Friday, 30 May 2014

Playing 'A Game of Thrones' (where you win or you die)

Not mine, but a friend's. He recently got the Game of Thrones board game by Fantasy Flight Games and just got a bunch of volunteers to play it!

Gaming is coming
The game is quite complex to apprehend, but rather easy going once you get into the mechanics of it, just as almost any game by this company. Long story short, each player leads a House of Westeros and has to basically play Risk conquering other families' strongholds.

Yup, now you have the TV show OST banging in your mind
You are encouraged both to battle and negotiate alliances... which you can break later on! Your allowed units are infantry, cavalry, siege towers and naval units. You can stand 'armies' (i.e. groups of two or more units), but depending on how many resource producing lands you control, you can support bigger armies. There is a chart for that. And another chart to control how close is your family to the Iron Throne (that would determine the movement order within the turn). And another one regarding your battle skills (determining the battle order within the turn). And so on. Looks complicated, but once you begin to play, everything goes smoother.

Five families struggling over Westeros
Each player has a number of options available to the units on the board. They must be secretly decided before the turn starts, by using tokens. Once everyone has made up their decisions, you have to flip your tokens and reveal the commands your units have received: march, defend, support an adjacent unit in combat, raid or consolidate power (and eventually muster new units if you are in a stronghold or castle).

Tyrells take over King's Landing against Baratheons, under the greedy glance of the Lannisters
Depending on the power points you use each turn (by bidding them against the other players), you can gain ascendence in the Realm and, as previously told, being the first to move or atack, for example.

Then the Lannisters attack the Tyrells being supported by the Baratheons!
They take over the city and begin to sing the rains of Castamere
In the North, the Greyjoys struggle with the Starks
When in battle, each player can count on some special cards representing distinguished members of each family. They will add some modifiers to the final outcome (and definitely they add a lot of flavour to the fight!)

Aggresive guys marching to war with flowers
I guess they tend to feel horny...
The game can get a little bit messy when you have to control different lands and armies against three or four enemies at the same time, so (unstable) alliances may be quite useful.

Squiggies rule all over the North!
Besides, at the beginning of each turn you have to draw some other special event cards; then... uhhh, well, some events may happen. One of them is the Wildlings growing strong (wait, weren't those the Tyrells?) to the point of tring a raid on the Realm, forcing all the Houses to temporarily ally (or not!) against them.

You are supposed to play ten turns max, if no player has taken over seven strongholds or castles before (which is a hell of a work!). By the end of turn six (roughly a couple of hours of game) we had to quit. By then, House Greyjoy was wielding quite an overwhelming power over the Seven Kingdoms:

Five victory points out of seven. Not bad for people who do not sow
A final blurry pic
The game is fun indeed. It takes a while until you get all the dynamics, but once you are into it, everything goes quite swift. Funny thing this is a strategy game with no dice, so this is real strategy, no randomness. You have to play your cards wisely (both in real and figurative sense!) and try to find a balance between alliances and betrayals. The secret orders system makes you stay alert on what your neighbour is going to plan and how would you act to neutralise him.

The only problem is that, as you have seen... those pieces of plastic are no proper soldiers! :D Nothing too unbearable, I guess...

So another recommended game, fun to play and quite atmospherical. I own a Battles of Westeros board game, but still have to paint the minis, so I'm afraid you will have to wait a little. Some day, some day...


  1. Looks like a whole-lotta-fun! ^_^
    It strikes me that if the players were to truly role-play the major characters's behaviour it would add a further dimension to the game. For example, Stannis being inflexible, Stark being too honourable, Lannisters being cunning, etc.

    1. The game is terribly fun, but what you say is absolutely true, the added dimension given by the 'a song of ice and fire' fluff makes the difference. Making players put themselves into their character's skin gives the game much more flavour. Seriously, totally recommended :)