What is the Witcher and why is FFG doing a board game on it? Well, the Witcher is a series of novels written by a Polish author, which was eventually adapted for a series of computer games by then-indie studio,CD Projekt Red. And now FFG is doing a board game on it.
The setting of the Witcher Novel is fairly low-magic, grim and dark. There are always dangers threatening the people of Witcher, magic is often used for evil, vampires and other monsters roam the land. There used to be a dedicated group of people that would fight the monsters but they were mostly wiped out before the events of the Witcher Novels took place. So now humanity is mostly borked.
In the game,you play as Geralt's 'group'; and I use the word group loosely there, and you seek to drive back the darkness that plagues the land. As the titular Witcher, Geralt is one of the pivotal players in the fight against Darkness. Then you have Triss; a sorceress of some skill and power, Yarpen; a dwarf commander who leads a band of mercs, and then you have...Dandelion; his bard. Yes. His Bard. That's ALL THE SKILLS he has. I mean, just from reading this description, it seems like one of the characters is a bit unfairly gimped here.
So anyway, each character has different abilities. Geralt can brew awesome potions that help him deal with monsters, Triss can use sorcery to manipulate possibilities, Yarpen can issue commands to his mercs to help him accomplish tasks and Dandelion can sing. Cause he's only a BARD. Yeah, in case it wasn't obvious, I got Dandelion during the first play-through so maybe I'm a bit biased. Each character also gets their own special dice to roll during encounters. With the exception of Geralt, each person gets 1 dice in their own color and with different die faces, while Geralt gets 3 red dice with different die faces. That's how you can tell he's the main character.
Anyway, at the start, each player has his own quest that he has to complete. These can range from diplomatic to combat to intelligence based quests. However, depending on your character, you can only draw from certain quest decks. For example, Dandelion;being a pansy bard, can only draw from the diplomacy quest deck while Yarpen can choose between diplomacy and combat. The game pretty much ends when one player completes 3 quests; although the other players are given 1 last turn each to try and beat the top player. The quests themselves are fairly straightforward to complete, with most of them just requiring you to get certain clue tokens of a certain color to fulfill their requirements, as well as travelling to a certain location on the board. Yes, clue tokens come in different colors now.
The gameplay itself is very simple and very reminiscent of Arkham Horror in a way. You travel around the game board, completing your quests and collecting clue tokens. Now, clue tokens are automatically generated when you visit certain locations so you don't have to wait for them to respawn. Each player has 2 actions he can take during his turn but you can not take the same action twice during your turn. Once your turn is over, you either encounter a monster that's in the region, or you encounter a foul fate in the region; or if you're really lucky and there's nothing in your region, the war track advances by one instead and something 'exciting' is placed in your region.
In this game, it's more important to survive/defend than it is to attack though since there are two different attributes for each. As I mentioned earlier, each player gets 1 unique dice but there are a common pool of 3 dice that each player rolls during combat. So most people get 4 dice to roll during combat; except for Geralt who gets 6. The issue though is the fact that most monsters require 3 ATTK to beat and 2 DEF to defend against. But most of the time, each dice will only generate either 1 ATTK or 1 DEF; and that's not even counting the times your dice just fail to generate anything, so you either choose between beating the monster and taking wounds or running away. Being a bard, I run a way a lot. Fighting monsters is Geralt's job anyway.
Overall, I found the game fairly straightforward and it really really felt like a non-coop version of Arkham Horror in many ways. I think I was expecting something slightly more engaging because at times, it doesn't feel like the players have to really interact with each other much. Also, I kind of feel like the lack of a looming threat takes away from the theme of Witcher as well as the feel of the game. If there was some sort of Big Bad waiting to be unleashed if the players failed to complete their quests within a certain time, it would feel a lot more interesting. Instead, I feel that this is more of a roll-dice and plays type of game.