Guards! Guards!

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – 6

Year of Publication: 2011

Creator(s): Leonard Boyd & David Brashaw – Inspired by the books of Terry Pratchett

“Noble dragons don’t have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive.” – Guards! Guards!

Guards! Guards! is a board game based on the book of the same name from the genius mind of Terry Pratchett (if you are unaware of Terry Pratchett read our update post for this month here).

Whats In The Box:

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The Stuff.
  1. Playing Board
  2. Rule book
  3. 8 Guild Cards
  4. Player’s Guide
  5. 4 Dragon Cards
  6. 30 Shades & Shadows Volunteer Cards
  7. 30 Man & Beast Volunteer Cards
  8. 30 Lords & Ladies Volunteer Cards
  9. 36 Fate Cards
  10. 1 Luggage Piece
  11. 20 Odds & Sods Item cards
  12. 20 Curses & Cures Scroll Cards
  13. 6 Saboteur Tokens – Fools Quadrant
    6 Saboteur Tokens – Thieves Quadrant
    6 Saboteur Tokens – Assassins Quadrant
    6 Saboteur Tokens – Alchemists Quadrant
  14. 6 Alchemists Fire Water markers
  15. 6 Pox Markers
  16. 6 Spell Run Tokens
  17. 36 Spell Returned Tokens
  18. 1 8 sided die
    6 Coloured Playing Pieces
  19. 39 Gold 5 Ankh-Morpork $ coins
  20. 56 Silver 1 Ankh-Morpork $ coins
  21. 18 Attribute Markers (red cubes)
  22. 25 Great Spell Markers (gold cylinders)

This is by far the game with the most individual pieces we’ve played so far.

Playing The Game:

Objective: To return five of the eight Great Spells marked on your Guild card to the Unseen University before anyone else.

Now, this game is very complicated and also not very all at the same time. It has a LOT of rules, and took us a good hour to read through them all, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually all quite simple and is effectively just a slightly complicated race. So because of the complexity of the rules I will only outline in rough what happens.

You set up the board like this:

Board set up
Board set up

Each player starts at their start marker in the relevant guild quadrant, the board is divided into for quadrants, Assassins, Thieves, Fools and Alchemists quadrants. You start the game by picking a guild, for which you get a guild card for which has stats on it for Charm, Magic and Guild. You can increase these stats throughout the game by various methods and you blocks go up as shown bellow.

Not that all of my stats (marked by the red blocks) have increased by one.
Not that all of my stats (marked by the red blocks) have increased by one.

Your stats are mostly increased by the recruitment of volunteers which is done by charming or bribing. To bribe a volunteer you simply pay the amount marked in the bribe section on the card, to charm it you must roll the dice and achieve a number higher than its charm value, for this you also add you charm value from your stats to that number.

A selection of volunteer cards.
A selection of volunteer cards.

These cards also determine the movement of the coolest function of the game…THE LUGGAGE! At the top of each card it says “Luggage Moves” and then a number or instruction. The player who drew the card then has to move the luggage around the set track marked on the board, at splits in the track they get to chose which way it goes. If it collides with a player, even if it’s the piece of the person moving it, the player is sent straight to the nearest hospital, as shown bellow:

Nom, Nom, Nom!
Nom, Nom, Nom!

All of this is with the aim of returning spells to the Unseen University; you do this by getting to a spell you require and starting a spell run. This is where the volunteers you have collected are needed; you send them with the spell back to the University where you have to complete different levels of the wizards challenge to get the spells back in. I won’t go into the full mechanics of this as that would make this post very long. But as you return more and more spells the wizards challenges get harder and harder and you add more gold cylinders to you section of the Unseen University to mark the spells you have returned:

At this point we had both completed three levels of the wizards challenge and therefore returned 3 spells each.
At this point we had both completed three levels of the wizards challenge and therefore returned 3 spells each.

These spell runs can be sabotaged and you can use your volunteers to fight with each other, there are also items and scrolls that can be very helpful but I won’t go into these as, again, we would be here forever.

The other cool thing is that dragons can be summoned onto the board if three members of the Brotherhood, when called, are in play:

The symbols in the bottom left mark them as members of the brotherhood.
The symbols in the bottom left mark them as members of the Brotherhood.

When this happens a dragon is summoned like this:

A summoned dragon in play.
A summoned dragon in play.

The dragon mechanics are complicated and in many respects kind of irrelevant, as once the dragon is summon and the threat initially met it’s very easy to just ignore it and carry on with the game regardless. However, one fun aspect is that if all four dragons come into play the game ends and nobody wins, this is a bit of a reoccurring theme in Terry Pratchett’s game as there is a similar mechanic in the Ankh-Morpork (read our post on it here) game as well as The Witches. Although this can have the downside of  being rather anti-climactic and making you feel like you just wasted a few hours.

The game is won by the first person to return all the spells:

The game finished...and won by me!
The game finished… And won by me!

There are plenty of other rules about playing the game and other things and if you want you can read the revised rules here. We were following the unrevised rules, having an original edition of the game, so there was some ambiguity at points as to whether you actually could sabotage like that, amongst other things, but we worked through it.

Strategy:

Having only played this game twice I have a limited idea of the best strategy. But one thing I did notice was that the person who collects as many volunteers as possible rather than going straight for the spells seems to have an advantage. Also NEVER forget about the scrolls and items as they can get you out of some tight binds, the first time we played I basically ignored them, to my own peril. Also PLACE SABOTEURS! It is the difference between winning and losing, if you can sabotage the other persons spell run you have the edge!

A saboteur ready to pounce.
A saboteur ready to pounce.

History and Interesting Facts:

  1. Although the board game was published in 2011 it was originally conceived in 1991.
  2. Leonard Boyd Originally conceived the idea and played it with friends until in 1995 he showed it to Terry Pratchett.
  3. Terry Pratchett liked the game but said they needed the backing of a major games company to make it all happen.
  4. In 1999 Colin Smythe (currently Terry Pratchett’s agent) suggest that the game never be published…I’m quite happy that he was wrong and they didn’t give up on it.
  5. In 2006 Gary Wyatt (of the Green Games Company) advised that they tried again with the publication of it as the board games market had picked up significantly since 1995.
  6. So in Junes 2008 it was taken to the Speil Toy fair in Essen, Germany where it was shown to many companies, a couple of companies requested copies for play testing.
  7. In 2008 Wolfgang Ludtke of TM-Spiele/Kosmos Games in Germany asked about developing a game based on the books of Terry Pratchett so they go sent a prototype too.
  8. All three companies that had play tested the game felt that it needed a redesign to be aimed more at the hobby market.
  9. So after FIVE redesigns it was sent for testing by the same three companies, it was also test played by Terry Pratchett fans, it got the backing of Z-Man Games and a license from Terry Pratchett.
  10. The game was finally published in September of 2011! Showing that the road to getting a board game published can be long and very hard but if you end up with a great game its worth it in the end. Also while Thud is the oldest of the Terry Pratchett board games by publication date this one is probably the oldest in concept.

To read the full history of the game go to the official website here.

To Conclude:

Guards! Guards! is a good game however it has it’s flaws, for example it took us over an hour to read the rules…We’re patient but there’s a limit. Also for all its rules it manages still to be quite simple in the sense that it’s a race and the person with the best luck tends to win. However it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours with some friends and the artwork and layout of the game are well conceived. I would recommend it, especially if you are a fan of the Discworld universe as each volunteer card has a unique quote on it that is taken from one of the books and are mostly quite amusing, as well as passages in the rule book being quoted and funny. For another overview of the game watch this video review here:

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