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Nanty Narking

Martin Wallace is a prolific game designer and he doesn't like to see a good design go to waste. Like other successful designers, he's happy to see his designs recycled and reskinned. The publication by Phalanx of Nanty Narking is particularly welcome because it's a reimplementation of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (Treefrog); first published in 2011 and still, for many, a hard-to-find 'grail' game.

Of course, ardent fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels will be sad to see that the game no longer reflects that IP. On the other hand, you shouldn't be disappointed in this game's substitution of an atmospheric Victorian London where iconic characters from English literature rub shoulders with equally well-known figures from history. This is a London where denizens from the novels of Charles Dickens live side by side with those who populate the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And publishers Phalanx and artist Bartek Jedrzejewski haven't just recreated the best-known figures from the Sherlock Holmes stories and from Dickens; there's depth as well as breadth in this game's cast, with some relatively obscure characters and many drawn also from other authors and from now less widely read works from the period, including Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli. Some may quibble that one or two of the personages (for example, Moll Flanders) are a century or so anachronistic, but Nanty Narking nonetheless conjures up a vivid and thematically strong world.

And this is just the setting. The game itself is a clever card-driven amalgam of hand management and area control. In Nanty Narking (as in Discworld: Ankh-Morpork), each player has their own individual concealed victory condition. You need therefore to be working towards achieving your own success criteria while trying to work out what victory conditions your opponents might be trying to reach. This is a game with much jockeying for position as players strive to avoid opponents hitting what you think must be their goals. Sometimes winning involves feints to deceive your opponents into thinking you are trying to achieve success criteria that differ from your real objectives...

Although Nanty Narking can demand subtle strategy, game play itself is actually very straightforward. On your turn, you'll play a card and carry out the actions indicated by that card's icons. If one of the icons is a scroll, then you also get to activate the text on the card. Victory conditions typically involve occupation, control or having buildings at a given number of locations on the map, so actions will often involve placing out 'agents' and buildings; although the latter cost money, so you'll also need to accumulate that. Events are periodically triggered that can raze a precious building to the ground or otherwise upset players' carefully laid plans, and players need also to keep an eye on or make use of the Troublemakers and 'new citizens' (the politically correct way of referring to London's 19th Century immigrant population) for their impact on the area control map.

Like its predecessor, Nanty Narking is a great (2–4 player) game that's easy to learn but which keeps you guessing while you scheme. It comes with optional rules and alternate objectives to help keep the game fresh. And this reskin is at least as rich in flavour as the original.

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