Wakanda: Build Totems, Score Points

Wakanda: Build Totems, Score Points

Wakanda is a two-player game by designer Charles Chevalier with art from Loic Billiau. It works for ages 8 and up and plays in about 15 minutes. Wakanda is published by Blue Orange Games and retails for $27.99, but it can be found for about $18.

In Wakanda, tribes are said to gather to create representations of the values of their families. The player to build the three most prestigious totem poles wins.

How it works:

Players each get three headdresses, either blue or red, that will go on the top of a totem pole, finishing it. Six village tiles are laid out on the table, and they each give a different way for players to gain points according to the totem poles they build. Three are available at the beginning of the game, and one will be added each time a totem pole is completed.

The 21 totems — an eagle, chiefs, tomahawks, animal skins, teepees, and suns — are placed in a bag.

The first player takes a totem out of the bag and puts on a tile, then the second player does the same.

Play continues the same way until a player puts a headdress on one of the totem poles instead of placing a totem on top. That pole is finished, and the player has one extra totem to choose from each turn.

The game ends when all six totem poles are finished.

Why you might buy Wakanda:

Wakanda is easy to learn, and you can teach it to anyone.

It’s a good game for young players because the choices are quite limited.

It’s nice to see a game that uses space, building up.

There is enough strategy to engage adults, and the game is quick.

Why you  might not buy Wakanda:

Wakanda is extremely simple; you won’t be making lots of choices, but the choices you do make are critical.

Wakanda uses lots of stereotypical images of Native Americans and doesn’t use images that indigenous people use on totem poles. The eagle is the only image that seem sappropriate.

The theme says each tribe will be building a totem pole representing its values, but the gameplay has players trying to steal the work other players have done. The gameplay isn’t bad, but it doesn’t feel thematic. In fact, it feels the opposite.

My conclusions:

I like Wakanda’s gameplay, but the art overtakes it. It plays into stereotypes of indigenous Americans, who are living and vibrant. It feels disrespectful to me. Different images or a different them altogether would have made this game one I would be happy to play with my children. But this doesn’t teach lessons I want them to learn.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Wakanda from Blue Orange Games. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.

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I'm a journalist living in Central Oregon. I have two little kids, which for me has meant staying home. And playing board games.Lots of board games.I'm also an avid reader and a theology nerd.You can follow all of my interests and personal quirks on Twitter @teresawjackson and at www.tablebyteresa.com.