Here is my review of the World of Warcraft Board Game made by Fantasy Flight.
Title: World of Warcraft Board Game
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
Release Year: 2005
Even coming from a company famous for releasing incredibly long board games, the Fantasy Flight game World of Warcraft (WoW) Board Game might be one of the longest games on ever published. Even without expansions, the game often takes over 6 hours to complete and with expansions, the game can easily take 12-14 hours to complete. Even with the popular product license of the game, the length of the game makes it appeal to a rather select demographic.
Interestingly, Fantasy Flight successfully designed the game to have cross demographic appeal. Fans of the MMORPG will be more than satisfied with how faithfully the game maintains the story and feel of the video game. Even the mechanics manage to mimic game play to a limited degree. At the same time, fans of complicated board games will relish the unique and elegant game play mechanics. Even better, while fans of the video game will immediately see how the video game inspired the board game, no knowledge of the video game is necessary to enjoy the game and those unfamiliar with the video game are unlikely to detect the influence of the video game beyond the names in the game.
The ability of the game to appeal to fans of the video game and non-fans indicates how well crafted the game really is. In fact, well crafted may be an understatement. The unique game mechanics are actually quite brilliant and would easily be a selling point even if the game weren’t based off of a popular license.
The most notable of these game play mechanics is the dice mechanic. Each character in the game learns abilities and gains items that produce certain colors of dice. In addition characters have abilities and items that can change the value of numbers on the dice, provide additional dice in certain situations, allow re-rolling of dice, or even alter the color of a die. These abilities combine with a standard die roll to produce successes in combat with intriguingly designed monsters. Success in combat results in rewards, which provide more dice and dice abilities, which allows the players to fight increasingly powerful enemies.
The number of ways that dice and successes can be manipulated is startling and each of the different classes in the game takes a different approach to combat. Thus, playing each class feels like playing a different game. To improve on that, each class has alternate paths that can be taken, based on abilities selected and items used that allow for alternate strategies. The ability to mix and match strategies is essential when trying to build a powerful team with allied players.
Unfortunately, the team vs. team nature of the game also highlights one of the biggest flaws of the game. Turns go back and forth between teams. And, because teams eventually start facing powerful monsters, turns can take a very long time. During one team’s turn, the other team can do basically nothing except for some trivial planning. In essence, half the game is spent waiting for others to play. In a game that often runs 8 or more hours, this is a lot of time spent bored.
Yet, for every long turn spent waiting, an equally long term is spent in exciting battles and collecting impressive items and abilities. The progression through the game is reasonably well paced and eventually every character can produce unique and impressive results during battle. In fact, with a little bit of mastery of the game, it is possible for players to perform well beyond expected parameters and conquer monsters earlier than expected.
The culmination of the game always comes with the slaying of some powerful overlord. While this fight is usually tense and epic, it also creates a feeling of frustration in the opposing team. Should a team win, the game ends and the other team is never able to test its mettle against the ultimate challenge. This is easily solved by allowing the losing team to also challenge the overlord, but it is a notable deficit in the game.
Another place where the game shines is artwork and production value. The glossy cards have beautiful art and the map is a faithful and well drawn reproduction of a portion of the game world. The game comes with over 100 intricately crafted plastic creatures and even the cardboard pieces are durable. No corner was cut in producing this massive game.
Fans of the MMORPG will enjoy the game, if only for the numerous references to the video game, though the appeal may start to fade after a few sessions. Fans of long and complicated board games will enjoy the game whether or not they enjoy the MMORPG. In fact, even players who dislike the MMORPG will likely enjoy the game. That is rare praise and worthy of note. Unfortunately, even with 10 million subscribers to WoW, the demographic for this game is limited and most game players will not enjoy the time requirements. It is an excellent game that simply doesn’t have widespread appeal.
Rating: 3 of 5