New generation board games are a journey. That can be said about most any hobby, sure, but it’s apt and interesting for board games. In our favorite hobby, the journey is one of mastery over complexity, it’s a journey of expanding one’s mind to accommodate a parade of new concepts and perspectives. Complexity is one of the major axes that the hobby revolves around. It informs everything from game designs at creation, to the individual tastes of fans, to the level of commitment the hobby itself demands.
The issue of complexity is quite relevant to games like Wayfinders, because Wayfinders is very keen at bridging the gap between low-complexity “casual” experiences and more complex “heavy” experiences. Specifically, Wayfinders uses some of the game mechanics found in some of the hobby’s heaviest and well-loved games. What Wayfinders does so uniquely, though, is packaging these mechanics and experiences into a far more accessible form.
The theme and presentation of Wayfinders is a big part of this accessibility. The graphic design and artwork is a pleasure for the eyes, evoking a fun mid-century travel aesthetic. In this setting, players are piloting seaplanes around an archipelago to collect resources and establish new hangars. The tiles have these lovely cartoon islands on them, and the planes and hangars and other components are a delight to handle.
The gameplay is on the simple side of the spectrum, as well. The core of Wayfinders is a worker-placement game. Worker placement isn’t a difficult concept to grasp, and Wayfinders lays it bare by reducing the complexity of the spaces for workers. Basically, just pick the space that has the resources you want. No need to burden the player with long-term strategy, just grab which one looks best. Then, the other segment is a network-building game. Players use their resources to navigate their plane around the map and build hangars where the plane lands. This too is really straightforward. The most complex part of the game is the “point salad” scoring system, which rewards players for dabbling with multiple goals. This is another feature of heavier board games, and again, isn’t overly cumbersome in Wayfinders. All the victory points come from hangars on the map.
And, finally, Wayfinders only takes about 30 to 45 minutes to play. This firmly anchors Wayfinders in the “casual” end of the pool, but that works in its favor. Hobby newbies don’t have to commit to an expensive, time-consuming affair to see how heavier games work. As a stepping stone on a fan’s board game journey, Wayfinders fits into the path nicely.