Discworld: Anhk-Morpork – the Board Game (available from most book shops, price varies)
“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…“
Growing up in Far North Queensland, Australia meant there was plenty of rainy days when I was a kid, plenty of Monopoly, Cluedo, Polconomy and my personal favourite Chopper Attack. Now days in the age of computers, game consoles and dozens of channels on TV it seems to me that the humble board game is almost a thing of the past.
So pretty much every other Thursday night for the past two years, me and two of my good friends abandon the comforts of Xbox Live and venture out into the real world, travelling across town on our trusty epic mounts to gather together in person to play games. We have a love for Magic the Gathering and we have also played a lot of the World of Warcraft trading card game as well, but this Christmas my long suffering wife bought me Discworld: Anhk-Morpork the Board Game. This was to go along with all my Terry Pratchett paraphernalia – books, audio books, posters, maps and calendars etc.
Set in the fictional Discworld’s cesspit of a capital city, the board is a map of the city broken up into different areas or districts and to win the game you have to have control in the majority of those areas in some manner. Now that may sound a little vague, and it is, but this is due to the fact that each player plays as a secret character based on people from the fantasy book series.
Each character has a different criteria for winning the game. For instance if you get Crysoprace ( the mafia boss-like Troll ) then when your cash total hits $50AM then you win the game (bank debts withstanding) or if for example you’re Lord Vetenari then you have to have one of your minions in 10 different districts. All in all there are 8 secret characters but disappointingly only 5 of them have different winning criteria.
The game starts with each player randomly picking their character card, and each player duly has a supply of minions ( a torso and head-shaped block of wood). At the start of the game each player has minions in The Shades, The Scours and Dolly Sisters districts. The controlling of minions is the crux of the game as where they are placed (or not placed as the case may be) can determine if the area is a designated “Trouble Spot” and which player also controls that area.
Each player is given $5AM (Anhk Morpork Dollars) and dealt 5 playing cards which act as the catalyst for each turn. The player can use one card per turn (or more if the specific card allows you to play another) to manipulate the environment. For instance:
The different symbols across the top determine the actions this card allows you to do in your turn. Place a minion in a district, play out the action text on the card if it has some, build a house, assassinate another minion. Some effects are rarer than others such as the one that triggers a random event – like a horde of demons or trolls turning up in different areas of town.
So as the game develops, each player is contriving to manipulate the situation to meet their winning criteria, whilst at the same time trying not to give away what they’re doing but also along with that trying to figure out what the opponent’s intentions are as not to inadvertently help them win. In the games we’ve played there was a lot of bluffing, double bluffing and downright dirty misleading tactics – very enjoyable.
There is no doubt about it, when you get past what at first may seem like some complicated instructions, this game is very engaging and highly entertaining and it’s re-playability is very good given the different random factors involved in play. Terry Pratchett fans will enjoy seeing the various characters from the books – I even had my trusty Discworld companion out as we played and was regaling my fellow opponents with tales and tid-bits of information on the different playing card characters as they turned up.
“Ah! It’s Mr Pin and Mr Tulip – the New Firm. They appeared in the 25th Discworld Novel, The Truth….”
I’m really sure they loved every minute of it as well, given the glazed look of concentration in their eyes. At least I think it was concentration. But even if you’re not a fan of Terry Pratchett’s work this game still stands on its own as a good way to pass a rainy day…
Chris “Battleships” Shooter, webmaster for www.geekzine.co.uk