This Wayward review was made after playing the game six times. We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Wayward?
Wayward is a cooperative threat management game based on the Image Comics series. You play as Japanese teenagers with supernatural powers who are attempting to fight off the evil Yokai before they destroy you.
Wayward was designed by Jonathan Gilmour and is published by IDW Games.
To begin a game of Wayward, you’ll choose one of the five scenarios to play, follow the instructions for that scenario’s setup, and then choose your heroes. You’ll then play through turns until you’ve either completed the scenario’s objective or any of the lose conditions are met.
The five heroes have different abilities that they can use and unique upgrade tracks that make them more powerful as the game moves along. The heroes use their energy to move, attack, and activate their special abilities.
The Yokai are the enemies in the game. Their main goal is to unravel the Weave, the energy threads that keep the heroes alive and make them powerful (basically it’s your group’s combined health track). The Yokai monsters show up in the five locations on the board and form Yokai Stacks. Every Yokai monster has an ability that affects the heroes, but only the monster on top of each stack is active. The bosses are the strongest enemies you’ll face, each with its own unique set of rules and abilities.
During most turns the first thing you’ll do is choose one of the six Counter Action tiles to flip face-down. These tiles give your hero energy and most of them either have specific types of Yokai monsters attack the Weave or they bring more Yokai onto the board. You also have the option to first refresh the Counter Action tiles by flipping them all face up, which will result in some Yokai abilities going off and the most powerful Yokai Stack (the one with the most dice icons) attacking the Weave. New, more powerful Counter Action tiles get added to the board as the Weave gets weaker.
During the Character Actions part of the turn you’ll be able to use your energy to move around the board and work on completing the objective. You can move, attack Yokai, use your abilities, heal and/or buy Item cards from the Shopping District location, and you can even choose to unravel the Weave one time to gain a bit more energy.
When you attack, you’ll first choose how much energy you want to use in the fight and then decide which of the Yokai you want to battle at your location. You’ll then roll each of those Yokai’s dice and decide how you want to allocate your energy. Some abilities allow you to re-roll individual dice after you see the initial results. Each defeated Yokai will give you and your teammates Upgrade Points that you can use to get stronger, while the undefeated Yokai will do damage to you for each damage icon they rolled.
And that’s about it. You’ll keep taking turns until either you’ve completed your objective or the Yokai have completed theirs.
Check out more of our fantasy game reviews
- The Counter Action system is awesome. Weighing the pros (energy gains) versus the cons (adding to the enemy’s strength) is just a great way to start a turn in a co-op game. I’d love it if more designers used this type of system where the puzzle is twisted at the start of a turn rather than at the end.
- There are plenty of interesting decisions to make in Wayward. Not only do you have to choose which Counter Action tile to activate, you also have to figure out which Yokai Stack to attack, how much energy to use, and whether it’s worth it to pull even more energy from the Weave. It keeps your brain turning throughout the game and it maintains a pretty high tension level.
- The game also has a very cool push your luck combat system. I like that you have to decide how much energy you want to use before the battle takes place and then, after the enemies’ dice are rolled, figure out how to allocate that energy.
- All of the heroes definitely do feel unique thanks to their special abilities and their upgrade tracks. They make you approach each turn in different ways.
- The scenarios are also all very different. The bosses attack the heroes and the Weave in unique ways, and they put different types of road blocks in your way. I do enjoy some of the scenarios more than others, but it’s great that each one offers a different challenge.
- I like that the bosses get tougher as the Weave unwinds. It’s a cool way to balance against the heroes getting more powerful and it puts more pressure on you to complete the objectives as quickly as possible.
- It was a really good idea to put reminders of each enemy’s potential damage on their cards. That definitely helps when you need to decide how much energy to use in the fights.
- It’s also very cool that everyone can gain upgrade points when Yokai are defeated. It keeps everyone interested in every fight and it can set up other players’ future turns.
- There’s a great turn and icon reference chart on the back of the rulebook. It makes playing your first couple of games a breeze.
- I’m surprised there aren’t any cooperative actions in Wayward. You do have to work together to figure out positioning on the board and to figure out how to approach each turn, but there’s really no way to use your powers to pull off cool combos. That doesn’t ruin the experience by any means, but I think it would have been great if each hero had some type of “helper” action or some other way to use their energy during other heroes’ turns.
- One of the bosses, Jorogumo, is missing some important information on her Counter Action tiles, which was confusing and frustrating at first. There is a workaround on BGG for it, though.
- In my opinion, the standees are taller than they need to be. They just hover over everything else and look kind of odd. I actually would have been okay with tokens rather than standees for this game.
- Setup and teardown can take some time. It’s not that bad, but it’s certainly not a game you can get up and running quickly.
- I like the art on the character cards (and everything else in the game), but the upgrade tracks could look better. Maybe a different font would have worked?
Wayward is one of the best new co-ops that I’ve played so far this year, which is pretty surprising considering that I know next to nothing about the Wayward comics. I don’t think any of its mechanics are new, but the game definitely has a fresh feel to it. It plays smoothly and the heroes and bosses combine to make each game a different, challenging puzzle, and it’s an ever-changing puzzle that you have to constantly adjust to. This is my kind of cooperative board game.
Update: Wayward was included on the Best Cooperative Board Games of 2019 list!