Review – Guards! Guards! from Backspindle Games and Z-man Games
note – a prototype copy of this game was provided by Backspindle Games for review purposes
Designers – David Brashaw and Leonard Boyd
Art – Stephen Player
note – there will be those who want to compare Guards! Guards! to the new Martin Wallace game, Ankh-Morpork, and I would say this will be a case of comparing apples and oranges, so don’t worry yourself about that.
My good friend Michael Fox from the Little Metal Dog Show was lucky enough to meet David Brashaw and Leonard Boyd from Backspindle Games at UK Games Expo for a video demo of their long term labor of love, Guards! Guards! which is based on the Terry Pratchett Discworld novel. Michael picked up their prototype and did his review and now its my turn.
First of all, here is the video demo we filmed, put together and put on Youtube thanks to Chris Bowler of the Unboxed Blog.
Guards! Guards! is a game for 2-6 players. The prototype copy that I have is pretty much near the final version so good enough to review. You get a map of the city Ankh Morpork with hex pathways for movement to different locations. You get loads of cards representing characters from Discworld, Dragon cards, various cardboard tokens, coins and dice. I have to say that the artwork is top class, especially on the cards. Wonderful work by Stephen Player. There have been a number of comments about the board and that it doesn’t accurately reflect the map of Ankh-Morpork as in the novels and this is always going to be a challenge when you are trying to create a game. The map and hex pathways are organized into 4 quadrants and therefore the map is symmetrical to enable the all players to have equal access for movement which is a key element of the game system.
Now have you played Game Workshop’s Talisman? It’s been a while right? Well Guards! Guards! is very reminiscent of Talisman. Here, the object is to be the player who recover and return more of the Great Spells to the Unseen University then your opponents. Be warned; this game has loads of opportunity to interact with the other players as you attempt to stop them by using every possible tool and ally at your disposal. In fact, the designers insist that the game actually is just as much fun when you stick it to the other players.
Talisman you say? Well yes. The game is actually relatively simple to play but there are lots of opportunities to do things, whether its movement to go to or pass through a location to recruit allies, purchase useful items, stay out of the way of the Luggage with little feet that can knock you over and put you in hospital, good grief, the list goes on. Very much a rich fantasy world (which has received Terry Pratchett’s personal seal of approval) filled with useful, if nefarious people you can recruit to help you return the Great Spells.
The game flow is basically, movement, then take actions. No muss, no fuss. Movement is key as you run around building up your forces and collecting stuff. Hopefully, you won’t get knocked over by the Luggage or get the Pox! At some point, and timing is everything, you will decide to grab a Great Spell and make a Spell Run to get it to the Unseen University. The other players may spring Saboteurs on you who will try and clobber you or maybe convince your allies to switch sides. Or , who knows, you may find that there are dragons summoned by the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night guarding the quadrants you are moving through to return the Great Spells. And they are not easy to defeat.
Oh yeah, did I mention the Wizard Challenges? Well, if you are able to get a Great Spell back to the Unseen University, you need to pass a Wizard Challenge for each one.
If you manage to get your 5 Great Spells back, you win but its not easy as the other players will be after you. You will need to get a bunch of allies in your hand with the right abilities, and some useful spells and items too but don’t get too focused on your own stuff as another player may break for a Spell run. You’ve got to be on your toes. But as the designers have said, it is good fun to stop other players from winning.
The major complaint about Talisman is that it can take a long time to play. A full game of Guards! Guards! can take a while too. A couple of hours. But the Short game allows you to agree a lower number of spells or setting a time limit. So no excuses soldier!
Did it work for me?
As a Talisman fan, Guards! Guards! is very easy to like. It could be a a bit of a “Marmite” game in that those who don’t like Talisman will probably not care for it. I predict that there will be comments on both sides of the fence. But I really rate this game, so there! The emphasis is on the action, not on complicated mechanics. The choices all matter and push the story and theme along very well, key elements for me. I will say that the rules could use a flow chart linking the many action options you have on one page as a reference as it took a little while to work out how things linked together. This is not a brain challenging game but is aimed at providing you with a lot of interaction and fun. The challenge comes in the balancing of getting your Spell Runs organized and stopping the other guys. I haven’t been a Terry Pratchett fan but the flavor text, artwork, and even the rules pull you nicely into the theme. This game will be very attractive to new or non-gamers who are Discworld fans for sure. For me, it flows really well, I love the high screwage level and just the strong sense of fun. A winner for me.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10
Yes, but for the older kids. Age 11 plus is just about right.
For more information about Guards! Guards! and Backspindle Games go to http://www.guardsguards.com/