1756, North America, Great Lakes region: the seven years' war between the English and the French begins; the native tribes of the place, Wyandot and other peoples of the Iroquois League, carry on their daily activities such as hunting, agriculture, fishing and sacred rituals, against the backdrop of the famous conflict.
This is the setting for Wendake, the first game published by the author Danilo Sabia, published in 2017 by Placentia Games and that it has had enormous (and deserved) success. It is a Eurogame in which each player (from 1 to 4) plays the role of a chieftain and will have to manage every aspect of the life of his people, assigning men and women to the various productive activities and trying, in this way, to obtain more possible points.
It must be said that I was lucky enough to hear the explanation directly from the author, who was so available to attend the evening. Wendake by Ludic Incoming of 25 April; having him at the table enriched the game with several anecdotes regarding the setting and the historical justification of the various game elements.
You have probably heard of it. If you don't know what it is but you are curious to understand why the success of Wendake, here is a general overview of the most original features of the game, which distinguish it from the usual management systems.
The mechanics of the "trio"
First, let's talk about the mechanics. It is a game with the dynamics of worker placement, land control, resource management and warfare, but implemented and merged together in an innovative way. In particular, I refer to the way in which the workers (the cylinders available to the player) must be placed to carry out the actions on the personal board, a 3 × 3 square made up of nine tiles: you cannot choose any combination of tiles, but it is always necessary to form a three of a kind, whether horizontal, diagonal or vertical. Furthermore, all tiles on which a cylinder has been placed must be turned over at the end of the turn, thus giving access to a different action, but at the same time precluding the choice of the same action for two turns in a row. To this is added the possibility of exchanging one card per turn with a different one, which allows more powerful actions: it is evident that the player's choices must take into account many factors and long-term planning is necessary, so as not to find himself without possible useful actions.
The scoring system
Secondly, the system for scoring and determining the winner is original. The object of the game is to be able to score the most points by advancing on four tracks, which represent four spheres of life of our tribe: trade, ritual, war and sacred masks. These spheres are randomly coupled to each other at the start of the game and the final score will not be given by the total number of points obtained: in fact, for each pair of tracks, only the lowest score is considered. In other words, you need to grow in a balanced way on all four spheres to optimize your score.
I would also like to say a few words for the setting: you really hear a lot during the game and this is at least anomalous for a eurogame. In my opinion it is that extra something that enriches the game, which helps to make the players identify with their role as chieftain and consequently avoids the "coldness" found in some management systems of the same type. I add that in addition to the game manual, a booklet is included containing brief information about the life of the Wyandot: for the most curious or history buffs it is certainly an appreciable detail.
Let's sum up: who will love Wendake
The three aspects I wanted to focus on are certainly not the only merits of the game. In Wendake we find a skilful blend of many elements, from resource optimization to the tactical use of warfare. I would like to recommend it to all those who particularly appreciate management systems but do not want to play a "group solitaire" and to those who want to try a game that is simple in mechanics but very deep and with a limited duration.