Discworld: Ankh-Morpork....is this a F:ATer's Dream or nightmare?

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork....is this a F:ATer's Dream or nightmare? Hot

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Discworld is the much anticipated release from Martin Wallace and Treefrog games. From all the videos, it seems he has tried to create a game that will appeal to the masses without being a “mass market game”. I think he has delivered a game that will certainly be labeled a gateway game, but I am not sure how well received it will be from people who dislike chaos, tit for tat aggressive play, and the necessity to pay attention to what others are doing. I can see this as being a massive hit (and I hope it is) but I suspect I can see several reasons why some people will dislike it.

Discworld is the much anticipated release from Martin Wallace and Treefrog games.  From all the videos, it seems he has tried to create a game that will appeal to the masses without being a “mass market game”.  I think he has delivered a game that will certainly be labeled a gateway game, but I am not sure how well received it will be from people who dislike chaos, tit for tat aggressive play, and the necessity to pay attention to what others are doing.  I can see this as being a massive hit (and I hope it is) but I suspect I can see several reasons why some people will dislike it.

The basics of the game.

Setup

Everyone player gets the following resources: 12 minions and six buildings in their color.  Each player puts a minion in the following three areas: The Shades, The Scores, and Dolly sisters.  Players put a trouble marker in each of these three areas.

Players are dealt a secret personality card which gives them a special end game winning condition (in a two player game the only difference is you remove the Chrysoprase personality card, as well as discard the Hubert and Cosmo Lavish cards from the player card draw pile (these are brown boarded cards).  Players shuffle the red-bordered player cards and put them in a draw pile face down.  They the players shuffle the green-bordered player cards, and put them on top of the brown-bordered player cards.

Each player is given $10, a nice player aid, and five cards. (money is not hidden).

Roll the die and whoever has the highest number goes first and play continues going counter clockwise.

There are twelve city areas, 100 total player cards (47 green and 53 brown), seven personality cards and 12 random even cards.  There are 12 trouble markers, four demons, and three troll pieces.

 

Gameplay

The game is rarely straight forward…on a player’s turn the person selects a card in their hand, plays it and follows the icons on the top of the card from left to right.  A player does not have to do any of the icons with one exception.  The random event must always be carried out.  A player cannot carry out the icons actions in any other fashion than from left to right, so if there is a building icon followed by a $5 icon and the player would only have enough money to build a building after the $5, they would not be able to get the money and then build.  In this instance they would only be able to take the money.

The icons are as follows:

  • Place a minion: A player takes one minion piece and places it in an area on the board.  A player can place the minion in an area where they already have a minion, or in an adjacent area.  There is no limit on the number of minions that can be placed in an area.  If a player already has all of their minions on the board then they can remove one and place it somewhere else.  When a person places a minion in an area that there are no minions, nothing else needs to be done.  However, if a player puts a minion in an area that already has a minion but does not have a trouble marker in it, then they must also put a trouble marker in the area.  There can only be one trouble marker per area at any given time.
  • Place a building:If a player has a minion in an area that does not already contain a building (areas can only have one building total), and there is not a trouble marker in the area, a player can pay the cost of the area, place a building and get the area’s special power card.  This power can be used at any point of their turn but none of the cards can be used  on the turn they obtain the card with only one exception: the small gods territory allows a player to used when it is not the players turn.
  • Assassination:Remove one minion, troll, or demon of your choice from an area that contains a trouble marker.  Removing a minion, troll, or demon  also removes the trouble marker from the area.
  • Remove one trouble marker: As it says, remove a trouble marker off the board.
  • Take Money:Take the money listed on the card from the bank.
  • Scroll: Perform the action described in the text at the bottom of the card.
  • Random Event- The only action that isn’t optional.  You must draw the top card from the Random Event deck and complete the text.  Once finished, place the card to one side because each event can only occur once in the entire game.
  • Player another card: obvious what you do here.
  • Interrupt: a card with this symbol can be played at any time, even when it is not the player’s turn.  Most interrupt cards protect a player from something bad that has happened to them.

 

End of Actions

After following the card’s actions, a player draws up to five (or four if they have been given a nasty card like Dr Whiteface, which limits your hand permanently to four cards for the remainder of the game. (Don’t worry if you have five bucks you can pay the player who played this card and Dr. Whiteface is safely discarded.

There are cards that allow you to draw more cards.  At the end of a players turn a player might have more than five cards in their hand.  If that is the case they do not draw any more cards.

After drawing, the next player goes.  This is really all there is to a turn, simple, quick, and fairly elegant.  It can be frustrating if player doesn’t have a card they need, but the game goes so fast and furiously that being in a jam doesn’t mean you have to wait too long suffering.

How the game ends.

There are several end game conditions.  If at the start of a player’s turn they look at their personality card and the cards end game conditions are met, they show everyone their card and they win.  For example, Lord Vetinari in a four-player game needs to have minions in at least nine different areas.  These areas must be free of demons, but they can have other player’s minions, buildings, or contain trouble markers.  The Dragon of Arms player needs to have eight or more trouble markers on the board in order to win.  There are three lords that win if they control a certain amount of areas (in a four player game four areas).  A player controls an area if they have more playing pieces in it than any single other player (pieces include minions and buildings).  A player must also have more pieces than trolls in the area.  A player cannot control an area that contains one or more demons.  A trouble marker does not affect the control of an area.  There are a few other personality card end conditions including money and my least favorite (you win if nobody else wins by the time the draw pile is exhausted).

There is a random event card that ends the game if there are eight trouble markers on the board.  If one of the players controls the Dragon King of Arms they win, otherwise players need to count their points.

If the draw pile is exhausted and nobody has Commander Vines, then players need to count their points.  Each minion on the board is worth five points.  Each building is worth their cost, each $1 is worth a point.  Lastly, if a player has the “Dent” card or the “Bank” card they must pay back the amount on the note or they lose fifteen points each.  If there is a tie, the winner is the player with the highest monetary value City area card.  If there is still a tie then the tied players share victory.

How likely will the game end by exhausting the draw deck

I must say after five plays, it seems likely a game will end by exhausting the draw deck, but I suppose if all the players are paying attention and go evenly at each other’s throats to stop someone from reaching a victory condition (or what they think is the victory condition) depleting the draw deck might happen.  However, there is so much random chaos in the game that is possible that when people figure out what the end game winning condition is they might not be able to do anything about it with the cards they have in their hand.  As people get more comfortable with the game, I suspect they will hold on to a few cards in anticipation of this problem.

 

Pros And Cons

Some people will hate how random and chaotic this game first appears and there is no denying this game can get crazy.  I see this as a plus in this game due to the theme and speed of play.  There seems to be the potential for a synergy that can happen (for better or worse) where I have been in situations where I am flush with money, and have the right cards that will allow me to do anything I need to do.  Conversely, I have been broke, and have a terrible hand and feel helpless.  While this kind of randomness might turn me off when playing other games, the randomness here fits the theme, and is random and chaotic for everyone.  The choas is fairly evenly distributed and I don’t think there are too many uber powerful cards that change the game too much.  For some reason I like the craziness this game offers (it is not that crazy mind you). One comment I read called this Wallace’s fluxx.  My response is that person is: puff puff pass, you are already high so stop hitting the bong.

There are those that will be fearful that they won’t like this game because it is a Wallace game and will be too complicated.  My response is Wallace has a long history of releases, with several titles that are fairly lite and even a children’s game so those who are worried about complication need not worry.

There are those who will think this game will be too easy.  Well, if this game lasted two hours my review would not be as pleasant.  However, the game ends fairly quickly so it remains enjoyable.  This still is a valid critique…it is an easy game and if lite, fluffy, thematic games don’t appeal to you this might not be your game.  For me lite and fluffy is hit and miss.  I really hate Dixit in the hands of the wrong crowd, but find it awesome when I am surrounded by a bunch of pop culture savvy smart ass goofballs.

I do think (as with most games) I would hate playing this with someone with AP because the downtime would not be appropriate.  After three or four plays, a person should take no more than two seconds to select a card as long as they are paying attention to the other plays, but if this is a hang out and chat game night, I don’t see a player needing to take more than a minute to play a card, with only a few exceptions (studying the board to make sure who should receive your wrath because the game is coming to a close).

With my game group, one four player game that was extremely competitive and everyone seemed to know what is going on, ended in 30 minutes, and if the player to my left hadn’t won on his turn, I was going to win on my turn, and the player after me was ready to win on their turn too.

Is this Liberte lite?  Well yes it is a territorial control game, yes there are cards, yes there are wooden bits, yes it is a Wallace game, but beyond that nope!  For example in Liberte if I remember right (and I know someone will correct me if I am wrong), a player at the end of their turn that has more than nine cards in their hand must discard down to nine.  So perhaps Liberte lite but just barely.

 

What do I think?

After five plays with six different people I really like this game.  It certainly isn’t going to be ranked up with Tichu, Race for the Galaxy, Steam, or Brass for me as of yet.  I always hesitate naming a game “game of the year” as some are prone to do so I won’t go in that direction.  However, this game has theme, dark humor, and plays quickly.  I have immensely enjoyed the five plays and I never felt like any of the plays were repetitive.  This game fits a specific space in my collection that was empty before this title came around.

This would be my 7 Wonders game, (minus 7 players) without being 7 Wonders.  What I mean is it a very good gateway game.  Most claim that 7 Wonders is very simple, easy to setup, anyone can play, easy to teach, plenty of choices to make, and a depth of strategy in each choice.   I will not bother discussing what I actually think of 7 Wonders (if you know me you probably know exactly how I feel about 7 Wonders but regardless no one can ignore the huge impact 7 Wonders has had on the boardgame world) but I make this comparison not because this game is 7 Wonders like in game play, mechanics or style, but Discworld is a game that is not a “card” game like Parade, Chronicle, Spades, or Sticheln and more like a “board” game like 7 Wonders.  This game is a quick, fun, territorial control game, that is easy to learn, easy to teach, and doesn’t have too steep of a learning curve.  Loosing is not too painful because the cards are funny and the experience is enjoyable.  I think the concepts are very easy to grasp, and after one play my wife knew exactly what she needed to do to win.  With more experience “gamers” they were able to figure out what everyone’s secret goals were before the game ended.

I tend to rank games not within one  universal pool…in other words game X (an AT Game) is not a ten compared to game Y (say a trick tacking game).  I rank games based on the category (somewhat arbitrary) of the game and whether it fills a void or replaces a game that I thought was good.  Discworld occupies an odd space in my collection and although I don’t think I will ever like it more than Caylus or Dominant Species, I will more than likely play this game hundreds of times more than most games in my collection.  Therefore, I rate Discworld a solid nine out of ten because I really enjoyed it, and I know it will get a ton of play.  In fact, I decided to sleeve my copy because I expect this to be a go to game for my game group especially the newer members, who are new to boardgames.

Is it in my top ten or even my top twenty?  Well that depends on what kind of game you are looking for?  If my wife says yes I will play a game but nothing long; my game group wants to play something quick, lite, or a warm up game, I suspect this game would definitely rank in that top ten genre.  I think it would be unfair to say this is not in the top ten of games Wallace has released.  Wallace's body of work, while related in feeling (you usually somehow know you are playing a Wallace game) I feel uncomfortable comparing this to Brass, Steam, Byzantium.  However, I do think the game belongs up there in the quality releases in the Wallace collection and definitely better than a majority of this year's releases by other designers.

Martin you made another [b]hit[/b] and I hope this game sells like hot cakes so you can continue releasing via Treefrog games.  It should, but then again there are a ton of games like Dominant Species, that while they have their loyal following just don't seem to garnish the admiration (and more importantly the purchasing) of the majority of BGG members.  So never ask me to be your BGG weathermen because I thought [thing=61458]Kaigan[/thing] was going to be a smash hit.

Lastly, I have the collectors edition and the production is wonderful.  Is it worth the extra money?  Yes to me, but I think players would be fine if they only got the cheaper edition.  Still, help the designer out, buy from him directly, get a bigger board, pieces, poster and bigger gamebox.  One thing of note, this version is so well produced my wife thought this was going to be a long game based on the component quality.  It looks far more intimidating and long that it actually is once everyone completes the game.

You might ask "should I buy this?"

Yes!  Buy the cheap version at least for $35 something..it is definitely worth it!.  I personally bought the collectors and I will buy the Deluxe (with resin figs) if I get a chance.  I highly recommend the collectors and hope people only buy the deluxe if they really like the game (instead of buying it like a stock investment!).

If someone has a collection of over 200 games, I can't imagine anyone hating this so much that it won't get played.  If you are one of those new trending players that like to keep their collection small (I respect this trend, just won't be following it because I can't make up my mind like that.) then try it out but I really think this game servers a niche in the boardgame world that demands to be scratched!

Players may wonder about the following questions before their first play:

  1. Can I place a minion every turn? No...well yes..well...maybe.  If you have a card that has the minion icon you can place a minion that turn.  There are location powers that let place one minion per turn so technically, the answer is yes if you have control of the area.
  2. When do demons and trolls come out and are they considered minios.  Yes they are minions so if you get rid of one yes you get rid of a trouble marker if there is one in that area.  So far I have only encountered the demons coming in during the random encounter card but it is possible there are some brown cards I have yet to see that might bring them in.  I don't like reading and memorizing every card before I play a game because I just have too many things to do and I like "exploring games" as the naturally or organically develop so I don't have a complete answer.
  3. Can I build on any turn?  No only if you have a card that says you can build (and you play it).
  4. If I have a building but all my minions near the area have been eliminated, and I still have minions in other locations but don't have one near the building, can I place a minion in the area that I have a building?  Right now I don't know the answer but I assume....yes?
  5. Can I win the game if I achieve the end game conditions during my turn?  As far as I have understood the rules (still new to the game so forgive me if I am wrong) the answer is no...you have to claim victory at the beginning of your turn, although if the random event card happens that ends the game because there are eight trouble markers on the board, technically you would win if you had that end game condition.  If the game ends with the depletion of the deck, well there is another instance where you can win and it technically is not your turn.

 

Do I think ATers will like this?

Overall, most of the people here are not one dimensional so there are certainly people who will love it for what it is: funny, mean, and quick. However, unlike Earth Reborn where I knew most of the people here would love the game, I strongly suggest you try before you buy.  However, this game is not like some of Wallace's other releases, it is more a territorial control Euro games with a bit of a fuck you component thrown in for good measure.

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork....is this a F:ATer's Dream or nightmare? There Will Be Games
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