A board game for 3-5 players by Alan Moon & Richard Borg, published by Gold Sieber (Germany)
These comments copyright 2000 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated December 15, 2000

Wongar is an interesting game in what I call the "El Grande" family: games that feature less than a dozen regions into which players play pieces via action cards to control by influence (rather than through military means). I like many games in this family, so I was looking forward to trying Wongar. Sure enough, I think it's an excellent game and recommend it if you also like such games.

It has some problems in the graphic presentation, and in fact some gamers I've talked with say the graphics bother them so much they don't play the game. This is too bad, as the game rewards repeated playing with deeper enjoyment. If you feel this way, I urge you to try it again - it's not so bad as it first looks, and is well worth another play.

Wongar has an Australian Aboriginal theme. The word wongar is usually translated as "dreamtime" (though it is not in universal use throughout all Aboriginal tribes). Another concept in the game is that of the tjurunga (sometimes spelled churinga). A tjurunga is a sacred wood or stone object that can have many meanings in Aboriginal culture. The artwork is heavily drawn from Aboriginal art, and I find it all fascinating - but then I've had a long love affair with the Aboriginal culture, and am always looking to buy or trade for books on Aboriginal myths and legends, in particular. (Please email me if you have any for sale or trade - even children's books!)


The game is certainly striking! A little too striking for its own good, though, as it's hard to make sense of all the components. The board would be very handsome, actually, if it weren't so busy. The largest part of the board contains ten regions. Each region is represented by artwork which corresponds to the backs of ten small decks of cards. Basically, this simply lets you know which areas to stack which deck of cards.

There is a scoring track around the outer edge of the board, and a time line that denotes both when the game is over and the change in scoring values as the game progresses.

There are two types of cards: Ritual cards used in Ceremonies (scoring rounds) and Area cards. Area cards are smaller, and are split into ten different decks. The backs of the decks match the art in the ten areas, while each deck is composed of an identical assortment of action cards.

There are some interesting wooden figures included with the game: two fairly large pieces representing the Ancestor, and two representing the Elder. There is also a wooden boomerang to show the start player each round. There is also a scorpion marker to mark the timeline, and scoring markers in five different colors.

Finally there are the tjurungas. Another strange graphic design choice, tjurungas come in three shapes. Each player has 18 disks in their color, 15 cubes, and 12 cylinders. The pieces unfortunately resemble craft beads you can buy at many craft shops. In addition, games should never have cylinders - these things roll, folks, and in a game where the most pieces in an area is very important, it's too easy for a piece to roll from one area to an adjacent one. Ah well, at least the cubes stay in place.

In the Beginning ...

To start the game, shuffle each of the Area decks and put them in their respective areas. Each player starts with three Ritual cards - two random cards and a "double." A drawstring bag is included in the game - put 12 of each player's tjurungas in the bag and mix them up. Randomly pull them out and put a number equal to the number of players into each of the starting areas. The two center starting areas each get a double amount, and one each of the double wooden Ancestor and Elder figures. Randomly determine the first Elder player and first Ancestor player, set the scoring markers and scorpion at zero, and you're ready to play.

A Typical Turn

The Ancestor begins by turning over the top card on each of the ten Area decks. If a scorpion appears, the scorpion is advanced. (After the 11th advance, the game will end.) The Ancestor then picks one of the Area cards (which really should be called Action cards), performs the action, then play passes to the next player, and so on until each player has taken a card. Pass the boomerang to the new Ancestor, and the next turn begins by turning up cards on any Area decks which do not have a face-up card on top. The game continues this way until the scorpion reaches the last space. At that point there is a final scoring for the players who collected the most tjurunga Area cards.

Area Cards

There are a few different types of Area cards:

  • Tjurunga cards, which let you place tjurungas on the board or take Ritual cards,
  • Triple Tjurunga cards, which just let you place three tjurungas of the same type,
  • Ritual-Card cards, which allow you to draw more Ritual cards,
  • Ceremony cards, which allow you to move either (or both) of the Ancestor or Elder figures to a region and declare a Ceremony (scoring in that region).
  • Scorpion cards, which advance the time marker - place the scorpion card face-up on the bottom of the Area deck and draw another card,
Much of the first part of the game is taking the first three types of cards to increase your power, and only later taking the Ceremony cards when you're ready to score an area you've got the most influence in. However, this has to be planned carefully, as the Elder figure can only move two regions and the Ancestor one.

A Ceremony

Once you take a Ceremony card, you move the appropriate figure to an area of your choice. You may then play a Ritual card. These allow you either to bring tjurungas in from an adjacent region or remove tjurungas from the region back to someone's stockpile. (Ritual cards show an image of a single type of tjurunga - playing the card lets you move one tjurunga of that type in or out of the Ceremony area.) Only those with tjurungas in a region can play Ritual cards, so banishing an opponent's only tjurunga in a scoring area early in a Ceremony is a powerful move. Once you've played a Ritual card, the next player in the region has the opportunity to play a card, and so on around the table. Once you pass the right to play a Ritual card, you may not play any more - but if all others have passed, you can keep playing as many as you wish.

The point of Ritual cards is to give yourself the majority in as many of the three types of tjurungas in the scoring area as you can. Each region can be scored three times per Ceremony: the player with the most disks scores points, the player with the most cubes scores points, and the player with the most cylinders scores points. Ideally, you want to have all three majorities, but having two is better than one ...

How much you score depends on which figure you used to call the Ceremony: using both scores less than just using the Elder, who scores less than just using the Ancestor. Also, the further along the time line the scorpion is, the more you score in a Ceremony. This is clearly shown on the board and you don't have to remember any part of it - just look at the numbers next to the scorpion turn marker.

Calling a ceremony also gives you control over the relevant wooden figure. Controlling the Ancestor at the beginning of a round makes you the new start player. Controlling the Elder gives you an extra Ritual card.


Oh, there are lots of routes you can take here. It's important to watch your opponents carefully - although a figure must move in order to score a region, if an opponent gets a lock on the majorities in two adjacent regions, he can simply go back and forth between them racking up points. So it's important to keep a few tjurungas in other's strongholds, while trying to build up your own areas. Never an easy choice!

Ritual cards are another aspect of the game you must consider. Once a ceremony starts, you can't add tjurungas from your stockpile - you can only move them in from adjacent areas by playing Ritual cards. So Ritual cards are power - but only if you have enough tjurungas in an area that they won't be kicked out before your turn!

So choosing which action card to take each turn is usually a tough decision: do you place tjurungas, draw Ritual cards, or begin a Ceremony? And if you do place tjurungas or call a Ceremony, where? Lovely decisions, lovely game!

Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?

Well, the graphics confuse the heck out of a lot of people. I was used to them before my first game was half over, but I've talked with gamers who said they still didn't understand which symbols were which by the end of their first game. My own advice would be to stick with it - you'll get used to it eventually, and the game is worth it. However, I admit some people are more affected by poor graphic design than I am.

Then there's the type of game it is: allotting your limited stock of influence markers over ten regions. In this way the game is similar to El Grande, and some people simply don't like such games.

If you don't use a couple of the advanced rules, the game can be too random. In particular, we play:

  • The double Ritual cards are dealt out one per player at the beginning of the game, and any excess returned to the box. Once a double is used, it's out of the game - don't shuffle them back into the Ritual cards. (Double cards let you move two tjurungas of any type with a single card - too powerful to leave to random draw!)
  • Scorpion cards don't "sting" - they only advance the time line marker and cause the Ritual deck to be reshuffled. (In the basic game, turning over a scorpion card means you lose VP unless you're in last place.)
Using these two advanced rules reduces the luck factor considerably, making the game more skill-based. The fact that they're called "advanced" may put some players off from trying them, and thus may give them a poorer impression of the game than they might otherwise have. Use these rules right from your first game!

There can be a runaway leader for a game or two, until everyone learns some of the pitfalls of the game. I don't find this to be a problem with experienced players, though. Still, it means it's a tough game to introduce newcomers to.

There can also be some stagnation, if too many Ceremony Area cards are turned up at once. You don't have much of a choice on your turn in such a case, and games without choices are always less interesting than those with choices. And to be honest, this can occur fairly easily later in the game: as non-Ceremony cards are chosen each round, the Ceremony cards remain face-up. Area cards which are face-up at the end of a turn remain on top of their stack on the next turn. So it's possible to build up too many scoring cards gradually. I suppose you could institute a house rule that when all ten cards are scoring cards, remove five of them from the Area decks which still have the most cards in them - but I haven't found it necessary to do that yet.

Summing Up

All in all, a very fine game if you can get used to the graphics. I find the choices to be interesting and difficult - and rewarding when I make the right ones. It plays well with three or four players, but I haven't yet played a five-player game, to be honest, so can't comment on that. Although it hasn't been published in English, the rules are available on the web, and none of the components have any text on them at all.

Given the low net.presence of this game, I'd have to call this the sleeper of the year for me. That is, the best game with the fewest number of electrons devoted to discussing it.

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