Tabletop and Video Games

Reviewing Wanderhome, a cozy TTRPG by Jay Dragon

Reviewing Wanderhome by Jay Dragon

History

Wanderhome is a pastoral fantasy role-playing game about traveling animal-folk, the world they inhabit, and the way the seasons change. It is a game filled with grassy fields, mossy shrines, herds of chubby bumblebees, opossums in sundresses, salamanders with suspenders, starry night skies, and the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine. (Possum Creek Games)

Created by Jay Dragon, Wanderhome was a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $300,000. It has since won Polygon’s Best Indie Tabletop Games of 2021 and is available for digital or physical purchase here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Set Up

Wanderhome is the TTRPG for anyone who wishes D&D had less combat and more animal handling checks. In our Roar Cat Reads’ Discord, those people were easy to find! We each prepared by reading through the book, which is full of gorgeous artwork, and then six of us met online to try the game for the first time.

It was, dare I say, magical. I have never played a game that included so many people saying, “Awww!” on repeat, and meaning it sincerely every time. For two and half hours, we created characters, settings, and storylines as a group. As an overworked DM, I found this collaborative element hugely enjoyable. The system provides just enough structure to guide creation and keep things moving while allowing an enormous amount of creativity. We spent nearly an hour creating our characters, choosing from 15 different playbooks that are full of delightful flavor that creates a much more nuanced character than traditional systems like D&D. When we had finished, we unanimously agreed that we could happily sit around creating characters for hours, and that this would be entirely satisfying.

We did move on, however, to creating our first destination. Wanderhome‘s conceit is that your group of travelers arrives at a new destination every session. When played as a GM-less game, this means you can use roll tables and prompts to create the next location as a group. We wound up creating a monastery that overlooked a lake of spirit koi where big cats wove tapestries from whiskers. I never would have created a setting that fun on my own!

I was most nervous about actually playing the game. After all, how does anything happen if there is no established plot? What do we do if there isn’t someone pulling the strings? I was delightfully surprised to find that we created a fun little scene together that had actual emotional impact. Granted, there were a couple little-too-long moments when we described how we entered the monastery and didn’t quite know what was happening. But those small, purposeless moments feel different in Wanderhome. This is a game that comes to life in the pauses, when you can develop your character by putting your bumblebees to bed or build relationships by asking the squirrel to haul the aged owl onto the roof. It was on that roof that we noticed a spirit ship approaching, and after fifteen minutes of creative role play that culminated with a beach party, we took a contented sigh and realized we had reached the end of our day’s journey.

Highlights

  • My absolute favorite part was the end of character creation when you ask a pre-written relational question of the characters on your right and left. They were surprisingly deep and truly effective at establishing quick bonds among the party.
  • When everyone is the GM, everyone gets to play the NPCs (“kith” in Wanderhome), which allows for even more diversity and creativity.
  • The vibes! This is a game feels slow, purposeful, and cozy. You could probably include drama and intense action, but I think you would lose some of the magic. Wanderhome is a celebration of the mundane in the absolute best possible way.

Challenges

  • You need the right group for this with at least a couple very creative people, as the story will only be as good as you make it.
  • Conversely, you also need to make sure your group’s more vocal participants don’t take up the spotlight and prevent the quieter, slower creatives from contributing.
  • Most importantly, make sure your group enters this game with a yes/and mentality! Anything is possible, so say yes to the idea you don’t particularly like, see where it goes, and build on it!

Other Players’ Reviews!

Chad (he/him)

Wanderhome harkens back to the days of my childhood when roleplaying was just some friends sitting in a circle or going over MSN Messenger and making stuff up, but with just enough of a world and guidelines to keep anyone from being put on the spot or having to spend hours planning. It’s almost more of a collaborative story-building event than it is a roleplaying game, though I mean that as the highest of compliments and not to diminish it’s place as a roleplaying game.

We played roles. We played multiple roles. I was the Owl Teacher I came with, the Hillock we came to along the way, and the misunderstood Warthog Captain of a lake-faring vessel that formed the ‘conflict’ of the session. I say conflict in that the stakes were never much higher than ‘how fun and interesting can we make this’ as opposed to life or death. Wanderhome is painting pictures with words, creating personalities for everything, and being inventive with friends – both old and new. A welcome departure from the typical and a leap into the fantastical.

Jessy (he/him)

Playing Wanderhome for the first time was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s very fun! And that fun doesn’t come just from going on adventures as woodland creatures, though that certainly is a lot of fun. For me a big part of the fun was making our characters and location together. This was the only time I’ve played a game where I would have been excited to just keep making characters with everyone.

The mechanics elegantly facilitate bouncing ideas off of your fellow players while still moving at a brisk pace for those who may want to rush into adventure. Cooperatively creating a location like it is a character of its own was exciting and getting to use the locations’ actions to form a narrative works smoothly once you get the hang of it. After all that creation, playing the characters and locations we built was an absolute blast. I would recommend it to anyone.



Have you played Wanderhome? Tell us what you thought!

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1 comment on “Reviewing Wanderhome, a cozy TTRPG by Jay Dragon

  1. Pingback: 1 Year Later: My 10 Favorite Posts – Roar Cat Reads

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