My Secret Weavling Love Affair
WHY I CREATED WEAVLINGS IN THE WILDS
Designing a small game was never my forte. I like doing big things with big ideas and a big table presence. Weavlings in the Wilds is the result of a long journey as a designer to force myself to design something portable with just the right amount of depth and replayability. To get to this point I worked backwards, designing several games along the way that got smaller and smaller until Weavlings in the Wilds was spawned. I could go smaller, but I'm happy with this size of a game as a product for the player.
With this size, I was able to develop the game outside of a tuckbox (which is game-shelf suicide), create two expansions, and give myself a little extra room after card sleeves to revisit the world of Weavlings if players wanted more content. I created Weavlings in the Wilds for two major reasons:
1) The purely solo space is fairly limited. I've played the classics like Friday, Onirim, and Sylvion to name a few. I've also played some more recent titles like the Hunted series by Gabe Barret and Unbroken. These are great, but as of late I feel publishers are shoving 1-player modes into games, and I would much rather have a purely solo experience.
2) I needed a game I could play in my down time when I was working my pre-COVID weekend gig.
So, that's what I did. I developed the game over the course of hundreds of playtests and hundreds of hours of gameplay sessions. I was a Weavling-luring machine. I eventually found the level of difficulty and card ratios that I found most appealing and hauled me and my Weavlings across the country to Protospiels, playtest groups, and Tabletop Simulator marathons.
With interest from players and buyers alike, I decided to get this game to Kickstarter to share it with the world.
WHAT WEAVLINGS IN THE WILDS AIMS TO ACHIEVE
Weavlings in the Wilds as a game experience aims to achieve a puzzly solo experience, which encourages multiple replays in the vein of traditional solitaire experiences like... uh... solitaire. To achieve this, the game needed to be quick to setup, play, take down, and repeat. I think that goal was nailed as set up and take down is ridiculously quick and gameplay is as quick or thinky as the player is willing to spend with the game each turn.
The game also features a scaling win ratio with multiple difficulties and an expansion made to enhance the difficulty further. Basically, I wanted players to sit with the game with a clear win/loss objective and feel they are getting a mastery over the game the longer they play.
Part of that mastery is managing the game state at any given time. I don't like talking strategy, but part of the intentional trap I've left for players is the urge to pick up every goodie off the Tender Wilds. Sometimes leaving Weavlings to be chomped on (horrible as that may be) or not pushing the milling mechanic by grabbing every trap, Wilds Spirit, or capturing Beasties is a good thing *wink* *wink*. There's a subtle meta game you'll find by exploring different ways of handling the grid.
I enjoy games with some luck. Some of my best gaming memories come from squeaking out a victory because Lady Luck granted me favor. I've injected some of that with the event cards, and part of the strategy is doing a little card counting, especially in the later game. You know the event cards are there. There's only 5 and one of which is banished from the game after it appears (Sunlight). If you're holding a hand of Vargler meat or are heavy on Vargler wounds, you know that Blood Moon hiding in the deck is going to be painful, so your new goal is to minimize how quickly you let that deck mill. Mitigation is a strategy that's also at play. That's all I'm saying about strategy!
If that's an unbearable amount of chaos for players, there is a "Clear Skies mode," which removes them, but after 100+ plays, I think the game benefits from a little bit of variety and madness the events bring. Real life throws us greater challenges than any Full Moon ever could.
BREAKING THE NORMS
Every designer has a bag of design heuristics they lean into when creating their games. For me, I always have an eye on manufacturing cost, and I'm trying to come up with ways to pass value on to the players -- especially in the age of rampant inflation and soaring manufacturing/shipping costs. I'm finding this more of a priority of mine because players deserve affordable repeatable experiences. Part of that is focusing on card-driven games and utilizing cards with multi-functional purposes.
Weavlings in the Wilds does not use traditional objective counters or tokens to track win/loss conditions. Instead, the cards themselves are wound/population trackers in addition to being a Beastie or Weavling respectively.
This serves two purposes, one being obvious (the tracking of the win/loss state) and two -- a secret under the hood mechanic (removing Beasties and Weavlings from the game increases the speed in which the game mills to conclusion). Oh, it also reduces the cost in providing board and tokens to track this, so that's three!
I noticed playtesters were thrown by this with the first playthrough, but after that, they were wound-tracking/card-rotating bosses. Speaking of card rotation, I adore this mechanic. It's kinetic, offers such a great space for design exploration, and forces you to physically engage with the game. All my games feature this to some extent, so if rotating cards is not your thing, you won't like my games...
I haven't seen too much rotation as tracking in games, so training the player how to engage with the game is something as a designer you have to be explicit about.
Breaking norms, exploring design spaces, and using mechanics in different ways is fine, but you have to do the heavy lifting of clearly presenting this to players. A player aid was necessary to remind players where cards go throughout the game for example. The Weavling Trapper also reminds players of the phases, serving those multi-functional purposes, look at that!
IF YOU'RE GOING TO CHALLENGE PLAYERS, KEEP IT LIGHT
Weavlings in the Wilds can be pretty tricky at times, and I felt if I wanted to challenge players the way I'm challenging them both with the new approach to gameplay and difficulty, I needed to make the game easy to get into.
If I made the game overly mechanic-heavy, the game would be a slog. This is why I tossed out movement mechanics that made decisions way too brain-burny and items that added additional layers of mitigation and manipulation. These are things I want to explore in future titles if players want more content, but the base game and its two expansions introduce the player to the core mechanics in an approachable way, but with the depth I would expect from this type of game.
WHAT'S THE FUTURE FOR WEAVLINGS IN THE WILDS?
I've thought about what I want from Weavlings in the Wilds a lot. I'm very happy with the core game as is, and I would eventually like to explore this gameplay and collection of mechanics in a way similar to what has been done with Onirim. I think the game has something like seven expansions? There aren't many games like that, and I would like to see Weavlings in the Wilds be an addition to player's libraries that appreciate that sort of approach to puzzly card games.
WHY I LOVE WEAVLINGS IN THE WILDS
I loved Weavlings in the Wilds when it was supposed to be an add-on for Fate Weaver Zadarra and Her Unfortunate Misfortune (coming in 2023). I love it so much more now (not because I made it) because what it has become through the countless playtests, interactions, and responses I've received from playtesters and industry folk alike.
There's nothing quite like Weavlings in the Wilds, and though I've been playing this game for a long time now, I'm still thrilled to sit down play it again on my own or teach someone how to survive the Tender Wilds. It's punchy, puzzly, and offers players not just a new experience, but a new world to delve into full of tongue-in-cheek whimsy, personality, and yes scary moon nightmare fuel.
Follow along with the Kickstarter, the Wilds are calling you on August 30th, 2022...