Designer: Martin Wallace
Artist: Alyn Spiller, Yann Tisseron
Publisher: Osprey Games
Category: Fantasy, Fighting, Miniatures
Price: $54.99 Amazon
Wildlands is a miniatures combat board game based in a fantasy setting, featuring fantastic races and creatures battling against each other to collect gems and seize victory.
Wildlands is a design from Martin Wallace from Osprey Games. Wallace has also designed Brass, London, Via Nebula, Steam, and many other successful titles. Osprey Games is an imprint of book and wargaming publisher, Osprey Publishing. Osprey Games is known for titles like Escape from Colditz, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, The King is Dead, Lost Expedition, and many others.
Does anyone else get excited when they see Martin Wallace’s name on a board game? I mean, I’m used to something more akin to number and turn-crunching like Brass. Or plotting the slow and careful demise of Parisians in London (but, it’s in their best interest, I swear!).
In this case, Wallace takes us to a fantasy realm of combat, complete with a giant who smashes foes with a bookshelf and a trader who is half-boy, half-robot spider.
Wildlands puts players in one of two battle arenas and deals them a hand of ten cards with numbers corresponding to spaces all over the board. Players pick five spaces to secretly deploy their five miniatures and hand the other five cards to the next player clockwise. The new five cards you are given determine where your five crystals are located.
It’s now up to you to gauge the strengths of your team and secure your crystals… Or, pummel your opponent’s warriors into the dirt. Some teams are better at moving around the board quickly, while others are best off stepping up to their enemies and crushing them with heavy attack after heavy attack.
All actions in Wildlands are determined by which cards you play and how they match your miniatures and their matching card. It’s a little confusing to follow (and it gets worse when you consider the beautifully-sculpted miniatures aren’t in the same positions as their cardboard counterparts) but overall, players need to keep the right cards in hand, and play them smartly. Players need three matching miniature cards to take their crystals, but those cards are important to save for moments when your plastic buddy needs to make a quick getaway or has the chance to knock the snot out of a nearby weakened opponent.
Wildlands is sometimes a game of cat and mouse, and sometimes it’s a game of feeling bad about yourself because you were cornered by two of your most bloodthirsty best friends. If this happens, you end up drawing a bunch of cards you won’t have much use for, but no worries because most cards allow a free specified action to help balance this. Wildlands doesn’t usually put you in a situation where you limp along, but it can happen from time to time.
One of the joys of this game is learning each faction and how best to play them. It’s not always best to play Wildlands like a combat game because your miniatures might be fairly squishy and could melt with just a blow or two. Some factions like to drop powerful AOE attacks from range, or even deal damage from 3 spaces away. However, after one round of play, you’ll likely only know the location of three miniatures on the board—there’s a hefty element of surprise.
One player may have clustered his units around one location of the board and is in wait for your unsuspecting character to walk into them. He might even interrupt your turn to jump from the shadows and blast you down with a few heavy attacks. There is a heavy card counting element to Wildlands. If you are smart and play your cards right (pun intended), you’ll find yourself on the winning edge of the blade, ready to snipe down weak enemies and take them captive as victory points.
Learning the board does take a bit of time, and remembering to consider some spaces block line of sight is important. Once you flip the board over, you get to play with elevation, creating a brand new playground of devastation to plot and scheme upon.
Wildlands is a joy to play, and even though the strategy is hidden on your first play, you’ll know exactly what to do on your second. All the nasty traps you didn’t think of initially will become blatantly obvious as you learn the ins and outs of selecting where to spawn your miniatures.
This is a big recommendation from me.
I’d be remiss to not mention The Unquiet Dead, one expansion provided for Wildlands. This allows a new faction (with a sixth unit) for a sort of mitigation of miniature elimination.
The new faction rules allow for much faster and efficient movement and actions to be taken by your undead units, but they are a bit weaker in return. It doesn’t feel like a brand new sort of game, but it’s certainly interesting and a welcome addition to changing up and adding more variability.
Finally, if you simply use the encounter rules for this faction, it allows players to replace their knocked out miniature with an undead. Now those useless cards from your dead miniatures can be used to move this undead.
This means a lot of things, but namely: you can significantly weaken an opponent’s miniature without much risk. Though this undead warrior can’t do anything to gain points, it can be used to help out your weakened miniatures and to smack down your foes. This is certainly a good way to balance out feeling bad about yourself.
A review copy of Wildlands was generously provided by Osprey Games.
The Bottom Line
Wildlands is an incredible production and has lots of variability to keep things interesting. This continues the stunning catalog of Osprey Games releases.