Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: Witch Hunter: the Invisible World

Witch Hunter: the Invisible World

I have a real love-hate relationship with this game. I played it right after it first came out at Gen Con and thought the game was great. The rule system was easy to pick up in game and I liked the dark history feel of it. It felt like one of the modern horror games that I loved to play set in the 17th century. I bought a copy then and there and took it home. Once I started reading through it all I was less enamored with it. The funky alt-history never worked for me, and as a player that likes to play witches in many games I disliked the vibe of the game that all witches were evil and had to be hunted.

Also on future playing I began to dislike the system. I sold the book to a friend about 6 months later. I wanted to give it another chance so I picked it up at DriveThruRPG about a year after I bought it in hardcover. I have given the game it's due attention (bought it twice in fact) and still could not make it work for me. To be 100% fair I think that has much more to do with me than this game.

I think there is a lot of really good material here. A lot of things I would love to use elsewhere, maybe running it under WitchCraft or True20. The book itself is well laid out and just a cool book to look at. The PDF here comes in both the full version and a printer friendly one. There is a vague World of Darkness feel about it and it does remind me a bit of Mage the Sorcerers Crusade. I do like the magic system here and I do keep coming back to the game wanting to do more with it.

Character creation is very good, I like the spells and the magic system. The overview of the world is very nice and I like the background information on the Orders of Solomon.

There is an odd mix of new and old thought in this book, some of them contradictory. Examples: The Sumerlands are mentioned (from Wicca) but witches are supposed to be all evil. Werewolves are shown with a pentagram etched into their hand/paw but that is something that only came out in the movies. The Aztecs are still around, even if other parts of history depicted here could not have happened unless the Spanish had had a firm hold on the New World.

The book has a ton of atmosphere, and you know right away what this game is all about.

A few things I like:
- Atmosphere. Like I said it has oodles and gobs of it. Solomon Kane left feeling "eh", but this one, you know right away what you are doing.
- Closest thing I get to a WoD-like game set in a period I really wanted to try.
- Support, the Paradigm Concepts website has tons of cool things, in fact seeing the website made want to seek this game out when it was first available at GenCon (2007 was it?) I bought a book there and then later bought the PDFs.
- Solomonic-based magic systems always rock.
- Beautiful book.
- The Orders, I can see why the exist, what they do in the world and why someone (the PC) would be part of one.

Things I didn't like, but could easily live with:
- Very WoD in feel and execution.
- Dice pools. Don't like them, but I can live wit them.
- Talents seem very "Feat" like. I like feats mind you, just not everywhere.
- would have liked more monsters.
- "Satanists". Too many modern conotations. I would have prefered to see "Diaboloists" (which the book does also use) or "Luciferians".

Things I didn't like:
- Some of the alt history doesn't make sense, even with magic. But that can be an opinion.
- I dislike the entire black & white-ness of the good and evil here. If it were just that I would say it is an artifact of the times they are trying to emulate and be fine with it. But I like to play "good" witches also and the rules (or my interpretation of them) didn't support that.
And by good witches I don't mean spiritualists or animists or alchemists. I mean witches. That practice witchcraft, worship the Goddess and all that. Granted that is MY bias and maybe this is not really the game for this.
- Along with good witches (and the spells for them). I'd would have liked to see evil members of the Church. Sure their are "foils" in the shape of the Jesuits. But I work for a couple of Jesuit universities, I was not buying it as a real attempt to make them evil. Rather just overly dogmatic in their views.

In the end, I am going to give it 4 stars out of five. I think it does what it does well, even if it leaves me scratching my head at times. It is an attractive book and the online support and community for it is really top notch.  I would have given it 3, but everything I think is "Wrong" with it is really my own bias.


Porky said...

It's hard not to be impressed by that review. Given that reviewers can easily forget there might be a subjectivity involved, to block yours at every turn shows real openness of mind and respect for the creativity and work of others.

I'm with you on your take on witches. Why not so much breadth in a mature product?

Needles said...

I've been waiting over a year for a solid review of this game & thats exactly what I got spot on! Thanks,Eric