Published by AEG, Wormholes is a light easy-to-play space-themed pick-up-and-deliver game designed by Peter McPherson, previously best known for the popular game Tiny Towns (AEG). Wormholes is a 'gateway' game in that it can be played with non-gamers as a soft introduction to modern modern board games. It's also a gateway game tho' in the literal sense, as the 2-5 players (plus a solitaire version too) will be placing out wormholes to speed up their interplanetary taxi services.
The game is played on a modular board made up of double-sided pieces, so set up will vary with each play. Players all have a space ship that starts off in the orbit of a Space Station. You'll start with one or more destination cards showing the planet(s) that passengers want to be taken to. When you get to a planet, you drop off your passengers, moving the cards to your scoring pile, and you draw your hand up to four cards. If you draw a card that matches the planet you are already at, the card is discarded and replaced. Discards are placed face up near the Space Station, and players with ships at the Space Station can draft cards from the discards rather than drawing from the face-down draw deck. Players score 2 points for each passenger card in their score pile and you get a bonus too for being the first to visit a planet.
Ordinary movement is limited to just three hexes but there are, of course, the eponymous wormholes. Players each have up to five pairs of numbered wormholes (fewer with lower player counts). You can lay out a wormhole token each turn at no cost. When you've laid out a matching pair, you can move between them at no movement cost. Other players can also use your wormholes, and you'll earn a point whenever your wormholes are used by another player.
If you play solo or as a two-player game, Wormholes can start off quite slow until the wormhole networks are in place. At higher player counts the wormhole space lanes inevitably develop quite quickly; indeed, in our plays at Board's Eye View we found this sometimes drove the game too quickly, because the game ends shortly after all the planets have been reached.
With its accessible rules and artwork by Caring Wong, there's a lot to like about Wormholes. There's strategy over where best to place your wormholes and over the extent to which you make use of other players' networks, knowing that you'll be earning them victory points. There's a high luck factor tho' because games are prone to be won or lost through fortuitous or unlucky card draws. If you happen to draw cards for nearby planet destinations or, even better, multiples of the same nearby planet, then you can quickly rack up point scores that just won't be available to the player who has drawn four disparate distant planets. Being able to draft face-up cards from the Space Station can mitigate that, but we played some games where very few cards ended up at the Space Station... But even if your opponents dismiss your victory as more down to luck than skill, you'll all have enjoyed your 45-minute space journey.