The test for World of Warcraft - Wrath of the Lich King: A Pandemic game reveals: you can still have fun with Blizzard titles, even if the Californian game developer mainly provides the license for this board game. The rest is Z-Man Games or Asmodee Germany's work - and they have succeeded. 

Wrath of the Lich King: Pandemic is a licensed, slightly rebuilt board game version based on the Pandemic series by Z-Man Games. For the variant, World of Warcraft was snapped up as the thematic substructure and thus the MMO classic that made the genre socially acceptable many years ago. Years have passed since the launch of World of Warcraft in 2004 and many expansions have appeared.

WoW has long since lost the glamor of the past, and something else is significantly different today: players no longer play video games as blindly as they used to, even if the Blizzard logo is printed on the pack. Conversely, this means that Blizzard also has to work hard for success, which wasn't always the case. 

After all: With Wrath of the Lich King, one of the best, maybe even the best expansion for World of Warcraft was released in 2008 - and Z-Man Games is exactly following this superlative thematically with its idea. 

Wrath of the Lich King - A Pandemic board game

So it goes back to Icecrown, to that barren, cold landscape that the Lich King had chosen as his home. At the time of its release, the guy in the eerily beautiful armor was considered the ultimate villain in World of Warcraft - almost 15 years later, of course, players know better. The board game ties in with the fall of Arthas and the rise of the Lich King and uses the ghoul plague as a clever theme to not only impose the World of Warcraft story on the board game, but also the Pandemic game concept. That is the basis for the title, even if only recognizable in missions. That's good, because hardly anyone would have needed Pandemic as a mere imitation of the (very good) board game with a license just imposed. 

Wrath of the Lich King board game review

The Wrath of the Lich King board game captures the spirit of the video game template well. Photo: Volkman

The start is pleasing, WoW fans feel immediately arrived anyway. And Pandemic fans are also initially optically attuned to the adventure, because the graphic concept with the places connected by lines is well known. The premise: In the cooperative board game World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, up to five players work together, and there is an optional solo mode. Everyone grabs a hero known from the video game template and you're off to solve quests in order to ultimately go to court with the Lich King personally. 

It's not child's play - Pandemic says hello - but it's not particularly difficult in the end either: step by step, more ghouls appear. They were already a plague in the video game, on the board game table the undead are even more annoying, because one thing you can't do this time: simply dodge them. When the scourge pile, the cards behind which the ghouls (and monstrosities) are emptied, they often come in large numbers. Stupid, too, when the undead cavort in one place.

Fight against the marker

When the desperation of the people and heroes reaches a maximum - a marker represents this - the game ends in defeat. This is a rarity as heals are pretty strong in the board game and the element of choice is pretty weak. Instead of discarding cards and having to make a choice, you just show them for a quest boost. House rules could remedy this, for example by forbidding the ability to heal on fields occupied by opponents. 

Trial Wrath of the Lich King board game

In the end, even the Lich King himself awaits on his frosty platform for the final battle. Photo: Volkman

What the heroes can throw against the enemy hordes, their special abilities, again based on the template, but not fire, ice, lightning or thunder, but combat tactics to master the ghoul army. As a magician, Jain Proudmoore uses teleportation to increase her movement radius, the orc lightning thrower Thrall can use his chain attack, but it removes ghouls instead of just doing "Damage" if the dice are successful.

You can quickly see the appendix of the heroes' skills: It's about tactics and not about power. There are seven heroes – fans can get an eighth as a promo. All actors - from the Ghoul to the Lich King - are represented by miniatures. Otherwise there are cards, sliders, dice and quest boards as well as the game board in the box. And: a 3D cardboard Icecrown Citadel as a nice gimmick. 

Wrath of the Lich King board game review

In terms of material, the board game World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is lavishly equipped, the cards in hand that trigger effects are much scarcer, but are also required for fulfilling quest goals. Because you have to complete the tasks in order to be able to reach the final at all, good housekeeping is a must. The ever-palpable shortage is one of the challenges that players must overcome together. Sometimes the dice throw a spanner in the works, because no matter how well you plan ahead, failures thrown can be extremely annoying. Yes, dice are often, but by no means always, an element in board games to create excitement, but in strategic titles they are often used to complicate the gameplay with an element of luck. In other words, it's actually quite simple to fulfill a goal, but you also have to be lucky enough at the same time. 

Board game review World of Warcaft Wrath of the Lich King

The healing cards are a bit too strong. Photo: Volkman

The spectacle continues in rounds: ghouls come, ghouls have to go, complete quests. And then comes the grand finale. Video games from the MMO classic also know this. The Lich King was a tough guy at the time, but the show was all the bigger after his demise. Converted to the board game, there is also the final battle, but it is simply more difficult, not particularly special in terms of game mechanics. 

Thankfully, the Wrath of the Lich King board game can be fine-tuned by counting the number of Scourge Rising card categories. Ultimately, you can create an experience that is tailored to the group of players and that suits everyone. "Everyone" here includes above all those newcomers for whom a license adaptation could perhaps be the door opener into the analogue board game world. In any case, it succeeds, because Z-Man Games and Asmodee have done a great job here to capture the template appropriately. Ironically, the manufacturers make a mistake with the miniatures: the hero figures lack any flexibility, are rock-hard and therefore correspondingly sensitive. Apparently, you had already guessed that and not only donated a plastic bag to the protagonists and the Lich King, but also an outer packaging as a protective shield against impact damage. That had done little to help our Tirion Fordring: his sword lay on the ground long before the first battle was fought. While that's nothing that craft glue can't fix, it's still annoying. 

Board game test World of Warcaft Wrath of the Lich King

Magician Jaina Proudmoore is there, along with six or seven other heroes. Photo. Volkman

At the end of the day, it's all about moving your heroes sensibly and getting ghouls off the board as efficiently as possible. Agreements are absolutely necessary for this, because no player can do everything and everywhere alone. In contrast to the "raid" of the video game template, you usually split your squad up to cover the well-known game areas scattered around the map. 

Ultimately, the board game World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King suffers from balancing. Some mechanics seem half-baked and have a dramatic effect on the level of difficulty - on the other hand, this could be deliberately chosen to expand the target group to previously pure video gamers.

Beginners will definitely find the licensed board game a challenge. As an experienced board player or even Pandemic connoisseur, it is different. As a Pandemic connoisseur, you will appreciate the overall repetitive gameplay much less, even through the thematic upgrade. So World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King wants to be somewhere in between in terms of its target audience - it wants to be a board game that can pull in crowds.

Review World of Warcaft Wrath of the Lich King

The Lich King has long been considered the ultimate villain in the Warcraft universe. Photo: Volkman

The playing time is comparatively short at around 45 minutes, but is based on the original from 2008. The year, by the way, is a funny anecdote: Pandemic was released in the same year as the second World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.

info box

Number of players: Solo / up to 5
Age: from 12 years
Playing time: 45 minutes
Difficulty: low
Long-term motivation: medium
Genre: Strategic Board Game
Subgenre: Cooperative board game
Core Mechanics: Hand Management, Quests, Positioning, Dice Rolling

Authors: Justin Kemppainen, Todd Michlitsch, Alexandar Ortloff, Michael Sanfilippo
Illustrations: Atha Kanaani
Publisher: Z-Man Games/Asmodee Germany
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2021
Language: German
Cost: 55 Euro 


In the end, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is a board game with a Pandemic system, but not a pure re-skin. The authors Justin Kemppainen, Todd Michlitsch, Alexandar Ortloff and Michael Sanfilippo have scrutinized almost every mechanism and at least modified it in detail to suit the Blizzard license. In the overall picture, however, the game remains recognizable as a Pandemic offshoot: it's about strategic placement and resource and opponent control.

In the guise of a World of Warcraft, this is much more fun, especially for fans of the video game. Last but not least, this is due to the successful thematic implementation: heroes and hordes as well as the Obermotz are recognizable, the hero skills are each unique and efficient in their combination with other players. Anyway, the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King board game looks great on the table. It can be understood as an invitation for non-gamers to perhaps think outside the box. The Pandemic spin-off has been recreated right down to the smallest game scene from the MMO - this is particularly impressive in the finale, which is not a game in terms of play, but visually.

Broken down to the essentials, the game means: solving three quests and beating up the Lich King. Some variance for upcoming games comes into play at least through the different quest boards, of which you only need three per game. 

Overall, what's on offer isn't boring and works well, it's just too basic. The latter is due to the game mechanics themselves. The authors make it too easy, at least for experienced players, to be able to win. Yes, a loss can be frustrating and annoying - and it also carries the risk that a game can be perceived as unattractive and end up at the bottom of the shelf. But at the same time the threat of defeat – or at least a noticeable difficulty – are motivating factors, especially in a cooperative board game. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King works this factor out well: for example, by working together in battle on the same field. Sometimes the feeling of real teamwork arises. Until the board game of the round signals again: stay calm, there is actually hardly any danger. 

After all: The process, which is tailored to the respective moment in the game, is pleasing. Although there is often a lack of real decisions including consequences, the board game is entertaining overall thanks to its solid basic concept of having to react to the circumstances on the board. The game calls for tactical agreements, encourages cooperation. Although the Lich King board game can also be tackled in a solo mode, the team experience is much better, which can iron out some weaknesses in the game through interactions. In solo mode you are confronted with the mechanics alone, which is not always a lot of fun. 

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