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Subject: My thoughts on Discworld: Ankh-Morpork rss

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Michel Condoroussis
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Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (2011)
Designer: Martin Wallce
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Players: 2-4
Time: 45-70 minutes



Intro

I had never heard of the books, however when I brought the game to my gaming group, a lot of people were familiar with the series and anxious to play. I was also surprised that this was a Martin Wallace game, as the rules made it seem like a short, quite chaotic game. Let's see how a played out.

Gameplay

The mechanics of the game are very straight forward. Once the game is setup, where players place their Minions in three of the twelve locations on the board, each player on their turn can play a card, performing the actions indicated on the card (most of which are optional) and possibly playing additional cards as indicated on the initial card. Once done, the player refills their hand to five cards (if they have less then five) and the next player begins their turn.

Setup


Play will continue in this manner until either the Play Deck is exhausted or one player claims their characters victory condition. There are seven Personality Cards in the game and at the start each player gets one at random. Depending on which one you get you will have a specific objective that you must meet to win.

Player Cards


Before getting into these, I will explain the actions on the cards. When you play a card, you can perform the actions on it, in order from left to right. All these actions are optional except for one, thus they may be skipped, however they must be performed in order should you chose to execute them. The actions are:

-Place a Minion: You may place one of your Minions on any location that you are in or adjacent to any location you are in. There are no Minion limits in any area and if all your Minions are on the board, you may remove one and play it according to the placement rules. Adding Minions also adds Trouble Markets (which are part of certain winning conditions). Whenever a Minion is placed into an area already containing a Minion, then a Trouble Marker is added. When a Minion is moved or removed from an area, then any Trouble Marker in the area is removed.
-Place a Building: There is a limit of one Building per area. The cost to place this Building is indicated on the board and once placed, you gain the area's City Card, giving you a benefit. You must have a Minion in the area to build there and there cannot be a Trouble Marker.
-Assassination: Remove a Minion, Troll or Demon from an area containing a Trouble Marker (note that this also removes the Trouble Marker).
-Remove one Trouble Marker: From any area
-Take Money: The amount of which is indicated on the card
-Scroll: Perform the action described in the cards text.
-Random Event: This action is not optional. Simply turn over one of the Random Event cards and perform what is said. This is also how the Demons and Trolls come into play. Each of the twelve Random Events can only happen once and often many will not occur during a game.
-Play Another Card: Simply play another card if you want.
-Interrupt: These cards can be played at any time. They often protect you from another players action or Random Event.

Random Event Cards

City Cards


Play simply continues around in clockwise order until either the Player Deck is exhausted or one player meets their winning conditions. The Personality Cards and their winning conditions are:

Personality Cards


-Lord Vetinari: You win at the start of your turn if you have a certain number of Minions in different areas on the board. Between 9 and 11 depending on the number of players.
-Lord Selachii, Lord Rust or Lord de Worde: You win at the start of your turn if you control a certain number of areas on the board. Between four and seven based on the number of players. To control an area you must more playing pieces then any other single player (including Minions and Buildings) or then the number of Trolls. You cannot control an area that has a Demon in it.
-Dragon King of Arms: You win if at the start of your turn there are eight trouble markers on the board.
-Chrysoprase: You win if at the start of your turn, your net worth is $50. This is the total of your cash and the purchase value of your buildings.
-Commander Vimes: You win if nobody else wins by the time the Player Deck is exhausted.

If the Player Deck is exhausted and no one is Commander Vimes, then each player counts their points as follows: Each Minion on the board is 5 points, each building is worth its purchase value, each $1 is worth 1 and all loans must be repaid or cost 15 points.

Strategy/Comments

The game is quite chaotic, not totally random, but there is a Random Event deck, so that may tell you a little. Don't expect your typical Martin Wallace game that we have become use to, with a lot of strategy and calculated decisions, this is a much lighter game. However, that is not to say that it is a bad game, quite the opposite. I played a few times and although you have little control of certain events, the general consensus is that it is fun to play.

You must keep in mind that each player has a different goal and although the characters that are in play are unknown, the goals of each character are known, thus when anyone is getting close to any of the goals, they will be a target. This may give Commander Vimes a slight edge as he wants others to fight it out when it appears that someone will win, since each turn that it does not end simply means that Commander Vimes is closer to his goal of exhausting the draw deck. But then again, there may not even be a Commander Vimes in play. The different goals keep it interesting from game to game as you do not always play the same way but have to adapt, although only slightly, to your end goal. Some objectives may be tougher then others, such as Lord Vetinari, since having players in nine locations in a four player game is not easy, but this is just the luck of the draw.

The City Cards are nice to have and can help you more easily obtain your victory condition, but they also make you a target, since not only do they count as points and give you a benefit, but they also count for control so it may look like your character is one of the Lords who has control as an objective. Often when a player can attack another, they will go for the person who appears to be in the lead or the one that is in their way, but it is very hard to win in one turn, so you must work your way up and try to distract the others so they don’t notice your climb. The fact that you must have the winning condition at the start of your turn makes it really tough. Your opponents will tend to check if anyone is really close to winning before performing their action.

The Random Events are also quite strange. They all cause damage to players pieces, but to who will only be known generally once you see the card. Many cause you to simply roll the die to see who is affected, so if you are not close to your victory condition, you may as well play it, but if you are close, playing one may just set you back if the location affected causes you to lose some pieces. Note also that not all events will occur, so the Demons and Trolls may never appear. These can be a huge pain for some of the goals, especially the Demons since they prevent control and do not count as an occupied location for Lord Vetinari.

Conclusion

So given all this randomness and back and forth, is the game any good? Yes. If you take it as is, the theme is interesting, and those who read the books found that it was well done. It plays fast, 45 minutes in general, so the game play does not get old and the Random Events add some interesting elements for those not getting any closer to their goal. I have not played enough to say whether one character is easier to win with then another, but I don't think winning is the main goal here, with so much out of your control, it just makes for fun interactions between the players. A nice light game once in a while is welcome in my groups.

Rating: (7.0 / 10)
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Andy Andersen
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Solid review. Thanks
 
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Jack Francisco
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You also need to have the right type of people that aren't going to get mad at the "take that!" element of the game.
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TS S. Fulk
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senorcoo wrote:
You also need to have the right type of people that aren't going to get mad at the "take that!" element of the game.


I was worried about this, because my middle child (Miles 8) absolutely freaks out when we do "bad" things to him in games. However, in this game, he takes it all mostly in stride. Maybe this is because the bad stuff is so minor (1 minion assassinated, 1 trouble marker removed, etc.).

Still there is a lot of ebb and flow to this game that players need to be prepared to deal with.
 
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Paul S
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DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?
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tssfulk wrote:

I was worried about this,


Me too - and my experience with an 8 year old is identical to yours. I agree with your analysis re: minor bad stuff - and maybe, too, the truth is that you can and will spend as much time doing the battering as you will being battered, so it feels kind of even-handed.
 
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