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Defenders of the Wild – Review by Brad

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Review: Defenders of the Wild


Designers: Henry Audubon, T.L. Simons

Artists: Meg Lemieur, T.L. Simons
Publisher: Outlandish Games
Year Published: 2024 (Currently on Kickstarter, link at the bottom of this review)

No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes.
 
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com  
Foreword:
I first connected with their team late in their journey, when their campaign was just about to go live. That doesn’t leave much room for small talk and sorting out details but it was all masterfully managed and a physical copy delivered to me in record time. I’ve had several messages back and forth and I’ve got to say that based on my interactions I expect a well-managed campaign and fulfillment from this project. Also, in contrast to the rush and pressure they were surely feeling, they were patient, kind, and responsive. It’s a small list when you think of people that are so cool and efficient under pressure and it’s the mark of those that are destined to succeed. As a fellow designer and publisher, I know I’d like those traits in my corner when it’s time to hit launch. I like giving credit where it’s due, but now that that’s been done, let’s check out the game!
From the Publisher:

Defenders of the Wild is a cooperative board game of animals against machines for 1-4 players. Assemble your crew of defenders from a wide range of animal characters to clear pollution, fight mechs, breach walls, build camps, and rewild factories across a modular map that changes with each game. Play as one of four unique animal factions: the Council with its fortitude and bread, the Order with its wisdom of the flame, the Sect with its ingenious inventions, and the Coven with its spells and subterfuge.

Review:


Initial Impression/Components:


With Defenders of the Wild, it’s a tale of love at first sight. The art, design, and components are world-class. Everything looks good and works good. I had a prototype which is likely not to be the end result but it was obviously a factory print and it all met or exceeded my expectations. However, I had serious draw backs with the rulebook. Don’t get me wrong, all the information was in there, and I played the game with no real snags, but it was painful to read and get through. I sent a message to them quickly after playing highlighting some of the issues and they did say that the final edition was not printed and they would take a serious look at it again before mass print. A full image of their components can be found on their Kickstarter page or in the rulebook which are both linked further down in this review.

 

Favorite:

I thought about this and I’m not sure which to pick so I’m saying two things.
First, I thought the animal factions were thoughtful and delivered a unique experience. I had expected them to have unique images and that was about it, but they do have abilities and strengths unique to themselves.

Second, the modular board set up and ability to use similar areas as corridors for defenders that preferred those areas was genius. It addressed an issue that would have otherwise ruined the game – a lack of movement control. You can’t rush around the map all the time anywhere, but sometimes, at key moments and with the right defender, you can really make some plays!

 

Least Favorite:
As a lover of difficult co-ops, I would have liked a little more challenge. Not too much as it was just about there for me, but I think maybe a slight house-rule tweak for me would be that Toxic spaces can still collect pollution. My reason for this is that it can force you to deal with an issue and make riskier plays you’d otherwise avoid or safely time. It also ups the risk of dying or having all toxic tiles out and therefore the chance of losing. I won my first game (3-player) without any player losing a defender, and with a little too much wiggle to spare. It was starting to accelerate and we may have lost in a turn or two otherwise, but I still feel it was slightly too easy for the regular -not beginner- mode.
Mechanics:
– Co-op / or Solo
– Action points
– Hand Management
– Multi-use Cards
– Modular board / Variable set-up
– Push your luck (partially by placing yourself in danger to risk unsafe actions)
– Variable player powers
– Events
 
Rules:
They have a link to their rulebook here. I believe they intend to keep the link and update it as it changes.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1V5XRvBngINYVoV3Z9nOuUOmdQ9PM_pCZ/view
Areas they did well:

-Allowing a machine action after each players turn

– Silent choosing of defenders but group strategizing once info is known
– Resetting of machines and changing direction
– Attacks of opportunity from enemies
– Multiple event-style cards per round
– Fast-Paced
– True Co-op
– Reasonably difficult
– Unique Faction feel and experience
– Artwork
– Modular Setup
– Controlling the flow of defenders/ choices a player has each round
– Pressure building and growth of machines
– Items and collection
– Quick and abundant action choices
– Allowing other cards in hand to be cashed for actions (if able)
 
Areas they could have improved:
 
– Rulebook, multiple points.
– A little bit harder to win
– More machine cards and outcomes (my prototype had 6)
– The regroup action was never used and felt weak. I can see how it could be of use, but a dire enough situation never justified the action
– Felt a little frustrating to take a heal action and have to roll damage after
– It may have been the luck of the shuffle or low amount of machine cards as mentioned previously, but it took a long time for the machines to enclose an area and really get the game going.
Interesting moment:
Each player’s defender (a card they choose every round to be more or less their active character) can have interesting instant or persistent abilities. We had a round in which one player’s defender gave each player a Bread item, which is an extra action. Another player had an ability to give all players the ability to go through and rocket through walls. Using these abilities, I was able to breach into a factory, defeat a mech, rocket a sniper in an adjacent space, rewild the factory, and pop a potion to heal up as it was very likely pollution would activate next and I’d take a damage being next to a toxic space. It was a tuck and roll, come out shooting moment that felt really great to pull off. I’d consider that to be one of the few key moments and combos that allowed us to get ahead of the spread of pollution and mechs and to ultimately end up winning that game.
Overall:
I really enjoyed the game and though I was afraid to judge a book by its cover, as they say, I did like it right off the bat and clung on till the end. In fact, it escalated and got faster and more exciting as the game progresses. Once you get the flow down, it’s a smooth-running fun machine. Yep, I said it. Machine. Going to have to dig in and rewild this title because it’s mechanics are sound. I do have to say once more that I found the rulebook to be quite flawed, but I brought it to the design team’s attention (with examples) and they assured me there was time to make edits. I have faith it will be sorted out before the final print. After my tests with the game, I wanted to look up and see what others were saying about it, I’ve seen references to root and spirit island, which are wonderful titles to be compared to. I’ve got friends to vouch, I also mentioned Spirit Island during my first game. It had a few very similar mechanics like the spread of pollution but it was done well. While writing this, they’ve reached $110,000 CAD (Kickstarter shows me my local currency) and I’d predict with about a week left that they will hit about 150-160 before they are through. Solid work and something they should be proud of.
Final Thoughts:
I’ve been waiting for something like this forever from a big release – fairness to backers and a return to what kickstarter was originally about. We’ve got some fantastic minds and talents on this project and they are providing it (and delivering it) at very reasonable prices. I’m absolutely giddy at the success of this project and it has rekindled my hopes of seeing more projects return to the original heart of crowdfunding – Offering reduced prices, fair shipping, and an honest-to-goodness effort at delivering the best final product that they can. I truly feel they’ve come together and put their best foot forward on Defenders of the Wild and I am not surprised in the least that it’s been embraced so strongly by the community. It’s never “just another game” to me, or to most. It’s the experience, the story, the people behind it, etc. Oh, and of course, the game! In all seriousness, check out the link(s) below and have a look at what they’ve created. If it’s for you, great, but if it isn’t then that’s alright too. Either way, I’m happy to have you along for the ride and as always: 
I’ll see you next time, back here at The Game Table,
Brad Hiscock, aka Zerility
Here’s a link to their Kickstarter page and website:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/outlandish/defenders-of-the-wild?ref=ck9d9u&gclid=CjwKCAjwvfmoBhAwEiwAG2tqzJ1A1ZJK1tv32q_kAgOaeSP1YtiRzcQoFGfK706m7MgYBiRd7HLnlBoC6BcQAvD_BwE

https://outlandishgames.com/

 
After reading Brad’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Defenders of the Wild will be live on KICKSTARTER For 1 more week until Fri, October 13 2023 4:00 PM PDT, and has surpassed its funding goal of $50,000. Check it out and back it HERE or below.

Find out more at BGG
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Check out Defenders of the Wild and Outlandish Games on:

         
 


Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”, is a construction project manager and electrician by trade who was the owner of a 6-time award winning electrical company. His passion for board games has led him from playing hundreds of original titles to creating a design and publishing company of his own, Convivial Games. As an up and coming collaborator on many projects, he is always eager to try new games and meet new people.

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All of Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”‘s reviews can be found HERE.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Jacob
    February 4, 2024 / 5:02 pm

    I’ve been trying to learn about this game for a while. Every time I get pulled in, I’ll watch the gameplay and feel like I’m watching a Pandemic runthrough. And I don’t enjoy Pandemic. Could you comment on the comparison between these two? Does it feel like Pandemic to you? Thank you very much!

    • lake
      Author
      February 5, 2024 / 1:56 pm

      They actually are similar in a few ways; unique player powers, a player vs enemy phase, a growth mechanic that more or less pushes the game to have a time based losing condition, both are coop, of a similar weight and length.
      They are also different in a lot of ways. Such as unique feeling factions, interesting movement, and action uses, focus more on decisive action than keeping a distance. It’s more about rewilding the map and rebuilding than just taking out a horde of enemies.

      I’ve played a fair bit of pandemic (multiple titles in that series) and I enjoy both games but I would say Defenders is more approachable.

      I’d need to know what you liked or didn’t like about pandemic and your favorite games to make a recommendation.

      Without that knowledge, I’d be more inclined to advise you to be cautious.

      Happy to talk more about this title if you’d like to email me directly: brad@convivialgames.com

      I did enjoy Defenders of the Wild, but I have a very big range of genres that I like. 😅

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