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The Witches: A Discworld Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Witches - As promised (or warned) rss

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Harvey O'Brien
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It was said well in advance of release that this would be a lighter, more family friendly game from the stable that brought us Discworld: Ankh-Morpork. They weren't kidding.

This is a very simple, family-friendly game (you may have to explain 'pregnancy' and contextualise 'death', but not in detail) using the characters and settings of Terry Pratchett's 'Witches' cycle from the Discworld novels. It is designed by Martin Wallace, whose best games are about making difficult choices from a range of options that open up strategic pathways through complex but satisfying game story.

The Witches is beautifully presented. There is a nice map of the Kingdom of Lancre that will please Pratchett fans and serves its purpose if you don't know the lore. Functionally it's just a set of pathways to points where you take actions, and you use point to point movement from either set movement points or card play to get around. There's plenty of room on the basic game map (the collector's edition has a larger map, I hear), and you shouldn't have any problem finding your way around. There is nice card art featuring familiar characters from Pratchett lore. If you don't know the lore, it doesn't matter. The function of the cards is always clear. It has good pieces - chunky playing pieces (pewter character figures in the collector's version, coloured witches' hats in the regular version), and clearly defined tiles carrying fun art and the crucial numeric details you need for the gameplay in an easy to read, family-friendly balance. There is also a clearly written rulebook, and you will need to refer to it for special effects on some of the tiles.

In essence, you play the game by rolling dice and playing combinations of cards to beat numeric values on tiles representing 'problems' around the Kingdom that your trainee witch has to solve. There is point to point movement, dice rolling, and card play. Wallace adds a little flavour in the way the dice rolling and cards work together, but nothing spectacularly clever. No more to be said about mechanics, really.

Again, the key point here is that this game was advertised as being a family game and it is. It's very light. VERY light. It really isn't one to crack out with the regular gaming group for a warm up or cool down. You'll get severely beaten about the head. Discworld: Ankh-Morpork worked very well in my experience with younger gamers, as a gateway, as a warm up, a cool down, and with seasoned gamers, Pratchett fans or no. The Witches has not had this range of gamers play it yet (just me), but frankly, I'm not going to try. There is really no depth here at all, and not even a real sense of challenge. Oh, it's not easy to beat, but that's because you're at the mercy of dice for the most part, but there's no sense of overcoming the challenge of the game, just the vagueries of the fates that also affect any game of chance. Your choices come down to whether or not to spend cards to move or try to beat challenges, and then where to move to. No fiendish Martin Wallace brain-burning here.

It's designed as a co-op, so there's a social side of sharing problems (and a cup of tea: the game's 'healing' mechanic), and that's all well and good again with the right gaming buddies (small ones). But however well some co-ops work with an older demographic that can fight over things like saving a sinking submarine while drunk, battling dragons, or trying to save the world from disease, it is unlikely the same sense of urgency will come from the theme of healing sick pigs and sheep in rural Pratchettland (yes, yes, there's rampaging elves and the dastardly sister of Granny Weatherwax, and always the lurking threat your witch will go a little too far over the edge and go all 'Black Aliss' (evil witch), but this is all abstracted as numeric values against which to roll dice and play cards, and you're seriously not going to get very attached).

But you must take on what the box and advertising tells you, and on the level it absolutely tells you, this is a nicely themed little game for younger gamers. It is NOT. Absolutely NOT a kids game that you will sneakily get a blast out of playing with an adult group. I bought it because I'm just a sucker for Pratchett and Wallace both, so couldn't help myself. But consider yourself warned. There's nothing wrong with it in itself: it is what it says it is. I'm just writing this little review to assure you that any thoughts you might have that it might, just might be something else... no. Just... no.

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S. R.
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Thank you.
You confirmed my take on the game after reading the rules. And while I thoroughly enjoy Ankh-Morpork, I think I will refrain from this one.
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Andrew Roy
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Hopefully some people itching to get the Collector's Edition this very weekend, and thinking The Witches will offer a similar experience to Ankh-Morpork, will find something useful in this review!

Thank you for your opinions. I'll hold off on this game for the time being.
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Paul S
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Just parted with the readies for the CE, and this is very much what I expected - but it's good to hear, so that expectations are managed (seems to be a theme for me tonight, that). Like many, I'm buying largely for the Pratchett factor.
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Virre Linwendil Annergård
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Hopefully that means cheap used collector editions then. Because it does say Pratchett on the box...
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Richard Morris
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virre wrote:
Hopefully that means cheap used collector editions then. Because it does say Pratchett on the box...
Only if people are half asleep. But then we got a fair few complaints with Ankh Morpork, and they made it abundantly clear how the game was positioned well in advance.

Me, I'm three quarters asleep, but I've ordered the CE, and do not expect to be disappointed.
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Brian Boyle
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virre wrote:
Me, I'm three quarters asleep, but I've ordered the CE, and do not expect to be disappointed.


I have ordered the CE too, after playing a demo game a few months ago (and wrote a session report about the experience).

I am not a Pratchett fan, but certainly a Wallace/Dennis fan.

It is very light. But I am happy to own because I increasingly find sub-1-hour, dice-rolling games a welcome antidote to solving multiple simultaneous equations as I trade my way around the renaissance world.




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that Matt
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qiagen wrote:
Can anyone confirm that the collector's edition has a larger map?

The main differences between this version and the standard version are:

- Four custom sculpted pewter figurines, representing the four witch characters.
- An A1 size poster presenting artwork from the game.
- A larger map.
- Different cover artwork and box size.
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qiagen wrote:
Thank you for the review. I loved the earlier books of the Witches series ('Equal Rites' to 'Carpe Jugulum', IIRC - never read any of the Tiffany Aching books though - am I missing out?)
They're not as complex in writing as the main books, but they're still good. I read Wee Free Men, and liked it. I had avoided them thinking they'd be less interesting for being YA, but it's still Pratchett. Shouldn't have underestimated the man.
qiagen wrote:
, and, having been informed that 'Carcassonne' was too complex by my family, I'm always on the lookout for well-polished simple games.

hob69 wrote:
There's plenty of room on the basic game map (the collector's edition has a larger map, I hear), and you shouldn't have any problem finding your way around.


Can anyone confirm that the collector's edition has a larger map? I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version. A larger map would swing my decision though.
Yeah, the larger map made a difference for me too, especially after seeing the difference between the standard Ankh-Morpork and my collector's edition map.
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James Fung
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qiagen wrote:
Thank you for the review. I loved the earlier books of the Witches series ('Equal Rites' to 'Carpe Jugulum', IIRC - never read any of the Tiffany Aching books though - am I missing out?)

The main theme in a Granny Weatherwax book is that people fix problems, not magic. Now if you need to use magic to scare or trick someone into doing the right thing...

The Tiffany Aching books (though, to be honest, I don't know what the last book was trying to do or say) are young adult novels and the morals are directed at adolescents: think for yourself; be responsible and fix your own mistakes; if you want something, work hard for it; know yourself and have confidence in the talents you have. If you like coming of age stories or a the-only-sane-woman-in-the-crowd protagonist, give it a go.
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Never dismiss the Pratchett books that are labelled "Young Adult". Amazing Maurice is the darkest thing he's ever written.
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Neil Maher
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Thanks for the review Harvey.

Do you think there is much re-playability in this for the family? It sounds like a good game for younger kids but do you think they will want to play it more than once (of course, it depends on the kids!). I've "ordered" the CE edition knowing that this is light. Ankh-Morpork went down well in the office and I wonder if this might do the same or will it have the same outcome as Talisman?
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James Clarke
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qiagen wrote:
...... I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version. A larger map would swing my decision though.

I'm hoping that we get the standard coloured hats in the CE as well as the pewter figures, since I expect that the hats will be more effective on the board. I've seen nothing which states this though. The larger map is my main attraction for the CE.



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Harvey O'Brien
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Nirumaru wrote:
Thanks for the review Harvey.

Do you think there is much re-playability in this for the family? It sounds like a good game for younger kids but do you think they will want to play it more than once (of course, it depends on the kids!). I've "ordered" the CE edition knowing that this is light. Ankh-Morpork went down well in the office and I wonder if this might do the same or will it have the same outcome as Talisman?


There is some re-playability built in in that you won't get through all the tiles in one game. There are plenty of them in the bag once you've laid out the problems for any given game. Some of the tiles are repeated, so you'll have more than one 'sick sheep' to deal with, but the 'hard problems' are more unique (some of them stack - if you have three revealed 'elves' at one time it's auto-end, or the vampires all work together too). There's probably enough in the box for as much re-playability as any themed game would have as opposed to a total abstract. But I guess the real question is the degree to which your fellow players enjoy the theme itself, and whether they want to 'be' Pratchett witches time and time again. That may depend on fandom or inclination. Hard to say. I think it would be a stretch for office-mates to play it more than once. I don't know what happened with Talisman at your office, but good God, you must have long lunch hours...
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Neil Maher
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hob69 wrote:
Nirumaru wrote:
Thanks for the review Harvey.

Do you think there is much re-playability in this for the family? It sounds like a good game for younger kids but do you think they will want to play it more than once (of course, it depends on the kids!). I've "ordered" the CE edition knowing that this is light. Ankh-Morpork went down well in the office and I wonder if this might do the same or will it have the same outcome as Talisman?


I don't know what happened with Talisman at your office, but good God, you must have long lunch hours...


We played Talisman (on request of someone who had played the first edition when they were little) at our first, and to date only, work game night. It was..... an experience. Thankfully one that can't be repeated. Even in the public sector lunch breaks aren't long enough for Talisman.

Thanks for the feedback about re-playability. I'm the only Pratchett head in my family and the young fella has a bit of growing to do yet.... I'm having 3rd thoughts about this one!
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Thank you for the review. I am a huge TP fan (just look at my avatar!). I had planned to buy The Witches as a matter of course, eyeing the Collector's Edition so that it could join Discworld: Ankh-Morpork CE on my shelf. Now I think I am going to pass. $100 (shipped to the U.S.) is a bit too much to spend for a game that sounds very light and will end up spending its life as a cardboard bookend. I'm a little disappointed, too. The witches are great characters. Tiffany Aching was my son's entry point into Discworld and I thought he'd enjoy this, but I suspect that once the novelty of the bits wears off he'd lose interest in the game.

Oh well, at least there's a new Discworld novel coming soon.
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James Fung
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qiagen wrote:
I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version.

How to identify the pewter pieces:

Frying pan = Tiffany (she enters the Elvish world with one in The Wee Free Men)



Pig = Petulia (best pig witch in Lancre)
Haughty = Annagramma (see A Hat Full of Stars)
Other witch = Dimity (they needed a fourth player...)
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Highland Cow wrote:
qiagen wrote:
...... I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version. A larger map would swing my decision though.

I'm hoping that we get the standard coloured hats in the CE as well as the pewter figures, since I expect that the hats will be more effective on the board. I've seen nothing which states this though. The larger map is my main attraction for the CE.





I thought the main attraction of the CE was to get a Treefrog box, so it will look good in my Warfrog/Treefrog shelf next to Ankh-Morpork CE.

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fusag wrote:
qiagen wrote:
I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version.

How to identify the pewter pieces:

Frying pan = Tiffany (she enters the Elvish world with one in The Wee Free Men)


She's also the one without a pointy hat, seeing as how her hat is rather bigger...
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rmsgrey wrote:
fusag wrote:
qiagen wrote:
I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version.

How to identify the pewter pieces:

Frying pan = Tiffany (she enters the Elvish world with one in The Wee Free Men)


She's also the one without a pointy hat, seeing as how her hat is rather bigger...

They look fantastic, but will they be great as actual playing figures? The point of my earlier plea for plastic hats is that the pewter figures look a bit topple-prone and they might look a bit samey on the board at first glance?

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Highland Cow wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
fusag wrote:
qiagen wrote:
I don't really like the pewter pieces (multi-coloured hats seem easier to identify), so I was considering buying the bog standard version.

How to identify the pewter pieces:

Frying pan = Tiffany (she enters the Elvish world with one in The Wee Free Men)


She's also the one without a pointy hat, seeing as how her hat is rather bigger...

They look fantastic, but will they be great as actual playing figures? The point of my earlier plea for plastic hats is that the pewter figures look a bit topple-prone and they might look a bit samey on the board at first glance?



They look quite a bit samey at first glance. Less so after scrutiny, and even less so after I get done painting them, as I plan to do. Of course, those that aren't painting them and know very little about the characters are likely to have some issues telling them apart, but I can only speak for myself.

For the record, this was an auto-buy as I'm both a fan of Pratchett and Wallace. I bought the CE to match the Ankh-Morpork CE on my shelf and to get the bigger board. That the gameplay is a bit on the lighter side, matters not. It is more than suitable for play with children, or with adult Discworld fans in search of a lighter game.
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