28 Oct 2013

First Time Playing: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork is a game that caught my eye at my table top group a while ago, and I've wanted to try it out for ages, because with such a crazy world like Discworld, how can a game based on it not be a ton of fun, right? However, it just took forever before the game finally became a suggestion, and even then we got really close to not picking it. Such is life sometimes in a gaming group. But thankfully things went my way in the end, and I was finally given the opportunity to try this game out.

In the game we play as secret characters, each with a specific hidden objective to win the game. This could be to dominate a certain amount of areas on the map at the start of our turn, have a certain number of trouble-makers distributed across the map, have a certain amount of money, and so fort. There is even a character that could win the game by default if no other player manages to claim victory.

The way you gain control over areas is by having the greater amount of minions in a given area, or minions plus a house (which counts the same as a minion). If you move any player's minion into an area there already is a minion occupying it, then a trouble maker token will arrive (if there isn't one there already). You cannot build a house in an area that already has a trouble maker present. If you move a player's minion out of an area, the troublemaker (if any) is removed from the area - this is also true if you remove a player's minion from the board altogether.

To do any action on your turn, you need to play a card. Your initial hand limit is five cards. At the end of your turn you may draw cards from the deck if you are below five cards on your hand, if you have five or more at the end of your turn you don't need to discard any cards, but you also cannot draw new cards. Initially you play only one card, but certain cards contains a card symbol, which allows them to play another card as part of their action. Different cards may give you the option to do one or more of the following; take money from the bank, steal money from another player, add a minion to one of your adjacent area on the board, move another player's minion to an adjacent area, remove another player's minion from the board, draw a certain number of cards from the deck (this is how you can end up with more cards than your hand limit), draw and play random event cards, swap cards with another player, steal another player's building, and so forth.

The goal is to try to fulfil your secret mission while at the same time trying to sabotage the other players from fulfilling theirs. If no players manage to fulfil their mission, and the character who wins by default is not in play, then victory is determined by points (money).

Now, I wouldn't say the game is immensely newcomer friendly. I certainly don't find it as complex as some other games I've played, but at least how I experienced it, it took a while before I really caught on how to actually play it. I think this is one of the games where it's best to just learn from playing a practice round, as there are many things you might just miss as the game is explained to you.

My experience of the game was a bit on the disappointing side. It's heavily unbalanced, and if you get unlucky with the cards, you mostly end up sitting there watching the other players actually playing the game. The game I played, I constantly drew cards that didn't allow me to do more than one card action every round, while several of my fellow players seemed to almost only have cards that gave them additional actions. It may not matter all that much to me if I win or lose a game, but I would like to at least feel as though I have a chance. The way I experienced it, I used my action one turn to set up for a follow-up action the next turn, only to have one of the other players do an action that foiled my set-up, forcing me to set it back up with my next turn, and then the next turn and so on.

I do intend on playing it again at some point, to give the game another chance, but I sincerely doubt it becoming a regular thing. I prefer games that are high in strategy with some luck thrown in to keep things interesting. And this game was the complete opposite.

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