The bears are on the loose! Sounds trite, but describes the topic of this board game aptly. Wangdo is a family game that originally comes from Asia and is published there by Mandoo Games, a board game publisher based in South Korea. Wangdo already attracted our attention at the board game trade fair SPIEL'18 in Essen with its appealing presentation. Just under a year later, the small North German publisher Spielefaible published a German version of the board game designed by the trio of authors Frank Crittin, Grégoire Largey and Sébastien Pauchon.


Wangdo is a family game for 2 to 4 players, ages eight and up, and is set at a time when humans have not yet inhabited the world. During a game, the players take on the role of a bear prince of their clan and try to compete against their fellow players to become the next ruling bear king.

To do this, the four existing bear clans send their princes to travel across the country. During their journey, the princes erect holy bear statues and in return acquire the knowledge of religion, education, military and trade that they need to become the next heir to the throne. A game lasts around half an hour, and less if you know the game.

Wangdo - Which bear clan will heir to the throne?

The colorfully designed field of Wangdo shows 40 villages connected by paths, on which knowledge tokens are placed face down at the beginning of the game. In addition, four blind-drawn bear statues will be distributed to four of the villages. In addition, the four temples of the bear clans are presented to the player on the playing field, into which the first bear statues of the respective clan are now moving. The game bag is also nicely designed, from which the players are eyed by a printed bear, in which the other statues are mixed up so that they can be drawn blindly by the players again and again during the game.

Wangdo doesn't need a lot of material, but isn't stingy with pretty plastic bears. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Wangdo doesn't need a lot of game material, but even in the German version, he's not stingy with pretty plastic bears. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

In addition, each player receives one of four different player boards, which must be turned to the side corresponding to the number of players. The player boards show the bear prince in full view and the required knowledge fields and corresponding reward fields. Finally, the seal cards are prepared for the batch. These serve as rewards and give skills that can be of great use to players during their journey through Northeast Asia.

In Wangdo, the players embark on a race for knowledge tokens, because only the bear prince with the most knowledge will be the next king. To do this, the players have to decide during each turn whether they want to draw new bear statues or buy a knowledge token. Bears can either be pulled out of the bag blindly or with the deduction of a bear from the temple. In order to acquire knowledge tokens, players must erect bear statues. This is only possible in villages which already border a statue.

Attention: The colored panda bears are placed according to strict rules. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Attention: The colored panda bears are placed according to strict rules. Only playing cards allow exceptions. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

But be careful, no bears of the same color may be erected in the vicinity, and attention must be paid to all paths that border the desired village. After the bear statue has been erected, the offering follows. This depends on the bear statues that are on the pathways adjacent villages and must be sacrificed from your own supply.

Whenever a temple complex is filled, this happens whenever all possible places are occupied by bears, a ritual takes place. All bears of the corresponding color are placed in the bag and the player whose turn it is may choose any statue from the other temples and place it in his supply. This can be used immediately.

Is the central point of contact for the bear replenishment: the sack. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Is the central point of contact for the bear replenishment: the sack. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Rewards are recorded on the player boards. These are seal cards that give players additional skills that can help them on their way to the throne. Every time a player has placed two seal cards of the same type on his tableau, he receives one of the seal cards.

When a player has acquired all knowledge tokens, the last round begins. If only one player has received all knowledge tokens after this round, he is the next king and thus the winner of the game. If more than one player has achieved this goal, the number of seal cards collected decides on victory. The point system is simple, but corresponds to the basic concept of Wangdo, which scores in almost every area with low entry barriers. 

Straightforward board game with great material

All of Wangdo's material has been designed to be valuable and artistically appealing. An illustration of a bear motif was printed on the inside of the box, and the inlay was also punched out - it looks like a small work of art and is particularly popular with players who value such details. The highlight is unmistakably the 84 bear statues, which are not only designed in detail, but are also robust. The illustrations on the game board, the player boards as well as the cards and tokens are successful and reflect the theme. 

We are the gummy bears: The total of 84 bear statues are of high quality - and cuddly. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

We are the gummy bears: The total of 84 bear statues are of high quality - and cuddly. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Wangdo is a real family game with easily explainable and easy to understand rules, which invites you to play immediately without any major preparation. It is a collecting game with area influence influences, which offers space for strategic moves. By blindly drawing the bear supplies and picking up face-down seal cards, it is also dependent on luck. After all, the bears' exchange options reduce the happiness factor a little. Due to its relatively short playing time of 30 minutes, it is also easy to play for children and the elderly.

So is Wangdo the perfect board game? Not at all. The game idea works great, but Wangdo proves to be an extremely straightforward game. Large parts of the game ripple along. Players take turns following their invented strategies, especially at the beginning of the game they don't necessarily get in each other's way.

Some seal cards are extremely strong when played at the right moment. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Some seal cards are extremely strong when played at the right moment. Photo: Anne-Marie Christine Volkmann

Overall, there are few choices for players, tactically clever moves can be made, but mostly in the last third of the game. Then, however, the title really comes up trumps: blocking a path for your opponent so that he has to sacrifice one of his valuable moves is fun. An annoyance factor is definitely present with Wangdo. Especially because every single move towards the end of the game can decide whether to win or lose: If you don't use your bears well in the first half of the game, you run the risk of quickly losing your lead.

However, there are no complex strategies behind the collecting game. Wangdo is sober, quickly learned and quickly played, but visually a feast for the eyes. As a player, you can't get rid of the feeling that this board game no longer wants to be - maybe doesn't have to be any more - than what it presents: a colorful hunt for points that is wonderfully entertaining for a manageable playing time. That for it with every new game. 

More pictures from Wangdo

Infobox

Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 8 years
Playing time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Long-term motivation: medium

Publisher: Spielefaible (German version)
Author Frank Crittin, Grégoire Largey and Sébastien Pauchon
Graphics: Jakub Rebelka
Year of publication: 2019
Language: German
Cost: 38 Euro

Summary

In the game for two we already had an exciting game because the game offered us many opportunities to hinder the other player by observing his supplies and strategically placing the statues on his turn. With three or even four adult frequent players, it was a tricky affair to contest the path to the throne - lots of fun included. Despite that, it's a quick and easy game to learn and should be viewed for what it is: a fun family game.

During the moves you should not only keep an eye on the supply of the other players at Wangdo in order to develop strategies against the other bear clans, you should also carefully observe the playing field and your own supply. Because in the course of the game it becomes more and more difficult to erect bear statues in the villages, as no color can be used twice. If you pull out of the sack blindly, you reduce the chance of mooring; if you pull two instead of three bears out of the temple, you can moor cleverly, but you may not have enough bears to pay the offering. As a result, there are always moments of decision in the course of the game, but the effects are sometimes only noticeable laps later.

The seal cards should also only be used at the right moment, so they can give you advantages when you need them. This is especially the case when you run out of bears again. Then a seal card can quickly become a saving anchor towards the crown. However, one should not expect great tactical options from the use of the seal cards. Those magical moments in which the right cards are played at the right moment still exist - and that makes them feel extremely satisfying. 

Wangdo is a game for young and old, which impresses with its easy set of rules, the smooth gameplay and its beautiful design and appeals above all to family and casual gamers. But even experienced veterans on the board will see a game for in between in Wangdo that will make you enjoy playing.

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