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Tag: Battles of Westeros

Anyone for a Game of Thrones?

A Game of Thrones

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!

A Game of Thrones LCGIt 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.

Game of ThronesThe 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.”

Friday’s Gaming News Update

It’s the last Friday before Christmas eve and time to wrap up (boom-tish!) the latest gaming news.

New Releases from Games Paradise
7 Wonders is the highly anticipated card development game by Antoine Bauza, designer of Ghost Stories. Fans of Dominion and Race for the Galaxy will definitely want to check out this stunning-looking game.

Also from Asmodee and a must for card game fans, Gosu has also been collecting excellent reviews. Players raise goblin armies and send them into battle. Check out the Drake’s Flames review here—Matt doesn’t beat around the bush, and he can’t come up with anything bad to say about the game!

Days of Wonder’s light-hearted favourite Small World has a new expansion: Be Not Afraid. It features five new races to add to your games (Barbarians, Pixies, Homonculi, Pygmies and Leprechauns), five new special powers, and a new storage tray. It also comes with a bonus Necromancer expansion!

Don’t forget to get your pre-orders in for the 15th Anniversary Edition of Settlers of Catan. Every dedicated gamer will want this deluxe wooden edition as part of their collection.

News From the World of Gaming
The website for Earth Reborn, the upcoming post-apocalyptic combat game from Z-Man Games, has posted new scenarios and a map editor.

WorldWorks Games make amazing papercraft terrain for gaming (you might even find the set that was created by yours truly)—be sure to take advantage of their Christmas specials.

The usual surfeit of riches from Fantasy Flight Games:

new hardback and Vault versions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are coming soon. Whether you get the core set or the hardcover books and separate components (or whether, like me, you’ll get both), this brings a lot more flexibility and clarity to the WFRP roleplaying game system.

Yet another expansion has just been announced for Battles of Westeros: Lords of the River, which brings the forces of House Tully to the battle. FFG are also making available premium plastic banners to replace the original game banners; yes BattleLore fans, they are the same design as the banners in that game.

Talking about BattleLore, you can find a link to the rules to Bearded Brave, the new dwarf expansion, here. And talking about dwarves, the new Reiner Knizia game The Hobbit should be available soon.

Tannhäuser fans will soon have another character to add to their Reich forces – the clairvoyant Hoss.

Battlestar Galactica just keeps getting better and better with the announcement of the new Exodus expansion. Check out the FFG designer diaries here and here to get all the details.

Enjoy your gaming this Christmas!

Friday’s Gaming News Update

New Releases from Games Paradise
The new D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game is out—weird fun in an a savage post-apocalyptic earth! (Matt Drake has a great review here.)

The long-awaited Dust Tactics is finally here—36 fantastic figures for epic miniatures battles in an alternate 1940s reality.

Another Fantasy Flight release—Cadwallon: City of Thieves, a fast-paced game of cunning thievery and ruthless skullduggery in a fantasy city steeped in magic and intrigue.

For family fun, Smiley Face is a great card game for 4-8 players.

For fans of the original and other players who love a monster/horror/ghost-movie atmosphere, the new edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill is out.

Talisman fans won’t want to miss the latest expansion: The Sacred Pool.

News From the World of Gaming
Zuzzy Miniatures have added a Broken Blacktop urban gaming mat to their series of flexible tabletop gaming mats.

A photograph of the Storm Raven Gunship, a fantastic new Warhammer 40,000 plastic kit, was leaked online. It’s since been taken down from the GW site but you can check it out here.

Wizards of the Coast are planning to re-release the classic Richard Borg game Battle Cry, the influential original Command & Colors system game that later evolved into Memoir ’44, Command& Colors: Ancients, BattleLore and Battles of Westeros.

As always, lots of interesting articles from Fantasy Flight: overview articles for A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame here and a beginner’s guide to Battles of Westeros here, a new preview for the upcoming Mansions of Madness here, an article on using the new Dungeonquest characters in Runewars here (and a Dungeonquest FAQ), and finally, the first preview for the upcoming Battlestar Galactica expansion, Exodus, here.

Have a great gaming weekend!

Gaming News Update

Fantasy Flight Games has released a FAQ for Battles of Westeros.

Games Workshop have posted some great videos of designers Phil Kelly and Jes Goodwin discussing the new Dark Eldar range.

Check out the Michael Barnes review of Betrayal at House on the Hill 2nd Edition.

… and the Ted Cheatham video review of Werewolf-like card game The Resistance.

Upcoming Games

I keep several boardgaming-related websites in my bookmarks list so I can keep an eye on the next batch of games that are in development or on their way. The big North American gaming convention GenCon has recently come and gone in Indianapolis, so a lot of new games saw their debut at the show. Here’s a quick look at some of the new games that should be out this year or early next year.

Fantasy Flight Games is, as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, my favourite publisher, and they have a stack of new goodies in the pipeline for release this year (hopefully). The two surprise announcements recently were Dust Tactics and Cadwallon: City of Thieves. These  were originally to be published by Dust Games, but that company suddenly found themselves short on the resources required, so have done a deal with FFG to hand over the games. Dust Tactics is a tactical miniatures boardgame set in an alternative 1940s world created by the comic book artist Paolo Parente. It’s been in the works for a surprisingly long time; originally it was to be released by Rackham Entertainment, who then went on to release AT-43 instead. Dust Tactics is quite a spectacular-looking product, featuring over thirty detailed, individually-sculpted miniatures (including four huge tank/walker figures). The initial game consists of eight scenarios fought on a set of cardboard terrain tiles (with some model terrain), but later there will be a set of rules released for fighting battles on a tabletop, like a normal miniatures game.

The miniatures in the game come primed in a flat colour which you can paint, if you desire, but there is also a Collector’s Edition set on the way, with all the miniatures fully painted to an incredibly high standard. The Collector’s Edition will be pricey, but for the non-painters, I’m sure it will be worth it.

There are already plans for several expansion sets to the core game of course; introducing such things as artillery robots, strange creatures, new heroes, aircraft, and even an alien race, the Vrills. It’s all shaping up to be an amazing system, and it will be interesting to see the reaction to the core set and watch the future of this game.

The other game to arrive at FFG from Dust Games is Cadwallon: City of Thieves. This fast-paced boardgame of thievery and skulduggery is set in the Rackham fantasy city of Cadwallon, the subject of a short lived roleplaying/combat game. It’s a perfect addition to the FFG stable, with gorgeous art and miniatures dripping with character. You lead a gang of thieves sneaking about a district of Cadwallon, grabbing loot and avoiding the militiamen hot on your tail. Individual scenarios bring variety to the game play. Again, the miniatures are not pre-painted, but you’ll be able to buy a separate set of painted miniatures if you so choose.

Another exciting game from FFG in the works is a Space Hulk-themed cooperative card game set in the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 universe, called Space Hulk Death Angel: The Card Game. This will accommodate anywhere from 1-6 players, and sees you taking Blood Angel Terminator combat teams into the twisting labyrinthine corridors of an abandoned space hulk, to join combat with the horrific alien Genestealers. The game is playable in under and hour and comes in a small ‘Silver Line’ box. This looks like a great choice if you feel like a quick, theme-rich game experience.

Sticking with card games, there are two more on the way from FFG: The Lord of the Rings Card Game and The Blood Bowl Team Manager Card Game. There’s very little information yet about the latter but it’s certainly exciting news for Blood Bowl fans, and I certainly count myself a member of that group! Apparently it will be a frenzied game of deck-building for 2-4 players, and you can choose from Human, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Orc, Skaven, or Chaos factions and play through an entire season. The LotR Card Game will be another of FFG’s very successful Living Card Games, so they’ll be a long series of expansion card packs after the 216-card core set. 1-2 players (or more if you buy a couple of core sets) cooperate to select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts and complete quests in the land of Middle-Earth. Players can shape their decks to create their favourite combination of spheres of influence: leadership, lore, spirit and tactics. It looks like they’ll be lots of spectacular artwork and a huge amount of variety in this game, and hopefully it will be a must for any gamer who’s a fan of Tolkein’s world.

But wait! There’s more. The long-awaited return of the Games Workshop classic, Dungeonquest, is imminent. Anyone who played this cut-throat game back in the 80s knows that it’s tough work surviving that dungeon—but that’s all the fun. FFG have re-themed the game to set it in their world of Terrinoth (and cleverly cross-marketed the new characters by supplying components for them for Descent, Runebound and Runewars). Dungeonquest is a fast and fun game of dungeon exploration for 1-4 players.

Keep an eye peeled for some other FFG games on the horizon as well: Bruno Faidutti’s magnum opus, Isla Dorada, two army expansions for Battles of Westeros, various expansions for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games, a quick card game called Dragonheart, Kevin Wilson’s new game, Civilization: The Board Game (inspired by Sid Meier’s video games), a new small-box version of the classic Lord of the Rings Board Game by Reiner Knizia, the new Tide of Iron expansion Fury of the Bear, and a new expansion for Talisman called The Sacred Pool. Not to mention the usual regular Living Card Game releases.

Well, there are other game companies in the world apart from FFG I admit, and another company with a hectic release schedule for 2010 is Z-Man Games. The company is known for releasing an eclectic mix of titles of all different styles and themes. Check out this list of titles: Earth Reborn, Parade, Burrows, The King Commands!, Power Struggle, Magical Athlete, Malta!, Prolix, Kings & Things, Mines of Zavandor, Trollhalla, Inca Empire, Pocket Battles: Orc vs Elves, and De Vulgari Eloquentia. Whew!

There’s certainly been some buzz about the new game from Christophe Boelinger, the creator of Dungeon Twister. It’s called Earth Reborn and it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario-based tactical combat game. It’s also one of the first forays by Z-Man Games into the world of plastic miniatures, and the ones that come with the game are looking mighty impressive. Parade is a quick 30 minute curious card game by Naoki Homma for 2-6 players. Hansa Teutonica is a tense game of route manipulation and economics by Andreas Steding for 2-5 players; players are merchants jostling for position and standing in the Hanseatic League. Power Struggle is a game about becoming the top-dog in a corporate empire by reaching milestones in investing, corruption, influence and position. In Burrows, you’ll find yourself trying to keep a group of fussy Gophers well-housed, using tiles to build a twisted network of burrows. Bottle Imp is a trick taking card game by Gunter Cornett. And of course, don’t forget the car-racing mayhem of Road Kill Rally; the new game by the creator of Duel in the Dark, Duel of the Giants, a tank-battle game; pirate fun with Merchants & Marauders; and a real-time strategy computer game-inspired game called The Ares Project. Zev from Z-Man must be run off his feet!

As for other publishers, there’s a new game coming from Asmodee and Antoine Bauza (Ghost Stories, Mystery Express) called 7 Wonders, a a civilization-building card game. Wizards of the Coast are releasing a Dungeons & Dragons board game called Castle Ravenloft that looks to be a classic dungeoncrawler with a simplified set of D&D 4th Edition mechanics. And Flying Frog Productions, makers of Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, continue their series of crazy, fun games with photographic art with their new one, Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game, which pits alien invaders against circus freaks in a Tim Burtonesque carnival.

Well, if that lot doesn’t keep gamers happy I don’t know what will! There’s obviously no shortage whatsoever of great games on the way—all we need do now is somehow find the time to play as many as possible …

by Universal Head

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). There is a Dust Tactics site at www.dust-tactics.com. Z-Man Games can be previewed at www.zmangames.com. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many games at Headless Hollow (www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html).

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites www.tekumel.com and www.battleloremaster.com. His blog site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Battles of Westeros: First Impressions

Last night I finally got a chance to play the brand new ‘BattleLore’ game from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), Battles of Westeros, so I thought I’d write up my first impressions of the game for anyone who is wondering what this new incarnation of BattleLore is all about. Battles of Westeros is set in George R. R. Martin’s fantasy world of Westeros, from his Song of Ice and Fire series of books.

After creating a fan site for the original BattleLore game at www.battleloremaster.com, back when it was first released by Days of Wonder (DOW) in 2006, I was  very interested to try this latest evolution of Richard Borg’s Command & Colors (C&C) system. When Battles of Westeros was first announced, there was a frantic flurry of opinions by old BattleLore players, most of whom were concerned that their favourite game was going to be superseded. While it’s still not clear how much Fantasy Flight intends to support ‘classic BattleLore’ with new expansions, it’s fascinating to play this new game and compare the two systems.

First, let’s see what you get. Battles of Westeros comes in a deep box, the same size as the original DOW BattleLore but a new box format for FFG. Inside you’ll find over 130 plastic figures belonging to the Stark and Lannister house factions, a double-sided mounted map board, several decks of cards, and a plethora of cardboard counters, along with a rules book and a book of battle scenarios. There has been debate about the quality of the figures; some have said the designs are a little ‘generic’, though we must remember this is really just a core set and future expansions will no doubt add more distinctive troop types. You may have to do a bit of wok to straighten some of the swords and lances, but this is pretty much par for the course for plastic game pieces these days. Dip the bent figure part into a bowl of very hot water to soften, straighten it, then plunge it into a bowl of ice cold water to ‘set’.

There’s a nice selection of individual heroes, and a good bunch of basic troops, cavalry, and archers for each side. The most interesting figures here are the kennelmasters—big bald guys holding on to a couple of snarling trained hounds each!

BattleLore fans may be a bit surprised to discover that the figures come detached from their bases, and a decent amount of preparation is required to glue the figures into the bases. FFG suggest that gluing is an optional step, but really there’s no way that the figures would be usable by just pushing them into their bases. I found that a few dabs of superglue, and pressing the figures into the base slots with the end of a pair of tweezers, did the job well. No doubt the cost of producing these figures has increased since the initial release of BattleLore—in fact the CEO of FFG, Christian Petersen, has admitted on the company website that it is currently unaffordable to produce classic BattleLore in its original form and in the shorter print runs that FFG prefer. What this means for the future of classic BattleLore is anyone’s guess, but in the short term it means that a little more work is involved in preparing your Battles of Westeros figures for play!

I was keen to have the figures painted for our first game, though of course you can happily play the game without painted figures. There really is nothing like a BattleLore game with fully painted armies however, so I recommend taking the time and effort. To make the task more manageable, I set aside the figures required for the first battle scenario and painted those in one batch; that way you can start playing the game without facing the daunting task of painting the entire 138 figures in one go. I’ve written an article on figure painting before  (A  Beginner’s Guide to Figure Painting), but remember that washes are your friend! Painting the base colours of the figures and then giving them a wash (I used Devlan Mud for the Stark figures and Gryphonne Sepia for the Lannister figures) can give you fast and attractive results.

So, your figures are painted (or not), you’ve downloaded the rules summary available on my website (or not) and you’ve set up the forces for the first scenario, ‘Clash on the Kingsroad’. The big question is, how does the game play?

Well, the first thing to do is put thoughts of Memoir ’44, Command & Colors: Ancients, and BattleLore out of your head, because this is quite a different beast. Yaes, there are many similarities, and the game certainly looks the same as a C&C game, but gone is the division of the board into three sections and the restrictions of activating units by section.

Firstly, each player makes up a Leadership card deck with ten basic Leadership cards and five special Leadership cards for each of his commanders on the field. There’s also a new Morale track and a round track. The banners attached to each unit are different too; in addition to identifying unit types as usual, they have become an integral part of the game system, and are rotated to face the player to indicate whether the unit has been activated that turn or not.

Basically, players roll a number of eight-sided dice equal to the Order Rating of the battle plan, and then take Order Tokens matching the symbols rolled. When it is a player’s turn, there are two ways to activate units on the battlefield. One is to spend one of your order tokens to activate a unit—for example, a blue shield token activates a blue banner unit. You can also spend two tokens of one type to activate any unit. This allows you to activate any of your units on the field. The other way is to play a Leadership card, and this is much more restricted by the position of your commanders on the field. The units (usually multiple units) activated by a Leadership card must be within your chosen commander’s Zone of Control—a radius of 2 hexes from the commander’s unit.

Already you can see that this means the game plays very differently from your usual BattleLore game. It’s very important to keep your commanders alive—as I learnt when one of mine died early in our first game and the abilities of my units were suddenly very restricted! Also, the number of options available means that there is far less of a feeling of being controlled by your card draws. There’s definitely more strategy on offer here, which suits the more gritty, medieval feeling of the game, as opposed to the light, fun fantasy feel of classic BattleLore.

As you activate units, moving and attacking with them in a way that will be familiar to C&C players, you rotate their banners to  mark them as activated. You can’t activate them again that turn unless you manage to either play  Leadership card to rally several units (ie, rotate their banner poles back and make them available for activation again) or spend a Morale order token to do them same to one unit (and take a morale hit to do so). So it is possible to activate a unit several times in the same turn.

A small change to combat also introduces another level of strategy to the game: when you engage an unengaged enemy unit, you place an Engagement token between the units. Then, if you attack the target from another hex with a different unit, it is designated a flanking attack, and you get to re-roll all the dice of one symbol, which can be devastating. So instead of single discrete attacks and hoping to get the right cards to activate units on the same flank, you can really plan and execute multiple attacks that can destroy your opponent’s units.

Another welcome change to the C&C system, I feel, is that victory conditions are no longer so reliant on just destroying the other player’s units. Not only does destroying a unit reduce your opponent’s morale—and in some scenarios you can successfully rout your opponent’s army as a result—but each scenario has specific victory conditions that are much more interesting, usually tied to controlling various objectives on the battlefield.

All in all, I was highly impressed with my first play of Battles of Westeros. In fact, I think that classic BattleLore might find itself sitting on the shelf while we explore all the possibilities of this new game system. FFG have created an interesting, more strategic take on the classic system, and while the branding is a bit confusing—it really does sit in an uneasy place between being a BattleLore-type game and a brand new game—I think once things settle down it is going to be a winner for the company. I’m looking forward to more distinctive troop types in future expansions, and I hope the battle scenarios continue to be varied and interesting (by the way there’s a set of ‘skirmish’ rules for setting up your own battles, so there’s endless variety there). Two expansion sets have already been announced: Wardens of the West (new commanders, pikemen, crossbowmen and militia for the Lannister house) and Wardens of the North (new commanders, lancers, shieldmaidens and trident bearers for the Stark house). I also like how the individual commanders really stamp the game with their personalities and style of play, depending on their special abilities and selection of Leadership cards.

If you’re a fan of other games in the Command & Colors family and you’ve been wondering if Battles of Westeros was just more of the same, I can safely say this game has something new and exciting to offer. Grab yourself a copy!

For more information about Battles of Westeros, visit FFG’s site (www.fantasyflightgames.com) or BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). You can also find a rules summary and reference sheet for the game at Headless Hollow (www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html#bw).

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites www.tekumel.com and www.battleloremaster.com. His blog site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.