A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Review

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Review

  • over 2 years ago by NiK Walker-Smith

Highlights

  • Great strategic game - not much randomness
  • Recreates the politics and diplomacy of the books & show
  • Variants and expansions available with difference game scenarios

Lowlights

  • Lots of rules to learn
  • Needs 6 players for best gaming experience
  • Game sessions can take a long amount of time, especially with rookie players, typically 3-5 hours

A Game of Thrones: the board game (GOTTB) was originally released in 2003 so pre-dates the popular HBO series and is a very faithful recreation of the A Song of Ice and Fire books, mainly set during the A Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings books.

Whilst it may look a lot like Risk, the rules seem to borrow a lot from Diplomacy. So a lot of the mechanics are around negotiation, persuasion and knowing the right time to betray your allies to seize victory. This is accomplished by orders being assigned to your territories/armies in secret, then all orders for all players are revealed at once. The game is designed so that you forces are strong enough to fight a battle on one front, but fighting on two or three at the same time is impossible without aid from another house/player.

There’s very little randomness in this game, there are no dice and the only randomness is from 3 cards drawn at the start of each turn which can have many various effects which can range from not being able to tell your units to provide support, to being able to build muster(build) new troops, to wildlings north of the wall attacking.

I originally played GOTTB not long after release around my friend’s house and had not been exposed to the source material. The standard game seems to be set around the first and second books, with characters for each of the six main houses of Westeros featured and usable in your battles.

The sheer amount of rules can at first be daunting to new comers - it can end up being one of those board games where it takes one play through to fully understand the mechanics. Don’t let this put you off, as most friends who have played this with me as rookies have been really eager to try again, having learnt from their mistakes or misunderstandings of the mechanics and rules. The rules on the whole work really well to recreate the atmosphere and political wranglings in the Game of Thrones setting. One minute you can be sat on the Iron Throne with a Valarian steel blade (and get to go first and decide who wins in draws) the next you can be last and lose in the situation of a draw.

Where the game really shines is with 5-6 players with little space to expand to without having to fight other players it really pushes the negotiation alliance/betrayal aspect much better. The second edition is currently available which builds in the changes and refinements from two previous expansions. There are a two further expansions; A Feast for Crows which provides a alternative 4 player scenario where there are objectives to complete (other than the standard objective of westeros dominance by having the most castles), and A Dance with Dragons, a 6 player scenario which brings the character cards and starting positions up to roughly where they are in that book.

The game feels reasonably well balanced, but some houses are harder to play than others - for instance Lannister gets a harder start and really needs to ally with one of its neighbours. The game benefits from having more players, ideal with 6 but still fun with four players. I would highly recommend A Game of Thrones: The board game and hope you all give it a go.