Author: Greg Costikyan

Publisher: Tor Books

Awards: none



Arno Van der Kwast (Netherlands) writes about the game:


On a trip to Scotland I discovered the Willow game on a high shelve in a gamesshop. The Willow game is, as you expected, a Willow based boardgame. In this game each player takes the role of one of the characters out of the story. They are: Willow, Madmartigan, Sorsha, Kael, Airk Thaughbaer and Franjean & Rool. These last are the Brownies, and they are seen as one character. The Evil side consists of Sorsha and Kael, all the others are Good. Just like in the story, Sorsha might be turned against her own mother as well, making it a game of 5 against 1, instead of 4 against 2.

The whole game is played with cards and the movement of your character over the board, which shows the map of the Lands of Nockmaar. I don't want to fully explain the game and all of the different card types here, because that would be a bit to much, but I will say that the basis of the game is quite simple. All the different tests (Stealth, Prowess and Magic) are based on six sided dice rolls, with bonuses from the cards. (For example: a Sword gives a Prowess bonus.) Besides that there are cards that give bonuses, there is a whole range of other things they let you do as well. There are cards to cast spells, move quicker, steal a card from someone else, etc., etc.. To show some of the variation I'll just name the different types here, giving some example card names for each. There are Spell Cards (Fly, Transformation), Keep Cards (Sword, Horse), Good Friend (Meegosh, Eagle) and Evil Friend Cards (Minions of War, Evil Cat), Discard Cards (Theft, Dark things scuttle in the Woods), Army Cards (one each for Good and Evil), Foe Cards (Llug, Death Pack) and Treasure Cards (The three Acorns, The Kings Golden Armour). And of course, there is the Elora Danan Card. The card where the whole game goes about.

Although the basics of the game are quite simple, it offers enough variation in cards to have to consider your next move real carefully. One of the things that appeals to me a lot in this game, is that not all characters start off equally strong. To start with, there are (unless Sorsha becomes Good) 4 Good and only 2 Evil characters. This difference is equaled out because the Evil ones are stronger, but as the game continues the Good ones grow more rapidly in strength then the Evil ones do.


Some of the cards in the game a really powerful, and if the right cards are all on one side, it is quite difficult to do something about it. However, the cards don't decide everything, strategy plays a great role as well. For instance, it is quite dumb to move at the start of the game with your Good character, who is holding the baby, right into the arms of the Evil ones...

How to win?

Another thing that makes the game so much fun is the way the objectives are set up. The Good side can either win by slaying Bavmorda (not a character) in Nockmaar Castle, which is hard to do, or by freeing Tir Asleen and bring the baby there. (The usual solution.) The Evil side can only win by getting the baby to Nockmaar Castle and then playing on one other turn. This turn could be used by the Good side to heroically slay Bavmorda, then they'll win after all. The fun is there because at the start of the game the player who controls Willow may hand out a card to each of the Good characters. One of these is Elora Danan, and so the Evil ones don't have a clue who has the baby. Then a game of hide and seek starts between the opposing sides, the Evil ones hunting the Good, and trying to find out who has the baby. The Good ones, on their part, will try to stay out of reach as long as they are too weak, and (if they're smart) will swap cards with other Good players regularly just to keep the Evil ones guessing who has the baby. Of course this swapping can only be done when two characters stand in the same space on the board, but then they will be easier to attack as well...

So, buy the game!


The Willow game can be played by 2 up to 6 players, with 2 each taking one side, till 6 where each player controls only one character. The box tells us that the game takes approximately 2 hours, and I found out that that normally is quite right. I've had shorter and longer ones as well. The shortest happened with the dumb example above, the longest took about 5 to 6 hours. That really was as GREAT two player game!

All in all I can say that I really enjoy the Willow game. Each time I play it, and I can't recall how often that is, it was good fun! And, be honest, how often have you had the change to transform someone into a pig?

Home brewed rules


For those who own the game (And if you don't, then you really have to try to find yourself a copy. A friend of mine went all the way from The Netherlands to Texas just to get his!) themselves I'll give some extra rules and try outs I've played with.

  • Dust of the Broken Heart: Nowadays I always put it out of play after it is used, and not on the Discard Pile. It gives quit a strange effect if it is drawn again after the Discard Pile is reshuffled and used again. Some games I ruled that if the Dust came back, it could also be used by the Evil side. So one game it actually turned Madmartigan to Evil!
  • Sorsha: In order to increase game potential, I have Sorsha use Magic instead of Prowess. Although this doesn't do right to the original story, it makes the game far better. The lack of magic on the Evil side is normally enough to make them loose. With Sorsha using Magic, the Good ones have to be on their toes as well! In game terms: Instead of the possibility to learn Prowess, Sorsha has a standard Prowess of 2. Instead of a standard Magic of 0, she starts with Magic 2. She can learn Magic in the usual way by failing to cast a spell.
  • Spells: I never let characters have the same spell more then once. (That is, an open version of a spell. One can still have the same spell in ones hand.) The effect of having the same spell more often is just too strong. Imagine a character with twice the Transformation Spell. Yikes! Although one may normally trade open cards, as long as they are left open and can be kept by the next character, I rule that Spell Cards cannot be given to another character. This makes much more sense as you learn a spell, you don't handle it like an item.
  • Trading cards: A character can trade cards as normal, but the card can be used by only one character that turn. For example, if Willow and Madmartigan are standing together and are in a fight, Willow may not use the Good Friend: Elf for the Magic bonus of +1 and then give it to Madmartigan (the Champion) for the +1 Prowess bonus. Willow could however, use the Elf himself, and be the Champion. He can thus use the Elf for both its Magic and its Prowess bonus. Or Willow could choose not to use the Elf, and just give him to Madmartigan, so Madmartigan can use the Prowess bonus.
  • Pegasus: I rule that a character (be it Good or Evil) cannot use the Pegasus if he/she controls an Army. The same does not count for using the Fly Spell, the Discard Card: Southwind's Friendship, or for a Horse. For wind and magic numbers do not matter, and it is just so much easier to find enough horses for an army than it is to find Pegasi. In game terms: the advantage of a flying Army is just too big.

Kulkmann's Opinion:

This game is a close adaption of George Lucasīs Film "Willow". Itīs for 2 to 6 players, which each take one or more of the filmīs major characters: Willow, Madmartigan, Sorsha etc..

The players are divided into two sides, the īgoodī ones and the īevilī ones. Whereas the good players are more (4) and must try to take the baby Elora Danan to Tir Asleen and rescue the people there, the two evil players must try to take the Baby from the others and bring it to Nockmar Castle into the clasp of the evil Queen Bavmorda. All the major elements of the film are included: Magical Transformation, Good and Bad Friends, Sorcery, the Three Acorns and even the Dust of Broken Hearts which might force the Sorsha-Player to change sides. Itīs a short (about 1h playing time) but funny game and a very good adaption of the film.

G@mebox Special: Rules variations

  • New Enhanced Rules by Ryan Vick
  • "Brownies safe in Cherlindreaīs Forest": In this variant, the Brownies cannot be attacked by foes (but by evil characters) until they have left Cherlindreaīs Forest. This prevents them from loosing the "Dust of broken Heart" right in the beginning. The rule might give a higher chance that Sorsha changes sides, but I think it better keeps the movieīs spirit since Cerlindrea was able to keep Bavmordaīs forces from her forest and the "Dust of broken Heart" now plays a more important role.
  • "Brownies cannot be attacked until they have joined another good character": As with the rule above, this prevents the early loss of the "Dust of broken Heart" and is near to the original story (Bavmorda had no interest in Brownies at the beginning). The only point to keep the game balanced is that the good player is not allowed to give the Baby to the Brownies in the beginning. Otherwise the good player would simply run for it.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany