Discworld: Ankh-Morpork is a board game set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (unsurprisingy). Players will send their minions out into the city by playing various cards in order to try to control the city of Ankh-Morpork and to stop their opponents from achieving their plans, meanwhile trying to achieve their own hidden agendas.
How does it play?
The rulebook provides a great explanation of how Discworld plays:
“Ankh-Morpork is a relatively simple game. When it is your turn you play a card, do what it says on it, and then fill your hand back up to five cards. The next player then does the same, and so on until someone declares that they have won the game, or the deck of cards runs out.
What you need to do to win the game depends on the secret personality that is assigned to you at the start of the game. You must keep your aims secret from the other players and at the same time try to divine what your competitors are up to and make sure they do not beat you to the ultimate prize – lordship over the most unruly city in Discworld”
The character that a player gets at the start of the game will determine what that player needs to do to win the game. The characters and their win conditions are:
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).
Lord Selachii, Lord Rust, Lord de Worde – you win if at the beginning of your turn you control a certain number of areas (having more pieces in than anyone else in a certain number of areas).
Dragon King of Arms – If at the beginning of your turn there are eight trouble markers on the board then you win (whenever a new minion is placed in an area with an existing minion, trouble follows).
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.
Commander Vimes – you win if nobody else wins by the time the draw pile has been exhausted.
Because some of these victory conditions are vastly different, there is plenty of variety in how each role plays. While Lord Vetinari will be sending his minions to thinly cover a large area of the board, the other Lords will focus on controlling particular areas. Meanwhile, Chrysophase will finding a way to generate income, and the Dragon King of Arms will be trying to send his minions where the others are. Behind everything will be Commander Vimes, trying his best to ensure that no one else wins the game before he does automatically when the cards run out.
While the only way for Vimes to win is by delaying everyone else, it is also as important for the other players to keep an eye out to stop run away leaders. Slow and steady does not win the race if someone else has already won!
Interacting with Ankh-Morpork
The game takes place in twelve districts comprising the city of Ankh-Morpork. Each player starts with a number of figures on the board. The cards a player has in their hand will cause them to interact with the city of Ankh-Morkpork in a number of different ways.
Each of the cards represents a character, location or oganisation from the Discworld books, and will have a number of icons on it and possibly some text to follow. The icons are carried out in the order listed on the card and may include the following:
- place a minion (and a trouble marker if that space already has a minion in it);
- place a building (and pay its cost);
- assassinate a rival minion in an area with a trouble marker;
- remove a trouble marker;
- take money;
- perform the text described on the card;
- draw a random event;
- play another card; and
- interrupt (which enables a card to be played during another player’s turn).
Each of the 12 areas in the game can only hold one building, and these buildings will give different powers to the characters that own them.
Look and Feel
Discworld: Ankh-Morkpork has an excellent theme, and includes many characters, organisations and locations from the Discworld books. Even for those who are not a fan of the novels, this game is wrapped in a far more exciting theme than generic fantasy. The components are excellent and the artwork is gorgeous.
There are excellent player aid cards which outline the different icons, the victory conditions for each character and the powers of the different buildings.
This game involves a lot of player interaction, with plenty of accusations likely to fly across the table as players vie to meet their own victory conditions while stopping their opponents. There will also be plenty of bluff going on as players try to convince others that they are a different character entirely (often pretending to be one of the Lords with shared victory conditions is a safe bet).
There is a lot of tension to be felt by players who have been lying low and gradually creeping towards victory need to make a bold move to advance their cause. Doing so is often important for them to claim victory, but at the same time will make themselves a target if they are too far ahead of the other players.
Control over the different areas in Ankh-Morpork will ebb and flow over the game as the fortunes of the players change as they contest with their opponents. There is plenty of opportunity to try and defend against an opponent.
There is also an interesting random element which adds a chaotic level of fun into the strategy mix.
Rather than the secret roles providing a victory point bonus, they determine when the game will end. This is a significant feature in Discworld: Ankh-Morpork and makes understanding the characters integral to the game. It also means that this game is highly interactive as players need to keep a watchful eye on what their opponents are up to.
This game can be agonisingly frustrating when one’s plans go awry, but spectacularly funny when this happens to one’s opponents. Highly suited to those who enjoy great ‘TAKE THAT!’ moments.
It is important that all players are familiar with the different victory conditions, otherwise it is possible to accidentally gift another player the game (noting that most of the victory conditions need to be met at the start of a player’s turn). This gives experienced players an edge during the first few games.
An intriguing and fun game that is very easy to learn, highly interactive and stunningly presented. Great for families and those new to boardgames. Also suitable for experienced gamers, especially for lovers of great theme. Highly recommended.