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James Fung
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What this review is. I'd like to think of myself as a Discworld fan. I have almost all of the books in audiobook form, and I listen to them again every couple years while making dinner or doing chores. I've been working on a Discworld retheme of Dominion (124 different cards) and could explain the references of all but two of the cards in Ankh-Morpork out of the box. I have studied the geography and history of the city and tried to hypothesize the network of the Undertaking, which has been foreshadowed but not come into being.

While I don't go as far as updating the L-Space wiki or dressing up as a character for Halloween, I know the characters, events, and the city like old friends. With my bona fides established, I'm going to take off my gamer hat and review the game from the perspective of a Discworld fan.

Is it funny? A lot of fans read Pratchett for the humor, so let's start there. Obviously, a game cannot recreate the wordplay of Sir Terry, but can it create funny happenings?

Image from W Eric Martin

The game has a lot of Take That actions and effects that are not in anybody's hands, so there is fun to be had there. There was the time someone used The Beggars' Guild and got stuck with the Peeled Nuts. There was the time I got both The Fools' Guild and Dr. Whiteface played on me when I had less than $5 to pay them to go away; I didn't find it very amusing, but everyone else did. There was the time Lord Vetinari was threatening to win, and someone slapped down Death with his 'HELLO!' and double assassination icons. There are enough hijinks that I believe Discworld fans and casual gamers will be entertained for the duration of the game.

Is it honest to the series? For the most part, individual cards are pretty spot on, like The Fire Brigade extorting money ("Mighty nice building you have there. Would be a shame if something happened to it."). Moist von Lipwig is the golden boy: place a minion, make some money, grab some cards, and fast talk his way into playing another card. Nothing stops trouble like Detritus. Rincewind runs from trouble, often into more trouble. It seems every time someone plays Carcer, he doesn't kill who you wanted him to but goes off like a loose siege weapon. Neither can the wizards and their magic be relied on do what you want. If you resort to magic, be prepared reap what you sow.

Image from EndersGame

Even the city areas play their roles: The Shades causes trouble while Pseudopolis Yard on the Isle of Gods stops it; the football rivalry between Dolly Sisters and Dimwell spread their supporters into the city.

However, I feel there are some missed opportunities or some notes out of tune. The Deep Dwarves should cause trouble; it's the regular dwarves who just want to keep their head down (well, more down) and make a living. And, yes, the Librarian can just be duplicate of Leonard of Quirm, but this ignores that, in every book he appears in, he goes ape whenever someone uses the M-word, and he's also a special constable in the Watch. There are a lot of duplicate cards, and while I suppose it helps reduce the amount of playtesting to weed out game-breaking card combinations, the Discworld abounds with characters, and I would have liked to see each one have its own personality.

Is it evocative of the city? As Lord Vetinari is fond of pointing out to people, the city is a machine. (Well, he tries, but people looking out of the window keep seeing fog, or clacks towers, or a dog watching a man relieving himself in an alley.) Lords and guilds, dwarves and trolls, artisans and the mob. The city works. And with about half of the series set in or around Ankh-Morpork, fans have a pretty good feel for how the city is supposed to work.

Image from EndersGame

And this where the game hits a speed bump. Okay, Chrysoprase has been trying to at least appear to make his money by legitimate means and so will want to acquire the money producing buildings. And Dragon King of Arms would probably go to any lengths to cause trouble, so using the Shades (the poisoned candles he used to incapcitate Lord Vetinari were made be Arthur Carry, whose factory is in the Shades area of the board) and controlling the Watch on the Isle of Gods is in character.

But the time someone won with Lord Rust was by using both Dolly Sisters and Dimwell to spread minions, funded by the Thieves' Guild. No lord would stoop to collaborating with the guilds (who have usurped the aristocracy's position of influence under Vetinari, with the exception of the Assassins' Guild, since many were schooled there) or the masses (which would be antithetical to being a lord). No, Edward d'Eath tried to kill guild leaders, Lord de Worde tried to ruin Vetinari with bought thugs, and Lord Rust took brief control legally through martial law.

Similarly, Commander Vimes can speed up the deck by using The Scours fine enough since he worked in the Treacle Mine Road Watch House for over twenty years and his favorite boozer is also located there, but the Unreal Estate can also burn through the deck, and Vimes is adamant about the use of magic. (Well, except that time in Thud!.) And can any one imagine Sam Vimes hiring assassins to remove trouble markers?

There was also that time someone played both William de Worde and Sacharissa Cripslock on the same turn with 7 trouble markers out. That was a fitting and well-applauded move... until you remembered that the player also caused about half of that trouble the turn before, which is exactly the sort of thing The Times is fighting against. But the player was Vetinari, so maybe it was all according to some deep plan.

What the game is evocative of is the chaos and seething hurly burly that is the city, though this is mostly a function of the hidden roles and players constantly trying to thwart each other. Everyone pushes and pulls in different directions and, yes, the city works. Though when things get really tight, there's a tendency in players to only see the icons at the top of the card and forget the character underneath. Heck, when new players sit down to their first game and are handed a hand of five cards and try to figure out what to do, they'll probably ignore the characters already and just read the symbols and card text.

Image from voynitsky

Verdict. On the spectrum of theme, where 10 is Dune or Battlestar Galactica and 0 are themed Monopoly sets, Ankh-Morpork is about a 7. The players are locked in an eternal power struggle, magical events keep people on their toes, and characters are accurately depicted.

The thing is the players can become so involved in playing the game mechanics that the characters get overshadowed and the players only see the symbols on the cards. Also, the entrenched network of alliances and vendettas that make up the city is missing, people who would need Vetinari-levels of coersion or deception to work together. But to regiment these into Ankh-Morpork would make the game too rigid and detract from the uncertainty and activity that makes the game fun. Therefore I think Martin Wallace has done as much as he can within the objectives of keeping Ankh-Morpork a light game accessible to the mass market.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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fusag wrote:
Verdict. On the spectrum of theme, where 10 is Dune or Battlestar Galactica and 0 are themed Monopoly sets, Ankh-Morpork is about a 7.

I'm thinking of giving it a 7a. I'd never read any of the books, and the game served as my introduction. It's not my usual fare, but that's in its favor. Lots of fun, and a change of pace.
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David Chapman
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fusag wrote:
and could explain the references of all but two of the cards in Ankh-Morpork out of the box.


Out of curiosity, which two?
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Andy Andersen
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Sphere wrote:
fusag wrote:
Verdict. On the spectrum of theme, where 10 is Dune or Battlestar Galactica and 0 are themed Monopoly sets, Ankh-Morpork is about a 7.

I'm thinking of giving it a 7a. I'd never read any of the books, and the game served as my introduction. It's not my usual fare, but that's in its favor. Lots of fun, and a change of pace.


I've not read any of the books, either but did order the game based on the same ideas you have here. Now to find the right book to get a flavor of the series.

Thanks for the review.
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James Fung
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Jedit wrote:
Out of curiosity, which two?

Sir Charles Lavatory: I don't even know what book(s) he was mentioned in. Apparently he's the president of The Guild of Plumbers and Dunnikindivers, but his main appearance was probably to setup a joke about how Ankh-Morporkians don't use his namesake invention because they dispose of their waste in the street. Ever since The Truth, however, the history of now-Sir Harry King turning the golden river into real gold gets retold.

Here 'n Now: Used in one-off jokes in at least a couple Watch books. Worst thief in the city. Claims to have committed all the crimes in the city, has to ask the Watch if he can spend the night in the cells and to keep away from the Thieves' Guild. I think his first appearance was in Men at Arms, but the same scene introduces Angua, shows how much Carrot has grown into the city, and the budding romance between them, so I probably filtered Here 'n Now out.
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Halden
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I only started reading the books because I saw A-M on a table and I have played it after reading about 8 of the books. I felt the theme was good but not so over the top as to get in the way of a good game. I would give it a 7a. Great review.
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Never played it, but I have heard of the guy also

And I have to say that the bits are very cool and unique.
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James Fung
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Orangemoose wrote:
Now to find the right book to get a flavor of the series.

There's a thread for that. My recommendation(s):

Guards! Guards! is the first one really set in the city. It also is where two of the big players, Vetinari and Vimes, really develop as characters. Well, it's Vimes' first book, and it is the first time Vetinari acts like someone Machiavelli cribbed answers from.

Men at Arms gives you an idea of how the lords and guilds operate. The book is still mostly about the Watch, however. Also introduces the racial tension that plays out over a few books.

Feet of Clay, someone actually poisons Vetinari, setting up a situation much like in the game. However, instead of the citywide power struggle of the game, the power vacuum is resolved in closed room meetings by the powers of the city.

The Truth has a similar situation where Vetinari has been setup for a crime. This time the guilds choose his successor. In contrast to the previous books, it's not told from the Watch's perspective, but more the person on the street.

Going Postal/Making Money shows how well Vetinari plays people and the city. Also a non-Watch book, mostly from the viewpoint of Moist von Lipwig, who is a people person.

Unseen Academicals really shows the point of the view of the proletariat. However, I don't recommend starting with his latest stuff.
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Andy Andersen
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James,

Just ordered Guards! Guards!,

Thanks.
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Jay Lacson
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I got my first play in w/ my Collector's Edition...and that picture of the Deluxe Edition makes me wish I had ordered that one too. Dang....


edit: Nevermind...I saw the price for the Deluxe Edition and am content with my Deluxe Edition again
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Jim Patching
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Personally I thought the game was pretty light on theme, I thought it could have been about pretty much anything really. Nice artwork and I like the game, but I think you could replace the pictures with artwork from pretty much any other property and the game would play just as well.
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James Fung
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panzer-attack wrote:
Personally I thought the game was pretty light on theme, I thought it could have been about pretty much anything really. Nice artwork and I like the game, but I think you could replace the pictures with artwork from pretty much any other property and the game would play just as well.

I sort of see your point, but if you flip the question on its head, "How close can you get to recreating Ankh-Morpork in a light eurogame?" I think the game does pretty well. Just because the game could be about any theme involving area control / influence is more a comment about area control games usually about being politics or influence. Could this be a game about a power struggle in ancient Rome / medieval Germany / gang wars in downtown Chicago / dinosaurs eating each other? Yes, probably. Though not many of them would have a random effect deck that is so deliberately out of the players' control.

But if we look at some popular boardgame themes: it's not a wargame. It's not really a civilization game. It's not a train game. It's not a game about trading or building a network. It's not about a race. It's not about the stock market or speculation. It's not about finding or catching the traitor/thief/murderer.

Btw, I'm a fan of your ongoing Pendragon campaign. Great read.
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Halden wrote:
I only started reading the books because I saw A-M on a table and I have played it after reading about 7 +1 of the books.

Fixed.
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