In Wendake, 1 to 4 players will explore the daily lives of Native American tribes. Players will be managing the different aspects of life using the game’s unique action selection mechanic. Players will have to maintain a fine balance as only the lowest scoring tracks will score them victory points at the end of the game.
Players will take turns placing their action markers on their player boards to activate one one of their action tiles. Each of the 9 tiles has a unique action on the front and the same 10th action on the back. To oversimplify things, the tiles allow you to move around the board, collect resources, and buy technology tiles from the market. At the end of each round, the tiles will slide down the board; pushing the bottom row off. Players can now replace one of the existing tiles with one of the advanced tiles, shuffle them up, and place them back at the top of the board. For any tiles that were activated but not pushed off the board, these will be flipped over to reveal the action on the other side of the tile.
Each of your actions will contribute towards the progress of one of the four score tracks in the game: Military, Economic, Ritual, and Mask. The four tracks are grouped into pairs and only the lower track in each group will count towards your end of game score.
How It Plays
One of the main selling points of Wendake is its unique action selection mechanic. It was something I haven’t seen before in a board game and I thought it would require players to carefully select their actions. After a few playthroughs, I can say the shifting tiles did exactly that. Do I take an action now and get its benefit before I lose the chance? Or should I use the sacred fire so that I can use the action a second time next round? Or maybe taking it now will not allow me to take other crucial actions because they are in a different column. The only part I am uncertain about is the shuffling of the tiles when placing them on the top row. An alternative I prefer is to allow players to place them however they want. This does slow the game down but it does remove the random placement of tiles which I found a little annoying.
While I loved action selection mechanic, I can’t say the same about the rest of the game. The score tracks and the corresponding action feels slapped together and very disconnected. The first two tracks requires you to spread out your different units. To progress the military track, you will need to spread your warrior to different regions, while the economic track requires you to recall these warriors and replace them with hunters and women tokens to collect resources. Then there is the ritual track which requires having all your units sitting in your home territory. Why does advancing on one track impede your progress in another? And while you’re trying to figure out where to place your units, you realize you started the game with a card. Oh, that’s right. One of your actions allows you to draw cards. If you create a set, you advanced on the mask track.
Wendake also lacks any sense of progression. I think the game tried to do this with the advanced actions and technology tiles but it’s not the same. Your actions don’t exactly chain together for some amazing effect. There is no building up for that one big turn at the end of the game. From start to finish, you’re always trying to figure out which track you need to bump up in and take corresponding action. All of it feels rather simple which leaves me somewhat unsatisfied.
A game of Wendake tends to run from 20 to 30 minutes per player. It provides you with just the right amount of time to do what you need to do. And with a set number of actions per player, there is no way for the game to drag on. As for downtime, there is very little of it between turns. A quick look at the four tracks can usually let you know what you need to do. A more time consuming part part of the game would be at the end of each round when players are selecting their new action tile. Even so, players generally have an idea what kind of actions they need on their board so it limits their tile options.
Wendake doesn’t offer anything spectacular but I’m fairly happy with what’s in the box. The four different map boards provide a different map balanced for different number of players. As you will only use two of these boards, they double as the mask board. This was a nice little feature that saves a bit of space in the box. The double-layered player boards are also pretty nice. They have a nice little recessed area which allows players to slide around their action tiles with ease.
And no game these days is complete without wooden pieces. Wendake comes with a set of custom warrior tokens for each player and shaped resources that are easily recognizable. Everything looks nice and cute laid out on the table. One thing I noticed though was that they are extremely light. Nothing really wrong with this but it does feel a little off when you’re handling the pieces.
We’re always seeing new games being released with rehashed ideas. So when I saw Wendake on Kickstarter, I was immediately sold when I saw the action selection board. It definitely had some good ideas: the action selection was innovative and the grouped score tracks was interesting. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to it past these two things. Once the novelty of the action board has worn off, you’re left with an unfulfilling mix of things. I think its unfortunate because if the different actions were fleshed out a bit, it could have been a great game. But as it is now, I would not recommend Wendake.