Review – It’s a Wonderful World: Leisure & Decadence
|Designer||Benoit Bannier, Frédéric Guérard|
|Publisher||Lucky Duck Games (Asmodee North America)|
|Category||Drafting Game, Campaign Game|
|Length||30-60 minutes per game (5 games)|
|Release Date||Summer 2023|
It’s a Wonderful World was a Kickstarter in 2019, but I did not discover it until much later. It is a fantastic combination of drafting and engine building, with a chain-reaction production phase that makes it feel like no other. Of course, success begets expansions, and Leisure & Decadence is the second campaign expansion for It’s a Wonderful World after War & Peace. Originally only meant to be part of a Kickstarter campaign, it is now publicly available in retail. Does it make the game better or worse? Let’s take a look!
I think that this is the first campaign I’ve played where it was not intended as part of the game from the outset; an added package rather than a new version with an integrated campaign. This is not Pandemic Legacy, Clank! Legacy or My City, but a completely separate addition to It’s a Wonderful World – and it shows. What I’ve really enjoyed about legacy games is the narrative that changes as the game unfolds. Yes, even My City had a small narrative, primarily one that was represented through the mechanisms that were added.
On the surface, that’s essentially what’s happening with It’s a Wonderful World as well. The game has never had a strong theme, and the attempts to add flavor and story here are weak at best. In theory, that would be fine, if the game gave me strong new mechanisms to work with. Unfortunately, the new things introduced in Leisure & Decadence are mostly misses.
Without spoiling too much, there are two main new mechanisms in Leisure & Decadence that can be applied to the base game after the campaign is over. One is a new way to score points by advancing a track, and the other is a way to finish your cards faster. The track for points is not exciting at all, and doesn’t integrate well with the rest of the gameplay. The game includes new cards that advance this track, but you’d have to specifically draw them, or otherwise make a specific effort to advance on the track. It feels tacked on, well, because it is. The second ruleset I actually like just fine, except that as a necessary part of that system, it integrates with the new point track.
Now, while those are the two things that get added after the campaign (and during), there are other ideas during the campaign. Some are just okay, but the addition of player powers each round is quite enjoyable – if anything, I would have liked to see these refined into variable player powers that you could use after the campaign is over, instead. But in any case, they’re quite interesting and enjoyable to use, helping to mitigate the one downside of It’s a Wonderful World, which is when you just get dealt horribly awkward portions of the deck and can’t do anything about it.
What drew me to It’s a Wonderful World in the first place is its elegance. For being just colors and numbers, it’s got such a clever system that feels good when you “combo out” during a production phase. When a game is this tightly designed, it’s very, very hard to add new and interesting things to it, and Leisure & Decadence breaks under that pressure. In fact, I was inspired to also remove all of my Kickstarter promos after the campaign, because I found that they likewise ruined the game’s near-perfect balance.
There is certainly a big bright side to the campaign, however: it inspired me to bring It’s a Wonderful World back out, which remains an absolutely stellar game. And a slightly bloated campaign game of It’s a Wonderful World is still more fun than many other games. If you are really finding that the game is getting stale, it might be just what you need, but for me, I’m happy to keep playing the base game alone for much longer.
The Bottom Line
If the base game has become stale, this might breathe new life; but it sacrfiices the elegance of the original.