I’ve been meaning to try this game out for a long time as the theme and art style really got me excited, and with time being of the essence lately I rarely get hooked on games I don’t immediately like looking at.
Wimbledoom is currently in the final stages of its playtesting and has a “fantasy tennis game” theme to it. So, I instantly thought “Oh, damn, Tennis Bowl!”. But while the idea behind it and the general look may lead one to believe this is another rendition of the same type of hard-hitting fantasy sport, Wimbledoom is a pretty simple card game that plays out fast, loose, and with a fairly straightforward turn progression, rally for rally.
Which, turns out, is a bit of a problem, at least in my case.
Bear in mind that what I’ve done so far is try out a Print and Play version of the game, with my own proxies (b&w art cards, tokens, dice), so much of the appeal of the game, and the thing that hooked me in the first place, was already lost by this point.
That may come off as superficial, but in this day and age eye candy has its advantages, especially with board games. Still, this wasn’t an issue as I was excited by the prospect of trading rallies, using dirty tactics to foul things up, and trying to score smash after smash until my opponent lay there in a broken, tired mass of blood and sweat. But I didn’t really find that with the game.
The idea behind it is very simple. You’ll be playing it within minutes, even though I needed to ask the designer a couple questions in regards to the rulebook to get things 100% straight in my head. The rulebook could be worded better in places, and I’m sure it will be amended with more and clearer explanations by the time this hits Kickstarter sometime this spring.
Gameplay boils down to using dice to first serve and then whack the ball back and forth over the net, and also playing cards now and again to try and screw with your opponent or better your chances at hitting the ball just right. All of this is done by expending Energy, of which you have 10 to begin with, and a maximum of 10 going into any new rally.
The game starts with players picking a hand of 5 cards from their respective faction deck (there are four separate factions), which I found interesting. No randomness here, you just look through the deck and try to set up your opening turn as best you can, then shuffle the rest of the deck.
There is a roll-off to decide who gets to go first, and you can start playing.
Rallies start with a serve, which is done by rolling 2d6 and moving the ball a number of spaces equal to the sum of the roll… as long as the roll is valid, i.e. lands in your opponent’s field. Otherwise, you get to roll again, without any penalty.
I found this a bit weird during my first game, and with my way of rolling poorly I only managed to serve properly on my fourth go at it. All’s well that ends well, though, and the game went on.
For the next half an hour, my opponent and I traded rolls with the odd (very odd, we were both at 3 and 4 cards still in hand when the first rally was over) use of a card from hand to augment our chances or belay the other’s advantage. I’d wager about 80% of the game amounted to rolling a couple dice.
You have some control over how the roll will end up, in that you can either choose to roll one die or two, paying one energy for each chosen die. To that pool you will automatically add another one, so you will either roll two and pick one die as a result, or roll three and pick the sum of two dice as a result.
This goes back and forth and back and forth until one of the players either hits the net, smacks a long ball that goes off field, or concedes a point. Or, in our case, runs out of Energy because they just won’t give up. Which happened a lot. Winning a rally awards you one point, and the first player to reach four points wins.
The problem here is that not only is this very random, but depending on what cards you happen to be holding, you may just end up trading rolls until one of the players can’t return anymore. You can get stumped for choices and just lie there, pretty much powerless, hoping to your gods of choice that your feeble, one-die shot will make it over the net yet another time. You can opt to discard a card to get one Energy back, but that can only get you so far.
While that might sound like tactical, racquet-driven warfare, it ends up being less of a gritty rendition of tennis and more of frustrated Yell-ena Sharapova smashing your racquet into the ground as you’re thrown into a rather dull war of attrition with your Energy running out and no real way out but hope the dice stall your opponent enough so that they fall down first.
I’ve had multiple games over the past few days, and while it doesn’t always pan out this way, it seldom goes further than it and into a play-for-play card/dice extravaganza like I’d hoped it would be. Make no mistake, the game is mechanically sound, the factions are varied enough to warrant several repeated plays, and everything flows smoothly. There’s just not much here to flow from where I stand as a boardgamer.
Bear in mind that I did hype myself up over it for months and kept waiting for the PnP to become available, basically upping my expectations with every passing week. There’s still plenty of public out there for it, as evident by the multiple game nights and tests the game has gone through overseas, but I wasn’t one for this type and depth of gameplay. It’s light, it’s fast, but it’s too dice-reliant with not enough mitigation to float my particular boat.
In spite of my misgivings about it, Wimbledoom ends up filling the “let’s relax for a bit” bracket of game night rather well. If you’re looking for a dice chucker with a bit of card play that doesn’t take long to learn or get through, you can’t go wrong with it.
Thanks for reading, and have as nice a day as you deserve!
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