At Gen Con 2014, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) showed off their upcoming board game The Witcher Adventure Game, based on the books and video games of the same name. Shortly thereafter, the board game made its way to our gaming tables. Overall it seems like The Witcher Adventure Game received a warm, yet still mixed reactions. Personally, I find it enjoyable, even if it does have some flaws.
At the same time as its cardboard release, FFG set The Witcher Adventure Game loose on our iPads for some digital gaming goodness. Today we are going to take a look at this digital release and see if it’s worth an investment of your gaming dollars.
Designed by veteran game designer Ignacy Trzewiczek (Imperial Settlers, Robinson Crusoe), The Witcher Adventure Game (here after referred to as just The Witcher) is game where players take on the role of one of the four heroes from The Witcher series. The main goal of the game is to acquire victory points by moving around the board, gathering clues, and completing quests.
Players will have 6 different actions they can take on their turn (2 actions per turn): Move, Double Move, Develop, Investigate, Special Action (different for each character) and Rest. After taking their two actions, they have to deal with something bad in their region. This is usually in the form of Foul Fate cards or monsters.
Fighting monsters is pretty fun, it involves rolling dice, using development cards, and trying to match up symbols to the monster. It’s a nice, streamlined system that I feel works well for the game.
As the players complete quests, they’ll gain victory points and good fate cards. After a pre-determined number of quests have been completed, the game ends and the player with the most victory points wins.
As I’ve come to expect from FFG, the app for The Witcher is slick and polished. The game board is gorgeous looking, set at a bit of an angle to give it a 3d effect. The developer also included a lot of nice touches like weather effects, so at times you will see rain in certain regions.
At the bottom of the screen is a menu bar that houses the characters 6 actions, their current quest, their lead tokens, and any cards they might have. I don’t really have any complaints with how the interface is laid out as everything just works well and makes sense. When you want to move, you select the move action and tap on the highlighted location you want to move to. Easy enough.
The combat screen is equally well done. It shows in an isometric view with the monster you are currently fighting on the table and the dice are thrown in a really neat 3d effect. Once they stop rolling, the app shows you your results and you tap on the ones you want to use.
When it’s not your turn, you can watch what the other characters are doing and there is even a history log to see all their actions in case you weren’t paying attention.
The only issue I have with the interface is the lack of a guided tutorial to learn how to play the game. The Witcher is a somewhat involved game, especially if you’ve never played the tabletop version. However, instead of the preferred method of guiding you through the first few rounds of the game, the app just has a series of videos for you to watch that explain the game. I found myself a bit lost with those and had to watch them twice to really understand it all. This was a big miss in my book.
So we know the app has a solid interface, but how does it play. For me, it’s bit of a mixed bag. There are some things that are done really well, and some that clearly need work.
I’m not going to touch on the merits of the game itself too much, that’s really the subject for a whole different review. But the short of it is, I enjoy the game even if it doesn’t have the depth I would have preferred. I really like how all four characters approach the game differently (And no, Garrett is not over-powered) and feel very unique. Designer Ignacy is well known for having unique characters/factions in his games and you can definitely see his stamp on The Witcher.
However, if you play the game enough times, it can start to feel a little “samey” after a while. This makes me wonder if the game was reigned in a bit by FFG to make it appeal to a broader audience. Ignacy has been known for depth and variety in his games, so this was a bit surprising given his history. If I had to guess, FFG wanted a game that would be accessible to all Witcher fans, especially the video game ones. But I could be wrong…
Moving on back to the app, I enjoyed how you can determine your game length at the start. You have three options for the amount of quests that need to be completed for the end game to trigger. This can put the game length from anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Speaking of the length, THANKFULLY, FFG finally released an update to this app to address a massive problem with it. When it was first released, there was no save function in the app. That means that you had to play all 3 hours of the full game in one sitting. This was a baffling omission for tablet gaming in this day and age. Thankfully though, that issue has been addressed and you can resume a game if you come back to it later.
The app can be played in either online or offline mode. The online features are either pass and play or matchmaking. I’ve found the online lobbies to be fairly sparse, so unless you have a friend lined up to play online, don’t continue on that too much. Even then, The Witcher loses a lot of its fun playing silently online with someone. Since there is no asynchronous game play, you have to hope you’ve been matched up with someone with a lot of free time. Personally, I would have preferred they gone the route that the Star Realms app did and just notify me when it’s time for me to take my turn.
So even though online play isn’t the best, there is still offline play, right? Well that’s where the other big flaw in The Witcher glares its ugly head. The AI is pretty bad at playing The Witcher. I’m not exactly the best player at the game, but I’ve literally never lost to the AI in over a dozen games, and it hasn’t even been close.
Usually I’ll finish up my last quest with more than double the points of the nearest AI player, and they will also usually be covered with wounds and foul fate tokens. This is a bit sad because without a challenging AI, I feel like I’m playing a solo game with no chance of losing. That is too bad, because playing The Witcher vs the AI would have given this game a lot of life.
In general, I do enjoy The Witcher Adventure Game (I even own the tabletop version), but as stellar looking and polished as the iOS app is, it has a few glaring holes that are too hard to ignore. Thankfully, they’ve addressed the save issue. While the update log says they’ve addressed the AI, it still sucks vs anyone with even the tiniest bit of competency.
When you put all of this together, the lack of asynchronous game play or even a competent AI opponent, make it hard to recommend this app to all but the very biggest of Witcher fans. If you have the tabletop version and enjoy it, this app can be an OK way to play the game when you can’t get some friends to the table. However, for the rest, the terrible AI, bad matchmaking and no guided tutorial should definitely make you think twice about plunking down your gaming dollars for this one. Which is too bad, because it feels like the digital version of The Witcher Adventure Game is so close, yet the things wrong are just too much to ignore.
Keep an eye on this one though, a few fixes and easily bump it into the must own category. For now, maybe take a flyer on it if it goes on sale.
Final Score: 3 Stars – Great visuals and a fun game, but the bad AI and lack of asynchronous game play don’t make this a must own.
• Horrible AI
• Multiplayer mostly non-existent
• No guided tutorial.