Perfect for this time of year is the Winter Wonderland Thematic Neighbourhood expansion for Welcome To, the popular flip and write board game. Designed by Alexis Allard and Benoit Turpin, published by Deep Water Games, this expansion sees players of Welcome To travelling to an icy part of town. With estates still to be built, some houses will put up Christmas lights to join in the festivities. The player count and the game length remain the same, so does this feel like a new experience? Let’s find out!
[Editor’s Note: For those new to Welcome To check out our review of the base game.]
During the game players won’t be circling candy, building shelters, nor will they be moving ice cream vans along the streets – like previous Welcome To expansions. In the Winter Wonderland Thematic Neighborhood expansion players will play almost as normal. Only at the end of the game will players draw strings of Christmas lights along consecutively numbered houses in the streets. For each street players will score points equal to the largest run of Christmas lights. So, a maximum of 23 points are up for grabs – regardless of how hard that would be to pull off.
As these Christmas lights only score at the end of the game during play the change is that players will want to create streets with consecutive numbers rather than just ascending order. This opens up plenty of opportunities to risk perfectly spacing out house numbers, only for the cards not to reveal the numbers you want! Unlike if the game was dice based, eventually a number is guaranteed to come out of the deck. Hopefully that happens before the game ends though!
Making it slightly easier, if you plan correctly, Bis properties count as being in consecutive order. Many players seem to avoid Bis, thanks to the minus points “awarded” for using the ability. All of a sudden the risks of needing consecutive numbers makes the Bis ability to make an A and B house (5A and 5B for example) much harder to ignore. Firstly, you will get some of the points lost for the Bis action back, if it is part of the longest consecutive run on the street. On top of this, it becomes that little bit easier to fill a full 6 house estate – which is one of the city plan objectives.
Three new city plan cards are included to help incorporate the wintery vibes throughout the game. These range from estates of consecutively numbered houses to small estates that aren’t consecutive at all – who must be Scrooges as they don’t get any Christmas lights. As with the other expansions you can play with the three objectives or pick a couple to use and draw a city plan card from the base game deck to go with them. Mixing it up works to keep the experience fresh, though it means there is less focus on what makes the expansion unique, the Christmas lights.
With the neighbourhood slightly redesigned by Anne Heidsieck, there is a festive feel which makes for a pretty looking group of estates. With a string of lights along the top, and in the trees in the neighbourhood, plus snowmen, candy canes and toboggans laying around the player sheets fit the theming well – even the pools are frozen over. The wintery neighbourhood does have a light blue hue: the only issue with this being if you are trying to play with a fading blue pen.
Out of all of the expansions Winter Wonderland offers both the smallest addition and potentially the most risky scoring opportunity to date. It incentivises players to build at least large estates of houses in consecutive order. This sounds like it should be such a simple task, but as veteran Welcome To players will know, the cards don’t always come out of the decks when you need them too. As a result, more so than the original, when you fill in a gap perfectly between two other houses there is a sense of satisfaction to it. It is this satisfaction and the theme that makes Winter Wonderland Thematic Neighbourhood one of the better Welcome To expansions, especially for this time of year!
(Editor’s Note: Winter Wonderland Thematic Neighbourhood was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The expansion is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)