A Game of Thrones Board Game: 2nd Edition

I’ve been reading the Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin and watching the HBO series more than a bit lately, and that’s made me increasingly curious about the board game based on them. Three to six players play as one of the noble houses of Westeros including: House Stark, House Lannister, House Baratheon, House Greyjoy, House Tyrell, and House Martell. The number of players in a given game determines which of the houses are available for play so you’ll need a full table to get the complete set. There is also an expansion available with the necessary components for House Arryn. Each house competes to seize control of territories, the game continues for ten rounds and at the end the player in control of the highest number of keeps and strongholds is declared the victor. However if a player ever manages ton claim seven keeps or strongholds the game ends immediately and they win.

Each round of play, with the exception of the first, begins by placing turning over three Westeros Cards which represent events taking place all over Westeros and influencing the course of the game. These cards control various factors including the size of players armies, when they can create new units, who controls the various influence tracks, and they also increase the threat of an attack by Wildlings.

Next order tokens are placed face down on each of the territories under player control at the beginning of the round. Order tokens which are used to determine what actions the various houses and the forces under their control will use during that round. There are five types of order tokens: Raid Orders, March Orders, Defense Orders, Support Orders, and Consolidate Power Orders. Raid Orders are resolved first and are used to remove one adjacent enemy Support, Consolidate Power, or Raid Order. Marche Orders are resolved second and are used to move units around the board, they are the primary means of launch an attack and initiating combat. The Defense Order contributes to the defensive power of a territory when units enter it using a March Order. Support Orders are some of the most intriguing ones of the game. You can use a Support Order to lend military might to your own forces when they might be overwhelmed, or to aid potential allies in their battles with other houses. Forging alliances with the other houses goes to the very heart of the political intrigue in Game of Thrones. If House Stark finds itself being driven out of Moat Cailin by House Lannister, and you find yourself in a position to lend support it presents an interesting opportunity. Do you aid the beleaguered House Stark in their battle? Or do you hope to garner favor with House Lannister by siding with their forces. Lastly the Consolidate Power Order earn players additional power tokens.

Unlike other games that use gold or resources the currency of the Game of Thrones board game are power tokens which are used for bidding. Gathering more of these by using consolidate power orders allows you to bid higher without running the risk of running out of tokens when you really need them. All bidding is done in secret, so you won’t know what other players are risking until all of the bids are revealed.

One of my favorite features of the game are the three influence tracks that are routinely altered. When the Clash of Kings Westeros card is revealed players will bid using power tokens to decide who sits at the top of each of these tracks. The highest bidder takes the top position and it continues down the line, in the event of a bidding tie the current controller of the Iron Throne decides who the winner is. The Iron Throne allows its controller to determine who is the winner in the event of a tie for any contest. The Valyrian Sword grants a player an extra bonus during combat encounters. Lastly the Messenger Raven allows a player to swap a single action token after they’ve been placed and revealed.

As the houses clash and plot far to the north the Wildlings will periodically mount attacks of varying strengths against the Wall. When this occurs the Night’s Watch must defend the wall and prevent the Wildings from breaking through their defenses. Each house contributes strength to the Night’s Watch in the form of power tokens which are bid in secret. The level of the Wildling threat determines the total number of power tokens which must be contributed for the Night’s Watch to be victorious. Once the bidding is complete the a card from the top of the Wilding deck is revealed, this card details the conditions that result from a victory for the Night’s Watch of their defeat.

Fantasy Flight really managed to capture the world of Westeros in the form of a breathtaking map, commander cards which aid units in combat, and a the fantastic artwork that appears on the player screen for each of the houses. My only major issue with the game at this moment is the lack of any figures to support playing House Tully. As with many games the price tag attached to this game is no small hurdle, and the minimum of three players means you won’t be enjoying it without a group or a family.