I prefer, when I can, to play table top figure games. Never been a fan of board wargames (although I used to subscribe ot S&T as a teenager) but I do like family games and I have a soft spot for Munchkins and I quite like Fluxx. I like board/card games with challenging but simple rules partly because I end up having to teach the rest of the family the game and if my older brother is involved that inevitably means I get accused of cheating if I forget to tell him about a very obscure rule buried at the bottom of page 27. I don’t know, both 50+ going on 14 the pair of us.
Any how for my birthday I obtained a copy of Martin Wallace’s new Discworld board game “Ankh-Morpork”. The Collectors edition. I saw this game in development at CoW so have been waiting for it with heavy anticipation. I like Terry Pratchett’s novels and I like Martin’s game designs so it looked like it would tick the boxes as long as it wasn’t too “German” in design.
The proof is obviously in the playing, so Mrs T, young Miss T & I sat down for a game of it on Sunday evening. Fortunately it is a 4 player game so we can all play when Master T is back at Christmas. So I think this blog is sort of a review of the game.
Firstly it is true to say we all enjoyed playing it and played to a conclusion in about an hour (as stated on the box). It was a close game. I won it, but both of the other two players were a turn away from victory as well. So we’ll be playing it again, hopefully sometime soon.
The recommendation is therefore BUY THIS GAME NOW BEFORE IT SELLS OUT.
You want more details? Okay, lets start with what you actually get in the box. The art work is done by Peter Dennis who is a well known wargame type illustrator and pays attention to what he should draw rather than what he wants to draw. Consequently most if not all of the art work looks like you imagine the Discworld people and places to look like. The board is a map of Ankh-Morpork which looks lovely but doesn’t overwhelm the game. The playing cards, of which there are c200 are all different and all feature a Discworld person or place. Yes they are ALL different, and all of your Ankh-Morpork favourites look to be in there from Captain Carrot to Gaspode and the Agony Aunts. And of course Rincewind. The playing pieces are wooden and chunky in the normal Treefrog style which makes it easy to see what is going on. The rules are well laid out and readable and every player gets a quick reference card showing what the symbols on the cards mean.
The idea of the game is that the Patrician has disappeared and various people are vying for control of the city, each in their own different way. There are 7 character cards most of which have slightly different victory conditions. As there are only a maximum of 4 players in the game you can’t know for certain what victory conditions players are going for. I was the Partician (see, he hadn’t really gone away) when I won, but other characters include Commander Vimes, Chrysophase the troll and Lords Rust and Selachii.
Play in the game is by playing cards. Each card allows you to do different things, - such as deploy a minion, kill someone, take money, build a building – or may have unique text. The actions/text tie into the cards. So Rincewind enables you to move a minion away from an area where there is Trouble. Sgt Detritus removes Trouble markers. Some cards let you play extra cards as well or do other things (I like the History Monks who allow you to recycle things that have already happened). The various assassins remove minions. At the end of your go you fill up your hand and play passes to an opponent. This goes on until someone is able to claim they have won.
It all sounds very simple and reading it back a lot less exciting than the game actually is. The cleverness is in the balance of the cards and the way they interact.
What Martin has pulled off is really very clever. It is a game about Discworld but you don’t need to be a fan to enjoy the game (Mrs T has a passing interest and has read the books but would not class herself as a fan). It is a good game in its own right, the mechanisms chosen bring forward the flavour of the books. It is clearly not a cash in gimmick game to be played once and discarded.
I loved it and will be looking forward to playing it again.