Discworld: Ankh-Morpork – First Impressions

First of all, happy holidays, happy New Year, etc so and so forth. With the holidays out of the way, it is time for me to start posting again!

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork is a new board game by Martin Wallace and Treefrog Games and printed/distributed by Mayfair Games. Or something  like that. I’m actually not sure how board game releases work. I’ll have to look it up at some point. Anyhow, regardless, the game can be officially found here. Or it could be found sitting on the shelf at your local game store looking something like this…


The box. It is quite nice.

Anyhow, I purchased the standard edition, which means no extra large board or super shiny components. I think for future updates, I’ll remember to photograph things though so you can see them anyway. Honestly, the standard components are quite nice (wooden pieces for the majority of the game pieces, a very nicely detailed game board that depicts Ankh-Morpork, the cards are well illustrated even if it isn’t Kidby art and the die is a die!). The board, in particular, is very nicely done I feel, even if there are some issues with the brownish color scheme blending a little too much in some areas, making the edges of some territories difficult to discern.

But hey. Components are the icing on the cake when it comes to board games. What really matters is the game, right?

Well, based on two plays so far, I’m pretty satisfied with the game flow. In brief:

The game can be played with 2-4 players. At the start of the game, each player is given the identity of a major player who is vying for control of Ankh-Morpork (the Patrician has seemingly vanished, thus leaving the space open for someone to sweep in and take control). Each of the characters, with the exception of the three Lords has a unique victory condition that they must meet to win the game. Identities are kept secret, meaning that the only way to discover your opponent0s’ victory condition is to watch how they play and interfere with those plans.

Are they spreading their minions out and trying to occupy a lot of space? They might be Vetinari, who has to have minions in a certain number of areas at the start of his turn! Are they causing trouble frequently? Then they might be Dragon, King off Arms who wins once he has 8 trouble markers on board! So on and so forth. This obviously leaves some room for subterfuge and cleverness but there will come times when the answer is obvious. Would  anyone in their right mind gut a 7th trouble marker on the board unless they were Dragon?

Your turn consists of playing a card from your hand (representing a citizen of Ankh-Morpork and covering a damn large swath of major and minor characters alike). These cards allow you to perform a variety of actions such as placing minions on board (to contest territory, cause trouble, etc), building in the various neighborhoods (which gives you additional powers based on the nieghborhood), assassinating opposing minions, earning money, drawing from the random events deck (which is full of opportunities for things to go horribly wrong for everybody) and a whole host of other, unique effects. What a card does is indicated by the icons at the top and the game helpfully includes four cheat sheets indicating what each icon means (as well as detailing each character’s win condition and each neighborhood’s power).

Quick sidebar: I really appreciate when a game not only  has well written rules, but is also smart enough to include resources like this. While I’m getting fairly used to interpreting the graphic language that is so common in Euro Games, it is still really helpful to have this stuff easily accessible by all players.

Anyhow. Typically you can only play one card a turn, although there are a number of cards that allow you to play additional cards afterwards, allowing you to perform an entire series of actions. Once you’ve completed your turn, you draw back up to five cards and play continues around the table, repeating until someone has won or the deck has depleted, at which point a winner is determined via points.

Whew. Okay. So, with that out of the way…

We played two games total on Wednesday and were playing the game complete fresh. The rules were quick and easy to digest and there were very few questions that came up that were not easily answered (we did get a little hung up on questions involving the History Monks and Drumknott, though). Since there were a few too many of us to play, we teamed some folks up.

The first game was won relatively quickly by myself and my teammate as Lord Selachii (one of the three lords who win if they have control of a certain number of areas, players in the game pending). It was rather easy, simply because people weren’t quite sure what to expect, so were able to sneak this one out before people really got their bearings.

The second game was a lot more brutal, but we again managed to pull it out as Commander Vimes (who wins if the deck is exhausted before anyone else wins). It was really touch and go as the players playing Dragon were constantly threatening the 7 trouble markers on the last several turns of the game, while the player playing as Vetinari himself managed to repeatedly drop several minions for a few turns. It took the vast majority of our doing to hold out and burn through the remainder of the deck.

The things that I took away from the game are:

Randomness is a big player, although it can be mitigated to some degree. The fact that the cards you draw are randomized  means you’ll just see cards you need sometimes and cards you don’t. I’ll say that there are a number of ways to draw heavily to help mitigate that and a large number of the cards seem pretty good, but I can definitely see people just not seeing what they need at times. In addition, the events deck can do very nasty things if it is activated… and not just to opponent’s. Pretty much every effect can hurt you just as badly as the opposition. Still, planning and the like definitely felt like they had an influence over the game, but this is definitely a game where luck WILL factor.

Spite is big. There are a lot of “TAKE THAT!” type effects in this game. And, of course, you will have to make sure you victimize people who are on their way to winning. After about the 7th or so minion we had assassinated, the Vetinari player was glaring pure hatred at us. And we were loving every second of it. Right until the two other players put us in the poor house and reduced our hand size permanently.

Bastards.

Do I have any concerns? I am curious if certain characters are easier to win as. It seems like some victory conditions are easier to meet than others (Chyroprase’s $50 victory condition seems hard to actually stop), but I won’t be able to confirm that without a fair amount more play. There are also some card interactions, as stated above, that I need to take a closer look at to clarify. But that’s really all that jumps out at me so far.

So, after two plays, I’m pretty content to say that I’ve enjoyed myself. I’ll post again after I get another game or two in. Maybe make it a more of a session overview.

And I’ll try to remember pictures.

I think I’ll make board and card games the theme  of this week. My Mass Effect playthrough stalled for a bit, but I’ll cover that later!

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