WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 1-5
Published by: Alderac Entertainment Group
Designed by: Peter McPherson
It is not proven if Wormholes are even a thing yet. Worm holes are. They help aerate your garden soil. Warm moles are. That's why their burrows are known to be so effective. And WORMHOLES certainly is. Look, there is a box right there!
The main thing to decide in Wormholes is which side of the boards you want to use. There is a basic side, and a fun side. I think it's obvious which one we suggest! Even from game one, go with the fun side. They introduce a lot more features on the boards for you to interact with. More stuff equals more fun! The game suggests to randomise the sides, but just go all in on the fun side I say.
Once you have done that, lay out the boards as per the rule book. There is a different positioning recommended for each player count. But really you can do what you like. The game suggests you don't let planets get too close together, so orientate the boards so that is the case. But we have played a few games with planets only one space away from each other, and it's actually quite fun. You can build some cool combos this way by delivering to two planets without moving in-between. It certainly affects the balance, but either way, make your choice and set them down as you wish. Then distribute the player pieces with the ten wormholes and ship in each player's chosen colour. We bag them all up separately so it's a simple case of giving each player one bag. In this bag, we include the three energy tokens each player needs and the reference card. It makes set up a breeze. Why they game doesn't give you enough bags for this and suggest doing this, I do not know?
Next, set the exploration stacks with the exploration tokens numbered from one to eight, or up to ten for a higher player count game. Then under this, place the 'planets connected' token, and the three, two, and one round countdown token's, in that order. All in one tall stack. Then form the passenger deck, removing any cards not needed for your current player count and give each player one card. The second and third player will get a second card, the forth and fifth player with get a second and third. Finally, lay out the point tokens to form a general supply. You are now ready to play.
How to Play
On your first turn, you need to lay your first wormhole, inactive side face up, on a space adjacent to the starting location around the space station. This can be seen in the central space on the bottom left tile above. Each player then has three energy tokens to flip to carry out three movement actions, moving one space each time. However, there are a lot of ways to increase your movement as you play.
First, you can move from a wormhole to another for a free action if those wormholes match number and colour. This can allow you to move any distance at no cost, as long as the wormholes match. Second, you can move from any space on the orbit of the space station to any other space in the same orbit for one action. Third, you can move from any space on the Nebulae (colourful cloud of dust and gas in a line on the board) to any other Nebulae space or adjacent space without spending any energy to do so. Forth, you can warp from each wild wormhole on the board for free to any corresponding number on an active wormhole on the board, irrespective of the colour. Fifth, when you move into the black hole space, you can warp to any space adjacent to the planet shown on the top passenger card that you flip as you do this. And finally, you can move onto the photon cannon space and launch yourself in any direction, as far as you like in a straight line, moving through any obstacles or gaps on the board! You really can get around in this game!
This may sounds like a lot to remember, but it is all clearly shown on the handy player aids. Now handily photographed for your convenience below.
In the game, you are looking to move around the board, dropping off passengers at planets that match the passenger cards you have. Each time you do this you will score two points per successful delivery. If you manage to deliver passengers to more than five planets, you will score three additional points for each planet. When you are at a planet, you can refill your hand back up to four, being sure to discard any cards you pick up that match the current planet you are at.
Another way you can score is by placing your wormholes down when you are next to a planet in any adjacent space. If you were the first to do this at this current planet, you can take the top exploration token which will reward you with one or three points at the end of the game. This also serves as the game clock. When all planets have a wormhole next to them, either eight in a one to three player game, or ten in a four or five player, the countdown to the final end game begins. You will have three more full rounds, and then the game ends.
The most efficient way to do all this is to use your and your opponents wormholes to zip around the board at maximum speed. Each time you use a wormhole this counts as a free action, and you can over a lot more ground this way. So, you will be encouraged to do it. And each time you use another players wormhole, you must reward them with one point from the general supply. Placing your worm holes in locations useful to yourself and also the other players is crucial to your success in this game.
Is it Fun?
Pick-up-and-deliver games are not for everyone. I think a lot of bad games that used this mechanic in the 80's and 90'w ruined it for all games that came later. If you are turned off by pick-up-and-deliver, I don't think this game will be for you. It adds a lot of new features and elements to this type of game, but the fundamentals remain the same. However, if you do enjoy this mechanic, then I think you will love this game as the twists really bring a lot to the table.
Moving around the board in a pick-up-and-deliver game is generally what makes the game fun or boring. If you have a lot of ground to cover and cannot do that quickly or efficiently, it just isn't fun. I sense this was at the heart of the design for this game. It strikes me that designer Peter McPherson wanted to find a way to make the most important part of a pick-up-and-deliver game work, and do this is the most enjoyable way. "What if people would warp from this place on the board to this place, for free?" I hear him in my mind asking himself this question. And coming up with the wormhole solution to fix that And his idea works. It works really well!
Being able to jump from one end of the board to the other is very satisfying. Making this move a free action is even better. And then rewarding your brain with either the sense of achievement by knowing it was your forward planning that created this path for you in the first place; or by giving you a nice juicy point when other people use your wormholes. It's a stroke of genius.
It makes you want to create the most useful and convenient wormholes possible. You want other people to use your creations. You want to create a network of accessible wormholes positioned in the most convenient locations. They help you, they help others, which in turn helps you. And all the other players are thinking and doing the same thing. So, by the middle of the game, the board generally opens up and becomes very easy to navigate for all players.
However, this is not a coop game. Creating this network becomes a race! And as you can only take one exploration token per planet, you want to build your wormholes first. But to get to the locations quickest, you need a good network of wormholes to get there. And, you cannot randomly move around the board, for fear of falling behind the points scoring options available from dropping off passengers at their required destinations. Your movement needs to be calculated, efficient, and ruthless. Focused on the mid game network you are creating, but also the end game points scoring targets, and also the opening game rush to build in the premium locations whilst all the time, dropping off passengers as often as possible.
If all this sounds like a lot of fun, then I think you will enjoy this game immensely. I have found it to be highly rewarding and this is not really my type of game, so maybe this can convert a few people who were otherwise turned off pick-up-and-deliver games from past experiences. The art is quite simple, but on a dark background like my play mat, it really pops. This helps you clearly see where your wormholes are. Separated by colour, the bright primary colours can be easily spotted. And they look great.
Wormholes is so easy to get to the table. It is quick to teach and play, and rewarding from game one. It has hit the table a lot over the last few days and I can see this getting a lot more plays when I am looking for a quick simple game with three to four players. I think that is the sweet spot. Two players is a little too simple. Five is a little too busy. But with three or four there is a lot of fun to be had with this game.