All of us at some point or another have used a standard playing deck of cards to play games. My first ever tabletop experience was playing Durak with my family. As I grew older, I learned more complicated and sophisticated games that, again, I could play with the same deck of cards I used to play Go Fish. We can all agree that playing cards are incredibly versatile and adaptable, and a gaming tool that all of us have enjoyed, well since the Chinese invented them way back when.
I am talking about playing cards because it is impossible not to think of them when discussing Wibbell++. As playing cards, it is a gaming system, within which many games can be enjoyed. As playing cards, Wibbell++ set comes in a easily portable set of cards, that have defining features like letters, numbers, and borders that allow the variety of games to be played. However, unlike playing cards, this system is quite recent and has been designed by Bez from Stuff By Bez, and many other notable modern board game designers.
• Designer: Behrooz Shahriari, David Brain, Andrew Dennison, David J. Mortimer, Aaron Reading, Lewis Shaw, Ian Vincent
• Publisher: Stuff By Bez
• Number of Players: 2-10 (can vary for different games)
• Playing Time: 2-45 mins (can vary for different games)
From the start Wibbell++ comes with five different games: Wibbell, Grabbell, Phrasell, Faybell and Alphabeticell. I am sure, that just from the name of the games, you can already imagine what some of them are about. Wibbell, for example, is a word game, while Grabbell is primarily a dexterity game and Faybell is a storytelling game. What is great about this system, is that no matter what your gaming preferences are, you will find something you like within the set. Personally, I don’t care much for storytelling games. However, lovers of RPGs or even games like Rory Story Cubes, will get a lot out of both Faybell and Phrasell. I might be bad at word games, but Wibbell is the first word game I enjoyed in a very long time. It is fast, fun and has a great catch up mechanic that prevents any one player from having an immediate runaway success. Grabbell, as any good party dexterity game, is fast, easy, competitive and chaotic. While Alphabeticell, is a longer experience that is part luck, part strategy and part knowing your ABCs.
Every game in the set has its strong and weak points. However, I think your predisposition towards whichever game in the set will be highly influenced by the types of games you like to play. For example, I acknowledge that Scrabble is probably the best word game that has ever existed, however, I wouldn’t play it even if you held me at gun point. Similarly with Wibbell++ set. There will be games I will play all the time, while others I would probably play once and never again.
Wibbell++ is also a living system, meaning that games for it are still being developed and playtested, and the rules for the new games can be accessed online. Of course, nothing stops you from creating your own games using the set. In fact, every time I pick up the deck of cards, I can’t help but let my mind wander. Somewhere in the Wibbell++ there is a set collecting game and a bluffing game, and so many other games. Creating the games within the system is just as an important element of playing the games themselves.
However, there is one department where Wibbell++ still needs to convince me, and that is in regards to its flexibility. So far, based on the initial five game line up, this system is great for fun, quick, party games that can be played and enjoyed by all. What it’s missing is a deep, layered, dare I say, complicated game. Here is where I return to my trusty playing cards analogy. With a standard deck you can play something as silly as Snap, however, you can also play Preferans, a complex, bidding, bluffing and incredibly layered and strategic game. Also, with playing cards there is a big competitive scene, think of Bridge or Poker.
Now playing cards have been around for awhile, whereas Wibbell++ is a new system, that has not been tested by centuries of people playing it, so it is not entirely fair for me to compare. Therefore, I am not trying to say that Wibbell++ has to take on playing cards and be better than them. Of course, not. However, what I want to underline by that comparison is that flexibility is an important part of a system. Wibbell++ already has flexibility in types of games, and that is great, however, so far it lacks the flexibility in complexity. Having something like that would really get me excited for the set, and, for all I know, someone out there is already designing this kind of game using Wibbell++ set!
If you are familiar with Bez’s previous game In A Bind, you will recognise the hand drawn style of the cards. I like it. I think there is a lot of personality and character that comes from the imperfection of the hand drawn style. I felt like I was playing with cards, that had a previous owner and so there was a shared history of love of playing games. Whereas, perfectly designed and a vector drawn cards can feel impersonal and generic. Having said that, there is still place to re-skin and stylise Wibbell++ in a variety of ways, that will appeal to all audiences.
Wibbell++ is a really exciting new system. It still has a few things to prove, for example, that it can sustain complex gameplay, however as a living set, I am sure there are exciting things on the way. The true potential of the set, of course, is that anyone can design a game using it, whether a game designer or just a game player. However, if this is not your boat, you can simply enjoy fun, party games already in the set.