Wilmot's Warehouse bills itself as 'a game for people who like to organise stuff'. But while I understand that tagline, I fear it might put some people off. I'm the kind of person who if presented with 'I like to organise stuff' on a personality quiz would probably put that in the 'strongly disagree' column. So, why do I love Wilmot's Warehouse?
Wilmot's Warehouse is a game for people who like to organise ideas.
The on-screen part of the game is a very well-thought out design, but is deliberately slight. Boxes in the form of square icons arrive at the bottom of the warehouse, you get some time to organise them into place, then you make some deliveries as fast as you can to the four customers at the top. Each round, more types of boxes are added to your manifest. Brilliantly, every few rounds gets you a breather in the form of a Stock Take: unlimited time to sort the warehouse out, meaning things can never get too stressful.
There's a few other mechanics at play, but that's the core of it. The core? No, perhaps it's more accurate to say it's the crust, and the core is what happens in your head while you play. It’s hard to explain without actually letting you in on my internal monologue - which is almost definitely why they decided to make the trailer for the game in the same way.
I get a bunch of boxes which depict camels. One is definitely a camel's head, another is an outline of a camel, and so I start a little camel corner in my warehouse. Then I get an icon which is just a couple of humps. That seems like a camel thing, right? But hang on, I’ve also got an area for ‘hills and mountains’, and another for ‘weird little round shapes’ so where do I put it?
Then Nessie arrives. The Loch Ness Monster, anyone will tell you, is not a camel. Except… there’s nothing else like Nessie in my warehouse, and it does have those humps coming out of the water. Close enough! For my purposes, it’s a camel. And what about these horseshoes? Well, I don’t have any horses, but camels are horse-adjacent so they can go there, too.
Later, I get a whole bunch of stuff that could be categorised as ‘monstery things.’ Actually, the section I end up creating is ‘monstery things (and dogs)’ but folks, we just don’t have time to unpack that. Now I’ve got a dilemma. The Loch Ness Monster is unequivocally a monster, it’s right there in the name, but I’ve spent so long thinking of Nessie as a camel that I’ve become stubborn about it and… and…
Do you see where the game is, now?
Yes, it’s a game about organising things and there’s definitely a part of Wilmot’s Warehouse which is all about thinking up ways to keep stuff both out of your way and easily-gettable so that you can get them to customers efficiently. But the beating heart of the thing is in the mental map that you end up creating, the linking together of ideas in a sometimes arbitrary, sub-optimal ways that make your warehouse feel so personal. It’s similar to how a Zachtronics games give you ownership of your ideas, but here it’s much more abstract and conceptual, like the board games Dixit, Mysterium or Codenames.
In those board games, the joy and comedy comes from the difficulty of explaining your thought patterns to others. While I haven’t played Wilmot in co-op yet, I imagine similar hilarity might result. But in solo, you get to create your own little oasis where your imagination is law and nobody contradicts you.
Very rarely does the game get in the way of your ideas. Customers tend to order things in natural groupings. It’s common to, say, get an order for two or three different tree icons. Behind the scenes, invisibly, the game seems to put most icons in several overlapping categories, and when I chatted to one of the developers about it, he confirmed that was the case. But it’s done with enough fuzziness for it never to feel like you’re being forced to change your classifications.
Well, almost never. In a normal play through in which 200 objects end up filling your warehouse, only once did I feel like the game was disagreeing with my choice. I’d put an object that looked to me a lot like a tall crater in my ‘hills and mountains’ area, but it kept on getting ordered with things I’d classed as ‘space stuff’ at the other end of the warehouse. In the end I decided to save hassle and move it to the space section.
That was the only time I felt like the game was imposing its personality on me, instead of me imposing my personality on the game. I think that’s highly impressive. It would have been so easy for the developers’ own minds and biases to influence things too much, and for the game to create dissonance instead of harmony. Of course, it’s possible I just got lucky and think mostly in the same way as Richards Hogg and Haggett.
But I suspect most people who play will have a similar experience to me, and find that Wilmot’s Warehouse is a game for people who like to organise ideas, offering you the chance to do so without prejudice.
Disclosure: I know some of the people who worked on the game personally, and had access to an early build.