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Wakanda Forever Review


Quick Look: Wakanda Forever

Designer: Nick Metzler
Artist: Geizi Guevara, McCown Design Agency, Shaun Singer
Publisher: Spin Master Ltd.
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 3-5
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 30-60 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

From the publisher: When will you take the throne?

A slew of villains threaten Wakanda! As the five tribes of Wakanda, battle together to keep the country safe. Leading the fight is the King of Wakanda and ultimate warrior, the Black Panther, who alone earns more points than the other four tribes — but you want the throne for yourself, so time your moves carefully, challenge for the throne when the moment is right, and take the mantle of Black Panther! Win the game with the most points and cement your legacy as the Black Panther.

In Wakanda Forever, each tribe has a bonus power to begin the game, and additional powers are earned by whoever holds the Black Panther title when a villain is defeated. Choose to use your valuable Vibranium to upgrade your tech with the chance to score more points, or save it to enter a one-on-one ceremonial battle for the throne.

***

TL:DR – Your enjoyment of Wakanda Forever will most likely depend on which side of the theme vs. mechanism fence you reside.

Thematically, I really liked it. Though similar in look, the game is not simply reenacting the Marvel film. The different Wakandan tribes are represented, and each can (and probably will) assume the title of Black Panther throughout the game. The inclusion of villains outside of the film was unexpected and a nice touch.

Mechanically, the game doesn’t offer much more than roll dice, assign dice, repeat. It quickly becomes apparent that there is a great advantage in being the Black Panther, so there is little reason to not challenge for the title of Black Panther every turn. With little strategic decision in the gameplay, players are ultimately at the mercy of the dice in terms of success and game length.

For players already in the hobby, this may feel more like a filler that goes on a bit too long. Players that aren’t drawn to the theme may want to look at other dice roller games for more strategic depth.

While the lack of strategic elements makes some of the game play seem monotonous, I think that the theme when combined with the simple gameplay could potentially benefit the hobby. As the Black Panther film ushered in new fans to Marvel and the comic book film genre, the game could have a similar effect for boardgames. Fans of Marvel and the Black Panther will be drawn to this game by the theme, and the ease of learning and simple game play may keep them in the hobby.

In the end, I think it comes down to whether the theme is enough for you to enjoy it regardless of the game play and only you will know the answer to that.
 
The familiar thematic elements from the film may make Wakanda Forever a gateway game for someone that liked the film.
Review:

Setup:
To start the game, players select one of the five Wakandan tribes and take the corresponding tribe card and privacy screen, a voting cup and disc, and two vibranium stones.

The first player, as determined by the rolling the vibranium dice, takes the Black Panther figure and the red Dora Milaje die. The Dora Milaje (an elite group of female warriors loyal to the Black Panther) aid the player with the title of Black Panther in battle against attacking villains.

The remaining vibranium is placed along the "Great Mound." The villain cards are shuffled and the top card is placed on the Great Mound and the villain health counter is placed on the corresponding number on the health track on the Great Mound. Two additional villains are revealed and lined along side the Great Mound as a preview of what villains are coming next.

The Great Mound doubles as storage for the game components.
Game Play:
Players must reach a certain number of points (based on player count and whether it is a short or normal game) and hold the title of Black Panther to win the game. The main way players gain points is by damaging attacking villains.

A round consists of the following:

Villain attacks: A villain is placed on the Great Mound, and their health marked on the tracker. The tribe color featured on the villain card represents the tribe that is directly being attacked. If a player's tribe is under attack, they will only roll one vibranium die during the mining phase rather than two. If a villain is not defeated during the round, they remain on the mound.

The villains grant special abilities to the player that was the Black Panther when the villain was defeated. 
Mine for Vibranium: All players, sans the Black Panther, will roll the vibranium dice and collect the amount shown on the dice from the Great Mound. If a player's tribe is under attack, they will only roll one vibranium die.

Vibranium dice.
Power-Up Tech: Players select a number of their collected vibranium stones put them under their voting cup. Spending vibranium will give the player additional tech dice to use during the defending phase. Spending one vibranium will give the player one tech die, two gives two tech dice, four will grant three tech dice, and six will give the player four tech dice. Spent vibranium is returned to the Great Mound.

Defend Wakanda: Starting with the Black Panther, players will reveal the number of vibranium under their cups and take the appropriate number of tech dice along with the purple battle die (players will always roll at least one die). The Black Panther will also roll the Dora Milaje die. For every hit rolled, the player will receive one point. If a player rolls vibranium, they receive an equal number of vibranium from the Great Mound. If a player rolls a blank, nothing happens.

Killmonger is attacking the mining tribe and his hit points are 23.
Players can also receive bonus points or additional vibranium during the defend phase by lowering the villain's health to certain levels. If the villain is not defeated, play continues to the left with each player revealing vibranium and rolling the appropriate number of dice.

Villain Defeated: When the villain is defeated, the villain and its special ability are granted to the Black Panther. If a player did not get to use their vibranium during that phase, the vibranium is returned to the player for future use.

Challenge or Remain Loyal: After a villain is defeated, the non-Black Panther players vote to either challenge for the title of Black Panther, or remain loyal by using their voting discs and cups. If they remain loyal to the current Black Panther, they receive one point.

Players vote to remain loyal to the Black Panther or battle for the title.
If a player challenges the Black Panther they move onto the ceremonial 1v1 battle (note: only one player can challenge per round. If multiple players attempt to challenge, the player that moves on to the ceremonial 1v1 battle is determined by a dice roll). The Black Panther and challenger place a number of vibranium under their cups and simultaneously reveal. Players take the number of tech dice at the same ratio as outlined in the power-up section and roll looking for hits only (no vibranium is mined during the challenge phase). The Black Panther cannot use the Dora Milaje die during the challenge.

Whichever player rolls the most hits is the winner. They shout "WAKANDA FOREVER!" and steal a point from the loser. The other players echo the "Wakanda Forever!" in response to the new king and play continues back at phase one. Once a player reaches a specified number of points and holds the title of Black Panther at which time they again shout "WAKANDA FOREVER!" and the game immediately ends. 

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme is Black Panther through and through. If you liked the movie and/or comic and/or Marvel, I think you'll be happy. While the box art seems to be pulled from the film, the game does deviate away from the movie and brings in additional villains.

The primary mechanisms are dice rolling and variable player powers.

Though the box art is reminiscent of the film, Wakanda Forever's villains are drawn from more than just the MCU.
Artwork and Components:
The game consists of one Black Panther figure, five tribe shields, five tribe mats, five voting cups, 20 villain cards, two vibranium dice, 60 vibranium stones, a battle die, four tech upgrade dice, a Dora Milaje die, 70 Wakanda point tokens, five voting discs, a villain token, and a villain health tracker. 

All of the components seemed to be good quality and I do not have concern about their longevity.

As for the artwork, I liked the representation of the villains, and the Black Panther totem is a nice addition to the game. 

The Great Mound serves many functions - storage, villain tracker, vibranium mine, and tribe holder.
The Good:
Theme – If you like the source material (comics and/or movie) then you’ll like the elements integrated into the game play. The five tribes are represented with unique abilities specific to the tribe. Players mine for vibranium and use it to upgrade their tech for battle. Each tribe can challenge the Black Panther or remain loyal.

And while many of these thematic elements can be found in the Black Panther film, Wakanda Forever isn’t a simple retelling of the film. Yes, the Dora Milaje are loyal to the Black Panther and Killmonger is one of the villains, but there are several  powers players can obtain to help in their fights and their are other villains looking to take over Wakanda and exploit its vibranium for their own nefarious use.

Dora Milaje die gives the Black Panther potential for additional hits against the villain.
The theme, specifically the inclusion of characters outside of the movie, was the highlight of the game for me.

The theme may serve another important role as there may be some that aren't drawn to board games, but may give this one a shot based on the Black Panther theme. The theme with the easy mechanisms and game play may make this a gateway game for some.

Simple setup – It took between 5 and 10 minutes to set-up, teach, and start the game for each different group I played with. The gameplay is simple, but the player aides on the backside of the privacy screen keep play moving quickly after the initial rules run through. The mound is also helpful in keeping all of the components within reach of the players and aids in storage.

Short game mode – Since the game play can vary based on the dice rolls, I did appreciate that the game included normal and short modes--especially since the short mode didn’t take anything away from the normal mode. It’s simply decreases the number of points necessary to trigger the end of the game. 

The Meh:
Mine, Fight, Repeat – There isn’t a lot of strategic depth to this game and very few impactful decisions for players to make. Ultimately, players are mining for vibranium, assigning vibranium to fight the villain, then taking on the Black Panther.

And it never really deviates from this roll-assign-fight-challenge format. I know that there are other dice rollers that follow a similar format, but it has been my experience that they add something to decrease the luck factor; whether it be permanently gaining additional dice, swapping dice with variable strength, etc., they do something that allows the player to feel like they have some control over the luck. The variable powers players can gain from the defeated villains add a little variety to the monotony (e.g. re-rolling bad dice), but ultimately the format stays the same throughout the entirety of the game.

Choose wisely – There are asymmetrical powers with the various tribes, and some seem better than others. With one group we had to start randomly assigning the tribes because everybody wanted the same one.

Player screens have player aids and allow the player to keep their points and vibranium secret. Some tribe powers seem better than others.
A filler that isn’t – The simple rules and gameplay coupled with the lack of strategic depth give this game the feel of a filler. And nothing against fillers, I love them.

But while this game feels like a filler, the game length tends to go longer than a typical filler game. In fact, I never played a game of Wakanda Forever that didn’t last over 45 minutes--including the quick mode.

So much of the game is dictated by dice roll that if you and other players are rolling bad, the game can stretch much longer than you feel it should. I think that this is the biggest downfall for the game. If it consistently lasted around 30 minutes rather than closer to an hour each play, this review would read completely different. It just doesn't seem to deliver enough to justify the play time. 

Final Thoughts:
Part of me wants to praise Wakanda Forever for its potential as a gateway game, and then seemingly in the same breath pan it for its simplistic and repetitive nature. In fairness, it probably lands somewhere between the two. It’s not great--it lacks a sense of depth and strategy--but it’s not bad either. The components, theme, villains, etc. all work well within the constraints of the gameplay.

I think that the opinion of this game hangs in each individual players’ theme-vs-mechanisms balance and their interest is going to be decided based on whether the player is a fan of the IP.

If you are not interested in the thematic elements, I personally don’t think that the gameplay is strong enough to stand on its own. It would work fine as a filler, but it often feels that it lasts too long to fit into that category. The playtime would work for a deeper game, but it often feels that you are simply going through the motions without making any meaningful decisions. It doesn’t fit neatly into either group and may leave players looking for one or the other a little disappointed.

However, if you like Black Panther and/or the Marvel IP, you’re probably going to be more willing to overlook the gameplay in order to immerse yourself in the Wakandan universe. If this is you (or you know someone that isn’t in the hobby but might be if they were introduced to a Marvel/Black Panther themed game), go for it. Considering theme alone, it delivers everything that I wanted and then some.

Players Who Like: Thanos Rising and other Marvel-themed games.



Check out Wakanda Forever on:

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Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
Wakanda Forever Review Wakanda Forever Review Reviewed by Nick Shipley on December 09, 2019 Rating: 5

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