It’s nearly impossible to find someone who completely hates Discworld. Even if the books dont take everyones fancy, there is always something about Terry Pratchetts wonderful IP that raises at least a dry smile, if not full belly laughs and a lifetimes fond connection to life on the Disc. I cant claim to be the uber-fan by any means, but having read my fair share of novels and played the point and click adventures, my background interest in the series was enough to make me very interested when I heard about this game.
Its the first Treefrog Games product I have bought and I wasnt at all let down by the quality of the finished product. I have been pretty spoilt by the sheer excellence that represents Fantasy Flight products, so it is reassuring to see that other companies out there can churn out items with the same sort of sheen as the bigger boys do.
But, by far the biggest and most pleasent surprise was how simple this game is to pick up – but it is a simplicity that masks a very in depth strategy game once you get started. My gaming group and I tasked one of our number to read the rules before hand while we finished up another game, but there was no need. Within moments it became pretty clear that you simply pick a card and follow the instructions. That is about as complicated as it gets. Hearing this for the first time I have to admit to a degree of trepidation. Was this nice polish merely the result of a few Discworld fanboys running rampant in the Treefrog design department, without considering whether it would work as a game or not?
The answer is a resounding no. Using a mechanic that put me in mind of the secret Cylon player in the Battlestar Galactica board games, each player has a secret identity assigned to them randomly at the start of the game. This identity has semi unique win conditions (in that some people have the same conditions, others are entirely unique to them) and must secretly manipulate the game to their advantage without giving away their own intentions. Obviously, this being our first game it wasnt entirely obvious what the other win conditions may or may not be, nor the effects our actions may have on them in the long turn. But, the game rapidly became very tense as the board got full and everyone soon realised this simply wasnt as straight forward as we first thought. The rules remain clear, logical and keep the game moving at a steady pace, but the planning and counter manouvering really makes your mind work. In simple terms, its a perfect mix. This secret personality concept will become more involving the more you play, especially if you play with the same group. People will soon become aware of the different win conditions, leading to some interesting strategic ideas. Do you throw some curveballs in? Start accusing others of making a bid for victory along certain lines? Keep your head down, or just go for it and try to muscle your way through?
The game board, wonderfully drawn and coloured, is divided into regions that can be controlled by minions, developed with buildings and at times infested with trolls throughout the game.
I was also reliably informed by my friend that it is clearly a labour of love by some Discworld enthusiasts. The art style, random event cards and characters and locations are all lovingly drawn from the literature. One of us with no real Discworld experience was sufficently drawn in, and I found myself flicking through Amazon later that night looking at some books to pick up to refresh my knowledge of the setting.
Discworld isnt going to keep you at the table all night, so I would never recommend planning an evening around it and I feel 4 players is the optimal amount to have playing, as 3 or even worse, 2, would remove some of intrigue elements from the game.However, is simplicity and general in-offensive nature make it perfect for bringing out when you have non gamers about – I am seriously tempted to suggest this as an alternative to Monopoly or scrabble this christmas.
Finally, as an added treat, feast your eyes on a selection of cards from the game. Discworld fans out there are sure to be impressed with the level of attention given to major and minor characters alike. I am reliably informed the first run of Discworld has competely sold out (which says something in itself!) so be sure to keep an eye on the store for a re stock coming in.
Until next time, Craven @ Rotdog.