This is a game that allows players to test the various policies of the Witness distrikts against realistic world crises. As they play, players will see how different policies measure against a range of random-selected problems.
They will also be able to compare against other players running different policies; at the end of the game, each player takes a moment to tell the others about why they pick the policies they did, and how they feel about their performance against the crises.
How to Play
The game is divided into turns. Each turn is divided into phases. Players complete each phase in sequence.
Play progresses for not more than 10 turns. When there is only one player left the game may also and if there is only one player left playing.
Follow these steps to prepare to play.
- Place all the Event cards into a single deck. Shuffle the deck thoroughly and place it in the center of the table. All the cards should be facing down.
- Pick a distrikt, and your policy cards.
- Players select five of their distrikt’s policy cards. It is up to them which ones they think will be effective. Policies work best in combinations, and some support each other. Players should take the time to familiarize themselves with each policy card. The more time they take to do this, the more they will get out of the game and better understand it.
- Set health indicators at five strength, each. Either record this on paper, or use tokens.
Now, you are ready to play.
The Game Turn
- The topmost Event Card is selected and placed faceup on the table. A player reads out its description, and what health indicators it affects.
- Players adjust their health indicators, as needed. No indicator may be higher than five. If a helpful event is drawn and the indicator it affects is already at full health, the card is ignored by the player. They may, however, play a card in the policy phase that follows.
- Each player picks a Policy Card to play. One-Time Policy Cards are used, then discarded. Static Policy Cards remain in play, and can be used again next turn. A player can only play one card out of their hand in a turn, placing it face-up on the table before them. On following turns however, if they have played Static Cards, the effect each “in play” Static Card may be used again (see example below).
- Adjust health indicators as needed. If, after adjusting, any health indicator is at zero, that player has lost.
- This ends the turn. Repeat from the Event Phase, up to nine more times, or until only one player is left in the game.
Player A plays a Static Card in Turn 1. In turn 2, she plays another Static Card. She then reuses the effects her first Static Card, because it is still in play.
On Turn 3, she plays a third Static Card. She chooses to use the effect of the first Static Card again, and the new, third card. However, she chooses not to use the second Static Card.
On Turn 4, she decides not to play a new card. However, she can chose from the effects of all three Static Cards that she has already played on the table.**
Players each take a moment to talk about why they picked their policies, and how they think they did against the crises. This is where players discover that some tactics work better than others, and that there is no correlation between their efficacy, and personal values!
After having heard each players case for the policies they picked and how they did, players players may trade cards with other players, and use these new cards in their next hand, in their next game. This reflects policy growth: as different communities compare and contrast their performance against others, ideas are exchanged. After a few games, each players hand will have evolved into a mix of policies, taken from across distrikts.
However, there is a penalty: these new policies are often counter to the founding social contract of the distrikt you’re meant to run. Accordingly, every time such a card is played, it deals -1 Public Opinion. This reflects societies’ animosity towards alien ideas.
Variant Play: Single Player
There is no requirement for a second player in the game of Witness. A single player plays as above, until either 10 turns of past, or they have been defeated. The postgame reflections are their own. Players are encouraged to keep track of how different policies do, and see what works best.
As an additional variant, players may mix-and-match policies from between distrikts. Witness is not about adhering to a single ideology. It is about seeing what works, and combining it to form something robust.