Has it really been one year? I know it’s been a while but DAYUMMM!
Well, first and foremost, I must apologize that we have not kept abreast with all things “board gamey” like we had intended. In our defense, we had to strip down on a few other activities during the year due to work and other important but boring stuff. However we never stopped playing! Hopefully you follow us on twitter where we’re a little more active and would’ve seen some of our photos and board gaming grumbles.
Anyway. We’re sorry. We’ll try to do better. Moving on.
It would seem “defense” is the central theme to this weeks post.
Well, if you’re like me and are one of those gamers that’s been waiting for The Witcher Adventure Game ever since it was announced about a year ago, you will hopefully be pretty stoked round about now since it’s been out for a couple of months. Unfortunately, if you’re even more like me (you’ve first got to ask yourself “am I a clone? Then…) you might also be kind of astonished as to why this game is garnering a considerable amount of nerd scorn on the internet. Not in the “good” bad publicity sense where the game is morally controversial and everybodies mothers won’t let them play. No no, that’s not what I’m talking about.
It’s more the case that a few individuals were expecting The Witcher Adventure Game to be some thing else.
You take on the role of 1 of 4 main characters from the Witcher story line and your objective is to accrue the most victory points by the time you’ve completed 3 quests. Each character can develop new skills that are specific to their individual play style and you’ll be rolling dice to complete tasks, defeat monsters and generally avoid injury. On you’re turn you’ll have a selection of 2 actions but mostly you’ll be moving from place to place in the Northern Kingdoms of the Witcher, collecting “leads” that enable you to complete your quests. Sounds like simple and effective action point, resource mangment, dice rolling fun…..WRONG! At least if you listen to the games critics. Lets look at the supposed negatives of TWAG first and then we can discuss its virtues. Which I believe to be many.
The first down side with any kind of pop cult property that’s a much bigger entity than it’s board game extension, is the obligatory theme/lore issue. So straight off the bat I’m gonna tell you, if you’re a fan of the Witcher books or video games, you’ll likely have a deeper appreciation for this one over players that have no idea about the story. The second big criticism that has come up on the forums are with some of the gameplay design features. Namely the dreaded “skip a turn” mechanic. What I’m picking up from other pundits is that those are designs that set modern board gaming back by “decades”.
Firstly, my experience with Geralt and his merry band is quite limited. I’ve only played about a quarter of the first video game and like many other gamers who have formed an opinion about TWAG, I have played the iOS version for a bit. That’s it. I haven’t read the books. I haven’t seen the movie. I don’t have a Dandelion tattoo on my ass. Nothing else. So a Witcher fan boy I am not. In fact none of our players had any relation to the Witcher franchise. So we started from a pretty clean slate as far as jumping into any lore traps and bugs.
I am pleased to say that none of that was a problem for our games. It’s pretty important for a story driven game that has a massive legend behind it to not let the players get put off by complex “in-house” story politics. I’d say TWAG nails it by striking a balance between having a general enough narrative that any gamer can jump right and have fun. If I performed an action but was interrupted by “Dijkstra’s raiding group”, I felt compelled to find out a bit more behind this struggle with Dijkstra and in doing so gain a better appreciation of the internal narrative. It’s nice little touches like that make the game feel balanced and a joy to play.
The second gripe about the games mechanics is one of those things that’s just going to be subjective till the day we all die. Look. I get it. Loads of new games have “fixed” many of board gaming’s early design features by virtue of designers pandering to modern cultures obsessive need to be constantly entertained. What once was “roll & move” is now the “bluffing mechanic”. That’s what is popular now. And like every other trend that has ever existed, these things will pass. The point I’m trying to make is I don’t think there is anything wrong with “missing a turn”, or drawing a card that says “nothing happens”, as long as its done in the right way, and I believe TWAG does it THE RIGHT WAY.
The game is so bleak and is constantly piling misfortune on top of you like a dump truck of sorrow, that whenever I drew a “nothing” card I was genuinely happy. Now if a game can paint such a grey, dead and unforgiving picture of the world that when “nothing happens” it makes you happy, I say bravo. That’s my kind of game.
The thing is, what the game actually is, is a race. Each character is trying to tight rope walk across this arid landscape in order to find the path of least resistance. So once again, if I have the misfortune of being “delayed” on my turn, that’s destiny pulling the brakes on the ol’ victory train. You’ve just got to think how roll with the punches and still end up on top. Yes it’s been done before, and yes it’s frustrating to lose under seemingly random conditions, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Stuff like that, and patience, and thinking, is what separates board games from video games. I like that I can take a breather and plan (however futile it may be) my next move. It suits this game. Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not trying to be a Luddite and nay-say everything that’s modern and sparkly. I love how innovative board games have become and how they continue to push the envelope, but all I’m saying is that I don’t need every single game to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes I like simple. And the Witcher Adventure Game is just a good, simple and colourful game. What more could you ask for?