You can start with one to four playable characters, all young witches from the Discworld books, and the goal is to solve the myriad of problems that typically crop up around Lancre. From sick pigs to Elf invasions, the trick seems to be pacing yourself to gain experience and a few decent cards before taking on the big guys. The game ends when a set number of problems (relative to the number of players) have been added to the board or if three elf problems are on the board simultaneously. The latter results in everyone losing because… you know… elves!
The artwork is top notch, with the board itself as the centerpiece. The map of the Ramtops could be framed and hung on the wall, a beautiful piece filled with locations from the Discworld books. The characters you play, as well as those in the cards, are faithful representations of those from a range of the books as are the enemies, so while there’s plenty to see for Discworld novices, it helps to know your references.
The manual was a particular treat to me as I’m generally the only person at a table who cares if we’re following the actual rules. It was easy to navigate and pleasant to look through, with a decent key of all the relevant tokens and cards in the game.
Witches are, as you may be aware, all women. The reason for this, in the Discworld setting at least, is that magical men (Wizards) lock themselves in a tower and fight over who gets to be in charge while Witches busy themselves about solving actual problems and doing all the dirty work. It’s a nice, subversive theme within Terry Pratchett’s writing which is all the more successful because he has written such a varied range of women throughout his novels.
This range lends itself to a whole spectrum of body types and ages, so all in all, the game stands out on the back of its’ source material. The cast are all very white, and mostly fantasy English, however, so it’s not exactly gold standard on every front.
The mechanics of the game are simple. You have a set number of problems on the board and a set number, relative to the number of players, that get placed at the start of each turn until they’re all used up. As a witch, you need to move to a problem, then role 2-4 dice to beat it’s difficulty. Solving the problem can ad benefits to your character like a flat bonus to your roles or extra cards in your hand.
Failing, using too much magic or randomly rolling cackles on the die can build up your cackle count, which can eventually eat into your solved problems. Reducing your cackles requires you to meet with other witches and have tea.
It’s a fun game, but it’s the fluff that makes it really entertaining. ‘Solving’ sick sheep with turpentine, ‘fixing’ this nasty death over here and then building up the nerve (and the cards) to take on a vampire or elf queen before settling in to have some tea with the other witches. It’s not a story we often experience in adventure games and it’s highly entertaining.
To conclude, The Witches is beautiful, fun and puts young women in the spotlight of adventuring. It great to play with friends, and I think it might even work for older children if you’re introducing them to gaming. And, of course, being a Discworld fan can certainly ad to the entertainment value.
Siobhan is an artist who was raised on every type of game and make believe. She grew up rescuing fuzzy animals and the occasional princess, slaying monsters and competing with her older brother. Now she’s a fan of befriending monsters, playing co-op and getting lost in a good story. When she’s not gaming, Siobhan works as a 3D artist in Brown Bag Films and enjoys anime, writing and crafts, and is currently toying with Twine.