Welcome to our review of The Witcher: Old World Deluxe from Go On Board. This game is an interesting Kickstarter we picked up a few months back and just got to the table. Fear not; this game comes in a retail version published by Asmodee. You can play this game in multiple ways. It is primarily competitive, but it is also cooperative if you have The Wild Hunt expansion. It’s for 1-5 players and takes 90 – 180 minutes. If you enjoyed the books or the Netflix series with Henry Cavill or the video games, you’ll love this game with its perfect mixture of fighting and adventuring. Let’s check it out!
The Witcher: Old World Deluxe places you as one of five Witchers, each with their training school. Each Witcher shares the same three core abilities and one unique ability. The core abilities are Combat, Defense, and Alchemy. The game’s goal is to gain four trophies. To gain a trophy, a Witcher must fight and defeat Monsters that roam the land, meditate once you’ve raised your ability level to 4 on any specific skill, or defeat another Witcher in combat at an inn. Once you do these successfully, you gain a trophy. The first to four wins the game!
Our Kickstarter version of The Witcher: Old World Deluxe came with way more than the Retail versions. Heck, ours arrived in a 3-and-1/2-foot-long box that weighed 40 pounds.
We’re only going to talk about the core deluxe game here. The fantastic miniatures are the main difference between the core deluxe and the base core. The deluxe has about 30 miniatures, including five witchers and 25 enemies. We could have ours “pre-shaded” in the Kickstarter with white highlighting or no shading. We went with the shading, and they look fantastic.
Besides the miniatures, the other impressive Part of the game was the sheer volume of cards, all serving different purposes. We loved the illustrations on the action cards. Those made the whole game very intuitive and increased the excitement.
The game board is incredible and reminds us of playing a video game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, in style. As Part of the Kickstarter, we also got a neoprene extra large version of the board which allowed for more space, but honestly, even the hardboard version is good! The board is surprisingly used sparingly in the game. We’ll get to that in gameplay.
Finally, the last component we’ll touch on is the individual player board. This game piece is well put together and provides insets for your life, skills, shield level (represented by wooden tokens), and a place to store your vanquished creature cards. We always love board games that treat their player boards as they treat the game boards. Fort is another great example of this!
The Witcher: Old World Deluxe setup is a bit tough to review as our setup was lengthy and tedious. That said, we think ours was difficult because we had the “all-in” edition, and because of that, all expansions and their cards came intermixed with cards from the core. It took time to sort through everything to pull out the core.
To set up our game, we first took the location tokens. There’s one token per location on the game board. We broke them into Mountains, Forests, and Water locations. Then we shuffled each pile separately. Then we separated the monster tokens into Level 1,2,3 piles for monster difficulty. Finally, we chose one location token for each of the three location types, and as we did this, we drew a monster token. What combination of monster difficulty you choose is based on your number of players. We chose 2 level one monsters and 1 level-two monster token in our two-player game. We placed the tokens in the corresponding location. We then drew the corresponding monster fight card and put it in the corresponding slot on the board. Finally, in our game, we hunted down the miniature it represented.
For us, this was the most tedious Part (although each numbered miniature had an inset that was also numbered so you knew where to put it back to, many of the miniatures look a bit similar. It would be easier if the monster card also had the printed number and Go On Board had included a diagram showing where all the miniatures were .) There was more than one occasion where we stopped the game flow for minutes to figure out the mini’s location in the game box.
After the initial setup, which included laying out more card decks than you can count, each player chooses a witcher to play, takes their starting action cards, draws three, and places their miniature on their “school” location on the board. Now, finally, you are ready to play!
The Witcher: Old World Deluxe’s actual gameplay is good and bad. It is strategic, mind you, and there are many moving parts to keep track of as you play.
The Witcher: Old World Deluxe takes place over a series of turns. Each turn consists of three parts. Part I: Move and perform Location Actions, Part II: Fight, Meditate or Explore, Part III: Draw back up to your hand limit and discard cards to add a new card from the display to your hand.
In Part I, each player can perform this step as often as they want during their turn. To move, a player discards an action card from their hand with the location symbol of where they want to move to. Every location on the board has one of these three symbols. Then they move their Witcher and can perform the location actions (descriptions of which are in the back of the instruction manual). You can, for instance, increase a skill, gain gold by playing dice poker, or raise your shield level. Players can repeat this Move/do location action as many times as they have cards in hand. The trick is that they need to keep cards in their hand for the other two parts of their turn.
During Part II, you can explore your location, fight a Monster or fellow Witcher, or Meditate. If you choose to explore, you can choose “The City” or “The Wild .”These are two card decks that appear in Part II of the board. Another player reads the narrative at the top of the card, and you must decide what to do. The other player then reads the outcome of your choice, which can have an immediate effect (gain gold, lose health, etc.), or it can be a Quest. If it has an immediate effect, you gain that, and the card goes to the bottom of its respective deck. If, on the other hand, it is a quest, the affected player takes the card, and it shows a number and a location. Once the player reaches that location in a future Part I of their turn, they draw the corresponding card from the Event deck, and the player with the quest has to decide what to do. These quests usually provide greater rewards and trophies.
If, during Part II, you end at a location with a Monster or a Witcher, you can choose to fight. The best part of this game! You may only defeat a specific witcher once during the game. Fighting involves taking all cards in your discard pile and your draw pile and shuffling them together. This deck is your life pool. If you are fighting another witcher, they do the same. If you are fighting a monster, another player looks at the monster card and draws the number of cards from the monster attack deck to form its life pool.
The fight then alternates between Witchers or Witcher and Monster, where they use the cards in hand for their fighting purpose. The cards will show colors and symbols (hits, shields, draw cards) on the left side. A player can lay down a card with hits, and to a monster, it immediately does that damage, and the other player discards that number of cards of the “life pool” deck. A defending Witcher has the opportunity to use their shield before losing cards. Linking cards together based on the color can create some awesome combos. If they have a color tag, a player may place down another card with the tag’s color to add hits or shields to this attack. It’s hard to describe, but it is intuitive once you get going. The last bit about fighting is how the monster attacks. The player controlling the Monster decides whether its next attack is a “charge” or a “bite.” Then they flip over the top card in their monster deck. This card shows both outcomes, and they read the result of the choice they selected, which can mean hits, where the Witcher discards cards from their life pool to go down a skill level.
If you successfully knock down the Witcher or the Monster to 0, you have defeated them. A Witcher gets knocked out, and you take a trophy card from that Witcher, or you take the Monster card. In either case, you read the back and gain the skill associated with the card. If you instead get knocked out during a Witcher Battle, the opposing Witcher does NOT get the trophy; they have to initiate a Witcher fight themselves. This idea is weird. If you lose to a monster, either you entirely lose, and the Monster regains all its health, or if you manage to get it down to 1 life before you get Knocked Out, you have scared it away, which removes it from the board.
When you defeat a monster, the players repeat the setup for that Monster’s location type, drawing a new location and a monster of the next level up. So if you defeated a level 1 monster, you now put out a level 2. If you defeat a level 3, you put out another 3, as that’s the highest level. If you have scared away a monster, repeat the above steps, but choose a new Monster from the same level as the old Monster.
A side note: Unlike other games, the enemies in The Witcher: Old World Deluxe never move, and once they are in a location, they stay there. Outside of a Witcher initiating combat, the enemies don’t take a turn. To us, it was all weird. We are used to being chased down by an enemy. What was also weird was you could visit a location with an enemy and choose to fight it or do another action. Being in the same location did not immediately trigger a fight.
The other way to gain a trophy is to Meditate. If you are at level 4 of any one skill, you can meditate, move up to level 5, and take the corresponding skill card as a trophy, giving you a unique ability in the future. Only one Witcher can meditate on a specific skill. For instance, a player could meditate on the Combat skill, but no one else could do that after that player did it to get a trophy. That specific trophy is now taken.
During Part III, a player draws back up to their hand limit, usually three, and then can choose a card from the display. The card cost is printed on the card and then augmented by -1, 0, or +1, printed on the game board under the display of cards. To take a card, a player discards the number of cards from their hand equal to its total cost and puts the new card into their hand. Ultimately this does two things; it adds a card to your deck for future moving and fighting. It also increases your life pool by one every turn. The final thing that happens is all cards in the display slide down to fill the open slot, and a new card is drawn and placed in the first slot. This sliding of cards ensures cards in the display get less expensive over time.
Finally, the play moves to the next Witcher. Part I can start as the previous Witcher finishes Part III, as there is no overlap.
The Witcher: Old World Deluxe is an interesting one for us. It is a good strategy game where choices in Part I of your turn can affect Part II. There are decent bits of story in the form of exploration and event cards, but the story needs more depth, and the events could be more interconnected. The quests help with this, but your decisions seem only somewhat consequential to the story.
The main focus is fighting. Whether this is, your fellow Witchers or a Monster is up to you to decide.
The one odd area is Dice Poker. If you are in a location with another Witcher, you don’t need to fight them, but instead, you and they, along with “the bank,” contribute gold, and then you both roll your dice. Whoever has the highest “hand” wins the gold. That is weird and almost an afterthought in the game design. Like “We need a way for the witcher to gain gold” – “Ok, let’s have them play dice poker.” The dice look terrific, and we even bought additional dice during the Kickstarter, but I wonder why gaining gold wasn’t rolled into the quests more. You gain some gold when you defeat a Witcher or Monster.
Overall, we did enjoy this game. The miniatures are amazing! One of the best is for a small expansion. It’s a Horse on top of a barn. This horse references the video game as it would often glitch when you called it. You’d find it in weird places.
If you liked this review and want to pick up a copy for yourself, we’re offering it in our store.