Invest in human cloning or drill a tunnel to the center of the earth! Robotic animals, underwater cities – these are all possible additions to your empire in “It’s a Wonderful World”.
Jeremiah & Kara Clark
Theme and What is it?
Cliché office music plays through the speakers as you lean against the elevator’s glass wall. It’ll take a few minutes to reach your workplace, but that’s okay – the view from here is incredible. You spot a magnetic-powered train weaving its way smoothly between massive city spires.
Above the city, a fleet of luxurious zeppelins float lazily across the sky. The elevator rises until the zeppelins are mere specks beneath your feet. You watch in awe as the entire earth recedes in the distance and satellites whiz past the glass walls.
Finally, the elevator slows. You grab your helmet and slip it over your head, hearing the familiar hiss of air as it pressurizes. The elevator stops and the doors open with a soft ding. You exit slowly, feeling the sudden drop in temperature as you approach your office: Lunar Base 1.
In “It’s a Wonderful World” players are in charge of building and expanding their empire. Will yours have a space elevator? Or maybe you prefer teleportation as transport instead? Maybe you’ll invest in human cloning or drill a tunnel to the center of the earth! Robotic animals, underwater cities – these are all possible additions to your empire in “It’s a Wonderful World”.
The theme here is interesting, but surprisingly it’s not very strong. In fact, it almost feels like an abstract game. Players are basically spending colored cubes to pay for cards which will then produce more colored cubes that they can use to buy more cards. But don’t give up on it just yet, because even though the theme is weak, the actual mechanics of the game are pretty solid.
It’s a Wonderful World is a card-drafting, tableau building game. The mechanics are super streamlined, and play moves quickly from start to finish.
Each round, players will be dealt a hand of seven cards. Of these seven, they’ll choose one to keep and pass the rest to their neighbor. Players continue picking and passing until everyone has picked seven cards to keep.
Now players have to decide which of their cards they’d like to construct (by spending resource cubes), and which they’d like to discard. A constructed card will eventually generate resources each round, but a discarded card will give you a resource immediately. It’d be so nice to build a fountain of youth for your empire’s homestead, but holy moly it needs a lot of resources! And it might be really fun to create robo-panthers for your citizens, but is it worth the investment? It’s this element of pros & cons, give & take that make “It’s a Wonderful World” so intriguing to play.
In “It’s a Wonderful World”, players are using cubes to pay for cards to add to their tableau empire. It feels like the cardboard-and-plastic love-child of 7 wonders and Century Spice Road, which is awesome. The first time I played was great, but I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, so I was eager to try it again. The second time I got a pretty good strategy together, and at the end I was able to sit back and look over my sprawling, zeppelin-filled empire with satisfaction.
Unfortunately, during the third playthrough I had a feeling of, “wait, haven’t I done this before?” I felt like the cards were all pretty similar to each other, and the only real difference between this game and the last was which resource I decided to go most heavily into. It’s definitely a fun puzzle trying to decide which cards to build, which to recycle for the bonus, and how to generate enough resources to build everything you want, but I’m afraid the game starts to feel a bit same-y after a few plays.
Game Build Quality
It’s a Wonderful World comes with a 2-piece board, a pile of colored cubes, and a massive stack of cards. Everything is of pretty decent quality, though I wish the board pieces snapped together or something to prevent them from sliding apart during gameplay if they get bumped or something.
The box is nice and sturdy, and everything fits inside of it with room to spare. The insert is just 4 different spaces for players to store things. It could be nicer, but since everything is bagged anyway, it’s not really a problem.
The artwork in this game is wonderful. The illustrations on the cards are so fun to look at: A metallic jaguar crouched in a tree; a group of people sunbathing in the wake of a nuclear power plant; a city built in the center of the earth! Part of the fun of this game is just looking at the different cards and imagining a world where these things could actually exist!
Everything in the game is based on really simple, straightforward symbology, which helps players understand exactly what each card does. The cubes down the left side of the card show which resources you need to build it. The cubes along the bottom show which resources it generates after it’s added to your empire. The cube on the bottom right shows the recycling bonus, and symbols above the production show any one-time bonuses you receive upon a successful construction. Everything is really easy to read and understand, even for new players, which keeps gameplay moving along smoothly.
This is a great engine building game with streamlined mechanics and artwork that feeds your imagination. Everything in the game is done simultaneously, which minimizes down time and keeps players engaged.
The mechanics are so simple, but trying to optimize your resources each round can be tricky! Each round is filled with players bent over their hand of cards in total consternation as they try to figure out which cards to keep, which to recycle, and which resources they should allocate to which cards. It’s a fun, mind-crunching puzzle that will make your brain sweat a little bit, but leave you feeling satisfied in the end.
Age Range & Weight
The manufacturer recommended Age is 14+ which is probably just right. Younger kids might be able to play it, but it requires a lot planning and thinking ahead. There’s also a steep learning curve. After calculating the scores during my first play things finally clicked, and I thought, “oh, I see now what I could have done better.” Another person we played with later said a similar thing.
The game isn’t difficult or overly complicated, but learning how to use your cards and resources most efficiently definitely takes some practice.
“It’s a Wonderful World” is a step above 7 wonders in planning and resource management, which could make it an excellent transition game to move new gamers from gateway games to heavier titles.
With the tableau-civilization building of 7 Wonders, and the abstract resource management of Century Spice Road, “It’s a Wonderful World” would be a great next-step game for anyone who enjoys either of those. The mechanics are simple and streamlined, but gameplay requires some real strategic thinking in order for players to optimize their engines. Even though it starts to feel same-y after a few plays, I’d still say it’s a fun game worth consideration.
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