Board Game Review — Welcome To . . .

In the upcoming series of review, you’ll see us review our top 5 games of 2018! Why didn’t we do this before?! We don’t know!

As seen in our Top 5 Games of 2018, Welcome To . . . has made a big splash with Two Board Meeples. Want to know more about the game? Let’s take a look below!

Overview

You look out at the streets in front of you. A beautiful new block of homes, all with so much potential. Buyers are starting to line up with requests for their new homes. Will they want a pool? Are fences in their future? Could we build a park for the children? The possibilities are endless. And it’s up to you to decide who comes into the new abodes! How will you decide who is the best fit for this area? Use the game play section below to help you decide!

Game Play

While the game play section will provide you an overview of how to play Welcome To . . ., this is not a comprehensive rules breakdown. We provide you with the following game play summary in order to provide more context for our review section.

In Welcome To… each player has their own score pad that they will fill in over the course of the game, trying to create the best-scoring neighborhood.

The deck is made up of 81 cards, whose numbered side has values from 1 to 15, roughly normally distributed (so there are few 1s, 2s, 14s, and 15s, and a lot of 8s).  On the other side of the cards is one of six different effects. The cards are shuffled and distributed into three even piles with the numbered side face up. Each round, the top card of each pile is flipped over so that there are three different combinations of numbers and effects available.  All players choose one of those numbers (and may optionally use the effect, which will be described momentarily), and writes it anywhere on their score sheet. The only placement restriction is that house numbers on each street must go in ascending order, with no duplicate values. So, if you get a 1, you would want it to go on the far lift, while an 8 would be best placed somewhere in the middle.

As I mentioned, there are also various effects that you can use in addition to the house numbers.  Parks allow you to cross off a box on the same street you placed the house, with more parks on the same street being worth more points.  Pools must be placed on the same house as the number you’re filling in for the round, and the house must already have a planned pool present, making their placement somewhat tricky at times.  Pools score more points the more you are able to build. Fences can be placed between two houses anywhere on the score sheet, creating estates of 1 to 6 houses. Estates that have all their house numbers filled in score points at the end of the game, and are often used by the shared City Plan goal cards.  The Real Estate Agent effect lets you increase the value of one of your estate sizes (for example, to make 2-house estates worth more). The roadblock effect lets you add or subtract 1 or 2 to its associated house number, which lets you play values from 0 to 17, and can make gaps in your house numbers easier to fill in.  At the end of the game, the player who has used the most roadblocks gets a bonus of 7 points, second most scores 4, and third most scores 1. Finally, the “Bis” effect allows players to duplicate a house number anywhere in their neighborhood, placing the same number in an adjacent house (that cannot be separated by fences).  This allows you to more quickly fill in your sheet and estates, but using the “Bis” effect grants negative points, so use it wisely!

At the start of the game, three City Plan cards will be dealt.  For the most part (unless using the advanced variant plans), these cards will require several completed estates of various sizes in your neighborhood.  For example, one may require three 3-house estates, or one 4-house estate and three 1-house estates. As soon as a player achieves one of these goals, they claim the higher point value on the card and flip it over.  It’s still available for other players to claim but at a decreased value. The player who achieved the goal has the option to reshuffle all of the cards and re-deal them, which can be helpful if a lot of cards that player needs have already been used.  The game continues until all three goals are complete, a player has been unable to place a number three times over the course of the game, or a player has filled in all of their houses (which is pretty rare). Players use the bottom of their score sheet to tally up their points from their City Plans, parks, pools, roadblocks, and estates, and subtract points from their use of the “Bis” power and for being unable to place house numbers.  The player with the highest score wins!

Components and Art Work

Amber’s Review

With roll and writes becoming more prevalent in the gaming world, I was anxious to get my hands on one and give it a try. While Welcome To . . . omits the “roll” part of the equation, the card deck provides a wonderful substitute to the clanking of dice. While I can’t compare to other games in same genre, this game comes with a simple number of components , which makes set up and tear down nice and easy. Complicated, multi-faceted games can be a lot of fun, but there’s something to be said about grabbing a few things out of the box and being ready to play. Packing a game into a few components can have its drawbacks; Welcome To . . . does rely on symbolism to keep the components to minimum, which can be a little daunting to newer or less experienced players. There are handy guides included with the games including diagrams, but further explanation is needed for the diagrams to make sense. This makes this game slightly less approachable than the easy-to-unpack box makes it seem, but with a good rules explanation this should clear up very quickly.

When it comes to mechanics, Welcome to. . . is a game that just immediately clicked in my brain. I fully admit that while I seem to pick up game rules fairly quickly, knowing how to play them well and with a winning strategy is a problem I always have. I think one reason I connected with this game is because it narrows the decision making process down to only three choices. With each player choosing from the same three pairs, there’s less of a chance your players will have Analysis Paralysis and will be able to make quick, but meaningful, decisions. I found that after I would make my decision and place my house, I would peak at other players’ neighborhoods to see where they placed their houses. The neighborhoods vary greatly from person-to-person and it’s always fun to compare at the end of the game.

When it comes to Welcome To . . . I know this game will keep coming out to the table. Also a fan of the game Karuba, the simultaneous play mechanism allows me to pay attention during each turn as well, helping keep focused on the game. As long as you take the time to learn the symbols in the game, the mechanics are simple to learn, interesting to master, and a blast to play.

  • Pros:
    • Simple number of components, makes it easy to setup and tear down
    • Clean, simple design is approachable
    • All players must decide from the same three options each turn, leveling the playing field
  • Cons
    • Symbols on cards and diagrams can create a learning curve for some players

Ethan’s Review

Besides Welcome To…, I don’t have a lot of experience with roll-and-write (or flip-and-write) games.  They’ve always seemed like one of the niche areas of gaming, kind of ironically because they are often quite accessible, requiring few components (many find success as print-and-play games) and fairly easy rule sets.  Those certainly hold true for Welcome To… — all you need is the 81-card deck, a few extra cards for shared goals, and a score sheet for each player (plus something to write with, of course!). The rules are fairly intuitive as well — fill in numbers from the three available in each round, making sure your house numbers go in ascending order on each street.  The special actions and abilities add some complexity, but there are only 6 different ones, and it’s not too hard to pick up on what they all do fairly quickly. Even with the few components and rules, though, Welcome To… has a lot of depth to it. While you only have three numbers and their corresponding powers to choose from each round, it is definitely an optimization puzzle to try to figure out the right move.  Do you go for the 7 with the pool to further your pool collection, the 15 that you can easily place at the end of a street, or the “Bis” power that will cost you points but let you fill in your estates quicker? It is very unlikely that any two players’ score sheets will be the same after a game.

Component-wise, Welcome To… is great, even with the few things that come in the box.  All of the cards have unique art on their numbered side, which is a nice touch that goes beyond what one might expect for this game.  All of the cards also show the special power on their reverse, so you know a bit what to plan ahead for. The score sheets are nicely laid out as well, especially with how all of the scoring categories line up at the bottom, which makes the end-game scoring easy.  The only things I don’t care for are the 1.5 inch not-even-golf-pencils included in the game for scoring. The first thing we did was throw a handful of regular pens and pencils in the box so we didn’t have to force the tiny stubs of pencils on anyone playing with us.  If we hadn’t already ordered the official dry-erase scoring sheets, we probably would’ve laminated a few sheets, because the game will see enough play with us and our group that we will end up going through the whole score pad. It’s a lot of great game in a little box!

There is one aspect of the game that I find a bit frustrating, and that is the shared City Plan community goals where the first person to achieve one gets the maximum points, and subsequent players get about half that.  It’s kind of weird that this is a sore spot for me, because in Karuba, which has a similar feeling of everyone working on their own boards independently using the same tiles (numbers) as the other players, there is a similar mechanism of the first player to each treasure getting more points than the others.  I think the difference there is that in Karuba it’s easy to look at the other players’ boards to see how close their characters are to their treasures, while in Welcome To… it’s not as easy to see what everyone has for estates, and even so, it might not be clear which goal they’re working towards. I want to add a story that may sound unrelated, but just stick with me for a minute.  I am a big fan of the trivia website Sporcle, which has tons of quizzes on a variety of topics. Sporcle recently added a feature called “Showdown”, where two players compete on the same quiz at the same time, with the first person to answer a question getting the credit for it. Now while I enjoy this feature, I am not a fast typer, and because a lot of the quizzes are lists of questions that you can answer in any order, you can never be sure which answer the other player is entering.  And it really sucks when you’re typing in an answer and the other player enters it just before you finish typing, making you have to delete your answer and wasting precious seconds. That is the feeling I get in Welcome To… when someone completes the City Plan I was working towards, and then I have to decide if I can use the estates I was building for one of the other goals (which another player will possibly claim first), or finish the one I was working on at a diminished point value.  It really just is the lack of transparency on what everyone else is working on and close to that bothers me, I think. And it seems like the City Plans are pretty important to winning, as I haven’t seen a game won without claiming at least one — they can be worth up to 12 or 13 points, which is pretty big for a game where average scores are in the 60s and 70s. But, I only have a handful of games under my belt so far, and now that I know what a big deal the goals are and how hard it is to track whether other players are close to achieving them, so I just have to incorporate that into my strategy (and teaching spiel for new players)

Altogether, I really like Welcome To…, and I can see it being a game we keep in our collection for a long time.  If you like optimization games where everyone is working from the same set of options like Karuba, or other roll/flip-and write games like Avenue or Ganz schön clever, give Welcome To… a try!

  • Pros:
    • Large decision space with a small set of rules and components (in other words, it’s a compact game where you still feel like you’re making meaningful decisions each turn)
    • Can theoretically play with any number of people
  • Cons
    • City Plan shared goals add player interaction to an otherwise multiplayer solitaire game (though this may not be a con for some!)
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