Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A world on a disc

I played the board game Discworld last week.  It, like Arkham Horror, the last board game I reviewed, is not a type of game I generally enjoy.  Discworld is a competitive game set in the world of Discworld, a set of novels by Terry Pratchett.  I have read a subset of those novels and generally enjoyed them but I wouldn't say I am a big enthusiast of the setting - it is fine but nothing special to me.

The main thing about Discworld that isn't my cup of tea is the win condition.  Each player is dealt a random win condition from a pile and you only reveal your win condition when you win or when someone else wins.  This leads to a game where everyone knows all of the win conditions and as soon as anyone is in place to score one of them everyone gangs up on them to prevent it from happening.  That isn't the sort of game I like.  It is frustrating to know that any attempt to interfere with an opponent is likely to have no effect at all because it probably isn't affecting their game plan but if I don't interfere there is a good chance I just lose on the spot.

Throughout the game we played the most experienced player kept telling everyone that they had to punish me because I was pursuing the 'get tons of cash' victory condition.  That was in fact true but the only reason I was accumulating cash was because all of my cards were 'gain cash' cards.  That my win condition was about cash was only incidental.  Of course people did listen to her and tried to punish me but all that accomplished was letting her win because her win condition was simply to prevent other people from winning.

Discworld is also really random.  There are a lot of cards that gain you 2 or 3 money, and there are also random events that can cost you 18 money.  Those kinds of swings based on drawing random cards and not even knowing what your opponents are trying to accomplish means that there isn't a lot of skill in the game.  Just keep doing stuff that seems like it generally forwards your plan and then wait and see if someone blows you out with random cards, pretty much.

The theme of Discworld is fine but isn't all that well integrated with the cards.  It isn't terrible, as there is a map of the city of Ankh-Morpork (the central city in the Disworld books) and the various win conditions are tagged to characters from the novels in reasonable ways but it doesn't *feel* much like Discworld.  If you love the source material you will probably be satisfied, but it isn't brilliant.

However, unlike my last review, I think that Discworld is a reasonable game if you want a game of hidden win conditions and random card draws to see what happens.  You can't really have any kind of long term strategy because your actions are limited to whatever random cards you draw so what skill there is mostly is short term tactics.  You are going to play some cards, draw some cards, laugh at random events mucking up the board, and then somebody will win.  Which somebody?   Who knows!  You can't even tell one turn before game end who is in the lead!

Discworld isn't my game.  But if you want a game themed on a fantasy city you know and love and like randoming your random, it seems well enough put together.

One thing I can't help but wonder is if there isn't some kind of more strategy based game hiding inside Discworld.  If the randomness of the events was way toned down or removed it seems like you could actually have a game where people really tried to fool each other into preventing the wrong sort of victory condition.  As it was though strategy and mind games seemed overwhelmed by the draws.

1 comment:

  1. In Mel's defence, she kept pointing out that you were close to winning via wealth because no one else was close to winning via any method (until the end). Given that it was all new players, highlighting proximity to victory does seem like something the experienced player should do if the intent of the game is to let people try and stop them.

    But overall, I agree with your assessment of the game.