Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Release Date: September, 2022
MSRP: $39.95
Designer: Peter Ridgeway
Number of Players: 2 to 5
Playing Time: 40 mins.
Product #: PAN202125 / BODA0422
Age Rating: 14+
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

The desire to make your mark on the world is pretty universal, and sometimes it presents itself in a more literal form:  graffiti.  In Wildstyle from Pandasaurus Games, you seek to "tag" as much of the city as you can to mark your territory.  But is the result art, or just plain messy?

Summary:  The city, in this case, is formed from a collection of double-sided tiles, each divided into 24 hexagons marked with different types of locations: residential, railway tracks, even police stations.  A number of tiles equal to the number of players are used, so the game scales naturally for different player counts.  Some special goals are laid out for players to pursue, then the cards are shuffled and split into a number of decks around the outside of the city.  This is important, because the game is played in "real time" without turns, so players need to be able to draw cards in a hurry.

Once the city is ready, the players go at it.  As quickly as they can (using only one hand), they draw and play cards hoping to create triples of the same symbol, which match the different types of locations on the city tiles.  A successful triple allows the placement of a tag, and grants control of that space.  If a player is stuck with cards that don’t help them, they can discard them to a "share pile" if they can match a color or a symbol.  Once on the share pile, any player can use that card for their own triples.  After three hectic rounds of play, points are awarded for each location tagged (police stations award the most points) and for completing the shared special goals.

Originality:  I remember playing card games that did not have player turns when I was younger, sometimes with painful results when two people go for the same play at the same time.  Some of the elements of those games appear in Wildstyle, cleverly merged into a surprisingly strategic game of area control and set collecting.  But the nature of the game limits your ability to plan strategically, because if you pause too long to think someone else will swoop in on your turf.

Presentation:  The cover art captures the feel of a graffiti-adorned city, with bright, bold colors and stylistic lettering that definitely grabs the eye, but the lettering of the title is a bit hard to read, so viewed from the side the box is a little easy to overlook.  The back of the box displays the components very nicely and offers a fair description of the game concept.  Inside the box, the color palette is a bit more muted, so we had a little trouble distinguishing some of the spaces from each other from the far side of the table.  The cards, however, are very clear and easy to read, and the tags are great: thick translucent plastic discs about the size of a nickel, they’re easy to grab and place and look good.

Quality:  All of the components are excellently made, from the plastic tags to the thick and sturdy cardboard tiles and tokens.  The cards are flexible and glossy, so hopefully they’ll stand up to the abuse of real-time play.  The player aids are thoughtfully designed and helpful both as a reminder of the rules and to help with scoring at the end of the game.  My main complaint, again, is the visibility of the hexes on the game boards, and a slight tendency for things to migrate a little bit during play.  The rulebook is generously illustrated with lots of excellent examples and clear text that makes the game pretty easy to learn.

Marketability:  I know that in a lot of places, those who make graffiti are not always considered to the most upstanding of citizens, so there may not be a lot of players who aspire to become one.  Which would be too bad, because Wildstyle is really a strategic territory control game with a real-time-play gimmick that could appeal both to strategy gamers and more casual players as well.  Mostly thanks to the tag tokens, the game has remarkable "heft" for its price tag.

Overall:  I remember playing a number of card games in my youth that involved multiple players all interacting over the same playspace without the structure of turns to prevent injury from over-enthusiastic players, so I felt a little bit of nostalgia when I approached Wildstyle.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t just an uncontrolled festival of card-slapping, and I really did have to give serious thought to my strategy in order to maximize my efforts.

But at the same time, I expected there to be a lot more chaos and confusion.  I did not have a feeling of panic that real-time games typically create, and I never felt that I couldn’t take a moment or two to consider my options before committing a tag I had just earned.  The result is a strange hybrid between the two extremes of strategy game and speedfest.  I really enjoyed playing it, and I think with more experience it has a lot of potential to be both at once.  And that’s why I’m giving this game 3.5 out of 5.

- William Niebling