Discworld: Ankh-Morpork ReviewPublisher: Tree Frog Games
Price (as reviewed): £23.71 (inc VAT)
Click here to find your local game store
Unless your age is still in single digits, you’ll have had to try really hard not to have had some kind of contact with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. If, by some miracle, or through superhuman effort, you have avoided the series, then you won’t have a millennium hand and shrimp’s chance of understanding what’s going on in the Discworld: Ankh-Morpork game.
Well, maybe that’s an overstatement. You’ll be able to understand the basic premise of the game, of course, and the rules don’t exactly need an in depth knowledge of Sam Vimes to understand them. What you'll miss out on, though, is the myriad of subtle little references and in-jokes that make the game a joy to play. The playing cards in particular are laced with amusing notes and rules that fit with whichever character, group or location they’re meant to represent.
Click to enlarge
The basic premise of the game is that Lord Vetinari, occasionally benevolent dictator and general Ankh-Morpork string-puller, has gone missing, creating a power vacuum that a number of prominent city figures are trying to fill. These are the roles that the players assume, and each role has its own victory conditions - Chrysoprase, for instance needs to amass a $50 fortune, while Dragon King of Arms needs to get eight trouble markers down on the board. The real twist to the game, though, is that the player roles are kept secret, so nobody knows who is who and, by extension, what they need to do to win.
This make playing Ankh-Morpork a gloriously suspicious event, with everyone second guessing their opponents moves in order to work out which character they're playing, while simultaneously trying to move subtly towards their own stated goal. Meanwhile, throwing the proverbial orang-utan wrench into the works are the city-wide random events, which spice up the game by doing anything from burning down buildings to summoning a hoard of marauding demons.
Thankfully, despite these events and the almost over the top power of some of the playing cards, the game never feels totally random. Those of us who played the game all agreed that we could pick a long term plan or tactic and stick to it, rather than having to just play on the fly.
Click to enlarge
The presentation of the game is also superb, with the art of both the cards and the playing board fitting in well with the atmosphere of barely controlled chaos that's promoted by both the game and the Discworld setting. The playing pieces in particular are excellent, as they’re chunky and made from wood rather than the usual plastic, giving the game a sense of quality, but also nostalgia.
Tying all this together is the fact that it's relatively simple to get to grips with the core rule set for the game - Ankh-Morpork is by no means a complex game to learn. The rulebook, for example, is only eight pages long (and that includes an intro page and an FAQ page), and each of the playing cards explains its effects very clearly. Introducing the game to a new player only takes 20 minutes or so.
This isn’t to say that it’s a simple game, though, and experienced players will enjoy the nuanced thread of suspicion, misdirection and bluff that runs through each play-through. Add this to the fact that the game retails for a really very reasonable £23.71 (so reasonable, in fact, that we suspect Cut My Own Throat Dibbler is involved somewhere), and it’s difficult to find many negatives with Ankh-Morpork. It could come with a pointy hat that says Wizzard on it, we suppose (to denote whose turn it is, naturally), and the game smells a little too clean for something based on Ankh-Morpork, but as far as board games go, this one deserves your attention.