Lord Havelock Vetinari, the dictator *ahem* I mean, the patrician of Ankh-Morpork, the fabulous pit of a city at the heart of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ novels, has gone missing. Time for some backstabby, schemy-plotty boardgame shenanigans.
Up to four players get to randomly pick one of seven characters who will vie with each other to fill the power vacuum left by his lordship’s mysterious disappearance. The characters, as well as their individual win conditions, remain secret. You can play Lord Vetinari himself, but…shush!…don’t tell anyone.
It’s very easy to play and falls squarely in the family game category, in fact the 11+ age range is a little high in my opinion. We played with a younger child and he got his head round it pretty quickly.
The action takes place on a map board of Ankh-Morpork which is divided into 12 districts. Like an extremely paired-down version of ‘Monopoly’, the object, in most cases, is to accumulate wealth, property and/or land, although not universally. Each character has their own, unique set of goals that can include any or all of the above. As well as the map board there are 132 cards, cardboard coins, wooden playing pieces, a rulebook and four reference sheets.
To aid players in achieving their objectives/doing-over the other players, you’re dealt a hand of five cards that you refresh to full at the end of your turn. Each card has one or more of nine symbols on it that tell you what actions you may perform when you use it. A reference sheet is provided for each of the players. The nine actions are:-
- Placing a minion
- Placing a building
- Take Money
- Town Watch (removing a trouble marker)
- Scroll (Do what it says on the card)
- Random Event*
- Play Another Card
Short and straightforward, the skill lies in how, when and where you use what card and what action(s) that are on that card.
* Random Events are decided by a dice roll. There are 12 and, in keeping with the books, none of them are good.
The first few games you play are probably going to last less than an hour as it’s easy to steal a victory before people have learnt what each of the seven personalities’ goals are. But fear not! The game does have longevity. When people get wise to who needs what in order to accomplish their objectives, you have to be a wee bit sneakier and try to throw players off the scent at the same time as sabotaging their schemes while they’re trying to do the same to you.
One of the good things about the game is that you don’t need to have read the books in order to play it. It doesn’t hurt if you have read them, the cards and setting evoke many memorable characters and adventures from Sir Terry’s ‘Discworld’ series that will appeal to aficionados.
Physically, it’s pretty. The board, character cards and the decks are all beautifully illustrated and the wooden playing pieces add to the quality feel and are quite reminiscent of the Carcassonne playing pieces. There could have been a few more coins because with four players you have to do a fair bit of denomination swapping in order to preserve bank funds. It would have been nice to have a couple of female characters to play, but overall it’s a fun, rainy afternoon activity that the whole (small) family can enjoy.
(pub: Treefrog Games/Esdevium Games. Price: £29.99 (UK).
2-4 players. Playing time: 60 minutes)