What is The Witches (boardgame) ?

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One of the cornerstones of tabletop gaming today is Pandemic, a cooperative game where you work as a group to scour the world curing the four plagues. Now they have released an easier to grasp dice based game to try and corner the other end of the market. I am bringing this up now to avoid the comparison later when I start talking about this here cooperative dice rolling game where you roam over the map trying to cure the various problems and ills. The big difference being that this time you have witchcraft and wizardry on your side.

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The game is based upon the Discworld series of books by noted British author Terry Pratchett, though unlike last time the action has moved from the busy city of Ankh Morpork where most of the books are set, to the Ramtops where a few towns and farms get by without the hustle and bustle of modern fantasy life. You along with up to three others will take the role of a young witch in training with the task of moving about the map and helping people with the problems they face such as broken limbs and sick pigs. Not that this is the height of the danger you may face but it will suffice for now. Each problem will be solved by rolling two dice and trying to beat the number on the tile. You can help yourself with a touch of magic, via your cards, along the way though too much can prove disastrous. In fact too much can end the game faster than any elf invasion or duchess looking down her nose. The only way to avoid this is to meet up with the other players every so often to “ground” yourself with a good cup of tea and chat. If you then manage to best the problem, you claim the tile and add the numbers to your score with each new turn always adding more to the board until the relevant number of tiles are gone from the staging area. The number in  the staging area differs for the number of players which means that the game scales nicely for whatever number of players you may have. Including a viable solo option.

The game comes with a few modes of play, these being solo, cooperative and competitive, though the rules don’t change too much meaning that even in a four player competitive play there is always the option for the game to win  and likewise even when the players are pitted against each other there will probably be some element of them having to help each other out every once in a while or risk the apocalypse. Though the game scales these versions; by wrapping all these modes up on one board means that it never quite does any very well. The cooperative runs easier than say Pandemic and the competitive still requires a fair amount of teamwork and communication to get through.

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The two other things that will add to your game are the cards in hand and major crisis you will face. There are two types of tile that you will place on the board, the common green which as noted before deals with pregnancy both in humans and sheep and the purple which are the type of world ending disaster that will require much stronger players and perhaps a bit of planning. These will often have twists attached such as the elves which state that should a certain number of the pointy eared folk be unveiled the game will end or others which send you to the castle dungeon to stew for a turn or two. The other is the cards in hand which can be played to add to magic and the like or read to produce more unique effects such as invisibility or extra card draws. They play in a fairly similar to the cards from the earlier Discworld game with you going left to right though in this instance only one ability can be done at a time. The other big difference is the icons and what they represent. See in the last Discworld game this was fairly easy to understand and with fairly diverse use. In this game the two icons Headology and magic can be a bit confusing not least in the difference between the two. After all in the last game the difference between killing a pawn and building a building is obvious to everyone. Yet I fear that only someone who has a read a few of the appropriate books will be able to comprehend the difference between the two. You see the danger of magic that I spoke of earlier is very present in the book and so the witches in question often use brains and a slightly twisted version of psychology to get what they want. This is the headology in question and this can be difficult to get across to someone in a way that even an orang-utan or crystalline troll was not.

However once you have crossed this bridge the question wraps back round to the question of comparing this to Discworld. You see the use of dice to remove problems means this game comes across as slightly less strategic than Pandemic and the concept is a bit tougher to get across. The variety of roles does lend it an edge and if you don’t already own Pandemic that might be a point, likewise if you are a huge fan of Pandemic and wouldn’t mind a twist on the concept not so far removed as the Pandemic dice game than again a point could have been earned. However I fear that Pandemic’s dominance of the market will leave this struggling to mount its broom.

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