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Wombat Kombat

Publishers NeoTroy describe Wombat Kombat as a party game but that's really only because it's a light-hearted game that makes use of scatological humour: both the game's currency and its victory points are represented as Wombat 'poo'. This will probably give rise to much hilarity among giggling pre-adolescents but the joke could wear thin among older players.

Toilet humour aside tho', Wombat Kombat is actually a rather interesting set collection card game. The 2-6 players draw cards each turn and they then take a second action to play a set of wombat cards to their tableau, play a food card to add to a set they've already played or a predator card to detract from an opponent's set, or they can 'fight' another player using cards from their hand and the custom six-sided dice.

That may all sound quite routine but designer Arif Nezih Savi has built in some novel elements. For starters, players don't just draw one card on their turn, they draw three. This doesn't just speed up play; it also results in more dynamic hand development. There are nine different wombat types to collect. Each is identified by a number that represents both the value of the set in end-game scoring and the number of cards in the deck; so, for example, there are just four of the value 4 cards and twenty of the value 20 cards. Set collection is more 'take that' than you might expect because only one of each wombat type can be in play at any time. If a player has previously played a set of three value-18 wombats to their tableau, other players cannot place out sets of value-18 wombats unless there are more of them in the set than already on the table: so you'd need to place out a set of four of the value-18 wombats. Do so, and those already in play are flipped face down and placed in their owner's 'burrow', where they will usually be worth negative points in end-game scoring.

We say 'usually' because there are other event cards too that shake up play, and that can include a change to the way 'burrow' cards are scored - turning them from negative to positive points... There are three types of Event card (Immediate, Continuous and End Game), revealed according to the roll of a special six-sided die after combat is resolved. When you turn over a new Continuous or End-Game event, it replaces the one that previously applied. We'd have preferred it if the winner of combat was given more agency over the choice of which Event card to flip, so that, for example, if you are on track to benefit from the current End-Game condition you choose one of the other Events and keep that one in play. In our plays of the preview prototype of Wombat Kombat shown here on Board's Eye View, we experimented with dispensing with the Event die and allowing combat winners a free choice but our preferred 'house rule' was to use the die but, if a Continuous or End-Game card was flipped, we gave the player who drew it a choice over whether or not it should replace the card already in play. We found this worked rather well, so it's a variant you might want to try if you back Wombat Kombat in its upcoming Kickstarter campaign.

After you've drawn your three cards, you only get to take one follow-up action on your turn, so that becomes your key decision. You cannot add matching cards to a set you already have in your tableau but a food card has the same effect, of increasing the number of cards a rival will have to have in their set before they can replace theirs with yours. If you use your turn to play a predator card that can either destroy an opponent's food card or require them to ditch one or more cards from their set, making it easier to replace on your next turn. And, of course, there's combat... To initiate a fight, you choose another player who has at least seven cards in their hand (having fewer cards protects you from combat) and you select three wombat cards from your hand, placed face down. The defending player also chooses three wombat cards. The cards are all revealed, the attack and defence dice are rolled, and the attack card and die total is compared with the total for defence. If players have action cards in their hand that can affect combat, then these can then be played.

Wombat Kombat is the name of the game so, as you might expect, combat can be a profitable action. The winner immediately gains three victory points. They return two of their three wombat cards to their hand but place the other in a separate 'glorious wombat' pile where it will score points at the end of the game. The winner also gets to choose one of the loser's card to add to their own hand and they flip one to place in the loser's burrow. The loser gets to retain just the one remaining card. Combat can be especially useful in squeezing points value out of cards that you're unlikely to be able to play to your tableau because an opponent already has a largish set of them out on the table.

With two or three players, the game ends when a player has five sets in their tableau (four sets with four players; three sets with five or six players). It also ends when the (large) draw deck is exhausted. We tended to find the to and fro of gameplay meant that games with 2-4 players tended only to end with the draw deck. Still, even then, our Wombat Kombat plays ran to no more than 30 minutes, so this is a lively game that's unlikely to overstay its welcome.

Wombat Kombat is due to launch on Kickstarter on 3 May. Click here to check it out.

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