Discworld – Ankh Morpork Review (Collector’s Edition)
There are 2 key elements that take part when someone talk about this game. The first one is Martin Wallace and the other one is Terry Pratchett. What so important about those two names? Well, let’s rewind a little bit. Martin Wallace is a game designer (specifically board games), a popular one for some I believe. He had already design some of great and popular board games like Brass, A Few Acres of Snow, London, Automobile, After The Flood, God’s Playground, Tinners Trail, Struggle of Empires and many more. Most of his games are based on historical events and timeline, except this one. This game is based on the fictional story of Terry Pratchett long running and popular comic novel fantasy, Discworld. Terry Pratchett is also widely known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre.
Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, the largest, smelliest, and most ‘interesting’ city on Discworld. The city’s patrician, Lord Vetinari, has disappeared, and the citizens are calling out for firm leadership. Will one of the noble families take control of the city, or will the people welcome the return of the king to restore peace? Then again, Vetinari’s absence may have been temporary and his spies could be spreading around the city, ready to start pulling the levers of power for their master.
Now, i know Martin Wallace, even I’m not one of his fan. I am a fan of one of his games, Brass. And i never heard Terry Pratchett before, so i know nothing about his works. One of my friends told me about the game, i take a look at it and instantly liked it. He mentioned me about the Collector’s Edition and i pre-ordered it from Treefrog Games. The reason i like the game was mostly because the game presentation. It has great artworks and funny character illustrations. Though never played the game, i already read the rules and it’s quite a simple game, also i haven’t had a game with this kind of mechanic. Now, let’s keep my babbling short and let’s get down to the game.
1. The Theme
As stated above, the game is based on the Discworld story and the title itself ‘Ankh Morpork’ is the largest city-state on Discworld. In this game, the city’s patrician, Lord Vetinari has disappeared and the city was left without leadership. There are 7 important characters that will manipulate the game and these characters are the secret identities that available randomly for a player. The city consist of 12 districts / areas and these 12 are also based on the story and each has it’s own uniqueness. The main idea of the story is a secret race to victory (of course with different victory conditions) to claim leadership on the city. There is one unique thing about this game, which based on the story that no number 8 is not used in the game. So to replace that, it used ’7a’ to represent that number. These are shown in the board (the 8th location) and the last page number on the rulebook.
2. The Artworks
I said it before that i like the artworks, and this game’s artworks were made by a team of artist led by Bernard Pearson. One of the artists on the team is Peter Dennis, a well-known British artist in the field of historical wargame artwork, contributed to hundreds of books including many Osprey titles. He has provided artwork for many popular Martin Wallace board games such as Brass, Age of Steam, Struggle of Empires, Automobile, London, Tinners’ Trail, Princes of the Renaissance, Age of Industry, Liberté, Perikles, and Byzantium.
As you can see from the artworks, this fantasy world is full of imagination and very interesting things. And to visualize that, the illustrations or artworks must able to capture it. The characters seems weird and also embellished with a touch of dark humor. I like the characters on the cards, they’re somewhat funny and hilarious visually or contextually. It seems, that the artist really wanted to put some fun into the illustrations.
There are some cards that i really love the illustration, and my most favorite card is ‘HELLO’, with illustration of a Grim Reaper (smiling or grinning) with his trademark scythe. I found the illustration is somewhat hilarious and very provocative but, in the same time, unique. You can find other hilarious cards such as Harga’s House of Ribs, Dr. Whiteface, Librarian, The Agony Aunts, Nobby Nobbs, The Auditor, Gimlet’s Dwarf Delicatessen and many more.
3. The Game Components
Okay, this review is based on the Collector’s Edition copy, since i owned the Collector’s Edition, not the standard nor the Deluxe copy. Some components of these 3 different versions are made specifically for those versions and not available in other versions. For instance, the Collector’s Edition has larger map board than the standard (the same board is used for the Deluxe one). Goes the same with other components like money tokens and minions.
The standard edition has different size box from the Collector’s Edition (smaller than the Collector’s Edition) and also different cover art. I love the Collector’s Edition cover art (a red dragon flying down into the city of Ankh Morpork). The Collecter’s edition has wooden money tokens (same with the Deluxe edition), unlike the standard which only has cardboard tokens. For the minions and building components, the Collector and the standard have same wooden tokens but the Deluxe one has sculpted resin figures (which is the reason why it’s costly). The cards are in great quality with 2 decks (53 brown bordered & 48 green bordered cards) of action cards, 7 identity cards, 12 random event cards and 12 location cards. There is a 12 sided blue marble die which rarely used (resolve event card), an 8 pages of rules and 4 player mats (the player mats were made from thick cardboard in double sided to give major information during the play). The Collector’s Edition also comes with a poster of the game.
4. The Game Play
This game can be played up to 4 players. Each player will be randomly assigned a secret personality cards from the possible 7. Each identity has it’s own victory condition and the goal of the game is to achieve that condition at the start of a player’s turn. This is very interesting, since not only that you must to achieve the victory condition during your turn, also you must maintain that condition until the start of your next turn. This make the game really challenging, since after your turn, there are great chances that it won’t be the same in your next turn.
The seven personality cards:
Lord Vetinari – you win if at the beginning of your turn you have a certain number of minions in different areas on
the board (think of them as your spies). With two players you need to have minions in at least eleven different areas. With three players you need to have minions in at least ten different areas. With four players you need to have minions in at least nine different areas. Areas must be free of demons.
Lord Selachii, Lord Rust, Lord de Worde – you win if at the beginning of your turn you control a certain number of areas. If there are only two of you playing then you need to control seven areas, if there are three of you then you need to control five areas, and if there are four of you then you need to control four areas. You control an area if you have more playing pieces in it than any single other player (a playing piece being a minion or a building). You would also have to have more pieces there than the total number of trolls in the area. You cannot control an area that contains one or more demons. The presence of a trouble marker does not affect the control of an area.
Dragon King of Arms – If at the beginning of your turn there are eight trouble markers on the board then you win.
The rationale is that the city has fallen into more chaos than normal and people want the king back (who would be controlled by you).
Chrysoprase – If at the beginning of your turn your net worth (your cash plus the monetary cost of each building you have) is $50 or more then you win the game. Please note that any loans you have taken out count as $12 against your total worth (certain cards allow you to take out loans).
Commander Vimes – you win if nobody else wins by the time the draw pile has been exhausted.
These secret personality will be assigned for each player and each player must obtain it’s victory condition in order to win the game. Generally there are 2 ways for the game to end. Either one of the players reach the victory condition or the deck runs out (even there is no player is assigned as Commander Vimes). If the second way is activated then all players sum up their points from buildings asset, minions and money. Player with the highest point win the game.
At start, each player choose their color and take the minions and building pieces and starting capital of 10 dollars. There is initial setup in the board, which each player put one of his minion on the Dolly Sisters, The Scours and The Shades, along with a trouble marker each.The action cards are separated in 2 colors (green and brown cards). The brown cards are shuffled and placed in the bottom of the deck and the green cards are then shuffled and placed on top of the deck. 4 cards are dealt to each player (this is player’s starting hand).
The first player play a card or cards (depending the card he play, there is a possibility that the card he played has ‘play another card’ action, which he may play another card from his hand). The cards are different (there are no multiple cards or same cards in the deck) and has their own effects. When a player play a card with multiple actions, he may choose which actions he want to resolve (so he may choose not to carry out all the actions listed on the card) but he must do them in correct order (left to right). When a card shown an event icon, that player must resolve it’s effect (draw a card from the event deck and resolve it’s effect). This action, is the only action that a player must take / resolve. The other actions are optional.
The available actions are shown by icons on the card and here are the available icons, each with description:
Minions – a player may place or move his minion to a location adjacent to his available minions on the board. If the location where he place / move his minion is empty, he just place it there, but if there is one or more minion (his own or other players minions) and no trouble marker, he place his minion with a trouble marker. If there is already a trouble marker, then he place it without adding any trouble marker. If he remove / move his minion or other players minion from an area with a trouble marker, the trouble marker is removed from that area.
Buildings – a player may place his building piece in a location with no building nor any trouble markers by paying the cost listed on the designated location to the bank and take that location card. These location can be activated by the owner in the next turn (except Small Gods, that can be activated immediately a player place a building there). There can only be 1 building in each location. Throughout the game, there are possibilities that a player’s building may be destroyed (mostly because of events) or swapped by other player’s building (several cards allow this to happen).
Remove Trouble Marker – a player may remove a trouble marker from an area of his choice.
Take Money – a player may take the listed amount of money from the bank.
Assassination – a player may remove one minion (but not your own) or troll or demon of your choice from an area that contains a trouble marker. Remember that this will also remove the trouble marker from the area.
Scroll – a player may perform the action described in the text at the bottom of the card.
Random Event – a player must draw the top card of the random event deck and perform the text described. After the effect of the card is resolved, discard the event card to the side (an event can only happen once during the entire game).
Play Another Card – some cards has this icon, which let a player to play another card from his hand. With several cards with this symbol in your hands, you can play succession actions with those cards.
Interrupt – a card with this icon may be played at any time (even if it is not your turn). Most interrupt cards protect you from something bad happening to you. Playing an interrupt card in your turn ndoes not count as an action, Please make sure you play such a card promptly. If you forget to use a card to negate the effect of another card played against you then you cannot ‘go back in time’ and play the card retrospectively.
After taking his turn, a player fill their hand up to 5 cards from the draw deck (if he has 5 or more cards in his hand, he simply doesn’t draw any card nor discards any). And then next player clockwise take his turn. If at the start of his turn, a player’s victory condition is met, he can claim the victory by showing his secret personality to other players.
5. The Replay Value.
This is a simple game, unlike most Wallace’s games. With light and easy rules, everyone can play this game and have fun with it. I think it’s appropriate to call this one a family game. I know it can be brutal and mean, but as long as the players are playing it easy and simple, this could be a fun game for the family. Well, if you take this game to the competitive level (but still enjoying with dark and gloomy humor) with you friends, this could be proven brutal and chaotic. This card driven game really applied the take that mechanic, which let people play cards and other people take the bash. And once again, this also a secret personality with hidden objective, the word ‘hidden’ should be hidden, which mean you must complete your objective secretly. If someone successfully ratted out your personality, there is a big chance you’ll lose the game. The game plays really quick, from 30-60 minutes and it isn’t a brain burner, so yo can have some laugh and fun to share along with your fellow players. In each game, you have random personality card and different cards to be played, which gives you enough replay value even the initial setup doesn’t change.
There are some cards, that really powerful or you may say really useful. There is ‘HELLO’ the grim reaper, who can assassinate 2 minions and after that place a building (this provide you with a chain of combined action that you can do). Moist von Lipwig, who let you place a minion, get $3 from the bank, draw 2 cards and play another card. Carcer, who can remove 2 minions from the board even without trouble marker and play another card. Mrs. Cake, who let player to look upon all the unused personality cards but one. We Mad Arthur, who let player to build a building with half cost. Preacher Gilts & Sybil Vimes, who can let player to swap other player’s building with his. And many more.
My Thought of The Game
Even this game is great, not everyone’s into it. If you like card driven game with ‘take that’ card mechanic, you should try this one. Even though this game is looks to be simple but it’s not easy to win in this game if each player is competitive. Because every time you move, other players are looking closely what you are up to. The best strategy to win the game is to carry out your objective one by one with diversions. Diversion really helps you to confuse or mislead you opponents. If your actions are too obvious, there is a big chance that other players can guess you personality and it’s easier for them to block you out. The secret personality is the key, you don’t want other players to know yours, cause if that happened, it might as well as end game for you. But, maybe it’s not… you can still steal your chance to victory when other players is busy with themselves. In short, whoever you are, you can always turn the tide of the game with only your cards in hand. Some of the cards are important and powerful if played in the right moment and against the right player. For instance, i played as Lord Vetinari and my friend played as one of the Lords. My hands are extremely powerful and really could help my friends objective (which i had guessed his personality card) and released a couple of hilarious laughter and tease him up with it (of course i didn’t show him the cards) and i thought i could win with only this card in the next 2 turns. In his turn, my friend play a card against me which forced me to exchange his hand with mine (i was completely stunned and shocked with it). All of a sudden the tide of the game turned against me and he won the game. Note that, it was our first game and i didn’t know that such card existed. Next time i play the game, i will put my mouth shut and put a poker face instead learning from my mistakes.
To win the game or at least raise your chance of success other than creating diversion is to observe your opponents movements. This will provide you enough time to delay their objectives progress and to gain more advance position. But if you don’t like direct confrontation or doesn’t like to be picked on by other players, then this is not a game for you. For in this game is to kill or to be killed. To screw other players or to be screwed by other players. So, get ready to enter a game where curses is common, angry & grumpy people like to have a ‘chat’ and conflicts are their best interest. If you’re one of those people, prepare to get screwed if you want to screw someone else asses!
Luck is a deciding factor with the random drawing of the cards and secret personalities.But i guess the luck factor can be covered by good observation, timing and strategically played card.
Images are courtesy of BGG users.