Iwari: Explore and expand in the new continent [Review]

By Stephan Sonny


Iwari is a fictional universe created solely for this game. Here, humanity was still in its infancy. They founded their tribes and started exploring uncharted terrains. While doing so, they also encountered other tribe members. Anyway, for those who don’t know, the game got funded through Kickstarter. Will this game get on our gaming table often? Let’s find out if it’s for you, too!

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

Highlighting how to play Iwari

I only highlight the essential rule to give you an illustration on how to play Iwari. If you only want to know what I thought about the game, you can always jump to the next section.

In this game, players focus their efforts to explore and expand their territories. They do this by playing the cards from their hands. The hand always consists of three cards. These cards depict the area players may influence during their turn. Players must play cards depicting the area they want to explore/expand. If they don’t have the related cards, they can play two cards as a wild card. During one’s turn, he/she may play up to three cards to place up to two objects (tent and/or totem) in one area.

The scoring happens twice in Iwari. The first time only counts points from tent majority in each territory. The second one repeats the first, and it also scores totem majority and settlements. A settlement is a group of four or more sequential tents along the road. Whoever gets the most points wins the game.

For further rule explanation, Man VS Meeples has covered it in their video on their Youtube Channel.


What made me love (and maybe, not love) Iwari

For starters, Iwari is definitely a euro game (yay). It’s an abstract game, so there is no chunky wall-of-text on the cards. The gameplay, essentially, is captivating, too. It needs you to throw some thoughts during the whole session. Is Iwari a simple one? Hmm, I couldn’t say it’s easy, though. I may be a bit bias here, but the testimonials from my diverse gaming group have proven my statement to be accurate.

Components & artwork that you won’t miss

I don’t know about you, but I always love to have pretty components and illustrations on my table. Thundergryph Games’ team is well-known for its remarkable artistry. Let’s Not pretend, even a glance of the box has successfully made you love Iwari, right? The vibrant colours fit perfectly with the fantasy style graphic. They went extra miles by designing different forms for the Totems and Tents instead only differentiate them by colours. Obligatory portrait of the Void.

Obligatory portrait of the Void.

Many of you may reckon I wrote it as if I have played many games from this publisher. Well, in fact, this article may be the very first appearance of Thundergryph Games on my blog, but I have backed several of their games through Kickstarter. What can I say? Their designs are always top-notch, and they have never let me down.Well, how can you resist this components?

Well, how can you resist this components?

Iwari’s gameplay and its reliance on the Tent placement

Based on BGG’s entry, Iwari is actually a reimplementation of Web of Power (which later also had multiple successors, China and Han). I honestly haven’t played any of those titles, so I had no expectation for this game (a good thing to enjoy a new game). Basically, this game is all about asserting dominance via its area majority mechanic. Players score main points based on how they influence the regions by building Tents and erecting Totems.

The impact of the secondary points cannot be taken lightly. When you let someone loose to build their own Tent routes, that extra points can decide the win or lose, too.

Iwari’s revolving heavily around Tent placement. That extra action to build Totem is related and really dependent on it. For instance, the number of Totems in a region is equal to the number of Tent majority there. Therefore, placing your Tent is essential, not only to open the door for you but also to shut your opponents’ future move. This includes the scoring, too, which I will explain in the next segment.

The placement of the Tents affects the whole game flow. Tent majority determines the points all players gain in that region. With the 3-2-1 rule, it still gives other players to place their Tents on a discovered area. I love the scoring because it prevents players from overcommitting over one territory.

Never overcommit in Iwari

The number of totems in a territory depends on the number of tent majority.

It may be tempting to build them in one place to get the majority and gain points. However, you also let yourself vulnerable when contesting Totems. When you have too many Tents, you may also let another player slips in and build his/her Tents on the last spot of your region. This is more their advantage than yours. For example, there are five free spots in Tundra territory. You build four Tents, and somehow another rivaling Tribe comes in and build a Tent. Yes, you gain 5 points, but the other one gets 4 points! You spend 4 times more resource only to get 20% output!

Oh, look, there are five spots in this Desert! Well, if I want to influence this area, I only need to build 3…

The number of totems in a territory depends on the number of tent majority.

More than that, I will just waste my resources. Well well well, what do we have in Tundra here? I have 2 Tents and the Totem majority connected to other regions. I may not gain the Tent majority in Tundra, but I don’t want other tribes to erect Totems. Hence, I will shut them down by not building another Tent there.

Moral of this story? Everything in Iwari needs to be “just about right”. Players must always be aware of the placement because it matters a lot during the scoring. Some sacrifices are necessary to win the game.

Player count and replay value

They designed Iwari for 2-5 players. It didn’t feel fun at all with 2 players, but it started to show promises with three. It may feel a bit crowded for some, but I would say five players will give the best experience in Iwari. That’s my sweet number for this game.

The deluxe edition comes with six maps and some other expansions. This guarantees a higher replay value in comparison to its retail version. I don’t really like the idea that they cut many things on the normal one, though. It’s still okay if the difference lies only on the components, but when it hampers the gameplay and replay value, I am not really a fan and will consider twice to back their next project.The artwork also makes you want to play this game over and over again.

The artwork also makes you want to play this game over and over again


Iwari can be categorised as a light euro game. It definitely has depth and feels complicated for new players. However, if you are used to games with high complexity, this might be kids’ play for you. Be as it may, Iwari can be your “main dish” for one board game night. Also, nothing beats pretty components in board games, and Thundergryph Games has once again exploited this to release one of their games. I love Iwari, but my opinion still stands. They should have included the expansion in the retail version and kept the deluxe as the prettier version of it.

Untamed: Feral Factions, a potential great CCG [Review]

by Stephan Sonny

The vast world of Collectible Card Games (CCG) has always been enticing new fans either by its innovation on the mechanic or even only through thematic appeal. Untamed: Feral Factions (for the sake of space, we will shorten it as Untamed from now on) is the latest game in this domain published by Grumpy Owl Games. Some say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” So, what does Untamed offer that’s different from its forerunners?

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

How to play, an overview

In Untamed, first, we pick three out of nine factions decks and shuffle it together. There’s no deckbuilding. The game can then start right away. We win if we destroy all three opponent’s stronghold. Be careful, when we cannot draw any cards from the deck, we also lose. The turn consists of two phases: Main and Upkeep phases.

In the Main phase, we have some options to do. We can play a card, attack opponent, put additional Power resource, activate Stronghold’s effect, and pay 2 Power to draw one card. To play a card, we have to pay the cost. This is usually paid by using Power resources, but some also need to get paid by the Support, too. All Animal cards normally come exhausted. The Upkeep phase initiates by readying all exhausted cards. Then, draw 2 cards from the deck and place a card on the Support area from your hand face up.

What we think of Untamed

Untamed: Feral Factions was another Kickstarter game I backed because of its attractive illustration. However, deep down, it comes up with decent gameplay that assures fair experience. This €25 box covers 2-3 players but I recommend to stick with two players per play to carry out the joy. Overall, Jeremy Falger and Milan Lefferts have delivered something that exceeds my expectation.

Components and illustrations

Can you notice the deluxe token here?

Thick cards offer durability, especially in this kind of game where shuffling is inevitable. You can also feel the weight of each card. Multiple artists were working wildly on the illustration, and they came up with something extraordinary. It’s sure fitting the name Untamed.

The quality of the prints could actually be better. The vibrant colour on their website and campaign was not represented fully on the cards. I think it should have been crisper. Also, I think they should have numbered the cards as well. I know CCG like Munchkin does not number its card, but it would be helpful for collectors. With numbered cards, we can trace and store our collection in order.

On a side note, I love the insert. It is made of sturdy plastics that give better structure. I think it will fit even after I sleeve the cards as well here. Nice job. Please bear in mind that this is the Collector’s Edition; I am not yet informed if they also provide the same thing in the retail version.

Nice structure from the sturdy insert. The artwork, too, it still gives me chill whenever I’m unlatching the box.

An undemanding card game

It’s as easy as ABC to set up Untamed and start playing with it. With the high pace, one game can be finished in half an hour. The rule is straightforward but needs some time to master it, as we have to get familiar with the keywords and card effects. The game still has the depth that might attract more advanced card game players, although I think it is meant for more elementary audiences. It is required to plan your strategy ahead and be ready for unexpected tactical manoeuver from your opponent. But, then again, Untamed still welcomes more casual players, too. In fact, I think the accessibility (which will be discussed further below) is the main selling point that targets this audience.

Comparison to other CCGs in the market

Just like Keyforge that provides the easy-to-play without any deck building, Untamed is steering to the latter direction. As we know, Keyforge does not need that deck building process (which some find exhausting), and you can play the game right out the box. Untamed is quite similar in terms of such accessibility. Here, we don’t have to build your deck to play. We just have to take three factions decks provided in the game, shuffle them, stack it as our deck, and we are ready to go. I prefer Untamed to Keyforge because there are no randomised kinds of stuff involved (this explains why I prefer LCG to TCG). I know what I buy, and I still can swiftly customise my deck. This is my personal bias, by the way.

All animals are normally coming exhausted (tapped). This is similar to the tapped/untapped from Magic: The Gathering (MTG). To win the game, we have to strike all three strongholds. It feels like the simplified version of ‘taking down that provinces and stronghold’ aspect from Legend of the Five Rings.

The similar mechanics between ready-exhaust and tap-untap during attacking.

Those are the similarities I found in comparison to other existing games. Back to the question I raised during the prologue: what differs Untamed with the other CCG out there?

The main difference in Untamed: Feral Factions

In Untamed, the key differences are the resources and the discarding mechanic. There are two types of resources: Power and Support. Power is always renewable and Support is the disposable, single-use resource. While putting Power is optional in the Main Phase, the Support one is a different matter. The latter is an obligatory action I had to perform during the Upkeep Phase. Also, all discarded cards are first placed in this Support area. They are ready to be used again before getting moved out of the game.

These cards had been used from Support area and removed from the game. The left ones, which were still organised, were the Support cards.

This discard mechanic is pretty new, at least for me. All cards are discarded to the Support area and can be used once again as resources. I could make use of them before they went away for good. In short, Untamed has two discard piles. It does not sound dramatic at this point, but it does alter how the game flows.

What next?

Some cards that can be used in other variant. The artwork is pretty, it’s sad the print quality is not that crisp.

Just like any other competitive card game, there will be meta, of course. Hence, the life of every CCG relies on the publisher’s continuation on releasing expansions. Untamed: Feral Factions is not an exception: to keep the game alive, Grumpy Owl Games needs to release expansions consistently. Otherwise, the game will feel repetitive without any replay value. The designer team may have known this, and they have also released a statement that there will be a new expansion coming up next.

Unwavering support to keep the game balance is also necessary. The team can keep the game healthy by doing errata if some cards are…

…deemed too powerful in the future. I am not a soothsayer, but I can say that Untamed: Feral Factions has the potential to be the next CCG with possible global organised play if they manage to pull everything up.

Final thoughts

Untamed: Feral Factions is a fast-paced, simple card game with accessibility to more casual players. It does not need the complex deck building process but the game still possesses depth for more veteran gamers. The price is justified for a box of a card game with beautiful artwork and decent component quality. If you are looking for a new competitive CCG, you should consider Untamed and its future release. Anyway, the next one will be Untamed: Spirit Strike.

Horrified: A Review with a Village Full of Monsters

By Ainy Rainwater

Ainy Rainwater©

My favorite monster when I was a kid was The Creature From the Black Lagoon. We lived a few houses down from a large drainage gully and not all that far from the Texas Gulf Coast, so an aquatic monster creeping across the backyard at twilight was a lot more plausible than, say, some monster from a lightning-struck castle, Transylvania, or pyramids. I’ve never lost my love of classic monster movies, and my husband loves them too, so when I saw a board game based on all those monsters I had to get it. It’s been less than two years since I started getting back into board games as an adult and the pandemic and consequent lockdown put an end to the 4-6 player weekend board games with the extended family, so I started looking for games my husband and I could play together. If it could play well with the whole family in the post-pandemic era, all the better. 

Read More »

Board Game Review | Detective


My gaming group is pretty mixed in our skill set and often includes children. Therefore, cooperative games get to the table often. On a whim several months ago, we pulled out the board game Detective. Although we had played Sherlock several times, we were never very successful. Sherlock just has far more skills than our party does, and we often wound up frustrated that, although we solved the case, it was more trial and error than actual skill. However, we liked the case-solving aspect and hoped that Detective would prove more our speed. 

Read More »