“Winter is Coming” – House Stark
With the Game of Thrones TV show at an all time high, I thought this would be a great time to introduce the A Game of Thrones The Board Game 2nd Ed. to those fans who many not know about it or who or not savvy with the latest rage of board games. A Game of Thrones The Board Game 2nd Ed. is put out by the board game publishing juggernaut Fantasy Flight Games located in Roseville, MN and is based on George R.R. Martins bestselling book series “A Song of Ice and Fire.”
A Game of Thrones The Board Game 2nd Ed. is set up to play three to six players. With rules to adjust for the amount of players in the game. The game itself is not for the casual gamer per sey. It’s a long game of strategy that can easily go over four hours but oh what a four hours it is! All the theme and feel you could ever want in a strategy game is locked in this incarnation. All the houses: Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Tyrell, Greyjoy and Martell, are in this game as you battle for territory in Westeros with political intrigue, back stabbing and hard fought war campaigns.
First off let me tell you about the quality of the game itself. The components are outstanding. The board and artwork are top notch and to me really provide a rich, warm gaming experience which I love. I think it’s important to feel like you are a “part” of the game in the sense of actually being their and the new version does this a bit better than the original version released 10 years ago. The map is large and easy to grasp and gorgeous in imagery and laid out so no matter where you sit, everything is easy to reach and understand.
The rule book is pretty well laid out so that even though there is a lot in it, it is not real hard to understand. If you read it a couple times you should be able to get a good handle on the basic operation of the game and only need to refer for special situations hopefully. Also included in the game are two quick reference sheets help shorten the game by not needing to dig in the rule book. Each player gets a screen to hide their tokens with more quick reference tidbits which is another great help to keep gameplay time down.
You vie for control of the Iron Throne while trying to be the first to acquire a total of seven castles and strongholds before the 10th round ends. If no one has acquired seven castles by the end of the 10th round, then whomever has the most wins.
During the game you have phases that you go through that the player order is determined by who controls the Iron Throne and the order of players that follow down the influence track (which is bid upon during “The Clash of Kings”.) You have the Westeros Phase” (skipped in round one), the Planning Phase and the Action Phase.
The Westeros Phase concludes advancing the game round maker, drawing Westeros cards which may have to be resolved and advancing the Wildlings track. You may have to deal with the Wildlings in which the players secretly bid an amount of power tokens to stop them. There is a consequence to the players who bid the least if the threat is not beaten.
The Planning Phase is where you assign orders (in secret by placing them upside down on the board) such as raids, marches, defense, consolidate power or support tokens. Raid tokens allow you to possibly interrupt another players token, hence messing up their plans and causing a bit of frustration. Always a fun tactic in a game like this. March tokens allow to advance on another players position or empty position for combat and taking over that territory if successful. Defense tokens are self-explanatory and help bolster your defense from attack from opposing players. Consolidate Power tokens allow you to gain power tokens for bidding later in the game or to muster units (armies) into an assigned area.
The Action Phase begins with resolving raid orders based on the order of players on the Iron Throne Track. All moves in this phase are based on this order. Note this means that if you have a five player game, then the first player resolves one order, then the second player etc… in order and comes back around to the first player if any tokens are left to be resolved. March orders are next, again one battle at a time per player and finally Consolidate Power tokens. Then you clean up the board making sure armies and tokens are removed from the board.
Combat is resolved by first a call for support. Here you may ask for a players support and they may or may not help you. They may decide to help the other player instead. This gives said player a bonus based on the support played. You then calculate strength of both sides and include the “Valyrian Steel Blade” token (explained later). Then you choose a “House Card” from your hand to help you with a strength bonus and hopefully a text that will hurt the opponent. This is then calculated as the Final Combat Strength. Combat resolution is: Determine the victor, casualties, retreating and routing and clean up.
During the game you will have the opportunity to silent bid on the three tracks when the “Clash of Kings” card appears during the Westeros phase. The first track is the Iron Throne Track which determines the order players go in and allows who ever holds this token the ability to break ties outside of combat. The Fiefdoms Track allows whomever holds the “Valyrian Steel Blade” to win all combat times and add +1 to their combat strength. This may only be used once per turn. The King’s Court Track determines the amount of special order tokens available to each player. It also allows the holder of the “Messenger Raven” token to change on of his or her orders that was placed before the action phase begins and the order tokens are revealed.
You also have ports and ships in the game. This allow for unit movements over large areas and ship to ship battles as well. An extremely important part of the game and critical to winning in my opinion if done right. Obviously House Greyjoy starts off strong in this type of unit.
The units in this game are Footman (1 unit each), Knights (2 units each), Ships (1 unit each) and Seige Engines (2 points each.) Based on your Supply Track on the board determines how many units and the size of each army allowed per house. Taking over territories with barrels in them and holding them when a “Mustering” card comes up will allow you to increase your army of force you to decrease in the case of having more units than you can support with food.
Strongholds are the larger castles that allow of two points of mustering and castles allow for 1 point of mustering. Again this happens when the “Mustering” card appears during the Westeros Phase. If you control enough territories with barrels then new units will appear at these places.
The alliances you form in this game are a major part of the game play. You can try and align with a player but beware as there are no rules to the players actually doing what is agreed to. They may be secretly plotting with someone else at the same time. While you may align with someone, you are never allowed to show hidden order tokens or silent bids. You also may not bribe anyone with power tokens, dominance tokens, cards or any other type of piece of the game. This part is all about trust and not for the weak of heat.
“I did warn you not to trust me.” – Littlefinger
There are other parts of the game that come into play such as Neutral Force or Garrison tokens. This stops you from just walking in someplace to take it over. You have to actually commit units to a battle to grab that territory.
In my opinion this is my favorite game of all time. The amount of political backstabbing, tension from the placing of orders and whether or not you just made a mistake based on alliances with other players provides so much atmosphere and incredible game play that is hard not to love. You don’t find that a lot in games these days.
Although there is a lot to it, the game is pretty easy to grasp after a couple of rounds. Don’t let the length of time dissuade you from trying it. It is well worth the time and money it costs ($59.95 retail). The theme is excellent, the game itself is well done in terms of art, components and rules.
I give it a 10 out 10 stars and highly recommend it to any board game fan and especially to Game of Thrones fans. [rating=10]
This review was originally posted on Geek Eccentric: http://www.geekeccentric.com/a-game-of-thrones-2nd-ed-board-game-review/
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