A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition – Ten Things to Know

  1. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game has the world of Westeros coming alive as players take up the mantel of a House leader and try to conquer the map through the use of diplomacy and warfare. Just of note, my photos of this game and its expansion were corrupted so unfortunately, these will be text only reviews. Apologies for the inconvenience.
  2. Are there spoilers? Yes. If you haven’t read past the opening chapters or the first few TV show episodes, there is a big spoiler (that the entire game is based around). What is the spoiler (highlight text to see)? King Robert Baratheon has died, thus setting the stage for the entire story.
  3. With the game set in a world that has graced both page and screen, the question remains how thematic playing the game is and the answer is close to very. The artwork, which is unique when compared to the television show, helps bring the characters on the cards alive and the constant threat that is seen on all borders creates a tension that feels ripped from the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire. Even players that are unfamiliar with the lore will get a sense of what is going on just from the map on the board and the cards that sit in their hand.
  4. I think that A Game of Thrones (GoT) sits firmly in the complex level of rules governance and strategy. Players will not only need to know the nuances of the rules (has anyone ever gotten boats right?) but they’ll also need to feed off the social aspect as they navigate the table to find allies and enemies. It will definitely help to have a rules expert to shepherd the turns along but even with that, I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a pick-up-and-play type of game. The few times this has hit the table, we have made it an event game where we knew that we were playing it well in advance and players knew which families they were controlling (so they could look up any strategies that they may want). The key though is the interaction between players: making deals, alliances and truces.
  5. The main thing to note is that GoT is not a war game. Similar to Scythe, looks can be deceiving. GoT is a negotiation game with war being a subset of the rules. If you go into GoT thinking that war conquers all, you will have a bad time and more than likely not do very well. This isn’t an advanced form of Risk; it’s an advanced form of Diplomacy. Due to the negotiation and backstabbing, there is a group of people that this game is not for. Players that may take things personally or hold grudges outside of GoT or into other games, this game is not for.
  6. With games of this nature, Kingmaking can be a very serious issue and it will be on the onus of the players and not the game itself to ensure that these issues are handled. Players in the lead need to be aware that their head will be on the platter soon enough and players in the back of the pack need to know that while they may not have a chance at winning, they have a chance to dictate who will win. Even when you’re “out” of GoT, you’re never truly out as there is always a role you can play.
  7. GoT features three distinct phases: the Westeros phase, the Planning phase and the Action Phase. The Planning phase is where the bulk of the game is played and that involves players placing tokens on the regions they control that dictate the actions those units in that region will take this turn. The tokens are placed face down and are a secret to all opponents until they are revealed during the Action phase. During this Planning phase, players can try to work out truces and discern plans with their neighbors. What sets GoT apart from similar area control games with table negotiation are the troop limits (based on particular regions you control), the influence tracks (Iron Throne, Kings Court and Fiefdoms) and the Wildlings (which requires a blind bid to deal with any potential threat).
  8. GoT needs six-players to play. The base game is unplayable at lower player counts as there is no balance. A player or two will have a border that they don’t have to worry about and that is a massive advantage that imbalances the game. Play with six or not at all (or get the expansion, A Feast for Crows that creates a four-player scenario). I just want to reiterate one more time: play with six players or play something else. Also, due to the amount of players, board size and player screens, you will need a fairly large table for all the real estate that this game is going to demand.
  9. With the layout of the board and the complexity of the rules, there is some imbalance in the starting locations of the Houses. Some players will immediately feel the hot breath of their opponents on their neck before the first turn kicks off whereas others may have a turn or two to breath. It may very well be important to assign Houses not based on color or who enjoys which but on who will enjoy negotiating out of such a predicament or more likely, who won’t want to be stuck in such a scenario.
  10. Due to the complexity, the negotiating and the player count, GoT is going to be an event. Three hours; maybe more. It’s a long game. This is not one you can just crank out. While not as long as Twilight Imperium, I still feel like there is a mental slog and the only thing that got us through the first couple plays was our deep love of the mythos (until the final seasons were released…). I wanted to love GoT and wanted it to keep hitting the table but with each play I realized that I would rather be playing something else with similar mechanics but less rules overhead and upkeep or I’d rather just go all-in and play something even longer and more rewarding to myself and my group, such as Twilight Imperium 4.

Author: Two off the Top

Just a guy that wants to talk about board games more than his significant other tolerates.

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