By Guy Rainey / December 18th, 2014
|Title||The Witcher Adventure Game|
|Publisher||CD Projekt RED|
|Release Date||November 27, 2014|
|Genre||Digital Board Game|
The Witcher Adventure Game represents a bold new venture for oprainfall: The Witcher Adventure Game is the first board game review we’ve ever done… kind of. The renowned board game publisher, Fantasy Flight Games created tabletop game based on the popular Witcher video game series from CD Projekt RED (themselves based on dark fantasy novels of the same name). CD Projekt RED then optioned the rights to do a digital adaptation of this board game. So, what we have here is a video game adaptation of a board game adaptation of a video game adaptation of a book series. But convoluted origins aside, we are here to see whether it’s worth playing or not. So, let’s take a look.
Right off the bat, we’ve got a problem. The first time I loaded up the game, I was offered the chance to see the tutorial. Of course I said yes. But what they show you is a minute and a half introduction to the tutorial. When it ends, they don’t give you any indication that there’s more to see. And there’s a lot more, by the way. I don’t mind watching a video to see how to play the game, but they should have showed everything right up front. The whole thing is less than 15 minutes, so why not?
Fortunately, the game itself is pretty simple. Two to four players take control of various Witcher franchise characters, Geralt of Rivia, Monster Slayer; Dandelion, Roguish Bard; Triss Merigold, Cunning Sorceress; and Yarpen Zigrin, Dwarven Warrior. I have no real familiarity with these characters, so aside from knowing that Geralt is the main character of the franchise, I’m lost. Fortunately, it’s more about what each character does that’s important. There are three types of quests: combat, diplomacy, and magic. Geralt can only take combat quests, but he uses three hero die (two more than any other character) to make it easier. Dandelion can only take on diplomacy quests, but he can Sing which gains him two gold. Triss can only take magic quests, but she can prepare spells for combat. Yarpen is the only character who can choose from two types of quests, combat and diplomacy. The number of quests you complete determines the length of the game. Completing one quest should only take about 10-20 minutes (though my first game on this setting lasted about an hour), three quests takes about forty to seventy minuets, and five quests takes about an hour and a half to two hours. Your mileage will vary depending on the number of players you have, but these estimates mostly work.
Completing quests will give you victory points. The player who has the most victory points at the end of the game will win. The game is over after a certain number of quests are completed (the number is determined before the game starts). You can do side quests to get some extra victory points on the way, or do a support quest. For a support quest, another player has to give you certain resources to complete it. They get some points, and you get some points. The system helps keep players thinking when it isn’t their turn so they don’t get bored.
So, most of the game, you’ll be traveling around the board collecting resources — oh wait, sorry, leads — to fulfill your quest requirements. At character-specific intervals, leads become proofs. Main quests will always require proofs. Side and support quests just require a few leads or some gold. Maybe leads and proofs bring some closer connection to the Witcher franchise, but, honestly, they’re just resources. Maybe it’s because I haven’t actually read the rules, but they’re just something you collect as you go from town to town or by investigating, so they feel more like a resource you collect, rather than some piece of a mystery you’re trying to solve.
On each turn, you can do one of five basic actions: Travel, which lets you travel to a town one road away (also there’s a fast travel that lets you move two, but brings along a foul fate card if you use it); Investigate, which lets you draw a card that might let you collect extra resources, but could backfire on you; Develop, which lets you draw development cards to increase your chances of survival in battle, and Resting heals wounds. The fifth one is character specific: Geralt can brew, Triss can prepare spells, Dandelion can sing and Yarpen can command some dwarves for bonuses. Each time you take damage, you must choose an action to place a damage token on (unless you’re playing as Yarpen, who can avoid doing this twice). Once an action has a damage token on it, you can’t use that action until you heal, either by resting or by visiting a town with a heart icon.
But your journey won’t be completely risk-free. You’ll have to deal with monsters and foul fates. As you travel, you’ll encounter monsters. Often, these monsters have an attack value and a defense value (rarely they might have a magic value). You’ll roll your die to gain attack and defense values. Attack and defense have different results for success and failure. It is possible to succeed the attack value and fail the defensive value and vice versa. If you fail the attack value, the monster is still alive. If you fail the defensive value, you take damage, usually. The system is simple, and it is a valid way to rack up victory points, since many monsters, when defeated, give a one or two victory points.
Foul fates are cards that you draw at various points. They can delay you (taking away one of your two actions in a turn), they can give another foul fate, they can put you into a battle, etc. These are designed to give the world more a Witcher feel. The world is dark and dangerous. You won’t survive unscathed. They can be annoying, but they will make you choose your actions carefully. Often, foul fates will get attached to your character, so that, when you use an action, you will have to draw a foul fate.
The Witcher Adventure Game is a multiplayer game by its tabletop nature. You can play with AIs, but you won’t really learn the game that way. The computer goes through actions too fast. And online is solid (special thanks to my nameless opponent for letting me take this screenshot, by the way). It lets you see play by play everything that’s going on in the player’s turn, and there was no lag so far as I could tell. But I won’t be going back. Honestly, I had the best time playing in the same room with another person. We were able to see all the cards, and read through them together. The game gave us a context to spend time together, and that’s what it’s good at. Without that, it’s not as good.
There’s really not much to say about the graphics and sound. The game runs great on my laptop, no problems at all, and the graphics clearly represent the game pieces they’re supposed to. They’re not exceptional, but they work well. I’d rather have a great-running game than a great-looking game anyway. The sound effects are fine, and the music is also fine. Honestly, they work, but they’re just not memorable. It’s all OK, but I’m not sure I’m fine with the presentation just being “OK.” Why should I play the PC version when I’d enjoy the board game just as much, if not more?
All in all, did I like the The Witcher Adventure Game? Yeah… as a board game. As a PC game… I’m not so sure. Yes, the game is fun (I’m planning on buying the physical game now that I’ve gotten intimately familiar with it), but the most fun I had with it came from playing locally with other people. Communication is a key part of the experience, and, without it, it’s just not the same game. Now, if you don’t know if you’ll like it, and you want to try it out first, at $9.99, it is a lot cheaper than the MSRP $59.99 of the physical version. But, if you do want to try it out before you pay full price, it probably will be on sale. I’d say $2-$5 for a digital demo isn’t a bad place to start. But if you love the world of The Witcher, or are looking for an easy way to get into it, I definitely suggest picking it up.
Review copy provided by the publisher
CD Projekt REDThe WitcherThe Witcher Adventure Game