Ferret Face
United States
Auburn
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
World of Warcraft the Board Game: Capitalizing on a capital idea, but missing something in translation.

Before we begin I’m going to warn you that in this review I make many comparisons between World of Warcraft: the Board Game and World of Warcraft the computer game. Now you might say, “It’s not fair to compare a computer game with a board game,” but I think it’s a reasonable connection to make. After all, the board game is based on the computer game in hopes of capitalizing on the video game’s popularity and large fan base.

World of Warcraft: The Board Game is the huge game from Fantasy Flight based on the very popular online role playing game of the same name. Even the name is gigantic and unwieldy. In this review I will conserve our scarce binary resources by referring to the board game as “WoW.” This is such a large, heavy game that I actually have to make sure when I put it back on the shelf, I place underneath my other games to avoid crushing them. WoW consists of a very large game board, 136 plastic figures to represent player characters and monsters, about 450 cards covering a variety of roles, several player sheets, and fistfuls of tokens. All these components mean that WoW requires some time setting up and breaking down as well as a large space on which to play; this is no coffee-table game. Fantasy Flight lists this game as 2 – 6 players with games sessions lasting 2 – 4 hours. Although, if you can play this game in two hours, I think you might be skipping stuff, a lot of stuff.

Here’s a quick rundown of how the game functions: Just like in the computer game, there are two factions Horde and Alliance (good guys and bad guys). Each player plays a character of one faction or the other, or for shorter games, you can have all the players playing a single faction; however, this does limit the game to 3 players. In true role playing fashion, each person plays a particular class of character (e.g. mage, cleric, fighter, paladin, etc.). The game functions as both a cooperative and confrontational game. Each faction works separately from the other in order to defeat monsters and complete quests. As the game progresses, characters increase in level, gain new skills and new equipment. The game is set to a 30 turn timer with each faction taking turns taking turns (that sounds weird now that I’ve typed it). Basically each faction plays every other turn giving each side 15 turns. Victory can be achieved by completing one of two conditions. One way to win in WoW is by defeating the big, bad, monster boss called the Overlord. Before starting the game, players choose one of the three Overlords included in the game as the final boss. Each one has its own character sheet listing their unique rules and stats. The Overlord’s level of challenge varies and care should be taken not to pick something too overpowering on your first play. Alternatively, if neither faction defeats the Overlord by the end of the 30th turn, the factions fight one another in an epic battle, and the side with the last character standing is the winner. Got it?

So what works and what doesn’t?

Theme: The World of Warcraft Universe is not well represented in WoW the Board Game. Sure it has a Warcraft look, uses the same names and artistic style, but it all feels superficial. Blizzard created an exciting, unique universe in their series of Warcraft video games, and Fantasy Flight’s board game does not take advantage of that rich source of content. The crux of the problem is that the board game really has no story element. This is a real sore spot for a game with such a strong focus on role playing. After all, role playing games are character driven and characters need to be surrounded by a story. There needs to be situations and interactions that provide motivation to move the game forward and build towards a climax. Think about it this way: Would the movie Rocky have won three Oscars if it only consisted of Stallone punching a side of beef for two hours? In WoW it feels as if you are a character in play with a script that contains only the first and last page. You know where you start, and you know where you need to end up. During the intervening hours, the characters have no focus and are reduced to bouncing around the board collecting stats and treasure without any reason to be doing so other than they know they have a big fight coming up. A real opportunity was missed with this game. Fantasy Flight could have used the Warcraft theme to create a unique game of its own with mechanics tailored for a board game as opposed to attempting to shoe-horn everything they could from a video game into the boundaries of a board game. As much as the designers tried to make WoW mimic the computer version, it really just feels like fleeting shadow of something greater. The video game should’ve been an inspiration not a model.
The Components: As I’ve stated before, the artwork and craftsmanship are top notch. This is after all a Fantasy Flight game, and the components are up to their usual high standards. The game board and markers are all sturdy and well crafted. The cards are nice and so numerous that even if you have played the game several times before, you are still encountering cards that are new to you. The plastic figures representing the various monsters and player characters are very well sculpted. Often when a new figure is placed, the people playing enjoy looking at the figure before placing it on the board. They really do look cool.

Having said all that, the components are also one of WoW’s flaws. This game has a ton of parts. Now I have nothing against large, complex games, but, in the case of WoW, it just doesn’t work. The physical size of the game is not dictated by the need to support the game’s mechanics. For example, Twilight Imperium and Castle Ravenloft are also component-heavy games. The difference is that, in those games, all those little figures actually do something; they are dynamic. In WoW the monsters do nothing; they are static. This is an awfully large amount of shelf space and money for what are essentially 3D monster markers. I’m not sure why Fantasy Flight made the game this component-heavy. It’s as if they were expecting the game to be something other than the end product. My critique is bolstered by the fact that, in “The Burning Crusade” expansion for WoW, dungeon monsters are simply represented by cards, not by plastic models. The cool figures just don’t seem to be a natural match for their role. Perhaps the designers hoped that all the cool figurines would help it sell, but to me it’s just more evidence of Fantasy Flight’s struggle to mimic the video game.

So now that I’ve brought it up, let’s discuss game mechanics: The main focus of WoW is creating your character and building them up. If you are expecting constant fighting like the computer game, you will be disappointed. Only about 20% of your game time will involve combat. If you enjoy character building and working with your group to build characters that complement one another, you will enjoy this aspect of play. Final Fantasy did a good job of capturing this feature of the online game, but perhaps that’s because the online game copied it from the pencil and paper RPGs of yore. I really enjoy going through all the talents, items, spells, and skills. But all this customization takes time, and that’s where another irksome flaw is exposed. Character creation is only fun when you are doing it. Remember you are only playing every other turn, so when it’s not your faction’s turn, the other side is building their characters or going to a town to buy stuff. This creates a debilitating amount of down-time. It generates a feeling that there are really two sets of gamers who just happen to be sharing a game board. The down-time is compounded by the fact that turns can take a very long time. In my group when one faction is taking their turn, the other three players often go off to do their own thing, watch TV, etc. By forcing a player vs. player aspect into WoW, Fantasy Flight has instead separated the players, and that’s not what a game should do. In fact, the only way my gaming group will now play WoW is if we play it as a co-op game. That does only limit us to three players, but it also makes the game faster and more enjoyable. But even with just three players it still takes forever, and by the time the game is finally over, we feel victorious just for having slogged through it to the end. Sure, WoW does allow the two factions to interact by fighting one another, but the game provides no incentive to do so, until the very last turn. There is no experience or treasure to be gained by player vs. player conflict, and it uses up a precious game turn that would be better spent completing quests. Once again this illustrates the problem of copying everything in the online game just because it’s there, regardless if it works or not. In fact this is actually very much like the computer version. The two factions rarely come into conflict in the online world. Their regions are separated, they have different quests, and they don’t communicate with one another. The difference is that I don’t have to sit around for 20 minutes while a character on the other side of the world heads back to town to buy a new staff.

Well there are battles in this game, but let us talk about quests first as they are often the reason for combat. The quests in the game come from one of the Quest card decks. There are multiple decks that offer quests of varying difficulty and reward levels. When a quest is chosen it will usually have two creatures listed, a blue one and one of another color (the color indicates the creature’s level of difficulty). The faction that drew the card places both monsters on the board; however, you need only to kill the non-blue creature to complete the quest and get the reward. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. The blues just sit on the board to populate the regions and make the world look less empty. In video game terms, these are called trash mobs and serve the same purpose; however, in the computer game they do at least provide some experience and treasure when killed. You get nothing for killing them in the board game, and since you have only so 15 turns until the end of the game, you don't want to waste them fighting a worthless blue creature just because it’s there. Fantasy Flight really should’ve just left them out of the game entirely. But once again, because trash mobs are in the online game, I guess they just had to include them in their board game version. To be fair, the quest cards are nicely illustrated, but they provide little substance to the game. It’s really just, “go here, kill this, so you can get this.” The quests only exist to provide experience and treasure to build your character. I mean how else could they do it? If they wanted to copy the video game, they did a good job with the questing. The quests in the computer game have a story component, but most people simply skip past it and only focus on the task and the reward. Again, just because it’s that way in the computer game, doesn’t mean it will be fun in the board game.

So now on to the fighting: Battles in WoW are a fun, dice-filled slugfest. This is another thing the Fantasy Flight guys did get right. The battles are where you see the pay-off for all the time spent building up your character. The rules for fighting can seem a bit strange at first, but they do work. Unlike most games with dice rolling battles, WoW counterbalances the luck of the roll with a bit of strategy. Once you have played through a few combats you will gain a feel for how that strategy works. Battles can be fought on your own or as a group. Going in as a group allows the players to tackle more difficult quests and monsters than they could handle alone, but perhaps you’d rather go it alone and not have to divide up the experience and treasure. More strategy is involved in group battles as the players must work as a team to decide how to confront a particular monster. Who should go first? What spells should be used? Who’s going to take the hits? Of course the ultimate fight is with the end-game Overlord. Your team had better be well prepared and healed up as these are tough fights. Hopefully by this point in the game, your group has a good grasp on how your characters’ different combat styles complement one another. The only problem I have with combat in WoW is that there is a disappointingly little amount of. If you were going to do a good job copying the video game this would’ve been place to do it. After all, in the online version, you spend most of your time fighting.

Final thoughts:

After such a seemingly harsh review you might be surprised to know that I do enjoy playing WoW the Board Game. The main aspects of the game, the combat and character creation, are done really, really well. Unfortunately, due to the flaws outlined in my reviews, I can’t help thinking about how much better the game could be. All of that down-time could be filled with story progression and more combat. Instead of trying to mimic the online game, Fantasy Flight should’ve instead used it as an inspiration to create a Warcraft game from scratch. And who know, perhaps then they could’ve come up with a real use for all of those cool plastic monsters.

My verdict is a 7.0 out of 10 (7.5 with the two expansions).

Expansions:

I will include a very brief review (brief compared to the monstrosity I've already written) of the two expansions for this game. Both these expansion are worth their money if you find that you do enjoy playing the main game. They add more variety to the existing structure as well as some new elements.

Shadow of War is the first, smaller, and least appealing of the two expansions. Each character class gets an additional 10 power cards and 10 talent cards. These are great items that increase the variety and customization. Also the expansion adds more treasure cards and event cards. The unique items added to the game are the blue quest cards and destiny cards. The blue quest cards provide rewards for killing the blue monsters spawned when a character draws a regular quest card. The blue quest cards do not spawn any monsters of their own, but do list two different types of blue monsters that are to be destroyed in order to collect the reward. Any faction can complete the conditions for a blue quest card and collect the reward. Once completed a new blue quest card is drawn. I found this to be a commendable attempt to fix something that should have been excised during initial testing. It adds some value to killing blue monsters, but usually not enough to go very far out of your way to do so. The other unique addition is the destiny card deck. Destiny cards effect the environment of the game world. Each card has an hour glass in the corner indicating how many turns the card’s effects last. Once that turn passes, the card is discarded and a new one is drawn. Some of these cards correspond to a particular Overlord which helps to give the boss a presence in the game beyond just the final fight. The destiny cards add some flavor to the gaming environment, but they are not something players seem to be very concerned about. It’s an addition, but not really an addition that is needed.

Burning Crusade is the larger, second expansion, and it adds a number of things to the main game. The most apparent addition is the extended game board featuring the Outlands region. It also includes an additional 51 plastic creatures, 2 new player characters (a paladin and a shaman), and 4 new Overlords. Also the game allows for character to progress to a higher experience level. Also included are higher level monsters and quests. It also adds a host of cards, counters, and dice. However, the most unique addition to the main game is the dungeon system. Burning Crusade adds four dungeons to the game. The dungeons are represented on the Outlands game board by printed markers and on the main game board by tokens. The dungeons themselves are divided into card decks, and those decks are further divided into dungeon levels. The first level of a dungeon must be cleared before going on to the next. The player begins the dungeon exploration by drawing cards from the level one deck one by one placing them down in a row. The cards can either be a boss, minion, reward, or treasure. The minions you do not fight, instead they increase the power of the boss who you do have to fight. The rewards are perks that will aid you in your fight against the boss. And treasure cards are loot you receive for finishing that level of the dungeon. Once a boss card is pulled, players stop drawing cards. However, if players are feeling lucky/greedy they can continue to draw cards from deck after they have already drawn a boss card. This increases the chance of gaining more loot, but also increases the chance of drawing more minions and making the fight harder. I really, really like the dungeon addition to the game. It’s fast paced, exciting. My group always ends up in heated debates about whether or not we should continue to draw more cards. This can be especially perilous if you are near the end of the dungeon, injured, and vulnerable. With four dungeons and multiple levels for each one, players could spend most of the game just exploring the dungeons. This expansion is worth the cash for the additional character level and the dungeon, but the additional board game seems to add just much more of the same. Since a faction is only going to encounter about nine quests per game session, fewer if spending turns in the dungeons, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense adding a game-board extension that you are barely going to use.
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Brady
United States
Arlington
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
World of Warcraft is not a computer game...it's a way of life
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lee Riekman
Canada
Vancouver
BC
flag msg tools
badge
I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral, I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
Avatar
mbmb
A well-written review and comparison. Good job!

ferretface wrote:
Would the movie Rocky have won three Oscars if it only consisted of Stallone punching a side of beef for two hours?

That depends on which actor they get to play the side of beef.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Corban
Canada
Newmarket
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ferretface wrote:
The difference is that I don’t have to sit around for 20 minutes while a character on the other side of the world heads back to town to buy a new staff.

If this is true, then no wonder your review is negative. I doubt you could finish the game in four hours at that rate.

Four-player games take me three hours. I have only played six-player once and it was 4.5 hours with three people never playing the game (online or board) before.

I have to say that most of the time, I feel like my turn comes up too fast! The only time I even notice what the other team is doing, is when my team has already decided their turn (move, move or move, rest or...) and the other team just leveled up or something.

I will also add that after trying Shadow of War maybe 5 times, I determined that it only added more fiddle and time to the game, and no extra fun. The blue quests in particular are a complete waste of time. Even when the stars aligned and presented the best combination of rewards for a particular blue creature, it still wasn't worth killing.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Lundström
Sweden
Täby
flag msg tools
Now who are these five?
badge
Come, come, all children who love fairy tales.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ferretface wrote:
The crux of the problem is that the board game really has no story element. This is a real sore spot for a game with such a strong focus on role playing.


This really nails my problem with the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michal Pryslopski
Poland
Warszawa
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Zimeon wrote:
ferretface wrote:
The crux of the problem is that the board game really has no story element. This is a real sore spot for a game with such a strong focus on role playing.


This really nails my problem with the game.


But this is what makes it so similar to the video game!

Computer WoW is all about endlessly killing the same creatures (like dungeon bosses or boars in the woods) until you get enough points to buy a new gear.

Boardgame WoW is a race to level up by killing boars up to the point when you can kill the end boss.

See? The same :-)
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Guido Gloor
Switzerland
Ostermundigen
Bern
flag msg tools
The statement below is false.
badge
The statement above is correct.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
khaiell wrote:
Zimeon wrote:
ferretface wrote:
The crux of the problem is that the board game really has no story element. This is a real sore spot for a game with such a strong focus on role playing.

This really nails my problem with the game.

But this is what makes it so similar to the video game!

I really like playing WoW (the computer game) every so often, for a few weeks at a time meanwhile (until I get bored by it again) and for 8+ hours daily for a few months a few years ago, and I have to agree. There are stories in the game, sure, but they're mostly replaceable and, ultimately, can easily be ignored because they don't contribute to the actual gameplay itself.

WoW is not a story-driven game with boar killing. It's a boar-killing game with a story coating.

In the end, that's what makes it so addicting. But it has to be admitted.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Lundström
Sweden
Täby
flag msg tools
Now who are these five?
badge
Come, come, all children who love fairy tales.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
khaiell wrote:
Zimeon wrote:
ferretface wrote:
The crux of the problem is that the board game really has no story element. This is a real sore spot for a game with such a strong focus on role playing.


This really nails my problem with the game.


But this is what makes it so similar to the video game!

Computer WoW is all about endlessly killing the same creatures (like dungeon bosses or boars in the woods) until you get enough points to buy a new gear.

Boardgame WoW is a race to level up by killing boars up to the point when you can kill the end boss.

See? The same :-)


Nope. Computer WoW was all about roaming interesting lands, seeing silly things, and trying to immerse in a long storyline... FOR ME. Some people saw the way up to max level as a boring chore, I saw it as the very point of the game. At least it was very possible to play like that; the board game does not allow for such play.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freelance Police
United States
Palo Alto
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
fwiw, I posted a coop variant that removes the "waiting for the other team" downtime. I've played it several times and taught it to n00bs, and we've found it to make the game shorter as well.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Corban
Canada
Newmarket
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
If you are "waiting for the other team", then you are part of the problem! Your team's turn should be planned out while the other team is executing their pre-planned turn.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jovan Milojevic
Serbia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Does anyone try to play this game in the same time (both factions)???
I have idea to both teams play their turns (with two timer tokens, controlled by other faction) & without downtime... Like two team co-operate game... No mater what turn they play (remove cards that work by time marker) teams just do their things... Who beat OL first (before time runs out) WINS!!!! What you think???
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alejandro Rascon
Mexico
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That is kind of how i play it, but only tried it with 4 players.
It resulted in a 3 hour game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dr Who
msg tools
mb
good review

while the story elements seem to be missing, that's very similar to the video game, at least when I played it
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
No No No Sheep
Russia
St Petersburg
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DrWhoWho wrote:
good review

while the story elements seem to be missing, that's very similar to the video game, at least when I played it


this game mirror exactly the leveling progression of old vanilla WoW mmorpg circa 2004-2005 prior to burning crusade expansion
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.