapped earlier, I’m half-way to winning with 5 points.
LATER IN THE GAME
After a dozen or so rounds, I’ve had to shuffle my discards and create a new draw deck, so you can see below that the Beasties on the left have rotated, and the Weavlings in my captured area on the right have also rotated counter-clockwise:
The Beasties on the left are my wounds and they move there when an Event or the Travel Phase would otherwise have them vanish off the board (remember, at the end of each round you push all the cards down one row). In this first rotated position I have 5 wounds. If I get to 10, I’ve lost, and a close peek reveals that the next time I rotate those cards, it’s going to be 3 + 3 + 2, too darn close for comfort. Time to wrap this thing up!
The Weavlings on the top left are “lost”, they’ve fallen off the tableau without being eaten or trapped. They won’t return, so you can have a memorial service for them when you finish the game. Very sad.
The cards on the bottom are my hand, and a close peek reveals that I have 3 meat with the two captured Beasties, a Wilds Spirit that lets me collect an otherwise banished trap, and a Wilds Wreaker trap to drop when I’m ready!
Meanwhile, my Weavlings have rotated too. Let’s look at that so you can see something important:
They’re still fine, still in my trap, but see how the lower card has a broken heart icon that will move to the top on the next rotation? That means that I will then immediately have to feed it a meat to have it stay trapped. The subsequent rotation will require me to do that for both Weavlings to keep them, something you must anticipate if you’re running out of cards, lest your trapped Weavlings become escaped and lost Weavlings.
That Wilds Wrecker is a fantastic trap because it requires you to discard all cards in a row, capturing all Beasties in that row in the process. That’ll get that Vargler and the facedown card, which is forced to flip up:
The facedown card proves to also be a Beastie, giving me a total of 3 meat out of the transaction. Nice. As always, empty holes are filled by sliding down cards above them, then played face-down from the draw deck.
FINISHING UP THE GAME
I’m so close to being done at this point. I have 9 points of Weavlings. I only have 5 wounds. I’m running low on cards, but I only need one Weavling, even a one-pointer, to win:
Fortunately, I have three meat in my hand, so all I have to do is survive the phases until I get to the Lure Weavling step, at which point I handily lure a Weavling into my snare and win the game!
In fact, I ended up with 11 Weavling points, and only one required that extra meat to keep it in the trap due to its broken heart:
The timing was close because I was only 2-3 cards from exhausting the draw deck, which would have caused me to rotate the wounds to 9 points, alarming since the very next travel phase would have probably dropped another Beastie, the Coraxakol, which would have definitely pushed me over the 10 wounds. I like a tight ending on a game.
THOUGHTS ON WEAVLINGS IN THE WILDS
Once I figured out the game, I quite enjoyed playing Weavlings in the WIlds. It’s a smaller footprint on a table, easily portable with just a deck of cards, and includes two expansions, Zadarra’s Baubles and Brews and Star-Touched Predators. Lots of replayability. The weak point is the rules. I received a pre-production unit with rulebook v0.1, which was supplanted by a PDF sent by the developer. Which still didn’t really help me understand how the game worked. After many emails to the developer, who was very kind and patient, I think I’ve got it all right in this review, but the game might just need someone else who is an experienced rules author to tackle this one from scratch.
Your experience may be different, and once the Kickstarter game ships, there’ll be how-to-play videos and such from which you can learn, but for now, I would give this a strong recommendation with a warning about the challenge of fully understanding how everything interacts and works together.
Disclosure: Atomic Automaton sent me a free pre-production copy of the game in return for this candid review.