So! It’s the end of January, which is In The Beginning for the Discworldathon! Discussions and the reading of Wyrd Sisters have been going on all month on Bex’s blog anarmchairbythesea and the proclaimed Discworld game for this month is Ankh-Morpork. This game was chosen for this month because the city of Ankh-Morpork features in nearly all of the Discworld novel, and it usually still manages to sneak a mention in those it’s not featured in.
For anyone new to Discworld, here’s a little introduction to the city of Ankh-Morpork in two quotes:
“Ankh-Morpork! Pearl of cities! This is not a completely accurate description, of course — it was not round and shiny — but even its worst enemies would agree that if you had to liken Ankh-Morpork to anything, then it might as well be a piece of rubbish covered with the diseased secretions of a dying mollusc.”
– The Light Fantastic
“Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it’s the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it’s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let’s just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colourful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.”
The game is brilliant in many ways, but mostly because for those who are familiar with the city and it’s inhabitants it is so well constructed. Every card that you play can be identified as a character from one of the books, with the uses of the card being dependent on the personality of that character.
In the books Havelock Vetinari always comes out on top. Even if no one knew that he was in the running. And the game reflects that by stating that the state of the city has been induced by the disappearance of Lord Vetinari. The game itself is those in a position of power in the city attempting to seize control whilst the opportunity is there. Commonly the character of Commander Vimes wins the game, as all he has to do is balance the board, preventing other characters from gaining too much control or money, or making too much trouble, until the cards run out. As Lord Vetinari is one of the personalities available to the game players it’s clear that he has vanished entirely on his own terms and has some kind of long-term plan. Or maybe he just wanted a holiday, who knows?
Sir Terry Pratchett, the amazing creator of the Discworld series (among other things) has the same fail-safe clause for the end of several of his games. It’s partly what makes the games so brilliant. In every Terry Pratchett game it’s possible for any of the game players to win, but in Ankh-Morpork, Guards! Guards!, and Witches if certain conditions are met, then the game ends and nobody wins. Which is fantastic, because it almost adds a cooperative edge to game play as everyone wants to win individually, but definitely none of you want to lose to the game!
I will admit that I’m slightly at a loss as for what to write now. I’ve summed up the game and a bit about the books, and to be honest, I really think that the city of Ankh-Morpork is too big of a feature in the series of the Discworld to be really described or talked about without me insisting that anyone reading this post goes away immediately to read every Discworld book so as to fully understand the enormity of detail in which the city has been described and personified and used a backdrop for all sorts of events.
To tie in with what the re-readathoners have been discussing over on Goodreads, the city of Ankh-Morpork features shortly in Wyrd Sisters, the novel that’s been the subject of this month. Anyone who’s read the book will know that Wyrd Sisters is a very entertaining, silly, and just all-round highly enjoyable version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Featuring a Duke who murders his cousin, the King, so that he can be king and then goes mad. There are some differences, obviously, between Shakespeare’s tragedy and Terry Pratchett’s hilarious novel. But the story can be seen there nonetheless. Ankh-Morpork features in the novel as the place where the rightful heir to the throne is living with the acting troupe he was adopted by as a baby. This troupe is hired by the court Fool to perform a play for the Duke portraying him favorably, and the witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlickbadly so that the witches will lose their power and the people will like him.
The brief featuring of Ankh-Morpork is funny in this novel as the Fool is robbed when he enters the city. The thief performing the robbery expected him only to be carrying a few dollars, but instead he was carrying a vast amount of money given to him by the Duke to employ the acting troupe. The thief then freaks out because according to Guild law he’s not allowed to rob more than a certain amount off of one person. Tomjon, heir to the throne, steps in and resolves the situation. Although it’s a very brief appearance made it holds true to the way the city is, Ankh-Morpork, the city where there is a Guild for everything.
That about wraps us up for this game and this month! I intend to have next month’s post Guards! Guards! up by the middle of the month, rather than the second-last day!
I hope this post has been informative, and you’re now burning with the desire to read Discworld novels for the rest of the year.
It’s January and the Twelve Games of Christmasare now finished until December. Hopefully they’ve been an entertaining interlude over the holiday, but now it’s time to get back to business!
As promised I am now going to unveil all the plans and things that we’ve been preparing for this year.
Aesthetic Blog Changes:
First though, for anyone who’s been on the blog regularly, they might have noticed that we’ve had a bit of a makeover. Dave took an editorial walk around the blog and we decided that it was probably time for a change. So, there’s a new banner, which is tied into part of my plan for the year, plus there are some updates on the About page, making our About info somewhat more up-to-date.
We now have a Contactpage, which is quite exciting. Our official blog email is there and that’s checked at least three times a week by me. We’d like to invite anyone reading this to contact us if there’s a game you think we should review, or if you’re developing a game and would like us to play it for you, and help promote it!
Whilst Dave was wandering around editing stuff he thought that the blog looked somewhat like it was run by a pair of goths, hence the new, slightly less gray, colour scheme.
Okay, that’s all the aesthetic changes that have been made since November, now, onto the plans for the year!
The Games and Posts-Related Plans:
As you’re all aware from my November and December Updatesthere are interesting things happening this year.
The first of which is the already mentioned Discworldathon, which is happening on three blogs run by my family, and a fair few others run by people I don’t really know. Over the rest of this year there will be Discworld game posts going up, approximately every other month starting this month. These will be much shorter than our previous in-depth game reviews, and more tied to the books and films. These are a side-branch of what we normally do, as we thought a little cross-genre blog interaction could be a really good and interesting thing, definitely something with potential for the future. Discworld fans, keep an eye out for those posts!
The second plan for this year is to begin research into old games, from different countries around the world. To research the cultural history of those countries, and the developments of the games that they traditionally played. To be totally honest I don’t have any idea how that’s going to pan out, or even if it’s going to work. At the moment I don’t really know how much information is available to me and I don’t have tons of time to trawl through every resource or book or whatever. So, we’ll see how that goes. My intention is to try and post one research-based post per month, focusing on one country at a time. If there’s lots of information to be had I may extend it to two months focused on the same country.
The third plan is for a series of short posts, similar in nature to those about the Games We Mademaking suggestions for games you can make at home if you’re bored, or if you don’t have lots of storage space for boxes and such. My idea is make a collection of paper games that can be stored flat in one big folder, or something similar. Those posts will be a little sporadic, as they’re taking the back burner to all the other stuff at the moment, but I think they’ve got potential to go on for a decent amount of time.
Lastly, Games We’re Reviewing This Year!
I hereby proclaim this to be a Settlers of Catan year! I intend to find and play every expansion and spin-off of this game series over the next twelve months. Although there are a lot, there aren’t actually enough to post a different expansion or spin-off every week for twelve months, so the Catan posts will be mixed in with other Catan-ish games that I can find over the rest of the year.
Very very lastly: I can’t promise one post every week at the moment, as I’m in the throes of moving into a new flat, which doesn’t have any wifi yet, and might not have for quite a while. So I’m going to have to borrow wifi from other people for a while, or write all the posts on my phone (which isn’t an appealing idea to me). My new years blogolutions are:
To try and post as regularly as I can, even if it means sitting in Starbucks for five hours writing posts.
To follow through on all my plans for the year at least long enough to see if they’re worth making a permanent feature.
That’s everything! Hopefully this wasn’t long enough to bore you, and you’re still going to come back and read our first real post of the year, whenever I get it done!
That Time I almost Lost at Chess…To a GIRL!…Who’s Younger than Me!
Luckily for me she backed herself into a stalemate and my pride was slightly less destroyed than it could have been. Like our Cripple Mr. Onion post this post is a bit of a bonus this month. Being a game invented by Terry Pratchett(well, more an adaptation of a classic game) we decided it needed a mention.
Being Stealthy at Chess:
Stealth Chess is much like normal Chess in the sense that all the regular rules of Chess apply and all the normal pieces are present and used. The game is altered by the widening of the board by one row on each side; these rows are called Slurks, and the addition of two pieces to each side which are Assassins. The Assassins start in the Slurks next to the Rooks, and only the Assassins can move in the Slurks. Unfortunately we did not have a Stealth Chess board lying around so we had to make do with a normal Chess board and imagine the additional rows, additionally the pieces that look very different to the others are pieces we borrowed from a different set to act as the Assassins.
Like in normal Chess all normal rules apply with the addition of the rules concerning the Assassins and Slurks. Assassins move one space in any direction but can move two to capture. Only they can move in the Slurks, and now you get the complicated bit; the Assassin can move as many spaces out of the Slurks as he has in the Slurks. To clarify, if over the course of 6 moves the Assassin has moved six spaces in the Slurks (including just backwards and forwards) the Assassin may move up to six space out of the Slurks, when exiting it, in one move and then an additional space to capture. So:
This white Assassin has moved three spaces in the Slurks:
So on exiting the Slurks it can capture the Queen like so:
Now the only point of ambiguity we have in this is “can the Assassin move through other pieces in this way?” Our answer was yes as, if you read the rules as laid out on Wikipediahere or the Discworld Wikihere, it describes the Slurks as another board under the existing board. So rather than moving down the side of the board it represents a space under the board which the Assassins move through and pop up to capture things. Additionally to all of this Assassins cannot take each other, out of professional courtesy.
The End and Other Things:
Normally I destroy my sister at Chess and our game of Stealth Chess was going the same way until I made one massive error and then it nearly all ended in tears. Except after a long time she managed to fight me into this position:
Which of course is Stalemate. However I think by the fifty-move rule it may have already been stalemate but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway that’s the last time I lose concentration.
So a few last comments about Stealth Chess:
It’s given me an awesome idea for a two tiered version of Chess… Literally building two Chess boards that sit over each other.
Also to build an actual Stealth Chess board with the Slurks and proper Assassin pieces.
A couple of interesting “facts” about the game are:
On the Discworld it’s thought to actually be the original version of the game – “this belief is corroborated by the in-world discovery, in a tomb in Muntab, of a preserved corpse with an 8×10 board embedded in its skull and a pawn hammered up each nostril”
All in all it’s an interesting adaptation of Chess and a bit difficult to get your head around if you’re so used to thinking about Chess in the standard way. It’s well worth a play, and you don’t even have to buy anything if you already have a Chess set and a bit of imagination!
We’re all aware that it’s Terry Pratchett month, and that the last official post for this month has now gone up – The Witches. So now we’ve played all four officially produced Discworld games we wanted to have a look at the slightly more unofficial games. The most well known of these is Cripple Mr Onion. This is a fictitious card game that Terry Pratchett invented that’s played all over the Disc. It features in Wyrd Sisters, Reaper Man, Witches Abroadand Lords and Ladies. A game called “Shibo Yancong-San” (Cripple Mr Onion in Chinese) also appears in Interesting Times.
The game is played with an 8-suited deck of cards, the Discworld has its own deck of cards, called the caroc deck. However, for the purposes of playing in our universe a deck with the following eight suits and suit-pairs is acceptable: Spades and Axes, Clubs and Tridents, Hearts and Roses and Diamonds and Doves.
With the intention of learning the game, I acquired one such deck from the Fat Pack Playing Card Company, which has made learning the game easier, as the other alternative is to shuffle two normal decks together, but this presents the problem of having then two of each suit, and could get very confusing.
The game is a little like Poker in two respects, the first of which is that you must make the highest scoring hand to win the round, and the second of which is that, if you don’t play it often, the rules are such that’s it’s easy to forget them and end up both confused and annoyed. There’s a dealer for each round, which changes at the end of every round. The game starts by each player being dealt five cards face down, which they are immediately allowed to look at and can then discard up to four of them, being given replacement cards by the dealer. Once everyone’s done this a further five cards are dealt face up onto the table in front of each player – except the dealer, who receives theirs face down.
The first player then begins by trying to assemble a high-scoring hand (I’ll list the different hand in point order in a minute), once they’ve done this, the player to their left must assemble a higher-scoring hand, or fold. If they succeed in creating a higher scoring hand the first player is then allowed to try to rearrange their cards to score even higher, or fold. Once on player has been forced to fold play continues to the left until one player remains. This player wins the hand and becomes the dealer for the next round.
Scoring – lowest to highest hands:
Bagel – two cards with values totalling 20.
Two-card Onion – two cards with values totalling 21.
Broken Flush – three or more cards totalling between 16 and 21 inclusive with all but onein the same suit-pair.
Three-card Onion – three cards with values totalling 21.
Flush – like a Broken Flush but with all cards in the same suit-pair.
Four-card Onion – see other Onions.
Broken Royal – combination of 678 of any suit.
Five-card Onion – same-same, see above.
Royal – combination of 777 of any suit.
Six-card Onion – you get the idea by now.
Wild Royal – combination of 888 in a hand when eights are wild. (Wild eights’ll be explained a bit further down)
Double Onion – two picture cards and two aces.
Triple Onion – three picture cards and three aces.
Lesser Onion – four picture cards and four aces.
Great Onion – five picture cards and five aces.
Thus ends how to make points in this game. But now you begin to wonder “Isn’t the game called Cripple Mr Onion? We’ve had a lot of onions so far, but no crippling…” and you’d be right to present this question. Crippling Mr Onion comes into play when we get to the modifiers for the game. This is the bit that confused me the most, simply because there’s a lot to remember. So what I’m going to do, for the purposes of keeping this post fairly short, is simply list all the possible modifiers that can be played, and link you to a proper explanation of them. Except Wild Eights, which I said I’d explain, Crippling Mr Onion, because it’s the whole point of this post and The Fool, because that one’s funny. So here we go:
These can be played through the game to increase the value of a hand and, with the exception of the crippling rule, are all optional extras to the game. I’ll list the ones I’m not explaining first, and finish with the most interesting ones.
The Sender of Eights
Now, on to the others! We’ll start by explaining how to Cripple Mr Onion:
In the event that a player displays a Great Onion as their hand for a round, another player may immediately display a nine-card running flush and thereby instantly win the hand. If a player’s displayed a Great or Lesser Onion another player may display a ten-card running flush to Cripple Mr Onion, they may also use this to steal a win from a player who’s just Crippled an Onion using only a nine-card running flush. This is the only non-optional modifier.
Once your onion’s been crippled, you may find it looks a little like this:
This modifier’s actually called Null Eights but it makes eights wild. So, in a normal hand, where eights are not wild, an eight may be played as if its value were zero or eight, to increase the size of a hand in order to score higher. Because of this you can include them in an Onion to improve its size. However, in the round following the one in which this took place, eights become wild for the duration of that round and this modifier cannot be used again until the following round.
This is the last thing I’m going to explain. If a player holds the Jack of Clubs, they may declare it before the first player’s played their first group of cards. If they do this, Onions and Bagels switch places in scoring so a Double Bagel or Triple Bagel etc, become the most valuable hands with the single exception that a Great Onion will still beat a Great Bagel. It also then becomes possible for another player to Cripple Mr Bagel.Which is the only reason I wanted to specifically explain this one. I just like the concept of crippling a bagel.
There you have an explanation of how to play Cripple Mr Onion, I promise it’s only complicated for the first few hands, after that it begins to get easier as you begin to be able to spot the most useful combinations of cards! It can be a really quick game too, so it’s good for if you’ve only got a few minutes (provided you don’t have to learn the rules first) and you can play with up to seven people, so play it with all you friends!
All the info I got for this post was got from here, plus there’s extra stuff to read there if you want it, and a full explanation of all the modifiers.
“Progress just means bad things happen faster”
Terry Pratchett’s The Witches
Lancre could probably be considered a bit of a backwards country, and, complete with all its quirks and oddities, is the setting for The Witches! Which is a fantastic board game based on part of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. As this month is Pratchett month we decided to post the games up in the order that they were published, so The Witches,having only been published last year, is the most recent, and therefore the last post. Guards! Guards! and Ankh-Morpork were published in the same year, and so were tied for second place after Thud. The Witches is currently the only one of the four Discworld board games that have been published that’s suitable for one player. You can travel around the mountains of Lancre solving problems and fighting monsters all on your lonesome – or you can play with up to three other witches and meet up for tea and a chat!
What’s in the Box:
One Playing Board.
One Rule Book.
One Player Aid Card.
Four Trainee Witch Displays.
Three Advantage tiles – one Invisibility tile (blue), one Cure Sick Pig tile (green) and one Magic tile (red).
Four Witch pieces.
Four 6-sided Witch dice (notice here that two of the dice are showing a witches face, this is because these dice do not have the value for 1 on them. The witch face represents a Cackle, which is equal to a score of 0).
Twelve Crisis counters.
Fifty-five Game cards.
Sixteen Cackle counters.
Twelve Black Aliss tiles.
Thirty Easy Problem tiles (green).
Seventeen Hard Problem tiles (purple).
Playing the Game:
Objective: To solve more problems than the other players, and therefore score the most points at the end of the game!
Setting up the Board:
The initial set up for the board is very simple in this game, you simply shuffle all your Hard Problem tiles, and place one face down on each square on the board with a purple square in the top left corner of it, and do the same with the Easy Problem tiles. You then refer to the rules to see how many of remaining tiles from both Hard and Easy are set face down on the spaces in the bottom right of the board. If you look closely at the picture you can see that, if you don’t want to go back to the rules, the board actually tells you how many of each type of problem to put in each square, depending on the number of players.
Once all the tiles are laid out like this, all the Easy Problem tiles can be turned face-up. All the Hard Problem tiles remain face-down on the board until a player moves to deal with one, then it’s flipped for everyone to see. Next you need to shuffle the deck of Game cards, and deal three to each player, the rest are placed face-down next to the board.
Lastly you should assign characters. To do this each player rolls all four Witch dice and the player with the highest total roll is allowed to choose their preferred Trainee Witch display. Note: rolling a Cackle counts as zero here, and in the event of a tie, both players re-roll all the dice. Once the highest rolling player has chosen their Trainee Witch Display, then player who had the next highest total chooses… And so on.
You then take the Witch piece of the correct colour for your persona for the game, and, if your Trainee Witch has one, also your Advantage Tile. Tiffany, Petulia and Annagramma all have these, Tiffany’s is blue and is an Invisibility tile, Petulia’s is green and is a Cure Sick Pig tile, and Annagramma’s is red and is a Magic tile. I’ll explain the benefits of these tiles later on. Annagramma also starts with one Cackle counter, if she’s in play. The last Trainee Witch that can be chosen is Dimity Hubbub, her special ability is that whichever player chooses to play as her, gets to play first. If she’s not in play, the player who chose last goes first, and play then proceeds clockwise around the board. Finally, each player (starting with she/he that chose last) should place their Witch piece on any empty space on the board.
The board should look like this just before the first player takes their turn:
Playing the game is very simple. A turn consists of three phases, placing the next Problem tile, moving you Witch, and drawing cards. The first thing you do during your turn is draw the top card from the deck and place it face up beside the board. Each card in the deck has a location written on it, if there’s no Problem tile or Witch in the location on the card you draw, the top Problem tile is taken from the leftmost stack, and placed face-up in this location. If there’s already a problem here however, a Crisis counter is placed on top of it. These add two points to the difficulty of the problem and look like this:
If there’s a Witch in the location you draw then a problem cannot be placed there, and if they’re in either Lancre Castle or Lancre Town, where there are multiple spaces available, you do not place Crisis counters on problems existing there. If a Witch is present, Crisis cannot happen and problems do not occur. If you place a Crisis counter on a problem, you must continue drawing cards until you find an empty location in which to place the next problem. You may then continue with your turn.
Next you move; a Witch can move up to two connections per turn, unless they have in their hand a card with a broomstick symbol on it. If they choose to play this, they can fly to anywhere on the board and it counts as one of their movements.
Lastly, you tackle problems! To beat a problem you have to roll either equal to or higher than the number shown in the white circle on the problem tile, you must also factor in the Crisis counters, if there’s one on the tile. To beat a problem you roll all four dice, but not together. You roll two first and can then decide if you want to play any of the cards in your hand. The text is often useful for solving problems. Once you’ve decided, you roll the next two dice. Note: if you roll enough on your first roll to beat the problem, you must still roll the second set of dice to see if you get any Cackles. If you roll any Cackles, you take one Cackle counter for each Cackle rolled.
If you fail to beat a problem, you must run away, and if it was a Hard problem, you must face the consequences! There’s a lot of variance in consequences however, so I won’t go through them.
At the end of your turn you discard any cards you played and refill your hand to the maximum number of cards you can hold. If the deck of cards runs out, the discard pile is shuffled and flipped, and play continues, the game comes to a natural end at the end of the turn of the person who places the last problem tile on the board.
Lastly I’ll explain the Advantage tiles I mentioned earlier. Tiffany has a blue Advantage tile, which is invisibility, this allows her to go onto the same space as a Hard problem tile, look at it, and then choose either to solve it, or go somewhere else. Everyone else has no choice but to try and solve the problem, no matter how hard it may be, if they enter the same space as it.
Annagramma has a red Magic tile; there are three different symbols that appear on the top of each Game card; either a broomstick, a star, or a pair of glasses and a mustache (also known as Headology). Of these three symbols, Magic and Headology can be used to your advantage when solving a problem. Magic gives you a plus two bonus (but you must take a Cackle counter for every Magic card played) and Headology gives you a plus one bonus. Annagramma’s Magic tile can be played for the plus two bonus when solving one problem at some point in the game.
Petulia has a green Cure Sick Pig tile. This is fairly self-explanatory; when Petulia enters the same space as a Sick Pig problem tile, this Advantage tile can be used to automatically solve the problem.
All three Advantage tiles can only be used once in the game. They must then be discarded by the player that used them.
There’s not a lot to be said for strategy for this game, as it mostly comes down to the roll of the dice. But it’s good to have tried to solve a variety of Easy and Hard problems throughout the game, not only do Hard problems usually score more points than Easy ones, they also give you a different benefit the more of them you collect.
History and Interesting (or just other) Things:
There isn’t much history to this game (and even less that’s interesting enough to write about) so have some things about the fictional Discworld country of Lancre instead:
Lancre is good Witch country, there’s a high level of background magic, and the country has always been renowned for producing some of the best Witches and Wizards in the history of the Discworld.
It’s shown to be about 40 miles by 10 miles in size, but this isn’t the truth. Because of the background magic some areas of Lancre have been known to take on other geographical properties.
It has Gnarly Ground. This is a place, on the Lancre Moores, where reality has become folded, and so two places may appear to be right next to each other, but are actually miles apart. Crossing it (or flying over it) is not for the faint-hearted.
It is the physical location of, certainly one, but possibly two, gateways to Parasite Universes, inhabited by Elves.
The current King of Lancre is Verence II. He is believed to be the illegitimate son of Verence I; he was the castle Fool until his half-brother, Tomjon’s immediate abdication after being offered the crown.
Lancre is technically as constitutional monarchy, in that Verence II has set up a parliament, but mostly the people aren’t interested.
Regicide is an accepted method of becoming King in the history of the country.
The population is only 500.
The Lancrastians generally aren’t particularly religious, but they do believe in services for births, marriages and deaths and know exactly what they believe religion should sound like, which is more or less a Latin Roman Catholic service.
The climate there goes to extremes, with burning summers, unbelievable storms and masses of snow, respective to the time of year.
There is a collectors edition of this game, which is the same in rules and gameplay to the edition we’ve got, but with the addition of sculpted pewter figurines, instead of small wooden witches hats as your playing pieces and a different shaped box and artwork, and a bonus A1 poster.
I’m personally of the opinion that Ankh Morpork is the best Discworld board game so far, and I believe Dave agrees with me. However, this game is also brilliantly conceived. It’s more laid back than Ankh Morpork, in that, you’re not really trying to one up any of the other players, or double-bluff them into not knowing your objective, or anything like that, because you’re all sharing the same objective and there are plenty of problems on the board, so you don’t usually ever have to go for the same one as another player!
It’s also great because you can play it as a 1-player game, just to fill a rainy afternoon. I highly recommend this game, to everyone, but also specifically to people who prefer games that aren’t super-competitive!
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
When this happens a dragon is summoned like this:
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:
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.
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!
History and Interesting Facts:
Although the board game was published in 2011 it was originally conceived in 1991.
Leonard Boyd Originally conceived the idea and played it with friends until in 1995 he showed it to Terry Pratchett.
Terry Pratchett liked the game but said they needed the backing of a major games company to make it all happen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All three companies that had play tested the game felt that it needed a redesign to be aimed more at the hobby market.
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.
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.
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:
Well, actually, in this game, yes!
The Ankh-Morpork board game is an amazing, detailed game that completely encapsulates Sir Terry Pratchett’s brilliant city from the Discworld Universe (if you’re unfamiliar with Terry Pratchett, read our update post about how awesome he is, here). I want to write a bit about the game, but I feel that the opening paragraph from the rule book will tell you everything you initially need to know, and do it far better than I could:
“Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, the largest, smelliest, and most ‘interesting’ city on Discworld. The city’s patrician, Lord Vetinari, has disappeared, and the citizens are calling out for firm leadership. Will one of the noble families take control of the city, or will the people welcome the return of the king to restore peace? Then again, Vetinari’s absence may have been temporary and his spies could be spreading around the city, ready to start pulling the levers of power for their master.”
What’s in the Box:
Well, there’s a lot of exciting things in this box:
One Playing Board.
Four Player Aid Cards. These are reference cards for the players and have different important aspects of the game explained on them.
One Rule Book.
Two decks of Player Cards; 48 with a green border, and 53 with a brown border.
17 gold coins, worth $5.
35 silver coins, each worth $1.
Four orange Demon pieces.
Three brown Troll pieces.
Twelve black Trouble Markers.
Four sets of six Building pieces in Blue, Green, Red and Yellow.
Four sets of twelve Minion pieces, in Blue, Green, Red and Yellow.
One 12-sided die.
Seven Personality Cards. These are given randomly, one to each player, at the start of the game, they are kept secret and have on them your objective for the game.
Twelve Random Event Cards, some, or all of these, will be played throughout the game.
Twelve City Area Cards, these match the areas that the board is divided up into, you may be familiar with them from the books.
Playing the Game:
Objective: To achieve the aim on your Personality Card and win the game before anyone else!
To start the game each player chooses a colour and takes all of the Minion and House pieces of that colour. Then they are dealt a Personality Card, because the maximum number of players for the game is four and there are seven Personalities available, they can never all be in play at once. This adds an extra element to the game as part of winning is to figure out what your opponent(s) objective is, and prevent it.
There are seven Personalities available in the game, each of which represent well-known characters from the Discworld series (these Personality descriptions are copied straight from the rule book) :
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). With two players you need to have minions in at least eleven different areas. With three players you need to have minions in at least ten different areas. With four players you need to have minions in at least nine different areas. Areas must be free of demons.
Lord Selachii, Lord Rust, Lord de Worde – you win if at the beginning of your turn you control a certain number of areas. If there are only two of you playing then you need to control seven areas, if there are three of you then you need to control five areas, and if there are four of you then you need to control four areas. You control an area if you have more playing pieces in it than any single other player (a playing piece being a minion or a building). You would also have to have more pieces there than the total number of trolls in the area. You cannot control an area that contains one or more demons. The presence of a trouble marker does not affect the control of an area.
Dragon King of Arms – If at the beginning of your turn there are eight trouble markers on the board then you win. The rationale is that the city has fallen into more chaos than normal and people want the king back (who would be controlled by you).
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. Please note that any loans you have taken out count as $12 against your total worth (certain cards allow you to take out loans).
Commander Vimes – you win if nobody else wins by the time the draw pile has been exhausted.
Setting Up The Board:
Now that you’ve got your Personality for the game and have chosen which colour you’re going to play as, you need to place your first Minions. Each player starts the game with three Minions on the board, one in each of The Shades, The Scours and Dolly Sisters. Now, because there’s more than one Minion in each of these areas, a Trouble Marker must be placed there. Trouble Markers are important in game play, as they determine how and when Minions can be removed from the board, and are also relevant to one of the Personalities objectives.
As soon as a Minion is placed into an area with one or more Minions already existing there, a Trouble Marker must be placed there too. However, as soon as a Minion is moved out of an area, or removed from the board, the Trouble Marker is also removed, even if more than one Minion remains in the area.
NOTE: There cannot be more than one Trouble Marker in an area at a time.
Each player is then dealt five cards from the top of the deck, which they are allowed to look at. The dice is rolled to determine who plays first and play then proceeds clockwise around the board. You’re now ready to start the game!
Essentially, the first rule of this game (and of all board games) is, if in doubt, DO NOT HESITATE TO CONSULT THE RULE BOOK. I don’t know how much we say this, (we should probably get it on t-shirts or something) but it’ll never cease to be the first, and most important, thing you should do, especially if you’re confused about something.
Ankh-Morpork is essentially a card game, played with a board, so you don’t have to hold lots of information in your head all at once. In your turn you play cards, the card(s) you play from your hand dictate how the game progresses. When you set up the board, you split out the green deck from the brown deck and you play through the green deck first. This is important because, as the game progresses and you move from the green deck to the brown deck, different things start to happen.
The cards all have symbols across the top of them, which are played in order from left to right, and it’s these that determine what’s going to happen in your turn. A player may choose to not play some of the symbols on their cards if they wish, with the exception of Random Events, these must be played.
The symbols are each explained on your Player Aid cards and breakdown as follows:
Minion – this symbol allows you to place one of your minions in or adjacent to an area you already have a minion.
House – this allows you to build a house in an area that you have at least one minion in, providing there are no trouble markers there, and you have the right amount of money, which will be shown on the board in the area you wish to build.
Skull and Crossbone – this allows you assassinate one minion of another player, from any area with a trouble marker in it.
City Watch Badge – this allows you to remove a trouble marker from any area.
Money – the coin symbol will have a number inside it, you can then take this much from the bank.
Random Events! – these are represented by an eight-point start. A card is then drawn from the top of the Random Events deck and read out, consequences are dependent on each card.
Play Another Card – this is what it says, you can play any other card from your hand.
Scroll – you then play the text on the card.
Interrupt – a hand sign, this card can be played at any time, even if it’s not your turn, and they usually protect you from something; i.e. they can stop someone who’s trying to assassinate one of your minions.
As with all games with cards, there are good cards and bad cards, useful cards and cards that’re generally a bit naff. Some of the cards can also be considered a bit of a two-edged sword, for example, loan cards. A loan card, when played, allows you to take a loan of $10 from the bank, which can be very useful if you want to build houses, or just want money. However! At the end of the game, if you come to score up, you must pay $12 back to the bank, before you count your points. Also there are two cards in the deck that, if you play the text, allow you to give them to another player and they must pay you $5, if they refuse they keep that card face up in front of them for the rest of the game, and their hand size is reduced to four. This, ultimately, isn’t the end of the world, but it can become a real nuisance as the game progresses. In my experience, people usually just pay, unless they don’t have enough money, in which case, they’re screwed.
If you have multiple cards with the “Play Another Card” symbol on them in your hand, you can link them to create chains of cards like this:
There is one card in the deck, called The Peeled Nuts, which is completely useless. All it does, is sit in your hand doing nothing. It has no text on it, and no symbols, and therefore, cannot be played. However, it can be discarded using the text on other cards, or it can be passed to a different player to infuriate them, if they play a card that requires you to give them one of your cards.
The Random Event are an interesting addition to the game, and represent, for anyone familiar with the Discworld series, real events from the books, such as a dragon lading in the city. There are twelve Random Event cards and they can have drastic effects on the game, or no effect whatsoever, it’s mostly down to the roll of the die and the current set up of the board. Each card will say on it how the consequences of drawing this card should be played, and I’m not going to go through all of them, but as an example of one that can have uncool consequences I’ll tell you about the Fire card.
When this card’s drawn, the person that played the Random Event rolls the die to see where the fire starts and, if there are any buildings in the area that corresponds to the number rolled, they’re removed. The player then continues to roll the die to see if the fire spreads, if the next number they roll is adjacent to the area previously rolled, and there’s a building there, this too, is removed. Rolling continues in this way until a number is rolled where there’s no building. If there are no buildings in the areas adjacent to the first area rolled, there’s no need to roll the die again, as the fire cannot spread.
City Area Cards:
The board is divided up into twelve sections, each with a number in it, and a price, shown in dollars. These correspond to the City Area cards available for when a player builds a house. When a player builds a house in an area, they get the card that goes with it, that gives them certain benefits that they can use during their turn, as well as having their house count as one minion in an area, which can be very handy. only one house can exist in an area at one time.
The benefits gained from building houses are as follows (copied directly from the rules):
Dolly Sisters – Once per turn you can pay $3 and place one of your minions in Dolly Sisters or an adjacent area.
Unreal Estate – Once per turn you can draw one card and then discard a card.
Dragon’s Landing – Once per turn you can take $2 from the bank.
Small Gods – Whenever one of your minions or buildings is affected by a Random Event you can pay $3 to ignore the effect. If more than one piece is affected then you must pay $3 for each piece you wish to protect.
The Scours – Once per turn you can discard one card and take $2 from the bank.
The Hippo – Once per turn you can take $2 from the bank.
The Shades – At any point in your turn you can place one Trouble Marker in The Shades or an adjacent area (area must contain at least one minion).
Dimwell – Once per turn you can pay $3 and place one of your minions in Dimwell or an adjacent area.
Longwall – Once per turn you can take $1 from the bank.
Isle of Gods – Once per turn you can pay $2 to remove one Trouble Marker from the board.
Seven Sleepers – Once per turn you can take $3 from the bank.
Nap Hill – Once per turn you can take $1 from the bank.
My favourite place to have a house is The Scours, simply because it’s useful both for drawing more interesting cards, if you don’t have a very good hand, and for giving you money. With the added bonus that, to build in The Scours, it only costs you $6, whereas other areas of the board, such as The Hippo or Small Gods, cost $12 or $18, respectively.
Winning the Game!
Your Personality Card will tell you the different conditions under which a player wins the game, however, there are two other ways to end the game, either a player draws the ‘Riot’ Random Event card, or the last card is drawn from the deck, and Commander Vimes is not in play. In the event that this happens, all players score up. This is done by adding the amount of money you have at the end of the game, to the total value of any properties held (minus any loans you may have taken from the bank at any point in the game) to the amount of Minions you have on the board. Each Minion is worth five points. If you’ve taken a loan and cannot pay it back, you lose fifteen points from your total score. Then the player with the most points wins.
Because you want to try and make it as difficult as possible for anyone else to win, whilst secretly carrying out your own objective, double-bluffing plays an important part in this game. One of the sneakiest ways to win (and one that Dave has employed on a few occasions) is to play very well as a personality you’re not to convince everyone that that’s what you’re going for, whilst simultaneously building up to your real objective. I am terrible at this aspect of the game; I once managed to successfully confuse my sister by not actually playing my objective at all. For the whole game she thought I was playing as a personality I wasn’t, simply because I decided I wasn’t going to be able to achieve it, and therefore didn’t try.
Whilst keeping your personality for the game a secret from everyone else plays an important part in how easy it is for you to win, luck of the draw is also a key feature. If you get dealt useless cards, and as a result cannot either advance your own objective, or hinder someone else’s, you just have to keep playing cards hoping that you’ll pick up something much more useful.
History and Things:
There’s not a lot of history around on the game, because it was published so recently, so instead I’m going to provide you with fun facts about the historic city of Ankh-Morpork (you may begin to see parallels between some of these facts and some old stories from our universe):
Legend tells us that the city of Ankh-Morpork was founded thousands of years ago by twin brothers, raised by a hippopotamus.
The original city was a walled keep, built to protect the Tower of Art. The origins of the Tower are unknown and may well pre-date the Disc itself.
At one point it had an Empire that spanned half the Disc, largely the creation of General Tacticus, who later, in his role as King of Genua, declared war on it.
There was a Golden Age of Kings in Ankh-Morpork, whom legend recalls to be wise and noble and fair, this line died out around 2000 years before present day, and was then replaced by more realistically corrupt and (occasionally mad) rulers, as referenced in Men at Arms.
The Age of Kings ended completely in Ankh-Morpork when “Old Stoneface”, Commander of the City Watch at the time (and ancestor of the current Commander, Sir Samuel Vimes, the Blackboard Monitor), executed the last king, Lorenzo the Kind, who, amongst other things, reputedly was “very fond of children”.
From this point forward the Patrician has ruled the city. But like the kings, there have been many who were mad and oppressive.
Lord Vetinari replaced Mad Lord Snapcase as Patrician at some point following the revolt in Treacle Mine Road in Night Watch.
Under Vetinari the city became multi-cultural as he opened the city to immigration, gradually inviting in all other nationalities as well as species. His pragmatic view on multiculturalism being “Alloys are stronger”
Although Vetinari is the tyrant of the city, the only real sign of his tyranny is the banning of Mime Artists. Anyone caught practising Mime is hung upside-down in a scorpion pit with “Learn the words” written on the walls.
Lastly, over the course of the Discworld series, the avid reader will see Ankh-Morpork develop from a crumbling, ruinous city, to a well-greased(ish), organized (sometimes), thriving (definitely) city, the second most developed nation on the Disc – after the Agatean Empire.
Further Reading and Other Editions of the Game:
Although the game is pretty new – only three years old – there are two other editions of the game that we don’t have. We own the standard edition of the game, but Treefrog (who publish the game) have also released The Collectors Edition; which comes with wooden coins, a larger board, and a custom twelve-sided die, and the Deluxe Edition, which is the same as The Collectors Edition, but also comes with resin Minions, Buildings, Trolls and Demons.
For further reading I would just recommend you go and read all the collective works of Pratchett. Which should keep you out of trouble for a while!
3800 words too much? I don’t think so! I actually wanted to write a lot more about this game than I have, if I’d continued as I wanted, I’d have explained every possible Random Event, and given an in-depth consideration to the best way to win as each personality… But in the interest of not making this post any longer than it already is (which is fairly long), I’ve stopped.
I’ve rated this game a five at the top of this post, and Dave agrees with me. It’s possibly one of the best games I’ve ever played, brilliant in conception, design and execution. The rules have little to no ambiguity about them, the cards and personalities are interesting and accurate to the books; providing a few jokes for those that know the series, or just an interesting time for anyone that doesn’t, and the actual pace of game play is excellent. As with most games it’s best played with the full four players, but three’s also a good game, and it’s only with two that the game starts to drag a little, and I think that’s only because it’s much easier to work out what your opponents objective is, and therefore thwart them.
In all, a game that everyone should now go away and play; play it with your brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, friends, dog, neighbours, people you meet in the super market… The possibilities are endless, just play this game!
Special thanks to Wikipedia for all the additional information! I spent far too much time reading it, instead of writing the post, but anything else you wish to know about Ankh-Morpork can be found here.