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Tag: Game of Thrones

All About Living Card Games

Introduced by Fantasy Flight Games  all the way back in 2008, the Living Card Game (LCG) model of distribution is an innovative alternative to the widespread collectible card game model.  Anyone who has played Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon will know the sting that competitive play can bring to your wallet, as you try and track down those rare competitive cards whose prices make money strapped gamers sad. The LCG model was the answer to this, beginning with A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu back in 2008, with many more games joining the fixed distribution model later on.

For those who don’t know what the main draw of an LCG is, it’s quite simple; no random packs. Before you purchase a product, you know exactly what you’re going to get. No more chasing down those money cards and forking out ludicrous amounts of money just for the right to compete. Just work out which pack the cards you want are from and grab that. Or just grab everything; keeping up with an LCG is really not an expensive venture, and they combine excellent gameplay with their lowered barriers to entry to create a healthy and thriving scene.

If you’re not sure which LCG is for you, then you’ve come to the right place; I’ll be looking at each LCG that is currently in print and still continuing to release product (as well as one upcoming one), giving a brief rundown on my own thoughts on the game, as well as a quick recommendation on who I believe it’s suitable for. Note that this article doesn’t cover the LCG-like games of other companies (Doomtown: Reloaded and VS2PCG come to mind), but only those offered by Fantasy Flight Games.

I’m going to use the generic terms “Pack” and “Deluxe” to represent the smaller sixty card expansions (well, three times twenty different card) and the larger box expansions respectively. They are called different things depending on the game, but for the sake of simplicity, I will be using these two terms instead. If you’re thinking about getting into the LCG, click on the title just before their respective sections. Without further ado, let’s get into it, starting with:

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011)

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Lord of the Rings is an interesting product in that whilst it has been out the longest and has far and away the most product available for it (currently 33 Packs and 12 deluxe expansions), it is also the game that has the lowest barrier to entry, a virtue of the fact that the game is entirely co-operative. You need not be concerned with needing everything; you can grab everything at your own pace and slowly discover the game. In fact, the Core Set itself contains so many powerful cards that with the Core Set and even just a handful of packs, you can build decks to take on any adventure.

The game has really ramped up in the last few years. I found the initial quests in the early cycles to be a bit lacking, but the last three cycles have been absolutely amazing, as have the Fellowship adventures, which allow for a campaign mode as well. And boy oh boy have the quests gotten harder; even with well tailored decks and experienced players, the game is very difficult, just as a co-op game should be.

A great option for solo-play and even as a pseudo board game on its own, Lord of the Rings is definitely worth a look into if you’re looking for a readily expandable cooperative experience that’s thematic, challenging and innovative. Probably one of the further advantages of the game is that even if your area lacks a playgroup, you’re still able to enjoy all of the game by yourself, or even with friends; you don’t need a community for the game to be at its best. A good entry point would be two Core Sets and some of the Fellowship deluxes, Alternatively, one cycle of six packs plus the deluxe to go with it can replace the Fellowship deluxes. An important thing to note is that each cycle is tied to a deluxe, thus you’re better off not buying random packs without the corresponding deluxe. As far as cycles go, I was a huge fan of the Land of Shadow, and am really liking the interesting direction the designers have taken with the Grey Havens, so either of those would make for awesome places to begin your adventures in Middle-Earth.

Android: Netrunner (2012)

Android: Netrunner

I will freely admit that Netrunner is one of the few LCGs I haven’t had much experience with. An asymmetric card game set in a cyberpunk world, one player plays as the hacker trying to bypass all of the traps and blockades set up by the corp played by the other. It’s certainly a very unique game, forgoing much of the standard spend resources, play character of other games and replacing it with a game full of risk management, bluffing and constant tension. Sure, cards still cost money, but the main driving force of the game is action and risk management.

Netrunner has easily seen the most success out of all the LCGs, with hundreds of players turning up for its largest events.  Now many cycles in, the game is very deep and deck possibilities are vast and varied. That, however, comes at a cost, and the entry point at the moment is intimidating. In my own experiences, it’s the type of game that you have to make your main game to truly enjoy it;  the hidden knowledge component of the game means that not being up to date with the cards is going to cost you even more than in other games, and the risk management/math heavy nature of the game means that in order to get the most out of Netrunner, you have to invest yourself in it,

Thankfully, the community resources are far and away the most expansive of the LCGs, and you will likely have no issue finding tournaments or competitive-minded players to play against. I would recommend Netrunner to the competitive card gamer looking for something to throw themselves into, but definitely not for those looking to just dabble and play for fun; to me, the game just doesn’t quite do casual well, and shines brightest in the heat of competition.

Star Wars: The Card Game (2012)

Star Wars: The Card Game

Yet another asymmetric game, though not quite to the extent of NetrunnerStar Wars: The Card Game  has had a bit of a tumultuous history. After an excellent and interesting core set, the first cycle was rather weak, and that coupled with delays meant that many became disillusioned with it. As a point of comparison, Star Wars and Netrunner were released in the same year, but Star Wars is seven packs behind! This means that it’s much more difficult to find a tournament for Star Wars.

That said, the game is not without fantastic mechanics that, again, got much better as time went on (the second cycle was magnificent). If you’re a true fan of the license, you can have a lot of fun with this game, and there are a whole heap of viable options for deckbuilding at a casual, fun level. There is a bit of a thematic disconnect which a lot of people have taken issue with (an X-Wing blasting down Darth Vader, or the Executor being poked by Ewoks for example) but with two core sets and two Edge of Darkness expansion packs, a lot of fun can be had. It pains me that I can’t recommend this higher, given how interesting the game play is (really, if you like game design, try play a game of it) and how much I like the license, but you can’t win ’em all.

Warhammer 40000: Conquest (2014)

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest

Speaking of excellent game design, the LCGs continue to deliver with Eric Lang’s Warhammer 40000: Conquest. Much like Netrunner, Conquest really lends itself to tournament play above anything else; you can certainly play the factions you like, but due to the super tight game play, not playing with competitive options means you’re going to get crushed quickly. With a much more spacial aspect than the other LCGs (fitting given the license) and the extremely innovative and well thought out simultaneous decision making mechanic, Warhammer 40000: Conquest has a lot going for it gameplay-wise for a start.

What’s more, on top of the strong license, great gameplay  and fantastic artwork is the relatively low price point of the game at the moment. With only two deluxes and thirteen packs, you can have everything in the game for a relatively low entry point. Whilst recent developments on the game have been slow and it lacks the same consistent community which both Netrunner and the next game have in spades, you could do far worse as far as great, skill intensive competitive games go.

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition (2015)

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

Wasting no time after ending First Edition, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition (AGOT 2.0) is running pretty hot at the moment. If you’re a fan of the source material, you’ll find all of your favourite characters faithfully represented in AGOT 2.0, which currently has a heavy focus on these unique fan favourite characters going into various challenges against one another as you struggle for the Iron Throne. With a healthy mix of luck and skill, relatively simple mechanics, a healthy and steadily growing community and the fact that it’s currently FFG’s youngest LCG, AGOT 2.0 is definitely the game to get into at the moment if you’re on the fence about all the others (or you’re just a mega-fan of the series).

Much like Netrunner and ConquestAGOT 2.0 is primarily a competitive game. The first of two game modes, Joust is the more common of the two and is  a traditional one versus one affair. In addition, casual play is much more encouraged mechanically than in any other LCG, at least in my opinion. This is further exemplified by the wilder, more chaotic Melee format, where three to four players struggle for the throne, forging alliances only to break them off just as quickly. The melee option even works quite well as just a family board game on its own, making AGOT 2.0 one of the easier games to sample first before committing.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game (4th Quarter 2016-Early 2017)

The only LCG not yet released that we’ll be looking at today is the mysterious Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Not too much is known about this game yet, but early reports point towards a hybrid LCG/roleplaying experience unlike any other game on the market. I’m incredibly curious to see how much FFG has learned about making a cooperative LCG from Lord of the Rings, and if they can get it right from the beginning, the popular theme and innovative design space may prove to be a winner!

Whichever LCG you do end up choosing, I hope you have an amazing time with the diverse, thematic experiences awaiting you in each and every box. Fantasy Flight Games have done a wonderful job with the core of each of their card games, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this innovative model of card games (there are two more upcoming LCGs, but they’ll have to wait for another article).

Sale continues and all new line of 3D puzzles!

We are running into the last month of our mid year sale. Time is running out fast so be sure to keep checking if your must have games are back in stock. We do have stacks of new games coming in and lots of restocks so keep an eye out for some bargains. 

Hanabi wins the Spiel!
All hail our new firework co – operative overlords.

 


Fresh Restocks

Game of Thrones the Board Game and Talisman are back instock after a minor hiatus.

Big News! King of Tokyo and its Expansion has just arrived so that long wait is over.

Finally to round off the restocks is Trivial Pursuit Master and Letters from Whitechapel which has been redone by FFG

Fresh Games

This week we have a bunch of new products.

I had the pleasure of playing Love Letter this week. It’s a fun fast game of deduction and a bit of luck. Actually goes for a bit longer than you would think but tremendous fun and good production value.  

We also have a new range of 3D Puzzles from Cubic fun. Check them out here and here and here.

And lastly Magic 2014 is here. We hope everyone had an amazing prerelease and the boxes and Fatpacks should be shipping on Friday.

Star Wars Expansion Universe

Heaps of expansions are in this week and an all new limited edition poker set.
What’s new? 

A new poker chip set from Cartamundi boasts light saber poker chips and an awesome Death Star dealer chip.

Expansions for that awesome 2 player Card Revolver is in stock. Hunt the Man Down and Ambush on Gunshot Trail

War of the Ring is expanded with the Lords of Middle Earth Expansion mellon!

A Game of Thrones the Board Game is expanded with a print on demand expansion from FFG: A Dance with Dragons which reportedly spoils some of the story!

Cutthroat Caverns has a new expansion with the good old fit-all box that more publishers should look forward too.


What’s restocked?

Dungeon! , the Wizards of the Coast remake is back in stock. Its frantic push your luck mechanism is a great way to introduce people to rpg’s or board gaming in general.

Can of Worms is back in stock just in time for Christmas.

Game of Dungeons, Thrones and Munchkin Deluxe

Back in Stock

Lots of stock just came back into stock.
Game of Thrones, Munchkin  Deluxe, Ticket to Ride anything and Small World all are back online. If you have an outstanding order for any of these
items, they should be ready to go or have just left.

What’s New? 

Magic 2013 has just dropped and we are all to busy playing 52 pickup with all these new Magic cards.
We have these swanky Deckbuilder Toolkits which are pretty much the best way to start playing right after picking up an intro deck.
Lots of value and every thing your really need as a beginner.
Still have a lot of Fat Packs so pick them up before they run out.

Dungeon Command from Wizards in the Loth and Cormyr variety. This is a quick skirmish game that can be mixed with the Dungeons and Dragons dungeon crawlers.


Expect fast brutal gameplay like Heroscape or Dream blade which is also a Wizards skirmish game.

Fiasco for all you RPG fanatics and its erstwhile companion kit. As seen in the most recent Tabletop video, intense situations to roleplay out of.

Finally Maharani which is a new age tile laying Euro-game bursting with intriguing gameplay choices.

What we are playing

Pretty much Magic 2013.
All the time, every time.
Last weekend was dominated by 3 drafts of the new format and showed that
A) It was nothing like Magic 2012  and;
B) This was a good thing.

I was pretty much tired being blown out by turn 5 in Magic 2012 by goblin piker and its aggressive ilk. By far one of the most aggressive drafts ever made, M12 proceeded to teach us lessons about tempo and why goblin piker and coral merfolk were pretty much good cards depending on the format.

M13 was heaps different. Slower and more methodical card choices allows for a person to brew up many different combinations. Exalted is a great albeit risky mechanic which rewards good reading and commitment. Low levels of creature kill allows for alot more out playing and more emphasis on creature enchantments.


Loving it right now,
Have to wait to see what it is like after many plays.

My card of the format is Talrends Invocation which is value central and makes 2/2 flyers which pretty much pound on any one or trades for value.

Tonight I have wargames so might eke out an extra play of Dungeon Command.

Books and Boardgaming

If you enjoy boardgaming the chances are you enjoy a good read as well, and books have certainly been a rich source of inspiration for boardgames over the years. Here’s a quick look at some of the myriad games based on well-known books. if you enjoyed the book, now play the game—or vice versa!

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a classic of science-fiction writing, and a series that has gone on and on (though, to this reader, the first three—Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune—are the original and best). A game of the book was released in by Avalon Hill in 1979, and it is universally recognised as being an excellent game that captures the flavour of the books incredibly well, with a lot of player interaction. You’ll represent various factions trying to control the planet of Dune and its spice trade using negotiation and bluffing, all while dealing with sandstorms, the mammoth sandworms, and the military forces of the other players. Some gamers have gone to amazing lengths to create their own versions of this much-loved game—one even created his own custom-made table inlaid with rare woods! The good news is—for those of us with far less time and money on their hands—Fantasy Flight Games is in the process of re-releasing Dune in a brand new version. The bad news is that it will no longer be based on the Dune books, but on a different licence—Warhammer 40,000 perhaps?

I’ve mentioned the epic wargame War of the Ring several times before, and there are no prizes for guessing which famous series of books this game is based on—yes, J. R. R. Tolkein’s timeless Lord of the Rings trilogy.WotR is an exceptional gaming experience in its own right, but the way it captures the feel of the novels, and builds upon their epic quality by also focussing on the epic battles of the Third Age, is extraordinary. There are several games based on the trilogy, but WotR is the most impressive in my opinion. Also don’t forget to try the other fantastic wargame by the same authors, Age of Conan, which is based on the series of swords-and-sorcery classics by Robert E. Howard (and other writers such as L. Sprague de Camp). It doesn’t quite capture the adventuring spirit of the Conan stories, but it is an excellent wargame in its own right.

Arkham Horror (2005) has also been mentioned many times in my previous articles. This game draws on the inventions of H.P. Lovecraft and later writers who created fiction using his unique Cthulhu mythos. The Mayfair game Witch of Salem (2008) also draws heavily on the Cthulhu mythos, this time from Wolfgang Hohlbein’s book series, and it features some stunning artwork. They are both very different games, and while re-creating the unique atmosphere of Lovecraft’s books is a challenge that will probably never be met—you’d probably have to go insane first!—there’s plenty here to keep cosmic horror fans happy.

Fantasy Flight Games has certainly got a lot of mileage out of its licence of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. I discussed the new Battles of Westeros in my last article, but don’t forget the Game of Thrones LCG (2008), and the A Game of Thrones (2003) boardgame. The Living Card Game has been expanding for some time now and at last count there were 32 expansion packs and more on the way! The boardgame has two expansions, A Clash of Kings (2004) and A Storm of Swords (2006). In the game, each players is one of the great Houses of Westeros and attempts to control the land with a mixture of resource management, diplomacy and cunning—and of course wielding armies and unique characters from the books. I have yet to play A Game of Thrones, but I hear it captures the flavour of the books extremely well.

Another game I haven’t played myself, 1960: The Making of the President (Z-Man, 2007) is based on The Making of the President, 1960, by Theodore White and published in 1961, which won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. This two player, card-driven game explores the 1960 American presidential race beween John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, and is played on an electoral map of the USA. You’ll have to deal with a wide range of political and social issues of the time in your race for the White House.


The Pillars of the Earth (Kosmos, 2006) is based on the best-selling 1989 novel by Ken Follett, about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. The game was awarded the 2007 Deutscher Spiele Preis, the Spanish ‘Game of the Year 2007’ and the Norwegian ‘Best Family Game of 2007’ and the GAMES Magazine Game of the Year 2007. A new stand-alone game, World Without End, was published two years later and is based on the book’s sequel. In classic Eurogame style, these games involve lots of resource management, production, buying and selling, and victory points!

Kosmos have published an entire line of literature-based games, among them Reiner Knizia’s co-operative Lord of the Rings game (2003); Around the World in 80 Days (2005) and Journey to the Center of the Earth(2008) based on the Jules Verne classics; Beowulf: The Legend (2006, and later published by Fantasy Flight); The Golden Compass (2008), based on Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy; and The Swarm(2009, published by Z-Man in English) and based on the novel by Frank Schätzing.

Ravensburger published a game in 2008 based on Umberto Eco’s wonderful story of murder and deduction in a medievalmonastery, The Name of the Rose. The Days of Wonder game Mystery of the Abbey (1996) could also be said to have drawn heavily for its inspiration on this novel, involving as it does the deductive search for a murderer among the monks of an abbey.

There are some old fantasy and science-fiction classics that are certainly ripe for re-publishing in a more modern form, amongthem Starship Troopers (Avalon Hill, 1976) based on the classic Robert A. Heinlein story; and Dragonriders of Pern (Mayfair, 1983), from Anne McCaffrey’s series of fantasy/sci-fi novels.

Of course, early out-of-copyright classics are a goldmine for game designers—and not only because no intellectual property rights need be obtained and paid for! Games Workshop’s Fury of Dracula (1987), and its Fantasy Flight Games re-vamp (pun intended) in 2006 are of course drawn from the Bram Stoker book we all know and love, Dracula, first published in 1897. The game is one of my all-time favourites and positively drips with the atmosphere of the novel. Tales of the Arabian Nights (2009), recently completely redesigned by Z-Man Games (with graphic design by yours truly), recreates the world of One Thousand and One Nights and the timeless stories of Scheherazade. The first English language edition of this collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales (including the tales of Aladdin and his lamp, Ali Baba and the forty thieves, and the seven yoyages of Sinbad), was published in 1706 as The Arabian Nights’ EntertainmentTales of the Arabian Nights is a game of pure fun where players create their own story; strategy gamers beware, this is a game for those who like a good laugh and a lot of fun and are happy to let control of the game run away from them!

Days of Wonders’ Shadows Over Camelot (2005) is a beautifully produced co-operative game inspired by Arthurian legends, most notably those written down by Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur, first published in 1485. It could be said that this game kicked of the current craze for co-operative games; it’s an enjoyable game that is great for families, and the lurking possibility of one of the players being a traitor definitely spices things up a bit!

Of course this article just touches on the huge array of games available that seek to re-create the many places available to us between the covers of a book (or the electronic pages of an iPad, if you’re that way inclined). Whether immersing yourself in a familiar world, or changing the course of events, or creating your own stories, games offer an extra level of interactivity that a book cannot—yet another reason why gaming is such an absorbing and interesting pastime!

by Universal Head

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many of these 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 andwww.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.