A disclaimer. This two player game is made by Fantasy Flight Games and is based on the HBO TV show ‘Game Of Thrones’. It is not to be confused with the myriad of other games (also by Fantasy Flight) based on the American author George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song Of Fire And Ice’ series. The first book of which was entitled ‘A Game Of Thrones’. This is a card-based game that is based in the universe created by the TV show based on that first book. There is also another card game that is based on the book. But it is not this one. Everyone still with me?
So as ‘Game Of Thrones Card Game’ is a two-player card game, it does not rely on a board or dice, only a flat playing surface such as a dining-room table top or a pub table in our case is required. Players place their cards and assorted tokens in a prescribed layout on that surface. Each player takes on the role of either the Lannisters or the Starks, the two principal warring families in the franchise. The aim of the game is for a player to earn 15 power tokens, the first player to do this wins. These power tokens are garnered by engaging in battles called Challenges against the other player.
The mechanics of the game are broadly speaking quite simple. There are seven rounds of gameplay, each round is divided into seven specific phases. Each player has a deck of cards. From this deck they build a hand that they can use during those phases. The cards themselves are divided between Characters cards, such as Eddard Stark or Tyrion Lannister, that do all the fighting, Location cards, that provide income/improvements, Attachment cards that can be given to a character to use and event cards that throw in the odd surprise for good measure. However, these cards are not free and ready for use. You have to ‘buy’ them with gold pieces in one of the early phases of each round and is bolstered by any Location card bonuses.
Once you have bought your cards, those you can afford, then the business of battle begins. Your characters do the fighting and dying and you choose where and how they will do battle in the three Challenge arenas of Warfare, Espionage and Power, although plain financial muscle can also influence outcomes. This is where the strategy and tactics comes into play. Each player has to weigh up their situation in that particular round, assessing their strengths and weakness and that of the opposing player. Getting the balance right between attack and defence is very important. Just because you are relatively weak in one round, the opportunity to turn things around in the next round, as long as you don’t over-extend, is always present.
This opportunity is created, in part, by the selection of a Plot card – an event that happens specifically for the duration of a round. Each player gets to pick a plot card from their hand of seven and plays it at the start of each round. These Plot cards each provide gold revenues and also establish who has the initiative that turn, it’s always good to have the initiative. The chosen plot can also cause some nasty surprises, such as ‘valar morghulis’ where all your characters die. The phrase means ‘all men must die’ in High Valyrian by the way. These plots cards are based on events that happen in the franchise and help to create the narrative that you are in the ‘Game Of Thrones’ world. Each side gets cards specific to their House and there are also a number of random plot cards that either side can use.
Having played a few games of this, I would say that it is well-balanced and interesting. It is a simple enough structure to come to grips with while being complex enough to keep you engaged. The cards are glossy and have pictures of the characters/locations from the show. The Plot cards and shifting balance of who is winning each turn is nicely crafted and unless you have a shocker, can keep you in the game until the end.
There is little that is poor about this game, but there are two slight gripes. Firstly, the effects of the Plot cards are not always clear and having only seven rounds in a game means it is actually quite hard to get to 15 power points, easily solved by adding extra rounds and adding extra Plot cards.
Anyone who has played ‘Magic: The Gathering’ or any other fantasy-style card game will recognise the mechanics at work in ‘Game Of Thrones’ and will quickly fathom it all out. Fortunately, the rules are also straight forward enough and the games short enough that one practice game will be sufficient to get you in the groove. All in all, not bad!
(pub: Fantasy Flight Games 1616615885. Price: £22.04 (UK).
check our website: ww.amazon.co.uk/Game-Thrones-Card-HBO-Ed/dp/1616615885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358167053&sr=8-1