Andrew: Today we get to check out a preview of the newest Kickstarter from Eagle-Gryphon games!. From the designers of Fleet (one of our favorites) comes Wharfside!
(In case you didn’t catch it in the caption above, all these pictures are of my PNP copy of the game)
Wharfside is the newest game from Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback, who you may remember from our extremely enthusiastic review of their other fishing game, Fleet (Fleet is awesome, you should get it). Wharfside, a stand-alone game in the same universe (that’s right, an entire universe made up of nothing but fishing boats and salty captains), is designed for 2-4 and plays out in about 30 minutes.
Andrew: Ok, so let’s get this out of the way – comparisons between Wharfside and Fleet are going to be inevitable and useful. However, aside from clearly shared theme and art design, the two games are definitely different. Fleet is an engine-building game with an auction element. Wharfside is a set-collection game that centers more on hand management. Fleet used contract cards to add useful engine elements to a player’s fleet; Wharfside retains this concept but tweaks it just enough to keep things interesting.
On each turn in Wharfside, players will decide if they are heading to the titular wharf or the market.
In the market, you will exchange Goods (read: fish) for the right to complete contracts, which are the primary source of victory points in the game. The market cost for these contracts is constantly shifting, though contracts which have gone unpurchased will get cheaper over time.
Andrew: While it’s nowhere near as interactive as the auction in Fleet, the market-cost mechanism in Wharfside is really slick in its simplicity. As new contracts replace purchased ones, one of the four markets will randomly change cost and all existing contracts will move to a cheaper market. So it is entirely possible that I will grab a contract, only to make it harder for my opponents to get the one they have been saving for.
The market is where you get your contracts, but it is the wharf were the real meat of the game takes place. Spending a turn in the wharf lets you work on completing your held contracts as well as activate contract-given powers and store away King Crab for end-game bonus points. You can hold up to 3 contracts at a time, and can assign up to two goods per turn towards completing them and earning you victory points. Every turn at the wharf ends with grabbing 2 goods from either the north or south wharf and trimming your hand down to 6.
Andrew: Here’s another place where a comparison to Fleet is useful. Contracts in Fleet let you launch ships, granted victory points, and gave you really useful engine-enhancing powers. In Wharfside, completed contracts are your primary source of VP, but in a really neat twist, it is your incomplete contracts which grant you abilities.
Jess: That creates a really great dynamic because you will constantly have to chose between finishing off your contracts to get points (with bonus points awarded for those who complete contracts before their opponents), or holding off on finishing those contracts to have access to their bonuses for longer.
It also means you won’t always be grabbing contracts that give the most VP – often, the most useful bonuses are on lower-scoring contracts, making you decide between the utility of the bonus and the points for completion. And the fact that you can only hold 3 incomplete contracts at a time makes this choice even more meaningful. It’s simple and smart game design all around.
After a player completes their fifth contract (or fourth in a 4-player game), you finish out the round and count up your glorious Victory Points to see who rules the seas!
Jess: I liked it. It hits a lot of the same notes as Fleet, but it’s different enough that I wouldn’t even call it Fleet Light. It’s not going to replace Fleet for me, but having them both doesn’t feel redundant.
Andrew: Same here. While its true that some people are going to find it a little too solitary in its gameplay, I think that Wharfside is a really good experience overall. Fleet is definitely its own thing, but this one has a place in the collection as well. Absolutely backing this one.
Wharfside wears its Fleet inspiration with pride, but never does it feel derivative; the mechanics are really smart, the design is solid, and gameplay is satisfyingly tight. If you love Fleet (and you should), then Wharfside will feel both familiar and new and in all ways super fun to play. And if you are a newcomer to the Eagle Gryphon world of fishing games, you’ve picked a great place to start!