Choose your path to adventure…but choose wisely!
What Is What Next?
What Next? is a game for 1-4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 30-60 minutes to play. It’s a family-friendly party game combining a choose your own adventure mechanic with dexterity and other mini-games. It retails for $50 and is currently available on Amazon or directly from Big Potato Games.
What Next? was designed by Ed Naujokas and published by Big Potato, with illustrations by Beks Barnett and Zoe Lee.
What Next? Components
Here’s what you’ll find inside the box:
- 238 Cards
- 12 Peril Pieces
- 15 Item Pieces
- 12 Puzzle Pieces
- 3 Sundials
- 1 Triangle Slider
- 1 Puck
- 1 Drawstring Bag
One thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that What Next? is a game with great presentation. The box has a gatefold opening, and the various item pieces come packaged in colorful paper bags. All of the cards are presorted into their own boxes for the three adventures included with the game.
The quality of all the components is top-notch. The cards, of which there are a couple of different sizes, all have a nice linen finish. The sundials and triangle slider are all made of thick cardboard.
The designers have attached feet to the bottom of the triangle slider, to minimize any sliding around that may occur during gameplay:
Both the Item Pieces and the Puzzle Pieces are made of colorful plastic. The Item Pieces, which are supposed to be drawn blindly out of the included cloth bag, are all uniquely shaped. However, many of the shapes of those pieces are similar, adding to the challenge of drawing the correct items.
The wooden Peril Pieces, which are stacked during the game, are all coated with a paint that provides increased friction. This ensures that a collapse of the stack will be from a player’s actions, and not from random slippage of the pieces.
How to Play What Next?
You can watch a video on how to play here:
The goal of the game is to reach the end of the adventure without your Tower of Peril collapsing.
Choose from one of the three adventures. Take the corresponding card pack, and remove the Location Cards, Event Cards, and Item Cards decks. Place all three decks in easy reach of the players, leaving room for separate discard piles(The Location Cards should be “day”-side up). Also take the Time Dial that corresponds to your adventure.
Put the Item Pieces in the bag, and place the bag, the Puzzle Pieces, the Peril Pieces, the Triangle Slider, and the Puck off to the side. Leave a space on the table for building your Tower of Peril.
You’re now ready to begin.
Take card 0 from the Location Card deck. Choose someone to go first, who will read the card out loud.
There are 3 types of cards in the game: Location, Event, and Item.
Players take turns reading the Location Cards, which advance the story. Any time that you would draw a Location Card, you advance the Time Dial one space. If the Time Dial is on a “Danger” Space, you flip the entire Location Card deck over and draw from the dark side(dark side cards are often more dangerous). Otherwise, you draw from the light side.
When you pick up a Location Card, take the following steps:
- Read the story out loud.
- If you see an Event icon(an exclamation mark inside a triangle) in the middle of the card, you must pause the story and carry out the event right away, pulling the matching Event card from the Event deck.
- Read the story to the end, and then follow the action at the bottom. If there’s a choice, you can vote which action to take.
- If the action on the bottom leads to an Event Card, then that player draws and plays out the event.
- If the action leads to a Location Card(as denoted by an online map pin), then it’s the next player’s turn. Find the corresponding card, and then the next player will read the story out loud.
Event cards are different challenges that you’ll play to determine the outcome of the event. There are four different types of Event cards: Item Search, where you have to blindly draw the correct shape from the bag; Shape Build, where you use plastic pieces to create the shape shown on the Event card, Puck Push, where you have to flick the puck along the Triangle Slider to a specific area; and Mini Games, which can be any number of challenges, such as the one on the card above. With events, you’ll either get a time limit, or a limited number of practice attempts.
At the bottom of the Event card, you’ll find instruction on what to do both if you succeed, or fail. Successes can often grant Item cards, while failures could result in adding a Peril(more on that in a bit).
Item cards can be collected at various times through an adventure, often upon the successful completion of events. They will provide many benefits, such as being able to add time to timed events, or ignoring Peril.
The Tower of Peril
Whenever a skull icon appears on a card, you must add a piece to the Tower of Peril. Using the purple Peril Pieces, you build side-on. The first two pieces form a base, and must be touching. All additional pieces are built up from that base, and cannot be touching the table.
If at any point you either topple the Tower of Peril or need to place a piece on the Tower and there aren’t any more pieces to place, you lose the game.
You win if you make it all the way to the end of an adventure. You lose if you either topple the Tower of Peril, or run out of pieces to build the Tower.
Why You Should Play What Next?
What Next? had our group of four engaged and often laughing throughout the game. I obviously don’t want to reveal too much about the adventures as this is fundamentally a “choose your own adventure” game, and I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the stories. But needless to say, there was a lot of family-friendly absurdity throughout the stories, aided in no small part by the delightful cartoon illustrations and pleasing colors. The entire game has a great table presence, with all of the game pieces just begging to be picked up and played with. And even when it was just one person playing out an Event card, everyone else remained very engaged in those challenges.
The challenges themselves were engaging. There’s a good amount of variety there, from pattern replication to dexterity. Thankfully, if you end up with a challenge that you’re not very good at, it doesn’t ruin the game. Instead, you may just miss out on a bonus item, or it will drive the story of the adventure down a different path.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have some issues with What Next?. For one, while playing the Drums of Koala Cave adventure, at one point we were directed to draw a card that had already been played. This resulted in a very awkward disruption of gameplay, as we dug the card out from the discard pile. We were then basically forced into making a different story choice, so that we weren’t stuck in a loop. It was a surmountable issue, but it would have been nice if it had never arisen in the first place.
The other issue that I had was with the use of the Time Dials. You draw a Dark side Location card whenever the dial is on a Danger space. There are only four spaces on the dial, with only one Danger space. That meant that with 4 players, one of those players was almost always the one drawing the Dark side Location cards, which are also more dangerous. There are times when the story may have you draw Dark side cards even when you’re not on a Danger space, but just one of our players still mostly got the short end of the stick. I would have preferred a bit more randomization of the Location card draws, so that the danger was spread around more.
While those issues did lessen our enjoyment of the game, we still had a good time playing What Next?. Even though there are only 3 adventures included in the box, you can always repeat adventures, making different choices to keep things fresh. You could also choose to take the same path, but succeed at Event cards at which you failed previously, thereby opening up different story paths. None of my group(all adults, it should be mentioned) were however very keen on repeating an adventure. While there’s a decent amount of potential replayability with What Next?, your personal mileage may vary.
My friend Chris, who has an 11-year old at home, said that his daughter would love this game. While What Next? is an enjoyable diversion for a group of adults, it truly shines in a family setting. Just be aware of those issues I’d mentioned, to avoid running into any frustrations while playing, especially with those that are younger.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.