Tabletop Review: ‘Discworld: Ankh-Morpork’
Review based on the revised edition.
Style: Card Management and City Control.
Players: 1 – 4
Length of Game: 1 hour.
The Gameplay: Each player adopts the role of a city leader of Ankh-Morpork, largest city on the Discworld (from Terry Pratchett’s book series). Each character has their own secret goal to complete in order to win the game. On their turn each person plays cards from their hand that allow them to place minions and buildings, collect money, perform assassinations or cause random events.
Review: Being based on an existing title, there’s not much in the way of innovation in the gameplay here. You have a hand of cards, you play the one that helps you work towards your goal and get there before your opponents. Having said that there are some gameplay mechanics that make this a damn enjoyable experience.
The first aspect of the game that sets it apart is the secret identity dynamic. There are seven different personalities to be randomly assigned to players, and during the game the players characters don’t get revealed. This means that nobody knows what their opponents are working towards – controlling a percentage of the city, collecting enough money, building a network of spies or running out the deck as quickly as possible. At first this didn’t seem very important, but given the limited resources and time available not knowing who is doing what becomes a major issue. As the game ends when the card deck is depleted you need to have a plan that completes your goals whilst blocking others.
This layer of deduction and misdirection makes the game more than just playing cards and scoring points but a real rivalry between the players. It also makes me suspect that Dr. Funk is in some way psychic because she keeps kicking my ass.
When the random events come in to play (the only part of a card that isn’t optional) you get the madness that can only exists on the Discworld. They can be every day occurrence for the city, such as fire and flood, that can destroy buildings or they can be lasting problems such as gangs of trolls taking over regions of the city or an unexpected rift to the Dungeon Dimensions for a slice of Lovecraftian horror. And yes, there is a dragon.
Followers of the possibly endless book series (Pratchett has stated that he’ll hand the reigns over to his daughter soon) will get more out of the game than people unfamiliar with Ankh-Morpork. Newcomers can still enjoy the game as a game but the characters and setting will likely feel confusing. Those in the know will delight at having Gaspode come to their aid, understand why deploying Carcer is a dangerous move for all and why controlling the Shades lets you distribute trouble tokens around the surrounding areas.
Anyone can play, but it’s best reserved for gatherings of fans. At about an hour a play it’s the perfect accompaniment to pizza and beer. Enjoy the subterfuge and utter madness of Ankh-Morpork.