Discworld: Ankh-Morpork Review

Discworld Ankh Morpork game in play

Quite a while ago, I requested a review game from Mayfair.  Due to my previous reviews, they thought that I might enjoy Discworld: Ankh-Morpork.

In Ankh-Morpork, each of the players takes on the role of a different character attempting to take control of the city.  However, these goals are secret.  Some characters might be attempting to control a certain number of territories, some may want their minions throughout the city, some are trying for money, other want trouble, and one character just wants to thwart everyone else until the deck runs out.  To do this, the gameplay is fairly simple.  On your turn you get to play a card.  This card will allow you to do various things - place minions, assassinate minions, build a building, draw more cards, earn money, and possibly play more cards.  After you have played any cards that you are allowed to play, you draw back up to five cards, and play passes to the next player.  Once someone has achieved their victory condition, and still has it at the start of their turn, they win!  If this never happens and the deck runs out, then one of the specific roles wins.  If he's not playing, then you add up points to find a winner!

Let's start this review off with a confession.  I've never read any of the Discworld books.  (Though, now that there are two games about them, I'm thinking that maybe I should!)  So, just like I said with Guards! Guards!, any of the flavor or humor of the game will be missed on me.  So, I'll just be reviewing it in terms of gameplay.  If you are a Discworld fan, I think that it's safe to assume that you will like the game better than I did, simply because there's an entire layer of the game that is I'm missing!  So, at the end, when I give a score, I think that you're safe to add 1-2 points to that score, if you enjoy the theme.  With that said, let's start talking about the game itself.

Discworld secret characters
The seven different secret characters
The crux of the game are the secret identities/agendas.  If this is something that you enjoy, then this game is one that you should consider.  When playing Ankh-Morpork, just like playing any other secret agenda game, it is very important to attempt to bluff a different agenda.  Are you attempting to control a certain number of territories?  It might be smart to start off the game spreading out as much as possible so that everyone thinks that your agenda is to have minions all over the city.  This way they will spend all of their efforts (and good cards) on stopping you from completing the wrong agenda - which may allow you to swoop in and complete your actual agenda.  I thought that this part of the game worked well, and so I consider this a pro for the game.

The next thing that I liked about Ankh-Morpork are the "trouble markers."  Trouble markers are placed on territories any time a minion is placed in or moved to a territory that already has a minion present (and doesn't already have a trouble marker).  This trouble marker does two things - it allows assassinations to occur, and it prevents buildings from being placed.  However, as soon as a minion leaves the territory (through movement or assassination), the trouble marker is removed.  These markers really added quite a bit more strategy than I would have initially assumed.  It seems like they are always in the opposite state of what you want - if you're looking to build a building, then it seems like there is going to be a trouble marker there, and if you're wanting to kill someone else's minions (ok, you're always wanting to do this - but, if you are wanting to do this and actually have a card that lets you), then there will inevitably be no trouble marker.  So, Ankh-Morpork has an interesting dynamic in trying to figure out how to add or remove trouble markers while still being able to do the action that you actually care about - instead of simply helping the player after you.

The third pro that I will mention for Ankh-Morpork is that it is really simple to teach, and I think that it could be easily learned by anyone, regardless of how many games they have played in the past.  I consider this to be really important, especially since I think the game will appeal to Discworld fans and not just "normal" board gamers.  This means that, if you are considering buying this game for someone that you know that is a big Discworld fan, but they haven't played a lot of strategy board games, then Ankh-Morpork is a game that they should be able to learn without feeling too overwhelmed.  Which means that they'll actually play it!  (Which is a good thing - a played game is always better than an unplayed one.)

Discworld Ankh Morpork game cards
Example cards - I missed all the references
However, I still had some complaints with Ankh-Morpork (really, just one major complaint).  My complaint was that there seemed to be too much luck involved in what you draw.  Specifically, cards that allow you to play another card are better than anything else.  This is because they allow you to chain cards together to turn into a super-card.  For example, a card that lets you gain $3 and then play another card doesn't sound that great.  However, if you have another card that lets you play a building, then suddenly you have the ability to gain $3 before building a building - and there's a good chance that the $3 will provide you with the funding that you need to complete that building.  And, if that card allows you to play another card, then you might also get to play a minion on your turn.  And if that lets you play more cards... you get the picture.  So, cards that allow you to play an extra card are better than any others.  Then, there are some other cards that are just drastically awful.  There is at least one card in the deck that does nothing.  Nothing.  Playing it is the same as passing on your turn.  It is only helpful if you get a bonus for discarding or if an opponent plays something that forces you to give them a card - because then it will clutter up their deck, instead of yours!

Overall, I give Ankh-Morpork a 7.5/10.  But, as I said before, you have to keep in mind that this score is completely devoid of enjoying the theme.  If you enjoy the Discworld theme (or just really love secret agenda games), then I think that Ankh-Morpork will be a great choice that you should definitely consider buying, or at least consider looking for an opportunity to play.  If, like me, you have never read any of the Discworld books, then I still think that you can enjoy Ankh-Morpork, but there are probably games that you will enjoy more.

If Ankh-Morpork sounds interesting to you, then you should check out Guards! Guards! A Discworld Board Game, Battlestar Galactica, and Cosmic Encounter.

I would like to thank Mayfair Games for providing me with a review copy of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork.

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