George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, which began with A Game of Thrones in 1996, is a hugely successful fantasy series that has gripped the imagination of readers, boardgamers, roleplaying gamers and television audiences—and soon, video gamers as well.
Fantasy Flight Games have been releasing games based in this rich melieu for some time now, and with the release of the second edition of the A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame, it’s the perfect time to have a look at them!
It all started in 2002 with the release of the A Game of Thrones LCG: Core Set. This endlessly engaging Living Card Game (expansion sets are a fixed number of cards of the same type; no random collecting) has won two Origins Awards, and FFG run regular tournaments. Players assume the leadership of one of the great houses of Westeros, each with a different play style, and by exercising military might, intrigue, or diplomacy, they compete for power. In addition, a special plot deck brings in thematic effects that can greatly affect the game. The game can be played by two players or more, and with three or more players, each chooses a role at the start of the each round which engages with the other roles in interesting ways. The great thing about the game is that it acomodates a whole range of different playing styles, whether you prefer military conquest, diplomatic manoeuvring, or underhanded scheming… And with six deluxe expansions and over 40 ‘Chapter Packs’ of 60 cards each, the variety is staggering.
I’ve gone into some detail before about the ‘BattleLore’ game Battles of Westeros, but if you’re a fan of the Command & Colors games such as Command & Colors: Ancients, Memoir ’44, Battle Cry and BattleLore, you can’t go past this fresh new take on the system. Not only is it full of the character of the books, with a big emphasis on the leader personalities and their impact on the battles, but the system moves away from the ‘play a card to activate units on a particular flank’ system, and gives the player a lot more flexibility and choice. I’ve found it to be a very strategic game with a lot of tactical complexity to explore, and very different from the other games in the C&C system series.
There’s also a great range of expansions available so your armies and strategies can grow: Wardens of the West gives you Lannister reinforcements; Wardens of the North more troops for House Stark; Tribes of the Vale lets you add clansmen as allies to your force; Lords of the River adds House Tully as allies; and the upcoming Brotherhood Without Banners introduces even more new units and commanders.
The latest exciting release in FFG’s stable of Westeros-based games is the return of their much-praised game A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame, in a spectacular new second edition that incorporates much of the original game’s expansion material. It’s the perfect time for new fans—those who have discovered the melieu through the incredibly impressive HBO television series, for example—to start gaming in the world of Westeros.
A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame sees three to six players take on the roles of the great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, as they vie for control of the Iron Throne through the use of diplomacy and warfare. It’s an epic boardgame that requires more than military might to win—much as in the books, there are many ways to achieve your goals, and strategic planning, masterful diplomacy, and clever card play will all be required. And with totally updated components covered with stunning artwork, new innovations, and the best bits from the original two expansions, this is the definitive edition of the game.
As you can see, if you’re a fan of A Game of Thrones and a strategy gamer, there’s a wealth of good gaming to be had. Just remember: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”