Since the early 80's, British author Sir Terry Pratchett has been parodying fantasy literature with his Discworld series. Trust me, it's not a series that takes itself too seriously. Discworld is described as "a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin." Thirty-eight novels later, Pratchett's novels have gained a loyal fan following, and will be the subject of upcoming board game releases from publishers Mayfair Games and Z-Man Games.
First up is Ankh-Morpork from the mind of famous game designer Martin Wallace, set for release at Essen 2011 under his independent label Treefrog Games. As has become customary for the last few Wallace releases, Mayfair Games has picked up the right to later distribute the game in North America.
Set in the city of the same name, Ankh-Morpork is a center for both sprawling commerce and corruption. As an area control game, players will fight over limited space (the city map is carved into twelve areas) to achieve their goals. These goals are the hook to Ankh-Morpork, as they are assigned at the start of the game yet never revealed to other players. When everyone at the table has a slightly different victory condition, players must think on their feet to devise strategies for getting ahead without tipping their hand.
The game hopes to walk a bit of a tightrope, providing enough thematic satisfaction for Discworld fans, while remaining a strong enough game to please fans of Martin Wallace's past successes. On a hopeful note, Wallace himself addresses this issue saying:
The cards bring the game to life as they include most of the famous characters that have appeared in the various books. The rules are relatively simple: Play a card and do what it says. Most cards have more than one action on them, and you can choose to do some or all of these actions. Some cards also allow you to play a second card, so you can chain actions.
Gamers who don't want to wait that long for a trip to Ankh-Morpork will instead be looking to play Guards! Guards! from Z-Man Games, due out this summer. This game takes a narrower focus than Ankh-Morpork, although it is set in the same city. Players take on the rolls of newly recruited members of the city watch, tasked with tracking down and returning stolen scrolls to the city's Unseen University.
From reading early play-test reports, Guards! Guards! plays almost like a dungeon crawler. Each player travels around the map recruiting volunteers into their party until they decide it is time to make a run at collecting a scroll. Expect a flurry of sabotage and magic spells from other players as they try to prevent the party's success. There may even be a dragon summoning or two!