“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Now I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you are visiting Ideology of Madness that you have at least heard of a Game of Thrones. If you haven’t, I highly recommend reading the book series and/or watching the HBO show. Both formats are fantastic. If you aren’t familiar with the series, don’t worry. You don’t need any knowledge of it to play the Game of Thrones board game from Fantasy Flight Games that I’m about to discuss. However, I do feel that familiarity with the source material greatly enhances the play experience.
Now if you are worried about anything being spoiled from the series than you are in luck because the board game contains only one event that could be considered a spoiler. If you’ve read the first book or watched the first season of the show than there is nothing to be worried about. If you have zero knowledge of the series than I am going to warn you that you may want to stop reading this because the one event that is revealed sets up the entire foundation of the board game.
A Game of Thrones board game picks up after Robert Baratheon has died. From that point on the game diverges from the source material. The game is designed for 3 to 6 players, each of which controls one of the major houses of Westeros. The houses represented in the game are; Baratheon, Stark, Lannister, Greyjoy, Tyrell, and Martell. Your ultimate goal is to win the Iron Throne and rule over the seven kingdoms.
Anyone who has played Diplomacy will be familiar with the strategy and overall theme of the game. As the ruler of your house, it is your goal to seize the Iron Throne through any means necessary. The game encourages its players to form alliances and break them when convenient. One of the things that I really enjoy about this game is that your strategy depends on which house you control and what the other players do, making for a rather different play experience each time. Everyone does not start out the same. Each house has a different setup which determines their initial troop placement, number of resources, influence, combat cards, and who your neighboring rivals are.
I don’t really want to get into the rules but I do want to single out one of the best aspects of the game which is the planning phase. During this phase each player secretly issues orders to his units while discussing strategy with the other players. This could include; trying to form an alliance, assuring someone of your peaceful intentions, or out right threatening the other players (in game of course). In what was a brilliant move, each house has a number of tokens that contain the various orders that can be issued. Each player places the order tokens face down on the board simultaneously and then reveals them once everyone has finished giving their troops their commands. One of the things that I have never enjoyed about Diplomacy is having to write out your orders. Using tokens makes for a much easier solution.
In keeping with the theme of the source material there are a few different areas of influence that each house has to strive for. So while your armies are out there trying to win you the throne, you also have to keep your eye on who currently controls the throne, who holds the most sway in the King’s Court, your supply limits, and maintaining influence in the areas you already control. There are also those darn Wildlings milling around north of the wall.
I would recommend that anyone who enjoys strategy war games to give this game a shot. If you are interested in checking out the rules you can download them for free from Fantasy Flight Games website. There is a good community there to answer any questions you may have about the game as well. I personally have played the game about six or seven times and I’m still getting a kick out of it and with the second season of Game of Thrones about to start I’m sure my gaming group will be playing it for the foreseeable future. If you’ve played the game before or have any questions I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about it in the comments section. Good luck and may your house be victorious.