Wayfinders is a wondrous mix of worker placement and resource management, with a high-degree of replayability, simple rules and delightfully concise game pieces.
In Wayfinders, you and your fellow players are charting routs to a series of islands with starkly contrasted weather. The goal is to build as many of your air strips on the islands with the most points, so that at the end of the game, you come out ahead.
The game board is built from a series of tiles, and formed into a grid, meaning that no two games will be alike, and each time you’ll have to re-navigate the pest path to the islands you want to build your air strips on.
The basic rules are very simple: On your turn, you can either place one of your workers in a hangar (where any of the 4 different resources are randomly generated), or you can return all your works from the hangar (taking an equal number of resources when you do), and send your plane off on a path along the islands.
Each time you plane moves to an island without an air strip, you have to pay that island’s cost ion resources- and when you do, you can build an air strip there. Why wouldn’t you always build an air strip? Because your air strips mean that your fellow players get to ignore the resource costs of that island as well.
This makes for a great decision point that comes up often in Wayfinders. If you’re the first to build an air strip on an island, you get a benefit listed on that island. This could be anything from random resources, to additional points at the end of the game, or even the ability to ignore the resource costs of islands of a certain type.
However, once the air strip is built, you’re paving the way for your fellow players- it’s going to be easier (and cheaper!) for them to travel across the board!
Wayfinders has all the hallmarks of a Euro game- points-based scoring, worker placement and resource tokens-, but the level of interaction, and indeed the speed of each of the turns is truly remarkable.
My favourite types of interactions in games is when there is no speaking involved- both you and your opponent are trying to outwit each other, and make moves that you believe will undermine their unspoken plans.
Wayfinders offers this in droves, not only with movement across the board and paying resources to build air strips, but also in the unique way in which workers from different players interact in the hangar.
The play steps of Wayfinders, while binary, means that the pace of the game is constantly in flux. One player may be slowly adding one worker at a time to the hangar, building up to taking a whole lot of resources at once- while another player may be taking one or two resources at a time, and sending their plane out on smaller, faster journeys and racking up a ‘death of one thousand cuts’ points victory.
Wayfinders can be played on your coffee table, and once everyone understands the base mechanics and how to read the abilities on each of the tiles (the game comes with a small reference card for each player, so this is easy!), takes maybe 20-30 minutes to play.
Some of the best strategy games are ones that are quick to play, and allow you to play multiple games in rapid succession, letting you apply your learned knowledge from game to game.
Wayfinders uses a lot of symbols in place of writing, so can be enjoyed by a younger audience as well. It’s cap of 4 players and quick playtime make it an ideal candidate for families looking to add something to the library for a weekday game night with the kids.
For those who are more competitively minded, Wayfinders offers a unique and ever-changing strategy from game-to-game, allowing you to test your smarts and skills against your fellow players over and over.