Game Length: 3 hours, give or take an hour
Best enjoyed: With exactly 6 experienced boardgamers
A Game of Thrones (or more specifically, A Game of Thrones: Second Edition) is based on the wildly successful A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. If you haven’t heard of it then I’m not sure what to say to you; however, it is by no means required to be familiar with the books or TV series to enjoy this game.
A Game of Thrones is a strategic game that borrows from the likes of the classic board game Diplomacy, the game you play if you have too many friends and want to lose some. Much like in Diplomacy, if you want to win A Game of Thrones, you will need to make non-aggression pacts or alliances with your opponents, and you will need to break these alliances at the right moment to claim victory.
Victory is achieved in A Game of Thrones by holding a total of 7 castles on the board. However, once a player reaches 6 castles, the others will start eyeing that player with suspicion, and doing all they can to prevent her from taking victory. To have the best chance of winning, a player will either have to amass an unstoppable force that his opponents can’t hold off – which can be extremely difficult – or leapfrog from 4 or 5 castles up to 7 in an unexpected move.
Each house in A Game of Thrones plays very differently. The Greyjoys start with a powerful navy able to strike from behind; the Starks start in the isolated north and therefore without the need to worry about neighbours as much; the Lannisters start with wealthy holdings but right in the thick of the other players, and so on. On top of this, each house gets 7 Leader cards that are used to boost their armies during combat, and each Leader card is unique, further adding to the individual flavour of the houses.
Note that this game is based on the novels and not the HBO television series – don’t expect Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in the card art. Also, be fairly warned: this is a complex game for serious boardgamers. It will take many hours to play and demands concentration of its players to get the most out of it. On top of that, it requires 6 players to work best – with less than 6, the game can become unbalanced as some players have more opportunity to expand into uncontested areas.
However, there are few finer board game experiences for 6 dedicated players on the market, and as you outmaneuver your friends and make a bid for control of that final game-winning castle you will feel like a true general. But remember – when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.