Gamers have a wide variety of interests. Gaming from the couch, gaming at a desk, tabletop gaming with friends, board gaming; all of these and more are wondrous ways to game. And the crossovers between the mediums are plentiful, drawing fans out of their comfort zones into new areas of enjoyment.
But what about an awesome fantasy action-RPG based on a book? Like that? What about a board game based on that video game? Not drooling enough? What about a computer version of that board game based on the video game that was based on a book series?
Enter The Witcher Adventure Game, the digital version of the physical board game based on the hit action-RPG franchise The Witcher.
The Witcher Adventure Game is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a board game played out in a free-roaming style. Players take on the role of a major character from The Witcher and set about earning “victory points,” with the first player to reach a certain amount claiming…well, you know.
The closed beta for the computer version of The Witcher Adventure Game started in June of this year, but the board game itself was announced back in early January. It’s a nice option for gamers who don’t have much of an interest in sitting around a table and tolerating the presence of other humans, but admittedly a lot of the magic is lost in the transition.
At the moment the beta only allows access to the online multiplayer aspect of the game. Come full release, The Witcher Adventure Game will also feature solo (against AI) and hotseat multiplayer (many players, one computer), a must for any turn-based strategy game.
Fortunately, I was able to find a hapless individual also in the closed beta using the public matchmaking system and away we went into the world of The Witcher. Set upon a “board” representing “The Continent” the digital playing space can be seamlessly zoomed in and out upon, creating a very finite yet detailed replica of the tabletop cardboard.
After the 2-4 players choose their playing character from Geralt, Triss, Dandelion, or Yarpen, a game time limit is decided upon. The game’s conclusion hinges upon victory points, and a short game can end as swiftly as earning only a few, whereas a long game can take an hour or two to run to completion. Each has its drawbacks, as the tutorial illuminates.
Unfortunately, the tutorial doesn’t play out as a test game but as a slideshow, and while it is extremely informative and incredibly essential to learning the game without the manual, it doesn’t really help the player get the feel for playing. Thus, when thrust onto The Continent and told to start gallivanting Triss about, I was more than a little lost at first. Through gameplay however, the rules and flow of the game become a lot clearer.
Players spend their turns by taking up to two actions. An action is chosen from six options including travelling about at various speeds, investigating the area, developing as a character, resting, or using a special action unique to each character.
The Witcher Adventure Game makes use of its RPG home’s elements to drive up the replayability and immersion of play. Each character has its own unique skill and development path to enhance their play style and open up strategic options for the player. This becomes essential especially in longer games as characters open up more possibilities.
The aforementioned victory points are earned through the completion of quests. Each quest comes with a mission that must be completed, usually at great risk and for great reward, but also with a few side quests to ease the pain. Quests are the bread and butter of The Witcher Adventure Game, and completing them is truly the fastest path to victory.
How, then, do other players factor in? Without question, The Witcher Adventure Game is a PvE setting. Players cannot directly interfere with one another, but instead could assist each other in murdering monsters and completing quests or by going it alone, taking actions that likely hamper other players. The balance is good, and keeps the focus away from direct backstabbing in the race for victory points.
The game has a ton of aspects for players to consider. Characters can be wounded, limiting their actions unless healed. Fate deals cards (literally) that often hamper and harass, and combat with monsters naturally plays a huge and difficult role. Monsters go unslain without meeting exacting dice rolls, and the penalties for failing are pretty severe. As characters develop this becomes less of an issue, but the element of chance keeps powerful players from assured victory.
Strategically, the game hinges upon its length more than anything. In a short game, completing a single quest is enough to claim victory if the rewards are high enough, so going it alone more often assures victory. In longer games, more intricate strategy is required, and the game gets a better chance to show off its challenging nature and inter-player dynamics.
The Witcher Adventure Game is a rare breed. Not complex enough to be a full strategy game in its own right, such as Heroes of Might and Magic, this board game port is nevertheless a fun and enjoyable way to spend time in the world of The Witcher. While maybe less visceral than its epic RPG counterpart, this is still a fun and challenging way to pass a few hours with some friends (or alone) around the digital table.