Picture of the Witcher: Old World game box
Picture of the Witcher: Old World game box
The Witcher: Old World | image courtesy of Go On Board & CD Projekt RED

“The Witcher: Old World” Board Game Explanation And Review

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Go on Board have now shipped their highly anticipated board game: The Witcher: Old World. As a huge fan of the Witcher franchise, me and my better half had to get a copy of the board game (private purchase, not sponsored). If you are wondering whether the game is worth your time and money, you may find relevant information in this review article.

⚔️ What is “The Witcher: Old World”? ⚔️

In The Witcher: Old World, you become a witcher — a professional monster slayer — and immerse yourself in the legendary universe of The Witcher franchise.

Set years before the saga of Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher: Old World explores a time when monsters roamed the Continent in greater numbers, creating a constant peril that required the attention of expertly trained monster slayers, known as witchers. Five competing schools trained their adepts through brutal regimes, and once fully prepared, these now-recognized witchers set off to explore the land, seeking trouble and adventures and helping others for coin.”

Players: 1-5 players (2-3 recommended)

Duration: 90-150 minutes

Age: 14+ years

Genre: fantasy, adventure, competitive

Expansions: Skellige Expansion, Mages Expansion, Legendary Hunt Expansion, Wild Hunt Expansion, Monster Trail Expansion, Adventure Pack, Lost Mount Expansion (Kickstarter Exclusive), Ciri Expansion (Kickstarter Exclusive), Monster Pack (Kickstarter Exclusive, All-In pledge)

Buy the game here:

YouTube: The Witcher: Old World – game trailer

📦 Unboxing 📦

We received our copy of the game via FedEx shipping (including a very cheeky visit at a logistics centre on a Saturday morning – many thanks to the kind employee who rummaged through a delivery with thousands of parcels to find our game so we could take it home early!).

The game was packaged relatively well, but unfortunately the outside packaging of our delivery was pierced, and something must have pierced through the second layer of cardboard and into the game box. The contents were mostly fine, with one broken ship miniature to add to the list of casualties.

We ordered the big box for our game, which consists of two large cardboard boxes for the game and all expansions. Some extras, like the game mat, metal coins, extra dice, and the Mounted Eredin miniature, came in a separate cardboard box and will not all fit into the game boxes provided. We were a bit disappointed with the internal layout of the large boxes, as it seemed pretty chaotic and the items from the expansions were all over the place. It took us quite some time to pick out the pieces from each expansion. For your first playthrough, it is recommended that you only play with the base game, and some expansions are incompatible so you cannot play with all of them at once. The incompatibility is the main reason why I wish that the big box would have some internal structure to make it easier to pick out the components you need for your game.

Having mentioned the struggles we had, the game components all look incredibly beautiful and everything feels very high quality. The cardboard is sturdy and nicely printed, the cards feel great to hold and the artwork is simply stunning! I was especially impressed with the shaded miniatures, the game playmat and the metal coins (optional pledge upgrades).


🎲 First Setup and Base Game Playthrough 🎲

For our first playthrough, we decided to play with the base game only to get to know the game and its rules slowly. We found the rulebook to be straightforward and easy to follow.

Setup
As with all large boardgames like this, the first setup took a bit of time. Figuring out what all the components are (especially the cards and tokens) and, more importantly, finding them in the big box was challenging at first but manageable with the setup images provided in the handbook. The game actually doesn’t have too many items on the table so setup will be quicker and easier next time.

Aim of the game
The main aim of the game is to be the first wWitcher to obtain four trophies in the game. There are different ways to obtain trophies, for example through fighting a Witcher, meditating after maxing a skill, or fighting a monster. Players can only earn the final trophy through winning a fight, either with a Witcher or monster.

Choosing a character
Players can choose their character based on the looks of the character and the special attack that they like the most. The basic stats for the characters (Combat, Defense, Alchemy) are the same for every character and you can level up any skill you like. Each character has a set of starting Action Cards that are being given to them at the start of the game. You can pick up any available Action Card during the game regardless of the character you chose. The flexibility, including the option to exchange the name tag of your character, means that players get a great degree of control about the strategy they want to use in their fights.
To the contrary, I found myself leaning towards picking the same character over and over again based on the stronger special attacks. The gameplay strategy for every character is the same, so there is very little benefit to playing different characters.

Player Turns
In The Witcher: Old World, players take their turn by performing actions in three phases. It is possible to do this at the same time as long as players do not interact with each other during this turn, which speeds up the whole process. After getting used to the phases, we found the turns to be pretty quick and fun though.
Players can move around the map by discarding matching Action Cards, may perform a location action (different at every city), or play dice poker (a type of gambling game) with another Witcher.
Then, they can either fight a monster or other Witcher, meditate to gain a trophy, or explore the city or surrounding wilderness. The exploration is definitely one of my favourite parts of the game. The prompts on the exploration cards are true to the lore of the Witcher universe and often very funny and exciting. Players get a written introduction into the situation and a choice between response A and B. The results from these choices can set you back in your journey, give you an advantage, or start a quest that you can follow up on at a different location.
The third phase consists of replenishing your Action Cards from your deck (and optionally discarding any you don’t want to use). You can also pick a new card from the Action Card pool to add to your deck, either for free or by discarding 1-3 cards from your hand. This allows you to further customise your hand and increases your combo potential and your life in a fight.

Combat
Combat is the main element of The Witcher: Old World and the best way to get trophies. Players can either fight monsters in the world or brawl with other Witchers.
The combat mechanics are simple and easy to learn. What I find most interesting about the gameplay here is that your action cards are both your life points and your weapon. Each card is worth one point of damage that gets used up after you lose your shield points. On the other hand, using the best cards per turn to build powerful combos is vital to win the game. Chaining cards and using combos is so fun and it is very satisfying to lay the perfect chain to obliterate the monster on the table.
Monsters have a fixed number of cards as their life and attack pool and their attack is being controlled by another player at the table. The player controlling the monster chooses to charge or bite, flips the top card of the deck and applies the corresponding effect of the choice to the player. This way of controlling the monster without having to think of a strategy is very entertaining and accessible.

I am generally looking forward to combat in The Witcher: Old World, but players who love intense strategy may not be happy with the way fighting is being handled in this game. Which cards from your deck you draw is based on luck and it is possible to lose your best cards to damage points you receive. The lack of strategy doesn’t mean that the game is overly difficult though. If you prepare a little for a fight, it should always be possible to win unless you are really unlucky. I personally really enjoyed that the game isn’t Eldritch Horror level difficult, but also not too easy.


🧩 Add-Ons and Expansions 🧩

Adventure Pack Expansion
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The Adventure Pack adds 200 exploration cards and quest cards as well as quest tokens to your game.
This pack greatly increases the replayability of the game as it makes it harder to remember the ‘correct’ outcome of the choices. The cards are well written and true to the lore of the world. Some jokes and events are better with previous knowledge of the franchise but definitely not required. Exploration is one of my favourite parts of the game so this pack is a must-have for me!

Lost Mount Expansion
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The Lost Mount is a miniature of Roach on top of a roof, a reference to the famous meme about calling your mount (Roach) in Witcher 3 and finding her stuck on top of a building, wondering how she got there. The Lost Mount moves from location to location after being interacted with by a player and if you’re lucky you can gain an extra Action Card from her to help you with your journey.
The Lost Mount add-on is a cute little extra for Witcher fans but doesn’t really add much to the game in terms of gameplay. We each visited her once during our playthrough and then ignored her because she moved to a location we didn’t happen to visit again. The add-on is certainly not a must-have but also doesn’t hinder your gameplay.

Ciri Expansion
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Ciri is an additional Witcher character for the game, and she can be used just like any other Witcher. She starts in the School of The Wolf and has the Elder Blood specialty, which allows her to treat one card as if it had a combo extension of any colour once per fight. Raising the specialty level can add symbols to this combo extension.

This specialty makes Ciri a very strong character and being able to play one additional card can decide whether you lose or win a fight. Ciri does not change the main gameplay of the game, but playing as her is a lot of fun.

Mages Expansion
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With the mages expansion, players can choose to play as a mage instead of a Witcher. Pick one of five new characters with their own miniature and special action. Mages have their own Action Cards and their playstyle is based on magical abilities instead of sword based attacks.

Wisdom and Energy are important features of Mage gameplay. Instead of Defense, they have a Wisdom stat, and Shield values are replaced by Energy values. Mages can use their Energy to activate additional effects on cards, unlocking more card effects and combo possibilities. This feature can make combat more strategic, because Energy management becomes an additional factor in gameplay. To make up for the loss of Shield value, Action Cards can apply shielding effects when they are played.

Playing as a Mage does not offer significant gameplay changes and I would have loved to see some more differences between Mages and Witchers. Mages start at a school location, move around, play dice poker, and fight other characters just like Witchers. The changes in combat are refreshing, but it does not feel like a major change.

Skellige Expansion
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The Skellige Expansion adds an additional map to the game, together with exploration and event cards for this map and a new large enemy.

The main aim of the game stays the same while playing with the Skellige Expansion, but players can travel the seas and may be confronted with the dangers that lie underneath the water’s surface. A track advances as the game goes on to trigger increasingly dangerous travels. Once the tracker has advanced to the top of the track, the Dagon monster can be spawned and players can fight it.

Ships are a new addition included in this expansion, and they act as a signifier of sea travel and restrict travel in these areas. New islands can be found by picking up Skellige event cards during the game.

Skellige is a fun new area for Witchers and Mages to explore. I like the extra restriction and danger of travelling the seas, and finding new locations that can be used during the rest of the game is such a cool idea! For me, Skellige is definitely one of the best expansions available for this game.

Monster Trail Expansion
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The main feature of this expansion is the addition of a new Witcher and a new school, the School of the Manticore. This Witcher comes with their own set of Action and Trophy Cards, and, more importantly, new mutagen and bomb cards.

When picking up a potion, players can choose to discard a potion from their inventory or pay 1 gold to draw a bomb instead. You can carry a maximum of 4 potions and 4 bombs at any one time. Bombs can be used in combination with potions during combat.

Mutagens can be obtained by levelling your character. Instead of drawing cards into your hand, players pick up a mutagen card from the deck. Mutagens grant special abilities that can be used during fights.

When choosing large monster cards instead of regular ones, players can play with monster weaknesses and special attacks. Weaknesses and special attacks go hand in hand and add a new layer to monster fights. Using weakness tokens will help you, but the special ability may also send you to the grave sooner than expected.

I enjoyed the additions in this expansion because they add more depth to already existing gameplay. Bombs are fun to use and mutagens are something that was definitely missing in the base game. You can further refine your playstyle with these cards. Having monster weaknesses and special abilities also makes combat more exciting and less robotic in a way.
Definitely worth your time and money!

Wild Hunt Expansion
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This expansion changes the main aim and some gameplay aspects of the game and is thus not compatible with some of the other expansions. It introduces new victory conditions and turn sequences and lets players fight hounds and members of the Wild Hunt.

The Wild Hunt expansion adds cooperative aspects to the game. Players can choose to support other fighting Witchers in their location and dice poker cannot be played against other players. If all Witchers are defeated, the Wild Hunt wins the game and if the Wild Hunt runs out of life cards, the Witchers win collectively!

I love that this expansion changes the main aim and some gameplay procedures of the base game as this adds more variety to playthroughs and it keeps my interest in the game high for longer. I do like the addition of collaborative gameplay as well, helping your friends in a fight can be very rewarding and fun.

Legendary Hunt Expansion
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The Legendary Hunt expansion adds an array of frightening Legendary Monsters to the game. At the start of the game, players choose one of the seven Legendary Monsters to add to the game and set up the expansion.

The main aim of the game is to kill a Legendary Monster, which is now the new winning condition of the game. The first player to achieve this immediately wins the game.

Legendary Monsters move around the board after each round and block the special action of the location they are in. Players do not have to fight the monster if it happens to land on their location or if they deliberately stop for a visit.

Fighting a Legendary Monster generally works like every other monster fight, but legendary monsters have special abilities and are particularly dangerous. Stronger basic attacks and four special attacks will make life difficult for the Witcher attempting to kill the beast.

This expansion is great if you love the combat of Witcher: Old World and are looking for a challenge focusing on this aspect of the game. I personally do not like that the Legendary Monster disables all other winning conditions during the game but it is fun to race your fellow players to the best combat build and successful defeat of the monster. And house rules are always an option to expand the expansion!


💸 Is It Worth It? 💸

The Witcher: Old World falls into the category of large-scale board games created for fans of the franchise and board game enthusiasts. Buying a luxury product like The Witcher: Old World, especially if you want to use expansions, can be a substantial investment. Is it worth it?

If you are a very casual player, don’t want to spend much time on setup, and would like to be done with your first playthrough before the sun rises again, this game is not for you.
If you enjoy playing board games, appreciate a well printed map, beautiful illustrations, and a variety off well-designed gameplay features, you can certainly get a lot of enjoyment out of this game. However, if you are someone who enjoys a very difficult game that will challenge you and may take more than one playthrough to complete, this is probably also not the best way to spend your money.

The Witcher: Old World is the perfect game for those who are looking for a well-crafted, advanced board game experience with a challenge of medium difficulty. The expansions offer to shift the focus towards certain aspects of the game that you enjoy the most and can be used to customise or freshen up your experience with the game.

If you decide to buy The Witcher: Old World, you can purchase a copy here:

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