Wayfarers of the South Tigris is the first Garphill Games game that I’ve reviewed here at Nerds on Earth, despite there being a plethora of similar games like the games in the West Kingdom Trilogy. Wayfarers of the South Tigris by Garphill Games and Renegade Games Studios is a tableau-builder that sprawls across your table in near-infinite splendor.
Designed by S J Macdonald and Shem Phillips, Wayfarers of the South Tigris has a lot that long-time fans of Garphill Games can appreciate and be familiar with, while still offering a strategic experience for old and new faces alike. It definitely has some weight to it!
So prepare your astrolabes and ready your quills because it’s time to venture to Baghdad circa 820 AD in Wayfarers of the South Tigris!
Wayfarers of the South Tigris Gameplay
In Wayfarers of the South Tigris, you’ll be assuming the role of an explorer, cartographer, and astronomer all at once to map out the region around Baghdad. You’ll be acquiring cards representing the land, water, and sky, adding them to your personal tableau. All the while, you’ll also be spreading your influence across the three guilds, and journaling your findings. Once somebody reaches the end of the journal track, the game ends and whoever has the most Victory Points is the winner.
Here are the various actions you can perform on your turn:
- Place a die – Place one of your dice in a designation action spot and gain the benefit
- Place a Worker – Place a worker on one of the cards surrounding the board, losing the worker but gaining the action
- Rest – End your turn, but also gain the opportunity to progress down the Journal track
When you take actions with your dice, the value of the die indicates which resources and tags that you can use towards your action. You simply refer to the top of your player board, which has a column for each value. There are also spaces that allow you to manipulate your dice values, giving you access to the resources you need on a given turn.
All of the workers in the gain are player-agnostic; once placed on a card they are available for anyone to claim by acquiring that card. Only their color dictates where they can be placed. This creates a fun dynamic of people eyeing up cards where workers were placed, since having access to more actions is a huge benefit. In a way, it helps limit the choices on your turn, or at least persuade you to prioritize certain actions over others.
As you acquire cards, you’ll place them into your tableau. These might offer you additional action spaces or benefits as the gain continues. Land cards are placed sequentially to the left of the player board, and water cards to the right. Sky/space cards are placed above these lower level cards in a similar fashion.
The Journal track gives you some autonomy to pursue different benefits and acquire some workers before everyone else. These spaces do have requirements, however, so you will need to plan ahead as well if you hope to take advantage.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Wayfarers of the South Tigris!
Overall, the components of Wayfarers of the South Tigris hold up. There are plenty of cardboard tiles that can be a bit fiddly when trying to take them out of the box insert, but that’s a minor quibble. As a whole, the insert has plenty of space, as the various card reservoirs are more than deep enough to hold their quarry.
My favorite components of the bunch are the wooden influence tokens, which are in the shape of little asterisks. I’m not really sure what it is about them, but they’re super satisfying along with the other wooden tokens.
I did experience some light warping of the various cards, although I could probably chalk it up to cold temperatures in my office. Their thickness is normal, so I suspect that most cards from other games would have done the same. It’s also interesting to note that the main board is divided into three parts, which does allow for some variation in the setup.
In terms of strategy, players are somewhat limited by the results of their die rolls. But, as I mentioned above, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate ways to manipulate those dice rolls to improve your odds of getting what you want. In fact, you can chain those additions together to turn, say, a one into a three if you have the placement correct.
Honestly in my first game I actually felt overwhelmed over the number of options that I had access to on my turns. Once you start acquiring workers of all the colors, you have a ton of choices to make. Do you want to continue with your tableau, pursue the Journal track, spend influence for various actions, or spend workers for card actions? And that’s not even including the manipulation of the dice when determining what you want to do with THEM!
This is a crunchy game that makes you want to do everything, but you are forced to make hard choices with your limited actions. And it’s tough for games to do offer so much choice while still keeping a semblance of balance and order through the entire process.
For me, the aesthetics of Wayfarers of the South Tigris are a bit of a mixed bag. I’m not the biggest fan of the art style used for the people in the game, but I’ll chalk that up to personal preference. Mihajlo Dimitrievski did the artwork, and they’ve also done the art for many of the other Garphill Games titles, so if you’re already a fan then it’s more for you to enjoy!
I absolutely love the art on the panorama cards, and how the water cards connect together with their additional instantaneous benefits. Although remember that you’ll need a decent-sized table to fit all of those gorgeous cards; between the central board and the individual panoramas, table real estate is going to be at a premium.
I’ve also read that some people had some qualms with the plain-ness of the main board, since it feels uninspired. I can see the argument with it, but I didn’t think that it detracted from the game at all. There are going to be workers, player tokens, and benefit tokens covering up the majority of the area in question, so the art would be mainly covered up anyways.
At the end of the day, the art that’s in front of the players most prominently – the panorama cards – help to elevate the game and make the aesthetics more appealing that they might be otherwise. There are also plenty of icons to learn, which creates a bit of a learning curve for newer Garphill players.
Wayfarers of the South Tigris is a game for people who really enjoy a crunchy worker-placement and/or tableau-building game. It has a lot of decision-making, and the overall strategy wasn’t something that I picked up immediately on my first play. There are a lot of games these days that are maybe played a single time or two, but I really think that Wayfarers of the South Tigris requires at least two plays before things will really click. Again, if you have played Garphill Games before, this will probably come a bit more easily for you.
That being said, gamers who embrace the crunch and weight of a heavier game will really enjoy having so many different actions at their disposal. Timing is everything, and a ordering your moves accordingly is rewarded.
This is a game that has an endgame trigger that could make the game last an hour and a half, or three hours. It’s all going to be up to the players to rally down the Journal track and spur the game onwards. The benefits of the track are also quite good, so that does help keep players’ attention and things moving along.
As we start to discuss the theme of Wayfarers of the South Tigris, I’m of the opinion that for the most part things fall into place. Again, the primary thing that I’m concerned with as a player is the tableau-building in front of me, and adding cards to the panorama helps to make that thematic connection for me. The whole concept of the game is mapping out and exploring the surrounding world, and so I’m seeing tangible progress to that end as the game goes on.
Now, I do admit that the dice placement seems a bit disjointed from the theme, but I’ll take a stab at what the general intention is. Your caravan has a lot of potential, represented through the icons present there. However, not everything is available at the same time. Sometimes other people in the caravan might be using the telescope or feeding the camels, which would make those icons off-limits to you with a given die.
From a player relationship standpoint, there is definitely a lot of tension that takes place during your turn and between turns. Wayfarers of the South Tigris is a game where what happens on other players’ turns really has an impact on your own turn. They might place a worker that breaks the tie between two cards you were thinking of taking, or they could take your Journal location. The gamestate is always changing, making the experience a nail-biter all the way through.
Wayfarers of the South Tigris: Journal Your Experiences!
My first foray into Garphill Games was definitely a positive one thanks to Wayfarers of the South Tigris! I was surprised at how well the mechanics connected to one another, and how intuitive the iconography was. Was there a learning curve? Of course. But I really enjoyed discovering the strategies and building out my panorama while learning. There are plenty of mechanics that long-time gamers will find familiar, and none of them are overly complicated for gamers who might have less experience.
And now I have a strong desire to check out the other Garphill Games trilogy!
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Wayfarers of the South Tigris by Renegade Games in exchange for an honest review.]