A Clash of Kings
Developed by Asmodee Digital, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game attempts to recreate Westerosi politics as a competitive game for one to six players. And while it might not be the definitive Game of Thrones experience some were hoping for, it offers solid turn-based strategy gameplay.
Players choose between the Houses of Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Greyjoy, Tyrell, and Martell and lead them to dominate the Seven Kingdoms. The choice of House is more than cosmetic, affecting the game in numerous ways. The most obvious among them is starting position, but to explain why that is important, we need to talk about the map. The most obvious comparison is to Risk, with a map of Westeros divided into regions.
Different regions offer different amounts of Supplies and Influence, which are the two primary resources. Players need the former to maintain their armies, while the latter serves as the game’s primary currency. Other areas contain Castles and Strongholds where players can train new units. Both types of fortification also offer defensive bonuses to units stationed there. They’re also the keys to victory, as the player’s goal is to control the most Castles and Strongholds by the end of the tenth round. The game doesn’t distribute resources evenly, making the player’s choice of House an important one.
A Storm of Swords
Asmodee’s game divides each round into three phases: Planning, Action and Westeros. In the Planning Phase, players choose which moves to make. Units execute orders and engage in combat during the Action Phase. During the Westeros Phase, the game draws three Westeros cards. These are global modifiers that take effect the following turn. The Mustering card, for example, lets each player train new units. Meanwhile, Web of Lies prevents nearby units from supporting each other in combat. Few cards are naturally good or bad, although that doesn’t mean they can’t ruin plans or give one side an unexpected advantage.
Most of the action, appropriately enough, takes place during the Action phase. A battle’s outcome is determined primarily by the Strength of the two armies. Various factors govern strength, the most important being the type and number of units along with House Cards. Footmen contribute one point and Knights two. Siege Towers do not directly contribute anything but offset the defensive bonus for fighting in a region with a Castle. Ships only contribute one point but are the only units that can engage in naval battles. Players can also use them to transport units across water.
House Cards represent characters associated with a House. Each House has seven cards contributing 0 to 4 points of Strength. Different cards also grant a range of bonus effects, such as forcing an opponent to discard one from their hand. So just because a card has a low number does not mean it is useless. The artwork on the cards is fantastic and is based on the books rather than the HBO series. That means Robb Stark’s a redhead, Tywin Lannister is bald, Roose Bolton looks like a vampire and several book-only characters get to exist.
A Feast for Crows
There are plenty of other mechanics players will need to familiarize themselves with; more than there is time to get into here. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game is as complicated as the story that inspired it. While that’s not inherently bad, the Digital Edition doesn’t do a great job explaining them. It also somewhat limits the appeal. Unless you are already into long, complicated board games, it might not be the thing for you. And the game really does feel a lot longer than it is. The Action phase can be a particular drag, as every move slowly plays out one at a time. This might be tolerable at a table with friends, but online or against bots, the glacial pace weighs the game down.
It’s also fairly pricey for a mobile game, coming in at $8.99 on Google Play. The alternate A Dance with Dragons scenario tacks on an extra $3.49. On the other hand, it’s still only half the price of the PC version.
Ultimately, how much a player will enjoy A Game of Thrones: The Board Game depends on what they are looking for. If you are looking for a game of intrigue and political strategy, this isn’t it. But if you are looking for Risk with extra steps, it might be the game for you. It’s a solid turn-based strategy game, but probably wouldn’t be noteworthy without the name Game of Thrones attached to it.
Is it Hardcore?
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game – Digital Edition is not going to blow anyone’s mind but is well made and enjoyable if you can overlook the sluggish pace. Just don’t expect it to be much more than a more complicated version of Risk.