A Day With Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game

Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game is just about to hit Kickstarter and we were lucky enough to spend the day taking a look at the new game.

Published: May 18, 2023 9:49 AM /


Photograph showing the cover of Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game with a blurred photo in the background.

Steamforged Games are the world’s most well-known purveyor of video-game-based tabletop games, having converted everything from Dark Souls to Ni No Kuni II into tabletop experiences. Recently I was invited by the team at Steamforged to take a look at their latest adaptation, Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game before the game goes live on Kickstarter. 

If you enjoy this article, you may want to check out the game's official Kickstarter campaign to get your hands on a copy. The campaign will be live on May 18th 2023. 

A Day With Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game

Photo showing a statue of a very spiky-looking dragon. A blurred version of the same image serves as the backdrop to account for the aspect ratio difference between the image and the original photo.
Touching this thing is a great way to get stabbed, partially cus it's pointy, mostly because the sculptor was stood very close by and probably wouldn't appreciate it. 

As you would probably expect if you're at all familiar with Steamforged Games’ work, the first thing you notice are the miniatures. As I entered the heavily-themed room at Chill Factore in Manchester, it was almost impossible not to notice the blown-up miniatures arranged with various tokens and cards from the upcoming game.

You can probably tell from some of the photos, but these statues are immense. They’re the model masters that will be used to create the rest of the miniatures (if you can call them that at this sort of scale), and it’s honestly the best way to see the work that SteamForged keeps putting into these things. Looking at these things, it’s easy to believe the story that in the first game, SteamForged did such a good job of creating their sculpts that someone at Capcom thought they’d pinched the official models (they didn’t. They were just that good.) 

The centerpiece, by far, is the Elder Dragon Velkhana model, standing even bigger than the rest of the masters. Even judging by the amount of detail put into the miniatures alone, it’s a masterpiece, but it also manages to capture the sheer aggression and danger of the model it’s striving to represent. Of course, the fact that it is so spiky that it physically hurts to pick it up probably helps, but it’s a testament to just how much effort gets put into pretty much every miniature that SteamForged makes. 

Talking About The Game

photo showing a monster behvaiour card from MHW Iceborne the board game, which is covered in symbols.
While these symbols might seem confusing to the uninitiated, they're a masterful way to reduce the amount of reading needed once you know the rules. 

While I was tempted to spend some time at the painting station that had been set up, the keynote called, and it was finally time to learn more about the game itself. I must admit that while I played the video game, I did not play SteamForged’s previous Monster Hunter World adaptation. On the plus side, it seems like Iceborne is very much aiming to be the refined version of that original game while still bringing in some new mechanics and, obviously, new monsters that were exclusive to the Iceborne DLC. 

The previous adaption was broken up into a couple of distinct phases: A more narrative-focused phase would set you up to hunt the monster, then the actual hunting phase, where you have to work with your team to take the monster out. One of the biggest changes this time has been reworking the narrative sections. In Iceborn, these are more akin to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books that have a bigger impact on your hunt and also go together to craft an ongoing story that you can experience through the game’s campaign mode. 

That’s another important factor to notice as well. You can elect to play the game in a campaign mode, much as you could in the last title. This mode strings together monster hunts in a course where the difficulty of each hunt ramps up but where you can also grind out new equipment, much like you can in the video game. For those looking for a quicker experience, there’s also an Arena mode which has you take on a monster with pre-selected equipment. 

Playing the Game

Photo showing a card that contains information about a boss monster for you to take down.
Meet the monster that put me and my teammates in our place with a single attack. 

After a brief demonstration of one of these narrative phases, we’re finally given a chance to try the game out properly, with a full team of 4 hunters to boot. It turned out we needed them as well, as Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game, is about as tough trying to play the video game without touching a controller.

After the group narrative phase we all voted on during the demonstration, many event cards were added to our game. These cards can greatly impact the outcome, so making the right decisions in the opening story-based segment is vastly important. Of course, as our answers were crowd-sourced, we only had limited control over our fate, but our party was determined not to let this get us down. 

From a purely mechanical standpoint, Iceborne is a fantastic bit of game design, and this is coming from someone who hasn’t always had the greatest faith in video-to-tabletop adaptations. All of the mechanics feed into each other, with the number of actions you take on each turn defining how much stamina you have remaining and also how much room you’ve left yourself when it comes to dodging enemy attacks. You can toss up between recklessly going all out and playing it cautiously, a tactic we may have wanted to employ ourselves. 

The game hangs in the balance of keeping the monster's likely behavior in your mind and making sure that you’ve both prepped enough and are actually working as a team. So, of course, we didn’t succeed in taking down the monster. We actually were doing pretty well until we got hit by a claw swipe that took out 3 of us in one go, giving us an instant game over. While I can console myself that we were fighting the penultimate monster from the campaign, it certainly felt like our own fault when we went down. All of us were aware that this particular fiend had a swipe attack that hit lots of areas, yet we all decided to just sit in front of it. Oh well, better luck next time. 

The Future for Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game

Extreme closeup of a miniature of a poogie, a pig-like creature that wears a onesie.
I refuse to paint this guy until I have the exact right shades to do him justice. Look how cute!

By my own personal estimations, Monster Hunter World Iceborne: the Board Game is shaping up to be the best use of a video game IP on the tabletop in years. It’s certainly as tough as nails, but it seems like a lot of effort has gone into making it possible for teams to take down enemies with the right planning and prep. While this isn’t a full review, it’s at least promising to know that this is a genuine addition to the formula, and the new content is not only exciting but manages to refine some of the features of the previous title to make a great game even better. 

There’s also the promise of future expansions on the horizon, with a teased Absolute Power Expansion adding another group of four monsters to the game for those who feel like they’ve not yet had their arse kicked enough. As I left the event, my example Poogie miniature in hand, I marveled that SteamForged had done what I would have assumed was impossible: getting me excited for a game I never intended to play outside of work. If that’s happened to me, I can’t imagine what it must feel like for a fan of the IP or original board game right now. 

You can check out the game on Kickstarter if you’re interested in securing a copy. The campaign will go live on the 18th of May, 2023, so get your butt over there if you want to back the project and get your hands on a new game. 

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at tips@techraptor.net

Will wearing an Odd Future shirt.
| Staff Writer

Will has been writing about video games professionally since 2016 and has covered everything from AAA game reviews to industry events and everything in… More about William