Northern Ireland's First Discworld Board Game

David Brashaw on the process of turning Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! into a game

Can you tell us a little bit about your game?

It's a 2-6 player board game based on the Discworld books of Sir Terry Pratchett. Players play an undercover member of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and race to recruit all types of Discworld characters to help them return five missing Great Spells to the Unseen University.

Throw in dragons, saboteurs, cut-throat street sellers and an 800 pound set of Luggage thundering around the city on hundreds of tiny legs. You have an action packed, fast-paced adventure game in which the players will need all their wits just to survive the day, never mind retrieving the spells and saving the Discworld from looming destruction.

Why Terry Pratchett and why this particular book?

Leonard Boyd and I used to play many role-playing games on a weekly basis with lots of friends. Boyd loved the Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic and decided to pull together a fun game based on Discworld. This was way back in 1991.

The game itself is not solely based on Guards! Guards! the book, but draws from a number of other books. It contains ninety Discworld character illustrations, each with an excerpt about them taken from over twenty Discworld novels, beautifully illustrated by Stephen Player.

What was the process of taking the book from concept to almost finished product?

It has been a long process. The first ten years or so, very little happened, as the board game industry did not really want games like this. Since we took a prototype to Essen in 2008, it has been really mad transforming a 'simple fun' game into a board game suitable for the 'hobby' game industry.

Was there a point that you thought you weren't going to be able to finish it?

No, our stubborn belief in our game always meant we would keep going.

What particular challenges did you face?

The hardest one was the rule set by Sir Terry to get a games company to agree to produce our game, which eventually Z-Man Games, New York agreed to do. The next one was to get a known Discworld illustrator on board. The final one is as always, balancing our family and day-jobs with the time to develop and produce Guards! Guards!.

How much interest has there been in the game?

We have had quite a number of people at conventions across the UK and Ireland who having never read a Discworld book before, have played our game, really enjoyed it, and afterwards have gone out to buy one of Sir Terry's books. We think it's great that we have introduced them to the magic of Discworld.

What sort of game is it – RPG, LARP, Video or Board – and what made you pick that format?

Boyd's original idea was a board game. We have been talking to Sir Terry and his agent Colin Smythe about it since 1995 and, as no-one else in all that time had brought any other Discworld board game ideas to the table, we have stuck with it.

Have you been in touch with Sir Terry himself?

Originally yes, when Boyd showed him the first version of the game in 1995. Since then mostly it has been his agent Colin Smythe, a wonderful man who has kept us right all along.

You launched the game at TitanCon. Did it go well?

Definitely yes, to be alongside so many notable guests, such as Ian McDonald and leading actors from Game of Thrones and others was superb!

In addition we offered a very special prize for the charity draw: a limited edition signed print by Stephen Player. 

Do you have plans to make any more games?

We are currently working on one at the moment. It is in the early days of development, but it is not Discworld, and is a totally different format from Guards! Guards! But as always, it is fun and strategy. We also have a few other ideas on the back burner.

If you had to pick an author other than Terry Pratchett to create a game – who would it be and why?

It would likely be another Fantasy or perhaps a Crime Thriller author, which may be better as an RPG.

What is the funniest thing that happened during creating the game?

The time two would-be designers from Northern Ireland ran madly around Germany with their proto-type board game looking for the Essen Toy Fair with a Satnav set on ‘Irish maps’, was probably pretty funny to someone at the time.

More information about Guards! Guards! can be found here.