Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns review of Wooly Whammoth by Smirk & Dagger Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Wooly Whammoth by Smirk & Dagger Games
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Title: Wooly Whammoth
Designed by: Nicholas Cravotta, Rebecca Bleau
Publisher: Smirk & Dagger Games
Year Published: 2019
MSRP: $40
2-4p | 20-30 min | 8+

If you were a member of a prehistoric tribe, you'd need to eat.  And what better to eat than big, yummy, mammoths?  They're big though, so hunting them is difficult... Unless you can drive them off a cliff and let gravity do the work for you!  The problem is, mammoths are often unpredictable and dangerous.  Sometimes they'll charge, sometimes they'll even take you off the cliff with them!

In Wooly Whammoth all players are controlling their own tribe, trying to drive a mammoth off a cliff in order to feed their tribe.  Simultaneously, everyone will play a card that says what will happen that round, either movement cards or charge cards.  The catch is that everyone's cards are combined to decide what happens!  So if too many people play movement cards you may end up running off the cliff with the mammoth!  Or if someone plays a Charge card you may end up getting trampled!  Whoever manages to collect enough food at the end of the game, without losing their entire tribe, is the winner!

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Excellent components!  The artwork is fun and whimsical, the double layered, sliding tracks for each player are nice and thick, and all the tokens and cards are top notch quality.
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • This needs to be played with the right group of people.  If everyone plays conservatively it'll be a boring game, but when people take chances it can cause some crazy fun.
  • Light, quick play and a whimsical theme make for a good filler.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Gameplay is very light and casual.  It feels like a mismatch with the $40 price tag.
  • If you don't play with people that like a little chaos the game will be pretty boring.  In my first game I played with a group that was very calculating (they mostly play euro strategy games).  Because of this everyone calculated what the best moves would be and everyone ended up in pretty much the same place for much of the game.  You really need either a completely random element, or someone who loves instigating chaos to make the game exciting.
  • This is a game that really focuses on take-that mechanics.  There is bluffing and a bit of deduction, but it all revolves around trying to get your opponents to either fall off the cliff or get trampled.  If you aren't into a game built around this goal, as most of my game group isn't, then this game isn't for you.
Final Thoughts:
This is a game that I thought would be more fun than it was.  Part of that is because it's not the right game for my gaming group though.  Wooly Whammoth is really all about trying to see if you can get your opponents to destroy themselves.  A lot of Smirk & Dagger games have strong take-that elements to them and Wooly Whammoth is no exception.

There are some interesting bluffing opportunities and mechanic interactions in the game though.  You do have to think about, and then second guess, what you think your opponents are going to play in order to keep yourself both on the cliff and avoid being trampled.  Each tribe has a unique ability that can help them in the game, and there are some cards that let you do things other than move that add some interesting options.  However, after all was said and done, I didn't feel like much really happened in the game.  There were no overly exciting moments, no sense of danger or thrill of the hunt.  I'd love to see more "last minute" save types of occasions in the game to bring forward the sense of hunting a dangerous prey.  I think part of the issue is that cards are resolved sequentially rather than simultaneously.  So you are able to move and drive a mammoth off the cliff before a Charge card takes effect.  If you've already driven your mammoth off the cliff it can't charge.  Because of this, we felt that the Charge cards were less effective than we'd have liked.  They were potentially mean, but in actuality, didn't seem mean enough.  Simultaneously charging and moving would probably result in more casualties in the game, so tribes may have to be bigger, but I think it would also add more excitement.

Wooly Whammoth reminded me a lot of Get Bit, but much less elegant.  The experience in Get Bit is very similar - players are trying to avoid getting eaten by a shark by playing numerical cards that determine their sequence in line, but it's also simpler.  I think Get Bit works much better for the experience the games are trying to instill, plus Get Bit is a fraction of the cost.

Anyway, I gave Wooly Whammoth a Thorn rating because it really wasn't right for my group, and I think it fell short of the experience it tried to present.  If you like simple bluffing and take-that games you may get more mileage from the game.  Thematically it's wonderful and would make a great family game, but mechanically I felt it left a bit to be desired.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Thorn!  I can't quite recommend this game,
although you may enjoy it if you like games
like this.  I feel this game has some flaws and
there are areas that it could improve in the
experience it provides.


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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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