The Witcher: The Old World has all the warning signs. As a crowdfunded board game, it follows the general trend of launching alongside his six expansions pushing years’ worth of content into the product line. The core box is large enough as is, taking up a fair amount of space and distributing the weight of that intellectual property. The chance to play the role of a witch and travel the world in pursuit of predators is decidedly compelling and a selling point in itself. What’s amazing is how this can be so compelling and totally enjoyable in adaptation.
This game is not a lark. Łukasz Woźniak’s translation of this Polish media marvel into a board game is impressive. This allows you to wield a witcher’s twin sword, traverse continents, and visit places like Cintra and Stiga. Set long before Geralt’s time, witchers belong to one of several orders that they represent with honor and courage. They conquered the beasts and set out into the world to turn darkness into light.
Players aim for four trophies by defeating creatures primarily through card-based violence, and the first to reach that number brings prestige to their name and school. From a game design perspective, it’s a race where each player gains skills, develops their character, and then challenges a variety of wandering monsters.
The Witcher: Old World belongs to the established genre of adventure games. Similar to the Skyrim board game, players engage in a variety of activities that trigger narrative encounters, all seeking additional resources to improve their character’s abilities. It’s not about completing quests, everything here is useful in combat. Its iron core holds surprisingly little fuss or extraneous debris.
The combat system is dynamic. Each player develops his deck of unique cards during the course of the game, choosing from the public his market at the end of each turn. These cards are used to move around the board as well as deal heavy blows, evade attacks, and wield powerful magic. There is a distinct arc of play as the deck improves over time with more options and synergies.
Strategic alignment revolves around building combos. In battle, abilities can be chained together by connecting colored tags found on certain cards. This allows for powerful turns that throw away 3 or 4 abilities to boost defenses and deal massive damage. The monster retaliates by having another player draw a random card from the top of their attacking deck, providing a variable amount of damage or debuff. Surprisingly lively, but meaningful.
It’s a relatively simple system, but it delivers incredible bite for its weight. You can feel your witcher amassing strength and skill over time, and with enough effort, you can outsmart your slowly escalating prey monsters. This is an important design element that is controversial.
An understandable criticism of The Witcher: Old World is that the beasts it hunts aren’t tough enough. By the end of the game, there are no major challenges, and these nasty terrors can be easily defeated. This element of pacing is a core principle of design and it is important to understand that this is racing. Obstacles should be tackled as soon as the odds are even slightly acceptable. Losing a fight is almost painless as it is an experience that inspires aggression and momentum.
Witchers need to be in combat early and often. This should be a dangerous proposition because if he waits too long, he will have the upper hand in the race. Additionally, winning over other players in combat awards him one of his four required trophies, establishing an underlying tension whenever another combatant is nearby.
While this style of game typically doesn’t have significant interaction, Old World has enough interaction to make for a satisfying multiplayer experience. Besides dueling another hero, you can also participate in a simple and easy dice his poker mini-game. It also boosts the tempo of play by taking turns controlling enemies and racing them to appear on the board like moles peeking through holes.
This system persists in solitaire play, but lacks the edge it needs as there is no timer in this mode. There is absolutely no pressure or reason to rush other than to beat a pre-set score. It’s pretty lifeless compared to the thrill of a multiplayer experience.
Unfortunately it’s a long game. It’s almost unbearable when he’s four, but more comfortable when he’s two or he’s three. This reduction in numbers means that naturally thin systems in action tend to produce the best results, allowing for a relatively fast and surprisingly satisfying experience.
The Witcher: Old World Expansion
In addition to the main game, numerous extensions are available. Best of all is the addition of Skellige, which adds a sideboard of islands to visit. This new locale has a real personality and identity that adds texture to the overall story.
The Legendary Hunt extension is the most compelling for combat fans. It offers a new system for fighting certain endgame bosses. Slamming a giant miniature onto the table and replacing the win condition with a champion defeating a wild monster feels fitting. And it works well by establishing a proper climax and avoiding the occasional boring ending where someone just sneaks in the lackluster final trophy. However, it adds 20-30 minutes to his playing time, extending an already long game into uncomfortable territory.
The final expansion available at retail is Mage’s Box. This is notable for adding an option for female characters, an option that was largely absent from the base game due to lore considerations. The mage itself is interesting, but when you start adding all the extra materials, the rough seams in the design are highlighted. For example, mages are never mentioned in encounter cards or base game materials. You are instructed to replace the word “witcher” with “magician” in your head, which is clumsy and clumsy. It makes this material feel like an afterthought and is the most obvious example of how this new content is somewhat awkward and uneven. As soon as you start adding multiple expansion modules things feel a little bloated and unpolished, which is in stark contrast to the simplistic nature of the base game.
It’s strange that the additions that seem to be the most important are not yet available for purchase. Kickstarter backers received materials to enhance the encounter cards and added details on how to hunt monsters. Both of these feel almost essential. The amount of encounter cards in the base game is sparse at best, and from the second play you’ll see repeating snippets of choosing your own adventures. The central abstracted hunting sequence is a pain point, but it feels a bit unsatisfying and insipid, begging for a more polished process for a Kickstarter expansion. Both will eventually be available for purchase, but it’s an odd decision to postpone in favor of less-needed content.
It’s also worth mentioning that the base game is available with and without miniatures. While these add considerable cost to the title, omitting the large monster figures somewhat reduces the visual presence and weight of the title. With combat being the central experience of the game, the plastic pieces add a monster presence that is otherwise lacking.
If you can put all the extended gaffs aside, this can be a very effective conversion of the witcher’s mind to the tabletop at a high level. Almost everything is laid out just how you want it, and many details reinforce the central focus of the battle. The more abstracted areas, such as hunting enemies, drinking potions, and improving your character’s RPG-like skills, offer soft silhouettes that fans of the facility can fill in and use appropriately. increase. Those who aren’t into The Witcher may find it a bit uninspiring and boring, especially in larger groups. This feels as if it was designed by a legitimate fan of the lore, and at best it’s a playground fit for frolicking and carnage.
where to buy
Base Game – Standard Edition
Base Game – Deluxe Edition (includes 28 miniatures)