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*As Discworld fans know, this refers to the standards of a particularly ill-tempered dwarf named Glod.

WHAT IS IT?
The Witches: A Discworld Game is a light-hearted romp around Terry Pratchett's magical kingdom of Lancre, where players are witches running around solving problems by rolling dice.



COMPONENTS
A large, good-looking main board, and four individual player boards. Four conical wooden player pieces. A number of cardboard problem tiles, of easy and hard variety. Four wooden dice, with cackling witches instead of ones. Cardboard tokens for crisis, cackle, and Black Aliss. And a number of high-quality cards.

GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
The map is seeded with a number of problem tiles; easy problems are face-up, hard problems begin face-down until revealed. Players each begin with three cards, and your turn consists of the following steps:

1) Problem - flip the top card of the deck and add the next problem tile to the space indicated on the card if empty. If the space is already occupied by a problem, that problem receives a crisis token. Continue flipping cards until a new problem is added to the board.

2) Main Phase - Take the following action twice:
Move your witch up to two spaces along the boards paths. You must stop if you encounter a witch or a problem. If you land on a witch, you may remove 3 cackle counters, and other witches on the space may remove 2. If you land on a problem, attempt to solve it.

2a) Solve - To solve a problem, roll 2 dice. You may then play any cards with a Headology symbol (+1) or Magic symbol (+2 but gain a cackle counter) for their associated bonus to your roll. Then roll the remaining two dice. Adding all four dice plus any bonuses, if your total reaches the problem's difficulty rating, you solve it. Solved problems go on your board, and are worth VP at end of game. (if you fail, you must retreat and take a cackle counter.)

3) Refresh - Draw your hand back up to your limit (which starts at 3, but rises +1 per two easy problems you solve).

When the last problem is placed on the board, whoever has the most VP at the end of the turn wins. The game can also end early in a loss for all players if crisis counters run out, or if too many Elves are revealed and undefeated.



GOOD POINTS
*Two brimming scoops of theme. This is an exceedingly Discworld game. The characters (from Nanny Ogg to King Verence) and board locations (from Skund to The Place Where The Sun Does Not Shine) are all right out of Discworld, as is the humor in having "easy problems" include pregnancy and death.

*Pleasing components. Everything is quite solid quality. The board looks good, the tiles are sufficiently thick, the cackle-faced dice are nice to roll, and the cards not only have lavish artwork that respects the Pratchett characters (one of the better illustrations of Greebo in cat-form I've seen, really), but are of good stock.

*Accessible and quick to learn. While cards may have their own rules, the underlying mechanic is a cinch to pick up. Roll dice, play cards to add a bonus, roll more dice, see if your total measures up. The ease of gameplay means that children or non-gamers with a penchant for Discworld can jump in here without worrying about being out of their depth.

*Good card design. Every card has three important features:
1) A symbol at the top, indicating a Broomstick, Magic, or Headology. Every card can be discarded for its symbol ability, to add a bonus to rolls with Magic or Headology, or to travel to any space on the board with a Broomstick.
2) The card ability (re-rolling dice, a post-roll bonus to dice, instant solving of certain problems, draw more cards by taking a cackle counter, etc.)
3) The name of a location (at the bottom, used only when laying out new problems).

Cards also have individual names for flavor (which do not always correspond to the same abilities or symbols). But the important thing about these cards is not just that they all are used three different ways, but that they are well layed-out so the artwork is still the focus of the card, and even a non-gamer can parse the card at a glance. Many games with multi-use cards are more opaque.

*The Cackle mechanic is interesting and makes thematic sense. The lesson to be learned is magic is power that comes at a price, so playing Magic symbols (or using some other cards) gives you a great advantage but garners Cackle counters. Once they run out, you take them from whoever has the most. But if you are the craziest witch and need to take some, you get Black Aliss tokens instead, worth negative VP. This really ties in with the Witches theme, as does the "Power of Three" mechanic that lets you discard a set of 3 differently-named special Witch cards to instantly solve any problem.

BAD POINTS

*The game is fairly light and random. While this will undoubtedly be a plus for children or non-gamers, more seasoned gamers won't find much depth here. This is not to say that there aren't interesting decisions -- e.g. managing your Cackle counters, deciding when to hold some Power of Three cards to dig for more, etc. -- but that overall luck plays a very high role.

*Possible "everyone loses" mechanic even in non co-op play. While these alternate end conditions (too many crises, too many elves) are highly thematic and would probably work great in either co-op or play with theme-driven players, if playing with min-maxers, nobody but the current leader has any incentive to avoid a universal loss.

*Not quite tight enough with 2. Although there are a reduced number of problems in the 2p game, it still seemed like plenty of easy problems were available for both players, as opposed to the real competition to solve problems first in the 3p game.




CONCLUSION

The Witches: A Discworld Game falls squarely into the category of light, theme-driven game. It succeeds on both of these counts. The light and easy-to-learn gameplay goes at a good clip, and is accessible to non-gamers (with just enough going on to keep it interesting). And there is a tremendous amount of Discworld theme (with excellent art) that should certainly appeal to the hardcore fan. Alas, my own predilections lean towards meatier games, but I'd still happily recommend this as a great game for someone else.

IS IT FOR YOU?
If you require a deep and complex gaming experience to be satisfied, obviously this isn't it. But if you're a fan of Terry Pratchett you're very likely to enjoy the treatment his world and characters have gotten here, with lavish art and plenty of cackles for all. As long as you aren't easily frustrated by dice that don't go your way, this game is easy to learn and plays reasonably quickly, while still having enough interesting decisions and variety of cards and special powers to make it fun.
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Richard Morris
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Osirus wrote:
*Possible "everyone loses" mechanic even in non co-op play. While these alternate end conditions (too many crises, too many elves) are highly thematic and would probably work great in either co-op or play with theme-driven players, if playing with min-maxers, nobody but the current leader has any incentive to avoid a universal loss.
I must admit that on first reading the rules this mechanic struck me as dangerous, for precisely the reasons you suggest. But on reflection, I don;t think it matters for where the game is positioned: the type of gamer who is likely to play the "If I can't win then I will make sure we all lose" game, is likely to be playing other stuff than this. I find I can happily play these light discworld games (so I'm including AM) for the sheer fun of just playing them, with who wins being very secondary. Which is not something I will admit to in many other games.
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Pat

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I just bought the game to play with my daughters, planning on getting rid of the pregnancy problem in the game of course. They are only 8 and 6 not opening a can of worms

Santa clause is leaving it
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Dennis Barter
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Thanks for the review, my wife and I love the books and I am looking for something to get her more into boardgaming. Hopefully this will work. If nothing else its another thematic game on the stash.
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David McKenna
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Have a thumb and some GG for the title alone!!!!!*

(*count 'em: 5 exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind)
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Anson Bischoff
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I think the everyone loses mechanic works out better in this game than most. The game is really lucky, and people don't start making big points until the game is about halfway over. Until then, nobody has any reason to think that they are that far behind. In fact, I'd say that the game is lucky enough that knowing that you are definitely out of the running wouldn't ever happen until very close to the end of the game. By that time, go ahead and let them try to throw the game. It is really pretty easy to keep the game loss conditions from happening even if one player is going out of their way to make them happen.

The problem that I have with the game is that with four it is far too long for how incredibly light it is.
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Paul S
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Just played our first game. Decided to try it co-op since we were all learning, so we played cards face-up and helped each other out.

Liked it a lot. Took a while (4p), but I'm sure that will shorten with familiarity.

Nice review, I agree with much of it after the one play.

The Pratchett theme really hits the spot for me. Would it be as good without that? I doubt it. But 2 of our 4 had not read any Witches stuff, and still had fun.

I can see this doing very well with the family.
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bort
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Reagan wrote:
I just bought the game to play with my daughters, planning on getting rid of the pregnancy problem in the game of course


Really?
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James Fung
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bortmonkey wrote:
Reagan wrote:
I just bought the game to play with my daughters, planning on getting rid of the pregnancy problem in the game of course


Really?

To each their own. Maybe Death is easier to explain than Pregnancy.
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Paul S
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REALLY?
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Richard Morris
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fusag wrote:
bortmonkey wrote:
Reagan wrote:
I just bought the game to play with my daughters, planning on getting rid of the pregnancy problem in the game of course


Really?

To each their own. Maybe Death is easier to explain than Pregnancy.
If they are worried about pregnancy, how are they going to explain the Long Man?
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Kurt Purcell
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Rename the problem to delivery. I think that the first stage is pretty much covered. That final step is where they help out.
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