Theme and What is it?
No one know exactly how it started. Scholars believe that evil spirits exist in a separate world and stream through portals of weakened space, lingering in invisible hordes swarming around the dead until one of them “quickens” and the body arises as a Witchborn monster. Now, the various races and creatures of the world have banded together into warclans, fighting against the Witchborn, and each other, to earn some coin and make their way in this new world. This is a hell on Earth, merciless and unforgiving. This is Perdition.
The Witchborn is a skirmish-style miniature game for 2-6 players. The Enter Perdition box set is for 2 players and features the Elves and the Dwarves, while the War Clans edition adds components to play with six players and adds the Paladins, the Orcs, the Norn, and the Guild. To begin, players may either select from one of the pre-made war clans or follow the individual war clans books and create their own. Each faction has both a 3-person and 8-person pre-made option for playing with the quick-start and full rules respectively. In these types of games everything from unit types to equipment to skills carries a point value and each unit will have a number of stats which affect various interactions in the game from attacking and defending to making a discovery to whether you hold your nerve or flee the battlefield. Starting war clans will have a value of 100 points. Over the course of multiple games, the members of a player’s war clan will earn experience to gain new skills and gold to buy better equipment or replace fallen members both of which will in turn increase the relative value of the war clan.
Whether playing with the full rules or jumping right in with the Quick Start rules, players will set up the battlemap for play. The narrative of the Kasel Plains, the battlemap that comes with the box set, is that an airship has crashed and the players are racing for cargo. Players will roll dice and place the discovery markers in the correlating spaces before finally rolling for their deployment zone. This means that while the main objective is the same, the setup allows for significant variance from game to game and provides a lot of replayability. Turns in The Witchborn are determined in random order as the Marshal draws chits from a cup. During setup, each player will choose a color and add one chit per unit into the cup. As the game progresses, some players may be in either a first or last strike phase. These are handled the same as normal turns in that all first strike chits are placed in the cup and resolved after which all unaffected characters’ chits are put into the cup and resolved before finally resolving all last strike chits. Players may also interrupt the turn sequence if they have not acted and should multiple players interrupt at once they are similarly resolved in random order by chit draw.
On your turn, you select a unit and may either move, attack, or select another option specific to your character. A character may move equal to their speed, sprint double their speed, or charge which is a shorter movement which allows an attack to be made after the move. For example a character may have a speed of 7, a sprint of 14, and a charge of 4. If a character sprints, they become fatigued and will suffer a last strike condition for the next turn. For melee combat and making discoveries, players must be within reach of each other, which is measured as half of one pace. If a player wishes to move away while in reach of an enemy, they must make an evade feat, a skill check based on agility, and risk becoming knocked down upon failure. If a move ends within reach of a discovery marker, the player makes a discovery feat check using their psyche. If they succeed, they draw a discovery card within the app. The card should be read by a different player who will serve as a Gamemaster or GM for the moment. These can range from friendly and hostile NPCs to story choices and combat encounters or even events that cause temporary benefits or hindrances.
Many times, either as the result of a discovery or in competition with others, players will find themselves engaging in combat. In any combat, whether melee or missile, players will first compare the appropriate stat. They will then work the combat aid sheet to determine if there are any bonuses or penalties and roll a number of attack dice. Each of the symbols on the dice generate different types of hits and when determining if you hit, you get to select the most favorable dice. The attack dice can yield critical hits, shielded hits (which a character with a shield and the appropriate skill can block), a parried hit (which a character with a melee weapon and the appropriate skill can block), blanks, and an Oops. An Oops result is a critical failure and leads to a draw from the Oops deck within the app and they range from mildly irritating to downright troublesome. In missile combat, only certain types of hits count based on range.
If you land a hit, you perform a damage feat. You roll a D6, adding some modifiers, and must get higher than the target’s defense. If you succeed, you then roll the D6 again to determine the result of the damage. Target’s may become staggered (1-3), stunned (4-5), or wounded (6). If a character is already staggered then a 1-5 stuns and if they already stunned then a 1-6 wounds. Whenever a character is wounded, draw a Wound card from the app where the results can range from Knockouts which remove you from the battlemap and may see you getting robbed, to Maimed and War Wound results which can give temporary or permanent impairments to the character, and finally Kill results which leaves the character dead and ripe to turn into a Witchborn on a following turn. When a character transforms into a Witchborn, they retain all of their skills and equipment and all of their stats receive a +1 bonus. Witchborn are an intelligent, malevolent undead.
Once Witchborn are on the map, they receive their own chits which go into the cup. When Witchborn activate, they attack the nearest warrior. It attacks until it wounds a victim. When a Witchborn wounds a warrior the character is knocked down. Witchborn will then feast. The Feast has some rules of its own. All feasting Witchborn interrupt to take their turn, meaning they will act first in each round. When a warrior is the victim of a feast, a D6 is placed near them on the 6. Each time a Witchborn feasts the value of the die is reduced by one. If it reaches zero, the fallen warrior also becomes a Witchborn. If feasting Witchborn are attacked they are distracted from the Feast and if all feasting Witchborn are distracted, the wounded model can be removed from the battlemap, rescued from their fate.
In this adventure, players are looking to find the cargo which is a specific draw within the app. However, if they do not find it among the initial markers, a new marker is added and is known to be the cargo. Handling the cargo has a few specific rules, mainly that you may only pick up the cargo either if you begin your turn in reach of it, after which you may make a charge move, or at the end of a charge. You may never make a full move or sprint and pick up the cargo in the same turn. If a character with the cargo exits the battlemap, they win the scenario which immediately ends. If any characters are being feasted on by Witchborn survive. The scenario also ends if a war clan is completely eliminated before the cargo is found.
Following a scenario, characters will work through the Aftermath. They will roll on a table to determine what the airship cargo was, perhaps a weapon, gear, or piece of armor. All war clans will receive gold pieces. The winners also receive bonus shadow points. Shadow points, which can also be earned from discovery feats and battlefield heroics, go toward advancing your character and learning new skills between games. In future games, as war clan values shift, weaker war clans will get some small benefits to balance the field.
I have been following The Witchborn as a product line since I first met the designer at Origins in 2015 when it was a miniatures-agnostic system. Since then, they have paired with Reaper Bones Miniatures to create this self-contained starter set. This ease of entry had me really excited from the moment I first learned of the new starter box.
Game Build Quality
The Witchborn: Enter Perdition base set comes with 32 Reaper Bones miniatures with separate bases (2 clans and multiple NPCs), an Adventure Guide, a 46×39 battlemap, an integrated app for handling in-game events, Quick-Start rules, Campaign rules (140pgs), six war clans books and customizable pdfs, plus attack dice, condition markers, turn chits, combat rulers and a number of punchboard templates. They also offer a War Clans version of the set that comes with the other four war clans and accessories for up to six players to play at once. The Reaper Bones miniatures are great minis that need very little touching up before painting if you should choose to do so. The war clans books, Adventure guide, and Quick Start rules are smaller books with good covers and nice pages. The Campaign rules are a larger bound book akin to an RPG adventure module and again with solid construction. There are also links to download one pdf per faction that allows you to build your war clan and then print the roster. The large battlemap is a very nice PVC map. All of the punchboard components punched cleanly. The chits are standard wooden cubes and the dice are a mix of game-specific D6s with special iconography and smaller standard D6s. The measuring rulers are flexible plastic. Everything has a good feel and seems durable.
The art in The Witchborn: Enter Perdition is great from top to bottom. It is a blend of traditional fantasy presentation with its own style to give the clans some character. The books all have beautiful examples of painted miniatures that should provide great inspiration to anyone looking to paint up their war clans. The battlemap is amazing. The art is almost photorealistic and the terrain elements seem to stand up off the flat surface. It really draws you into the world when playing.
Age Range & Weight
The Witchborn: Enter Perdition recommends ages 14 and up on the box and I think that is appropriate between the level of complexity and some of the PG-13 descriptions in the app, primarily the wounds. On complexity alone, I think kids as young as 10-12 could manage the game, though they might need some help with building and equipping their starting war clans. Once the game begins to flow and you have a few turns under your belt, the primary complexity from determining your tactical approach and how to best make use of your individual troops and their abilities.
The Witchborn is a great system for tabletop adventures. It is a wonderful mix of roleplaying style narrative and exploration with the tactical combat and war clan development common in many skirmish games. I enjoyed the concept of The Witchborn before, but the Enter Perdition starter set following the partnership with Reaper Bones is an amazing package and everything is self-contained. The price tag is a little hefty, but is very good considering what you’re getting between the miniatures, the battlemap, and all the books and punchboard. While the miniatures look great painted, the game can practically be played out of the box with the exception of gluing the figures to their bases (and even then, you can sneak in a game without them).
The system is already set to expand as multiple other battlemaps and adventures are available for purchase with recommendations for which war clan levels they are appropriate, though the random nature of the initial board setup and player deployment means that there are plenty of adventure to be had with the starting map. I cannot wait to dive into a proper campaign and I will be reporting back in later this year with how that progresses. If you have wanted to try a skirmish-stye miniatures campaign game with strong roleplaying influences, then you should seriously consider checking out The Witchborn and while you can certainly approach the system piecemeal, the Enter Perdition box set is a perfectly simple and easy way to dive right into this exciting world.