Friday, July 24, 2015

The Witcher Adventure Game

I do not generally like board games. Or rather, the enjoyment I get from playing them comes mostly from the company I am playing with and rarely from the game itself. Over the years I have given some thought to why this is, and I think it comes down to how little – for me – most board games tend to live outside themselves.

Two factors seem to contribute to this. The first one is continuity – how much is carried over from previous sessions. Generally the only thing doing this is player's skill at the game. And depending on the randomness and complexity of the game, one's skill may not matter at all or improve only very little between each session.

The more competitively played games are obviously better at this. My particular favorite is Go, where determining a player's approximate strength is possible by merely playing a single game against an opponent whose skill level is known. Thus following one's progress is quite easy.

The second factor is the game's setting. If the game's lore only exists within the box, my liking of it is determined solely by its mechanics. And in modern board games there tends to be dozens of different variables to consider. I find that bothersome. I would rather have a game where complexity comes from a handful of basic rules. Like, for instance, in the aforementioned Go.

I bought The Witcher Adventure Game (my first board game) believing that even if the game's mechanics would not turn out exceptional, the world would still keep it entertaining. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

Immersive Setting

TWAG's biggest strength is easily the setting and how well the mechanics are tied to it. All of the four characters play like their book/video game equivalents. Maybe even too much so – I have yet to see anyone win with Dandelion, the trouble-causing bard. His strength at Diplomacy (one of the game's three aspects, the other two being Combat and Magic) does not seem to work well in a game where you have a chance to end up fighting a monster every so often.

Yarpen and his band of dwarves do not excel nor suck at anything but have many options right from the beginning. Triss, on the other hand, is maybe a bit weak at the start. Towards the end of the game, however, her magic arsenal comes quite powerful and she has little trouble getting past obstacles.

Triss is a good bet but Geralt is the one I consider to be the easy mode. He has three hero dice (when everyone else has merely one) and he only gets more powerful. He is not way above the other characters but he definitely has the best chance of actually defeating monsters instead of just surviving the encounters.

Fun But Lacking In Interaction

I have studied a bit of modern board game design and based on that, I would say TWAG plays quite all right. Firstly, it does not have unwarranted randomness, and while you can still get unlucky, I have found that it tends to happen to everyone in the game rather evenly.

The game also has a reasonably set duration – after someone has completed three main quests (+to the round's end), the game ends. Which is good since random length games are annoying. The heroes cannot die either, thus no one gets kicked out before the end. The winner is not clear until toward the very end as the heroes get victory points at fairly same rate. And that is also nice.

However, I have to mention that the "1-2 hours" it says on the box is a blatant lie. My first game (two players) lasted three and a half hours. Of course the game goes faster if people have played it before. But getting under two hours is just impossible with the maximum of four players. You would have to seriously blitz through people's turns with absolutely no bullshit talk in between.

The greatest weakness of the game is the lack of interaction with other players. While the goal is to compete against the others at getting victory points, affecting someone else is limited mostly to advancing the war track and a few foul fate cards. And I do not remember any of them being targetable by the active player. You are basically just playing against what the game throws at you. That fits the heroes and theme but makes it a bit less desirable for those looking for a more competitive experience.

You also generally have very little to do if it is not your turn but at least you are able to plan your next turn beforehand due to the board getting only minor changes between turns. Some games – a deck-building game called Ascension comes to mind as an example – have the situation change so much off-turn that you usually cannot plan too much ahead.


There also exists a digital version of the game, purchasable on GOG and Steam. It seemed to be largely identical to the physical version when I watched the Co-Optional gang play it. Getting disconnected makes it impossible to join back in, however. And that is quite a negative side in a game that is as long as The Witcher Adventure Game. I do not know if that has been fixed since.

No comments:

Post a Comment