Wednesday 9 December 2015

Boardgame Review: The Witcher Adventure Game

Published by Fantasy Flight Games

'The Witcher Adventure Game takes players on a journey across the world of the critically acclaimed Witcher franchise. Based on the best selling novels and award-winning video games, the Witcher universe makes its way to your tabletop with The Witcher Adventure Game.

You and up to three friends will take on the roles of beloved characters from the Witcher universe and travel across the dangerous wilds, battling monsters, completing quests, earning gold and victory points, and vying for ultimate triumph. Along the way, you’ll craft an unforgettable narrative, unique to each and every game.

The Witcher Adventure Game contains:

One learn-to-play guide and one rules reference booklet
One game board
Four hero sheets and four plastic heroes
Nine custom dice
Over 200 assorted tokens
Over 250 cards'

I've learned my lesson regarding Fantasy Flight Games boardgames after my experience with Forbidden Stars. Even though we went on to enjoy that game, I realised that my group had to be better prepared for a complicated game, and even though The Witcher Adventure Game isn't overly complicated I made sure we were ready.

One of my gaming group got hold of the game and spent a good couple of hours going through the rules and familiarising himself with the mechanics, so when the four of us came to sit down to play, three of us being new to the game, we were briefed and playing at a good pace within thirty minutes.

The game gives you four heroes of the Witcher world to play - Triss Merigold, the sorceress; Dandelion, the bard; Yarpen Zigrin, the dwarven warrior; and,of course, Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher. Each character comes with a detailed figurine to represent them on the board.

In fact, the game is up to the usual Fantasy Flight Games standards - good quality packaging, great miniatures, robust cards and counters, and excellent presentation.

The game itself is one of quests based around the ideals and thrust of the Witcher stories. You can investigate the goings on around the world and complete quests as you do so, as well as do side quests, and get involved with some rather brutal but simple combat; even though characters cannot die in this game, they get beaten around pretty badly.

Players can explore the land and adjust their character as they see fit with development cards, which can be collected as the game progresses to improve dice rolls. Each character also has special skill that helps strengthen them and improve their chances of success, and al these options are controlled by the player as they move across the board. All of these options create diverse and different sagas and stories with every game. There are a lot of rules to get through so the best thing to do is download the 'Learn to Play' PDF available for free on the Fantasy Flight Games website. The aim of the game is to complete quests and defeat foes, all the while collecting Victory Points. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game is the winner.

We got into game pretty quickly and after some initial stalls - the use of the development cards was something that was overlooked a few times, resulting in a few depressing combats - we got into the swing of things. The first thing that struck me was that when the question 'who do you want to play?' was asked, everyone paused.... so I dove in and grabbed Geralt. Of course I did. Who wouldn't?

It became apparent very quickly that the game was a co-operative one; there is a rule where you can help another player with a quest if they are in the same area as you, and this not only helps the player who's quest it is but benefits the one giving aid even more, resulting in more Victory Points, so it pays to be friendly. Geralt's abilities and dice seemed to be better than everyone else, but it soon became apparent that this didn't matter; I lost more combats then I won and Geralt got a serious battering - which, to be honest, reflected the books quite well. In fact, the quests were pretty grim and even if you succeeded the results were somewhat negative.

But across it all we had a great time. the dark, somewhat grim atmosphere of the Witcher world was well represented and you do feel the darkness as well as the bad luck inherent in the setting. Fans of the Witcher will get a lot of fun out of this.

It is the longevity of the game that I was concerned about; the quests and side quests are all different but they are all a means to an end - collect resources and Victory Points - but we found ourselves skipping the detail of the cards just to get to the meat of the matter; what were the rewards? When you're fighting to get the most Victory Points, the flavour of the game suddenly becomes superfluous and, as well presented as they are, they become secondary to what you want to accomplish. I don't think that's a flaw in the game, but the details get lost when all you're thinking about is getting those resources and Victory Points. If that's the only thing you play for, then the game may become a little repetitive as you go on and even adding new quests is just adding more detail that may go unappreciated. Perhaps more characters to play might give the game more life as time goes on.

The Witcher Adventure Game is a great game and it plays well with the full set of four players, as there's plenty going on and you spend a lot of time keeping an eye on the movements of the other characters in the hope that you can benefit from them. The game is competitive but not in a 'defeat the other players!' way, and a pleasant evening of gaming can be had without trying to grind the other players into the ground.

Good fun and well worthy of the Witcher franchise. Highly recommended.

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