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Feb 12 2012

Review: Game of Thrones Second Edition Board Game

For those of you who don’t know what Game of Thrones is, then it’s time for you to climb out of that rock you’ve been hiding under for the last year or so and figure out your life! I don’t want to to get into too much detail of the books or TV show but here’s what you need to know…

Pretty much, there are a few houses “families” with great power, and other smaller houses who plead their Fealty to them. They fight, and this brings on incest, murder, corruption, love, back-stabbing, weddings and revenge. It’s a barrel of fun for the whole “family”, and now on to the game…

For the record, this isn’t my first BBQ. It’s not like I have just played this one board game because I’m a fan of the series and now I want to review it. I have played a lot of different board games, with a lot of different people. The reason I have waited so long to actually review this game is because i wanted to makes sure I had:

1) Plenty of opportunity to play it

2) Play it with a few different people

3) Play a few games with varying amounts of people (4,5,6 players)

4) Have a chance to sit back and compare it with a few other games I really enjoy

At its very core it is a basic war game, where yourself and a few others are battling for control of 7 Castles or Strongholds. There can be a delightful amount of strategy, but the best part is screwing your friends over. Alliances can be the all important factor to the game, and the winner can easily steal the game at the last moment which leaves much suspense all the way through. The houses involved in the tussle are: Stark, Greyjoy, Lannister, Tyrell, Martell and Baratheon. The game has a lot of layers to it, but the game mechanics are quite basic. There are 3 phases, and the game only lasts 10 rounds, so most of the time every decision made has to be precise.

Phase one: Draw Westeros cards and resolve them,

Phase two: Place order tokens on all territories you own (March, Defend, Raid, Consolidate Power and Support),

Phase three: Resolve order tokens in turn order.

The combat done within the game is fairly simple (Thank God), and doesn’t revolve around luck (unless you are using the Tides of Battle cards). It’s unit versus unit, and highest combat point value wins (Footmen = 1, Boats = 1, Knights = 2, Siege Engines = 4- only when attacking a castle or stronghold), However, there are some variables: House cards (each one has a battle bonus, and some have effects that can influence the value of armies involved in the battle), Valyrian Steel (the owner of this gets a +1 in combat, once per round) , and support from other players.

That’s it, it may sound complicated but it’s not; it’s all visual and the battles are resolved rather quickly. This is a positive thing, because there are sometimes multiple combats within one phase.

It wouldn’t be a Game of Thrones game unless one person was the King.

This is accomplished by having an influence track, which grants people various bonuses for holding one of the three top spots on each tracks. These tracks are bid on throughout the game using influence they have earned by consolidating power, and ranks each house involved in the game. (You even get player screens to hide your influence) The first track is the Iron Throne, which grants the person with the highest rank the ability to choose ties, and this track also determines turn order from first to last. The next track is the Fiefdom Track, where the highest rank person gets the Valyrian Steel, giving him a +1 combat bonus. This is an important track to be high on because combat ties are determined by where you sit on the track. If you are in a tie in combat, the house that is higher on the track wins. Lastly, there is the Messenger Raven, the highest ranked player is allowed to swap out an order token before they are resolved, or can see the top card in the “wildings attack” deck. This also grants the players in the spots with the stars to use strong order tokens. This is a huge advantage, making this track easily the most important.

There are a few more things to cover (Supply track, Wildings Attack deck, Tides of Battle, Harbors, Ships/Movement), but for the sake of this review I will not go over them, but each of them add to the complexity and strategy of the game.

Finally we get to my thoughts of the game. To be be honest, i really like the game. I do have a few minor complaints, but all in all, there is not one time I have not enjoyed myself while playing. You can definitely expect a lot of fighting amongst friends. People pleading, or explaining to other players why they should help them, or leave them alone. When it gets later into the game every action in turn directly causes trouble to another player, usually forcing people to change strategies between turns. (I found this mostly in 5-6 player games) One issue i do have is that certain houses seem to be in a “stronger” position at the start of the game. Baratheon, for one has the whole right side of the board, with very little “trouble” at the beginning of the game. On the other hand, I feel that the Stark’s start the game with a huge disadvantage. Not one Stark players have ever won any game we have played. Sure, they get the whole north part of the map, but there is very little going on there (The Stark’s must take Moat Cailin and the Narrow Sea very early in the game, or you run the risk of trapping yourself in the north). Having a lot of land does help by making it easier for this player to gain influence, but Baratheon has the same advantage and they are better off position wise. I also found the Greyjoy cards to be very powerful. This could be for a few reason, I believe it is mostly because they start trapped between two houses. However, Greyjoys allying with the Lannisters, equals a tough game for the Starks. (essentially most paths lead to the Starks getting boned, how like life?)

She looks pretty good considering she popped out 4 kids

I never fully got into the supply track, and mustering units, but basically you cannot exceed your supply (Exception: you currently have 4 supply, but had 6 the last time it was reconciled, you can continue to use 6 supply until it is reconciled again) and mustering units lets you increase your army, without going over the previously mentioned supply rule. These two actions are mostly accomplished through the Westeros cards that are played at the beginning of each new round. However, most of the time it’s usually the king who decided whether all players, muster units, reconcile supply or do nothing. This adds an inherent benefit to being the kings, as you can control the flow of the game. Also if you are currently in a good position, not allowing others to muster units can make for a great way to hold your lead. Likewise, because the supply track is only reconciled when cards/the king allows it to happen, you can take advantage of having an inflated army (or deflate an enemy army) since you have more control of when supply is reconciled.

The Westeros cards add a variability to the game that i find very intriguing, and can change the way the game is played for each time the game is played. Added to this is the use of Tides of Battle deck. This adds a lot of randomness to the battle aspect of the game, as each of the two players involved draw cards that can add to their total combat power. As well, they can add other symbols that can cause block or add extra deaths in the battle. I actually dislike using the Tides of Battle deck, as it can make people afraid to attack unless it is a sure bet, and sometimes dims down the game. I also found that the randomness of the game kind of ruins tension, and fluffs the strategy of the game.

Even though it’s a game for 3-6 players, I found it best played with 6 players. 3-4 player games left Lannister and Baratheon respectively, with a lot of room for expansion, and more importantly it made it far too easy for them to gain influence, and win. If you are going to be playing this game, have 6 people; It is exponentially better. The one thing that sucks about the aforementioned 6 player minimum, Is that the game will take a long time to play. Set aside at least 4 hours for a 6 player game, especially if there are new people playing. This makes it a difficult game to actually play on a regular basis, as you need two very precious things: people available to play, and time… lots and lots of time.

All in all, i like this game. Fantasy Flight Games did a fantastic job of bringing the world of George R.R. Martin’s story to a strategy war game, with political intrigue peppered all over. I’m giving it a

8.5/10

I can’t wait for the expansions (which we know will be coming, because that’s the bread and butter at Fantasy Flight Games). I would love to see on board leaders that could be killed off, as well as a board expansion that would add the Targaryen’s to the game.

Ladies and Gentlemen-

That’s YO Garbage

About the author

Mike

2 comments

1 ping

  1. Tyson F. Gautreaux

    This is a good review, but it is rather long and would do better as a video

  2. G

    Video is coming soon!!!

  1. Review: Game of Thrones The Board Game Second Edition » That's Yo Garbage

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