Review – Discworld: Ankh-Morpork

2- 4 Players, Aged 10+, Playing Time 60 minutes

I have already mentioned this game on my blog and its potential so was delighted to receive a review copy from Treefrog.
The box artwork for Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Set in the largest city of the fantasy world created by Terry Pratchet, in his many Discworld novels, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork is about the intrigues between the powerful lords of the city resulting from the alleged disappearance of Lord Vetinari. Players take on the roles of various lords vying for control of the city but perhaps his disappearance was just a ruse to expose his opponents!
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - The game board late in the game
What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: Game Components, Setting Up The Game, How To Play The Game, What Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if you don't want to read the whole review scan down to the heading that interests you.

Game Components
1 A Game Board – Depicting the city of Ankh-Morpork with its 12 named districts. Each district bears a number, used to determine the effect of random events and a cost for building there.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - The board

7 Personality Cards – These cards determine the victory conditions which vary according to the character. A brief description of each character is shown below together with a link to a detailed description of their place in the Discworld series of books:

· Lord Vetinari  – Exerting control through his network of spies, if you have this character you will win if you have Minions (spies) in the required number of areas of the city and there are no demons there.

· Lords Selachii, Rust and de Worde – Seeking power through domination, if you have one of these characters, you will win if you have Control of a certain number of areas of the city.

· Dragon King of Arms – Your character will win if the city is in chaos (indicated by the presence of 8 trouble markers) as the people will the clamour for the return of the king.

· Chrysoprase – A troll who seeks wealth so if his net worth is $50 or more the player with this character will win.

· Commander Vimes – If no other character wins before the pile of Game Cards are exhausted then the player with this character will win.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - The 7 Personality Cards

101 Game Cards – 53 brown bordered and 48 green bordered cards, all cards have identical imagery on their backs. Each of these cards has one or more of the 9 possible symbols on them. These images indicate that you can:

· Place a Minion. If you have no minions on the board then you may place them anywhere. If you have any minions on the board then the minion must be placed either in the same area or an adjacent area.

· Build - If you have a minion in an area with no trouble marker or opponents building you can pay the designated cost to place one of your own buildings.

· Assassinate a demon, troll or another players minion from any area with a trouble marker. This also removes the trouble marker!

· Remove one trouble marker from anywhere on the board.

· If there is a gold coin icon this will indicate how much money to take from the bank.

· The scroll icon allows you to perform the action detailed at the bottom of the card. There are lots of these cards.

· If the card has a pentagon symbol the player MUST draw a random event and play it.

· Play another card. It is possible that a player may have a number of cards with this symbol and they could choose to play as many of them in one turn as they wish.

· Interrupt another players go. Typically these cards can be used to stop another player doing something bad to you and your minions.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - A close up of the Card Symbols on the Player Aid Card

12 City Area Cards – When a player plays a Build Card they place one of their wooden buildings in the relevant area and acquire the relevant City Area Card. Each City Area Card grants the owner a special ability which can typically be used once per turn and most involve receiving money from the bank or paying money for some benefit e.g. removing a Trouble Marker from the board.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - City Area Cards

12 Random Event Cards – are all bad, with many of them causing the removal of buildings from the game board. The only question is will they affect your tokens on the board or another players?
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - Random Event Cards

4 Sets of 18 wooden Player Tokens (12 Minions and 6 Buildings) – Are placed on the game board as directed by the Game Cards.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - Some of the Buildings and Minions

4 Demon Markers – These appear on the board as a result of Random Event Cards. No one controls them and they can be removed in the same way as player minions; once present they negate the influence players would ordinarily exert through the presence of minions and buildings.

3 Troll Markers -These appear on the board as directed by the Random Event Cards, again no one controls them but they can be moved or removed in the same way as player minions.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - Demons and three trolls

12 Trouble Markers – These will appear on the board whenever a player places their minion in the same area as another minion, a Troll or Demon; they enable assassinations and prevent building.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - Minion Markers

Ankh-Morpork Dollar Counters
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - $ Tokens

4 Player Aid Cards – On one side these detail the winning conditions applying to each of the Characters and the benefits which apply to have buildings in each City Area; whilst on the other side are the symbols found on the Game Cards together with an explanation as to their meaning.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - A Player Aid Card

1 standard blue twelve-sided die – Used determine the areas a Random Event Card will impact.

A Rules Booklet including FAQ’s

Setting Up The Game
1. Shuffle the Character Cards and deal one face down to each player. As previously mentioned this defines what each player needs to achieve in order to win the game and so obviously should be kept secret.

2. Give each player 10 Ankh-Morpork Dollars; put aside the remainder to form The Bank.

3. Shuffle the Random Event Cards and place them face down in a deck beside the game board.

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - A Player Aid Card
4. Shuffle the brown edged Game Cards placing them face down in a deck beside the board.

5. Shuffle the green edged Game Cards dealing 5 cards to each player and placing the remainder face down on top of the deck of brown edged Game Cards.

6. Each player takes a Player Aid Card, selects a set of Player Tokens and places one Minion token in each of the following city areas: The Shades, The Scours and Dolly Sisters.

7. A Trouble Marker should also be placed in the Shades, The Scours and Dolly Sisters .

8. With a two player game you will remove one Character Card and two specified game cards.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - A close up of part of the board

How To Play The Game
Given the explanations of the components so far you might be expecting something a little more complex than what follows:

1. Throw the die to decide which player will start.

2. Play a Game Card from your hand carrying out the actions it allows (indicated by the icons discussed earlier). You may decide not to carry out some of them (the exception being the Random Events) but those being carried should be done in order from the left. If the Game Card allows you to play another card then you may do so.

3. Played cards go into a face-up discard pile.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - The Buggy Swires Game Card
4. Draw you hand back up to 5.

5. Play passes to the next player.

6. Play continues in this way until one of the following three game end conditions are met:

   a. One of the players announces that the have met the victory conditions defined on their Character Card.

   b. The deck of Game Cards is exhausted in which Commander Vimes wins.

   c. The Riot Event Card is drawn and there are 8 or more Trouble Markers on the board. If this occurs then each player evaluates how many victory points they have. These are calculated as:

        i. 1 point per Ankh-Morpork Dollar

        ii. -1 point PER Ankh-Morpork Dollar loan outstanding

        iii. 5 points per Building Token on the Game Board

        iv. 1 point per Minion on the Game Board

What Did We Think?
Put simply we really liked it. It plays in around an hour with a simple game play mechanism that could be summarised ‘as play a card, or cards and draw a card, or cards’. This makes it simple to explain to people who have not played it before and in particular non gamers who we felt would be comfortable with it after three or four rounds. Although given the number of cards and their impact on the game I think players will get much more from the game on the second and subsequent plays of it.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - 4 Example brown Game Cards

The trick as it says in the rules is to not be obvious in the way you play your game and so keep your opponents guessing as to which character you are and more importantly which set of victory conditions you are trying to meet.

We felt it played best as a 4 player game but was still OK with two or three players.

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - The Chairs of Indefinite Studies Game Card
My only gripes with it are:

  • That when sorting out the Game Cards into the green and brown decks to start a new game, those of us who are colour blind will struggle to varying degrees.
  • Initial thoughts that the board was a bit drab were reversed when we played the 4 player version – nice bright coloured pieces stood out well against the board. However it would have been helpful to have clearer demarcation lines between the city areas.
  • Why didn’t the coins have 1 or 5 on them? Although they are a lot nicer than the wooden tokens provides with Treefrog’s game from last year, London.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - 4 Example brown Game Cards

Our verdict was that it is a really good game and although it has a strong Discworld theme you don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the game. In fact my wife who is definitely not a Discworld fan had to almost be dragged kicking and screaming to try it (after prevaricating for well over a week) enjoyed it sufficiently as a 2-player to suggest a repeat run out with 4 of us (which was really good fun) and she would happily play it again. After playing with my pub group at least one person was talking about buying it.

Who Do We Think Will Like It?
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - The Stanley Game Card
  1. Obviously Discworld fans.
  2. Families looking for something different for Christmas Present Ideas / things to do with the family over Christmas.
  3. Social Gamers or people who enjoy a little chaos in a game. The Random Event Cards add a dimension that hard core gamers may dislike as it takes the element of control out of their hands but it is worth noting that there is only one Random Event Card in the green deck so you are at least half way through the Game deck before too many start appearing.
  4. Gamers who like screwage – many of the cards are aggressive (in a humorous way) but because you are all trying to achieve different outcomes to win we found no one person got singled out for attack.
  5. People working and playing with young people where they are looking to:
  • Help them develop their language skills, as a key part of the game is reading the text on the cards and analysing when to use them most effectively.
  • Inspire an interest in reading as playing the game may help tie in well with reading and discussing one of the Discworld books.
  • Find a tool that can be used to help develop student’s creative writing skills. Using the game teachers could have students record the events within the game as they affect them in the form of a diary and then use this as the basis for an inspiration for an essay, artwork etc.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - 4 Example Green Game Card

    If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here

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