Beware the Home Owners Association – they may pinch your ideas!
There has been a major resurgence this year in a genre of game known as Roll and Write. I have spoken about a few such games before, mostly in Last Week’s Gaming.
The premise is simple – you Roll some Dice and Write down the result to form some kind of pattern. Everyone plays with the same roll, so it’s purely how efficiently you create your patterns that determine a winner.
But as with any design, this has been refined and played with. One of my favourite ‘alternate’ Roll and Write games is the interestingly named Welcome To…!
What makes it an alternate game? There are no dice to roll! Everything you need in Welcome To… are some pens, the suburb score sheet, and some cards – that’s it.
Like a few other reviews in the past, don’t judge Welcome To… on the number of components that come with it. This is a great game and logic puzzle that will keep you wanting to come back for more!
So what is Welcome To…?
Thematically, you are playing as architects in the 1950’s trying to design the ‘perfect’ neighbourhood. You want to make estates of just the right size, parks and pools for recreation, and of course house numbers in the correct order.
Mechanically you are trying to do the same thing – neatly organised areas are more popular for buyers, hence more points. Have a lot of parks in the area? More points. Got to install a lot of pools? More points. Had to slip in sub-housing such as 12A? Well, that will cost you points.
Playing Welcome To…
First thing you do when you get your neighbourhood plans (Score Sheet) is to name your Suburb. It’s part of the reason why the game is called Welcome To… – your perfect home hasn’t been named yet!
Then three City Plan cards are dealt out. These are overall objectives that each player is trying to achieve, as well as an end game mechanic.
Initially these are fairly simple, basically grouping houses into estates, but if you want more of a challenge you can go advanced. Advanced objectives are things like the first two streets must all have pools, or a certain street must be completely built.
Once this is done, take the construction cards and place them into three equal stacks, numbered side up. These will basically act as the dice of Welcome To… – whatever is revealed here is what everyone has to work with!
When everyone is ready, turn the first card over to reveal the effect.
Now the first turn happens. Each player picks one house number from the cards on the left-hand side and writes that number on an empty house on their Sheet.
If you can’t place a house at any time, you must mark off a Building Permit Refusal box on the sheet. These are penalties for not building, but can also end the game.
Once this is done, the player can choose to use any of the visible effects – this is optional, but these effects are generally how you improve your score and meet City Plan objectives. This effect is also marked off on the Sheet.
Repeat until an end game condition happens. Ending the game happens when any player completes all three City Plans, uses all three Building Permit Refusal forms, a player has built every house in the suburb or any combination of the above.
Because play is simultaneous, it is possible for more than one player to reach an endgame condition – just play the turn out, then add up the scores! Highest score wins.
Using the Effects
The building Effects are the score modifiers (and sometimes lifelines) in each game of Welcome To….
Generally speaking, they are all fairly intuitive. For example, the Surveyor effect looks like a fence and lets you fill in a dotted line to make a fence and create a housing estate or group.
Similarly, the Landscaper looks like trees, and lets you fill in the Park score on the street you placed your house.
The Temp Agency looks like roadworks but allows you to change your house number by -2, -1, 0, 1 or 2 to a range of 0 to 17. Why would you change a house by 0? Because there is a bonus for the player that used the most Temp Agencies!
The Pool Manufacturer looks like a pool. If the house number you put down is in an empty house with a pool, you can ‘build’ the pool and mark it off on your sheet. More pools equals more points!
The Real Estate agent looks like the stock market. Think of it as marketing, where you can increase the final end game score for differently sized estates you build. It’s all in the presentation after all.
And finally, there is Bis. This hasn’t translated too well from the original French, and could throw some people. All this is a mechanic showing a property has been slotted in, so an estate could be 3, 3A and 3B for example.
So now if you ever see ’12 Bis’ in a French street address, you know it’s just referring to 12A!
There is an additional advanced rule that also allows you to build Roundabouts. By sacrificing an unmarked house and drawing a circle in it, you can instantly fence around the roundabout to quickly create estates. Be careful though – this will also cost you points!
So it’s just putting things in the right place? How is that a game?
This is a question at the heart of many Roll and Writes. Everyone has the same board, the same conditions, and puts things together as they wish. But there isn’t one solution.
The player that does it the most efficiently or successfully pushes their luck the most is almost always the winner.
This is a big part of the fun of these games – at the end, when everyone has added up their score, everyone will see something that worked better than their idea. The allure of the ‘perfect’ formation is always there but is rarely attainable.
Because of the random nature of the resources involved and the lasting effects of decisions made, the challenge to simply ‘do better next time’ can be addictive to a lot of players. This is where the fun of these games are – not in the actual mechanics, but in the satisfaction of what you have accomplished.
More ways to play!
Welcome To… has a solo mode, which only slightly changes the rules. Essentially you play the same way and try beat your high score, but you add a ‘Solo’ card to the construction deck, and you only make one draw pile.
Each turn, you draw three cards and choose one card for the house number, and another for the effect. Once the Solo card is drawn, you can no longer score the higher City Plans scores, but that’s it – the game remains the same.
Expert mode makes the game a bit more complicated, but also adds another wrinkle to the mix.
Each player plays similar to Solo mode, except there is no Solo card (it’s used as a marker for dealing, but I would skip it in small groups). Each player draws three cards from the central deck and chooses two cards to play as normal.
This third card is not discarded like usual though – you pass it to the player on your left, effect side up. This hides some information for the next turn. Next turn, each player then draws two cards, as they already have a choice in front of them.
It might not sound like much, but forcing ‘bad’ choices onto a player will limit their play options each round. Someone really needs low numbers to fill a street? Hand over that 14 with a smile.
But remember, if a player fails to place three houses it’s game over, so you aren’t just messing with one player – your score is also in Jeopardy!
Welcome To… Mini and Home Boards
A version of Welcome To… has been announced called Welcome To… Mini.
This is an interesting marketing strategy in my opinion. The Mini version comes with the cards, 6 laminated score sheets, and some dry erase markers. That’s it – no rules or new additions.
If you know how to play Welcome To…, this is a great way to nab your own copy – as a gift, probably not so much.
For myself though, I have a laminator and if you get one on special, you will probably nab one for cheaper than Welcome To… Mini. Yes, it’s a few minutes mucking around – but after those few minutes you won’t worry about running out of score sheets again!
Don’t like writing? Try the App!
Blue Cocker has released an app that replaces the scoresheet in Welcome To…
Playing on my Sony Xperia XZ, the sheet works fine and because I am familiar with Welcome To… it was reasonably intuitive to use.
I do wish though that there were some instructions or a quick tutorial to help you work out how to actually use the app. For example with fences I had to tap more than if I had built a pool – those icons just ‘felt right’.
But this learning curve aside the app does a good job of minimising mistakes in placement and makes scoring a breeze, plus it’s free!
Welcome To… holds a special place for me in my game collections. It’s ‘only’ a simple Roll and Write game, but one that I can pull out and start playing in minutes.
There is that little bit more to it mechanics wise that holds my attention while keeping its simple nature intact. I wouldn’t play Welcome To… with 6-year-olds, but 10 and up would seem an appropriate age to me.
If you are the sort of person that enjoys a Sudoku or just logic puzzles in general, I think a game of Welcome To… is right up your street!
Until next time,