WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WONDER BOOK!
Designed byMartino Chiacchiera & Michele Piccolini
Illustrated by Miguel Coimbra & Dario Cestaro
Published by dv games Italy
This stunning game took me right back to my younger days (when I was about 45) and I started collecting (for a short while only) Pop-Up books. I cannot imply that this is the pop-up book to end all pop-up books, but it is as close to the perfect pop-up as ever popped-up!
Making a game that involves a single page pop-up book (I think I am begining to get used to typing 'pop-up book') is pure genius (though I'm not sure what 'impure' genius would be) and I thought I may have broken protocol here by including a photo of the opened book, showing the tree in all its wondrousness. My gaming group said they would be furious if I showed all of the pop-ups and so I went only with the tree itself because that is shown on the box cover. However, now looking at the photos already on BGG, I see that my not wanting to show spoilers is outdated; I still decided not to go the whole hog.
Football was once described as 'the beautiful game' but having seen The WONDER BOOK I think it's time for football (that's soccer to our Colonial buddies across the pond) handed its crown over.
Anyone not in awe of the WONDER BOOK when they first see it doesn't have a gamer's soul. One cannot help but stare at it with amazement when encountering it for the first time.
As a board games player of many years I have played all manner, type and genre of game and sometimes I have found it difficult to decide if the game comes under the Strategy, Core Gamer, or Family game genre. WONDER BOOK definitely falls under the classification genre of family game. The rule book suggests it for ages 10+ but after playing it through we are of the belief that as long as a child can read and understand what they are reading (thus about 8 years or so) then this is more for them with their Mum & Dad (or elder siblings), than it is for teen or older players.
It is of an excellent design for teaching young players to cooperate as a team, winning or losing together. But, because of the frailty of the pull-out tabs on and within the pop-up system, younger children should never be left alone with this mighty book. A few hard yanks (no, not Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone) on the tabs and they will tear and the pop-ups will have popped their last.
There are 6 scenarios, I through to VI, each in sealed decks plus 6 Wyrm cards and 16 Shred cards. The players are adventurous young teenagers drawn to the wonder(book)ful world of Oniria from tales about the mystical portal book hidden somewhere in a long abandoned tower. You have located the tower and now, in Chapter I, the four of you,Ken, Lara, Tina & Sid stand at the entrance to the ancient stone steps curling their way upwards. This where you are as you reach card #8, frustrated in a circular room at the top of the steps, an empty circular room!
Each character card shows the character in Portrait position but when you flip the card over it should be viewed Landscape, thus revealing the Special Attacks and Skills for each of them - they are both different for each character.
It's not too long before you find the book, but as soon as you do the room starts to change and .... that's as far as I can go with this part of the description.
The miniatures are superbly crafted and are identified by their specific colour identification cards and the plastic rings designed to slip over their bases. If you don't like the character your favourite colour gives you (hoping that your favourite colour is either Blue, Green, Red or Yellow) then simply swap the rings and take the character card associated with the colour not the character. The components are super fine. If I had a word to say against them it would be that with the game costing between £50.00 and £70.00 I think there could have been at least two model poses for the Wyrm creatures; not to make any difference to the game-play, but just to make it a little more aesthetically visual (Not that it needs that, I'm just being picky - besides reviewers are supposed to see the good and the bad, and I can't really see any bad).
Always keep to the main rule - Don't open the book or pull any tabs until the game tells you to do so - and the second rule - keep the cards in the order they come in (never shuffle unless instructed to).
The first section of the game - pre book opening - gets totally chaotic as Chapter cards offer help, items, boosters (shreds) etc and players have their inaugaration into working together - remember this is a game that the players either Win or Lose, no one player takes all the kudos.
The Story cards set the environment; Items are generally useful for the players; though not always immediately they are found (though pretty close to in the first Chapter); Shred cards boost your heroes powers and are discarded after being used; Special rules cards modify the basic rules; Interaction cards represent things in the character's location/s that can maybe be manipulated; and Goal cards provide flow of play, player and enemy phases and objectives.
A lot of the game play revolves around collecting and spending 'sparks' (small golden 'plastic' gems). Sparks are found in their supply and are gifted to you via cards, winning combats, picking them up from the floor etc. Sparks can also be spent to allow players to use their special skills.
Amongst my regular group we together decided that the WONDER BOOK is one or two steps up from being a children's game. It needs an adult or sensible teenager to carefully open the book and ensure that the 'chest' envelope isn't opened prior to when it is first required. Four core/strategy gamers will almost certainly have some juvenile fun with it, and are likely to compare the combat dice rolling, hits or misses, to many other games that use quick-fire battle mechanics, but then that manner of fighting is just what is needed in a family/children's game as there are no charts or cross-reference tables. Heroes have a set number of Hit points (on their character card) and Wyrms have 2 hits but are stunned after one.
Hard core gamers will find it too simplified unless they have a heart-of-stone-melting youngster playing alongside them. Families with children who like the cute and cuddly side of gaming will love it; kids raised on Warhammer and WH40K etc will find it below their expertise when they are with their WH friends (but will love it when they are alone with their siblings and parents).
One of, if not the best, true family game for many a long while.