Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 10 September 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- The Witches

Game Title: The Witches

Designer: Martin Wallace

Manufacturer: Treefrog Games

Year: 2013

Amy is a big Terry Pratchett fan. We have more than a full bookshelf full of his books, even though this space is getting slowly squeezed by the board game collection. So for Christmas 2014 (when I game collection didn’t even have its own shelf!) Amy was given a signed copy of the deluxe edition of The Witches board game.

In The Witches each player takes on the role of a trainee witch who must travel round the land of Lancre and fix various problems. The problems range in difficulty from a Broken Leg and Death (on green tiles) through to the harder purple tiles which depict invasions from evil Elves or other miscreants. The witch who has had the best training at the end of the game is the winner, however the witches should also be mindful that they can all lose the game if the town becomes overrun by Elves or is despairing at the amount of Crisis on the board.

On each player’s turn they will first draw a game card from the top of the deck and a new Problem tile will spawn on the corresponding location on the board. If there is already a problem tile in this location, then a Crisis counter is placed which increases the current tile’s difficulty by 2. Cards are drawn until a vacant location is found for the new problem tile. The player may then move their witch up to 2 spaces, although the witch must stop if they encounter another witch or a problem tile.

When you encounter a problem tile you must try to solve the problem. (In the case of a Hard Problem you must also flip and reveal the purple tile). You solve a problem by rolling a total on 4 dice greater than or equal to the number on that problem. You roll two dice first and can use any cards in your hand to modify the result. You then roll a further 2 dice. Each dice have potential results of 2-6 and the sixth side is a Cackle which is worth no points, but gives you a Cackle counter. If you succeed you obtain the tile on your player board. If you fail against a green tile, nothing happens, but if you fail against a purple tile there are negative effects, unless you choose to run away after you roll the first 2 dice. In one turn you then get the option to move again, and potentially solve another problem before it is the next player’s turn.

To defeat the Elves, you need to roll 16 or higher. On the first roll, 10 was rolled. On the second roll 4 was rolled and the dice roll was boosted by two by playing 'Jason Orgg', so the Elves were defeated.
By solving problems and placing them on your player board, you are not only building up victory points, but you are also building up your character to be able to solve harder problems. Collecting the green, Easy Problem tiles increases your hand size so there are more special cards you can throw in to boost your dice rolls. Collecting purple, Hard Problem tiles build up +1s to your rolls against further problem tiles.
By building up 6 easy problem tiles, Tiffany Aching's hand size is now 6 cards and with 3 hard problem tiles, she has +1 to any rolls against further problem tiles.
At first we played the game a number of times and enjoyed it. However, as our tastes have matured in the hobby, this game very quickly lost its shine. For me the final nail in the coffin came in a 4-player game with 3 new players where the amount of down time was tedious and I don’t think anyone got a lot of enjoyment from the game. Playing The Witches is pretty much a solitaire experience. The only player interaction comes from ‘Having Tea’ which occurs when you cross paths with other players on the board, but this is more of a coincidence than something to be either avoided or encouraged. The very small semi-cooperative nature of the game can also often easily be overlooked because the likelihood of the ‘Crisis’ tokens all being used is often low.

For a Discworld fan, perhaps the references make this game worthwhile, but for me, the game pretty much plays itself. Most movement decisions are obvious, it tends to be pretty obvious when to push your luck with the dice and the winner is the player who gets most lucky with their dice and card draw. I don’t think there is anything inherently broken about the game it just doesn’t have much fun factor and so it gets a 5/10.

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