As you may have gathered, myself and Favouritefoe have become virtual gaming pals. I think this is the best thing to come out of us both writing for Zatu although feel free to tear out my heart and disagree, Favouritefoe (pretty sure after saying that she won’t mind!).
We started off our game dates with Favouritefoe and her husband, ShadowMeeple, kindly teaching us Metro X. They sent us the basic maps and rules and then they taught us and ran the game for us. In return MJ and I persuaded them to crack the shrink on their copy of Welcome To and explained how to play.
How did they do as total noobs? What did they think? What did we think after playing them over the course of a bunch of games? Read on to find out!
Publisher: Blue Cocker Games / Deep Water Games
Designer: Benoit Turpin
Artist: Anne Heidesieck
Player Count: 1 – unlimited players
Publisher Recommended Age: 10+
Heavyweight: Saggyhead aka “the Gaffer”
Light flyweight: Favouritefoe aka “the Labourer”
Saggyhead: Welcome to the wonderful world of Welcome To, Favouritefoe.
Everyone gets their own neighbourhood to fill in with house numbers, fences, parks and pools all in a bid to score the most points and be the best, I don’t actually know, neighbourhood designer perhaps?
The crunch in this game comes from how you fill in your streets and which of the other bonuses you leverage as you fill in house numbers. The race is also on to fulfill contracts first to secure sweet sweet maximum points. Trouble is, forcing the completion of a contract too early might mess you up for later in the game and limit your scoring options.
When considering your options (which are many!), you want to ensure that you are able to build enough parks on a given street to try and maximise point scores. You’ll want to build lots of estate agencies to increase the points you can get for each finished section of street (which you can only do if you have fenced off the correct sections to fulfill those contracts). You also want to have the most temp agencies to secure the biggest bonus, and you want to build lots of pools to ensure you get enough points there. I think you see the issue here; you need to do enough of everything, but you cannot do everything. And herein lies the fun!
For me, Welcome To is in my Top 3 games. I never say no to a game of Welcome To. I love this game. It makes me feel smart. I love that warm feeling of “oh clever girl” when you manage to snag a planning contract before your opponents and take those maximum points – sweet.
For me this is a 9.5/10 game. The only bugbear I have with it is that the box doesn’t fit my laminated sheets. Or the expansions. We have all the expansions (I think…) and these all switch up the gameplay quite significantly but not in a way that breaks the core mechanics of this darling flip and fill.
Welcome To is also pretty easy to run over Zoom especially with an overhead camera but simply holding up or calling out the three pairs of cards would also work. Incidentally, if you like playing games over video call, I would highly recommend investing in a visualiser camera – I found out about them as my teacher pals have been using them to do their lessons online, and wow they are a board game changer for playing over Zoom! What’s more, they give an excellent top down view in HD too.
Ding-ding-ding, enter the hard-hat wearing Apprentice into the ring.
Favouritefoe: Well, Saggy, old chum, old pal. You’ve seen my Round #1 Metro X suggestion and raised me a whopping Welcome To.
Flip and fillers and roll and writers are my cardboard craving. I want them. I love them. I need them. They are a fast hit of gaming glory or a drop-kick of dashing defeat, depending on your score. But, either way, they play quick, they re-set fast, and they challenge me to do better. Again. And again.
They are also probably one of the most versatile, flexible genres in our hobby. With minimal components and (for most) a multiplayer-solitaire vibe, these games can be played on your table, on your lap, up against a wall. Anywhere. Alone. With anybody. With everybody. They don’t mind. In fact, I get the feeling they quite like it 😉
But, with that burning passion to be punished by these little boxes until I can take no more, comes the risk that one of them will miss the mark. Meh over mind-blowing. And for an anxious gamer like me, that can mean a title has to call out like a cat caught between a puddle and a pug before I will let it throw shapes in my circle.
Having spied the shining cellphone wrapper around my copy of Welcome To, however, Saggyhead was having none of it. That seal was going to crack like a ceramic coconut and there was no room to maneuver.
Fast forward one solitary four player Zoom tutorial with the scholastic-fantastic Saggy, her partner MJ, and my very own Bearded Moon (aka Shadow Meeple), and it became official; Welcome To was what my collection had been searching for. Why? Looks? Brains? Brawn? The answer was simple. Welcome To is flipping addictive!
And not because I am mistress of it, you understand. No, I am addicted to this game because, just like that other absolute banging flip and fill, Cartographers, I am currently at its mercy. It flips, I jump. I want to be good at it. I need to be good at it! And, like other multiplayer-solitaire games, I cannot blame opponents for my woeful efforts (although I can audibly grump when they snag big bonuses before me); here, I am literally the architect of my own demise.
Even on the first play with Saggy and crew, I found the premise easy to understand. The crunch hit came quick and fast, however. And not from convoluted, bloated rules, but rather from the seductive dance between decision and doubt. With those three draw piles of numbers and corresponding actions comes one pivotal decision each turn. Which pair to choose?
But then, having made that decision (me:1 analysis paralysis: 0), the consequential choices rush over me. Do I take the action? Do I need the action? Will this stop me from achieving a building contract later in the game? Estate agency overpricing, temporary worker placement points, pools, parks, fences……the options make my skin prickle as I deliberate what to do. And that is before I have even considered the possibility of building extensions and roundabouts in exchange for negative points at game end. Like a sugar addict let loose inside Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory, my mind darts between all the available choices. I want them all. I NEED THEM ALL!
Needless to say, Saggy, knocked me out on the first round but I came back fighting. Can’t keep a strong woman down for long, especially where there are points up for grabs!
Without doubt, this game pushes my pleasure/punishment buttons. It teases me with great combos at the beginning; I’m building palazzos with pools, I’m fashioning fantastic fences. I am a Michelangelo in my own mind. But then, as my neighbourhood fills up and the game-space reduces, the cracks begin to show, and I am a cruel planning inspector’s dream; defaulting contracts all over the board!
Saggy has shown me a world where I can dream about my perfect town but the reality is a flipping hard battle to build! And I love it. So much so that I too have all 7 available expansions (La Petite Mort is sadly France only) including the amazing Alexis standalone solo which cranks up the already fierce 27 flip solo mode pain to an almost exquisitely unbearable level as every single discarded card gives your automa points for end game annihilation.
For that reason, again I am going to have to agree with the Scholar – this is a solid 9.5/10 (one half point being deducted simply for the fact that it would have been great to have laminated boards included in the original box or the option to purchase them separately).
So there we have it – Round #2 result = another unexpected score draw!
What is going to separate the Scores for us?
What game is going to divide us?
The stakes are sky high as we move into Round #3 coming in April 2021!