Welcome to Wunderkammer: The Card Game of Curating Curious Collections!
In Wunderkammer you are a Collector on the hunt for strange and exotic items to populate your Cabinet of Curiosities.
You will compete in several rounds of auctions, trying to procure rare and unusual pieces like marvellous mechanisms, bizarre artefacts and eerie medical oddities.
The auction system featured in this game is quite unique: players can never be certain as to what their opponent is trying to win, so they must use their wits to deduce their competitor's intentions. Players increase the value of their Cabinet by 'curating': arranging items so that one is thematically linked to another, creating an aesthetic cohesion to the collection. At the end of the last round, the player whose Cabinet is worth the most wins!
The game accommodates 3-5 players and takes 15 to 25 minutes to play.
'Wunderkammer' is a German word that translates as "chamber of wonders". The closest English term would be 'Cabinet of Curiosities'. A Wunderkammer is a space, typically a cabinet, where collections of strange, rare, exotic and ingeniously crafted objects are organised and exhibited.
This style of collecting has a very long history, going back hundreds of years to the time of the Renaissance. Before public museums became commonplace, collections of an artistic, scientific or historical nature were usually privately owned and curated by aristocrats, academics and artists.
During this period, the rapid developments in science, art and travel had cultivated a taste for the unusual and novel among the more genteel classes of society. Possessing rare, exotic and bizarre objects became very fashionable, and collectors would often commission elaborately decorated cabinets to display their unique collections.
Most Wunderkammer during this time were a blend of anything and everything the owner found of interest; one might find jewellery, sea shells, astrolabes, oil paintings, religious relics, taxidermy, exotic pharmaceuticals and the kitchen sink all displayed on the same shelf. However, regardless of what was in a collection, as long as it piqued the curiosity of the viewer, then it qualified as a proper Wunderkammer!
The goal of the game is to curate the most valuable Cabinet of Curiosities among one's peers. During a round each player will acquire an Item Card during an Auction Phase, which may increase the point value of their Cabinet when added to the collection. After seven rounds are finished, the player with the most points wins.
Setup of the game is relatively quick and straightforward. First, each player is dealt an equal number of Money Cards, of which there are four denominations. Then a deck of Item Cards is placed in the middle of the table, within everyone's reach. Points Tokens, Priority Tokens and the Dealer Token are placed near the Item Deck as well.
The game is divided into seven Rounds in which every player, regardless of their performance, will acquire an Item Card for their Cabinet. Each Round consists of 4 Phases:
At the start of the Evaluation Phase, the Dealer for the Round will turn over a number of Item Cards equal to the number of players in the game (for example, in a three player game, three Item Cards are turned over). This spread of Item Cards is called 'The Market'. Players will privately assess the value of each card in the Market relative to the Item Cards in their own Cabinet (and those of their opponents).
Item Cards feature an Item Title (a fancy Latin name), an Item Image and one or more symbols near the bottom, called Categories. As will be explained later, players will try to acquire cards with Categories that match those of cards in their Cabinet.
The Bidding Phase of Wunderkammer features a unique auction mechanic that offers considerable depth and challenge for players.
Unlike conventional auctions, players do not declare a bid on a specific Item Card, rather they bid to win the highest Priority. Priority is the order in which players choose cards from the Market in the following Curation Phase.
This means that players can never be certain as to what Items Cards their opponents are trying to obtain. However, by examining other players' Cabinets during the Evaluation Phase, they can try to deduce their opponent's plans.
The Auction starts with the Dealer of that round and turns follow clockwise, giving each player the opportunity to bid or pass.
Bidding: For the first bid of the auction, the amount can be any value above zero. The bidding player will place an amount of Money Cards face up in front of them and announce the value. It will then be the next player's turn to bid or pass. If the next player chooses to bid, they must place in front of them an amount of Money Cards greater than the bid made immediately before them.
Passing: A player may instead choose to pass during their turn in the Auction Phase. If a player passes, they may not bid again for that round and any Money Cards from their previous bids remain on the table.
Passing is actually what determines Priority, or the order in which players may choose Item Cards. The first player to pass in the Auction Phase will be the last player to choose an Item Card during the Curation Phase. The second player to pass will be the second last to choose a card, and so forth. After declaring a pass, the player will take a numbered Priority Token to keep track of their Priority order.
The Auction Phase ends when all players but one have passed (the last person standing, so to speak). All money cards spent on bids are then removed from play; none of them are returned to the players after an auction. So when a player decides to make a bid, they better mean it!
During the Curation Phase, each player will take a turn choosing an Item Card from the Market in order of highest Priority determined during the Auction Phase. So, the player that won the auction (didn't pass) will be first to choose a card, the last player to pass will be second to choose, and so on. (This is where the Priority Tokens come in handy as they keep track of Priority order)
When all of the players have chosen an Item Card, they will add it to their Cabinet by placing it on either the leftmost or rightmost end of the series (in the case of the first round, they will simply place the card in front of them). Item Cards are never placed above, below or on top of other cards in the Cabinet (except for one special case, described later). Once placed in the Cabinet, cards may not be moved or rearranged in any way.
In order to earn points, a newly placed Item Card must share one or more Category icons with its adjacent neighbour(s). For every shared Category between adjoining cards, one point is earned.
There are three Categories in this game, which are based on actual classifications used by collectors long ago. They are:
- Naturalia: this category represents objects found in nature: minerals, plants, taxidermy, fossils, etc.
- Artificialia: this category represents objects of an artificial and artistic nature: sculpture, paintings, ceramics, jewellery, etc.
- Scientifica: this category represents objects that are related to the scientific fields: telescopes, astrolabes, medical apparatus, time pieces, etc.
In the early days of Wunderkammer, taxonomy wasn't strict by any means, and objects would often overlap multiple categories. This reality is reflected in the game by Item Cards that feature multiple icons. For example, an ostrich egg mounted within a silver setting would be categorised as both Artificialia and Naturalia. Or an automaton (mechanical toy), while being a marvel of engineering, is also a work of art, and would be considered as both Artificialia and Scientifica.
There are also special Item Cards in the deck that are empty; they don't feature an item and have no Categories. When added to a Cabinet, they do not earn the player any points. However, players are permitted to place a newly acquired Item Card on top of an empty card in the Cabinet. Acquiring empty cards isn't necessarily a bad thing, and if played wisely they can actually be an asset later in the game.
After all of the players have added their new Item Cards to their Cabinet we come to the Appraisal Phase. Players will count the number of categories shared between the newly added Item Card and its adjacent neighbour(s). For every shared Category, a point is earned; the player will then take an appropriate number of Point Tokens and place them between the two cards to track score.
After the Appraisal Phase has ended a new round begins (unless it was the seventh round, in which case the game ends). The player that won the highest Priority in the last round becomes the Dealer for the new round (and receives the Dealer Token). Priority Tokens are returned to their original place on the table.
For the seventh round, things operate a little differently. Rather than holding an auction to establish who has Priority, order is determined by who has the most money (since bidding would be rather redundant). In the case where two or more players have equal amounts of money, Priority is resolved by who is first in turn order, clockwise from the dealer.
After the seventh round the game has ended, and players add up all of the Point Tokens in their Cabinet. The player with the most points wins, as their Wunderkammer is, indeed, the most magnificent. In the case of a tie, a rematch is probably in order!
There are several goals I have in mind for this Kickstarter campaign, and not all of them are about funding. But don't get me wrong, funding is important too!
Among my goals are:
- To raise enough funds from people interested in the project to help contribute to the initial production run of the game. In return, backers will have a chance to experience Wunderkammer before it is offered to a wider audience.
- This campaign also helps me learn more about what you, the audience, think and feel about the concept, the art, game design and so forth. The creative process doesn't end with simply making a 'thing'. Whether it is a product or a work of art (or both), a creation will take on a life of its own after it is released to the public. I want your feedback to be part of the process of bringing this game to life.
- Some of the Stretch Goals empower backers to help shape aspects of the game (which is one of the reasons why Kickstarter is so awesome!). I find it exciting that backers can actually contribute to the end result of a product.
- The themes of this game are about collecting and curating strange, obscure and bizarre items from the natural, artistic and scientific worlds. Through Kickstarter's use of updates and the comment section, I have an opportunity to answer questions and offer my knowledge of the things featured in the game. AND I would also be DELIGHTED if you could help me learn more about them as well. So please, don't be shy and keep the comments coming!
The following list will track Stretch Goals during the course of the campaign. The last three goals are labelled 'Mystery'. While I have some great ideas for what they should be, I'm also curious what you, the project backers, think. So don't be shy and send those ideas by! The stranger the better!
Then, in the next week or so, I will give consideration to all of the ideas that have been submitted and reveal what the goals are.
For backers receiving tangible rewards, shipping will be charged in addition to the pledge after the campaign ends.
The following are estimates for the cost of shipping:
- Canada ~$9 CAN
- United States ~$5 USD
- EU ~$10 USD
- Rest of the World ~$12 USD
Pickup of items can also be arranged in some cases.
Many people who followed development of the game or helped playtest were curious about what inspired me to start this project and the kind of research I did.
Visiting museums, private collections and auctions provided a ton of ideas for things I wanted to include in the game. And being a collector as well, some items are actually based on articles in my own Wunderkammer.
One excellent resource for conducting research and finding inspiration is Pinterest. In fact, I see the app as a kind of digital Wunderkammer in its own right, as it is designed specifically for collecting, organising, labelling and sharing interesting images.
If you would like to see some of the Pinterest Boards that I've created specifically for this game, the icon below provides a link.
Also, I love browsing antique and gift shops, whether brick-and-mortar or online, that sell rare and peculiar things! Some that I've browsed for ideas are:
Phil has worked in the digital media industry for over 20 years in various roles including Creative Director, Art Director and Game Designer. He enjoys collecting old and unusual things, especially obscure antique board and card games from around the world. He is very excited about this project as it has been as much of a labour of love for him as it has a business endeavour, and would like to sincerely thank you for visiting his Kickstarter campaign.
Risks and challenges
With any crowdfunding endeavour it is critical to maintain open communication and a degree of transparency with backers. So, during the course of the campaign I will be giving regular updates and responding to questions and comments as quickly as I can.
The game is almost ready to hit the presses as the cards, tokens, etc. are designed. The game components are quite straightforward from a manufacturing point of view, and quality control from prepress to packaging will be carefully monitored.
As with most tabletop game projects on Kickstarter, shipping delays are one of the trickier risks to mitigate. However, the manufacturer I have chosen has a solid track record of successfully delivering products of this kind, as does the fulfilment service they work with.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)