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Card Game Review: ‘Wangle’

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Few games have as powerful as a background as Wangle. Creator Jesse James grew up playing games every weekend with his family while other kids might have been sitting in front of the TV watching Saturday morning cartoons. As the children in the family grew, the James clan began to develop original games and variations to take their play to the next level. After having designed the prototype for Wangle, Jesse passed away suddenly at 21. In his honor, his family began Jesse James Games with a fast-paced, high-excitement first game.

wangle

Wangle is a new take on the classic “Spoons.” Many people have fond memories–and even scars–from countless hours in school spent playing the attention-focused game of card-passing and awareness. According to Merriam-Webster “wangle” means “to get by clever methods,” and the update of Spoons makes it a more clever game. Cartoony images draw in the eye, making it require more thought than simple numbers.

The rules are similar to the original game — the “Wangle sticks” are set in the middle of the table within reach of each player with one fewer than the number of players. A dealer gives each player five cards and then draws an additional card. He or she may choose to keep it or pass it on; if it is kept, he or she must pass on a different card. As no player may have more than five cards at a time, the extra cards continue to pass until being discarded by the last player. Upon getting a certain combination of cards, a player may grab a Wangle stick, prompting everyone else to grab one, too. Following musical chairs rules, there will be one unlucky player stuck without a stick.

Rather than using a traditional card deck, Jesse optimized the deck in Wangle to a unique combination of themed “suits” and images. There are six possible suits with themes like baseball, camping, and western. Each suit comes with a number of the named characters “JJ,” “JT,” and “Jessica” as well as images following the theme, totaling five possibilities. This makes gaining a combo much more specific than the 13 traditional cards in four suits. Players compete to get four-of-a-kind or a run of all five of a suit, and the first to do so grabs the stick.

Wangle differs greatly from Spoons in its system of scoring. While the classic Spoons was a player-elimination game, it was often played simply on a round-by-round basis. Wangle gives the best of both worlds by awarding ample points for first taking the stick, less for having a stick, and none for the player without a stick. A score sheet based in five rounds gives the overall winner. To further the versatility, optional rules can award bonus points for having a character card or winning several in a row. Dealer’s choice options give different combinations to enable the grab for the Wangle stick. Using points rather than elimination, nobody is ever out of the game, and the lead could change with any hand.

Wangle is a fast-paced game for three to eight players aged 10 and up, though younger players may use the images for pattern recognition rather than play based on numbers. It has won numerous awards from prestigious sources, including Dr. Toy and Tillywig. With a solid system and great capacity for variation, Wangle is a fast-paced thrill-ride in which players will have a hard time stopping at just five rounds.

UPDATE 10/25:  Wangle has recently won the “Game of the Year 2013″ award from Creative Play Magazine

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.