Disclaimer: Game of Thrones: The Board Game is an emotional game. There are moments where players are ecstatic that they didn’t get attacked and other moments where they are cursing in anger at their former ally who just back-stabbed them. I want this review to be as accurate as possible. For that reason, parts of the text below contain language that might be considered foul by some, and justified by others. Please consider this piece a bit NSFW if that is something that may offend you.
“Don’t you fucking dare!” Joe screamed at the top of his lungs inside his one bedroom apartment. His voice was angry and serious. In most local game stores, we would have been kicked out hours ago. Nick, the target of Joe’s anger, nervously dropped his Baratheon units next to Joe’s and proceeded to attack House Stark; breaking an alliance that had lasted three turns. As the combat round finished, it was clear that House Baratheon would conquer this territory. Joe paced back and forth, taking quick drags off his cigarette. Every now and then he looked at Nick and said “That’s bullshit! Such bullshit! Never ask me for help again.” We weren’t even half way through the game.
The mighty Stark empire which at one time controlled a total of six castles and strongholds was crumbling. By the end of the game, they would only be left with ships that aimlessly wandered Westeros’ lonely seas.
Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition is a 3 to 6 player game put out by Fantasy Flight. Anyone who has played the game will tell you that full player count is the only was to go. During each round, players place secret order tokens on the board in any regions they have units. When everyone has finished, those orders are simultaneously flipped over revealing what each units action will be. I’m sure you can imagine how this could lead to many surprises. Aside from commanding your units and performing combat with one another, players will collect power tokens that are used for bidding on things like turn order, combat ties, and more. All of this leads up to the main goal: trying to acquire seven castles/strongholds in the land of Westeros.
With a couple games under there belt, players should be able to knock out a six player game in about four hours. Our game, which included three new players with board game backgrounds, took five hours including rules explanation. Games will end when a player either controls seven castles/strongholds, or when the tenth round of play has finished; at which point whoever has the most castles/strongholds wins.
The board is gorgeous and does the Game of Thrones name justice. It is also large and perfectly capable of handling all six players. There are punch board tokens, which are good quality with nice art, and some kind of marble plastic units. The units are really the only unattractive thing about the game. I was House Martell, and the brown/white marble coloring was quite ugly.
Smooth and fast. For a game this large, you would might expect a lot of downtime, but it really is kept to a minimum. The longest you will wait is when two players are working out combat, but that is usually less than five minutes. To me, that is pretty impressive for a six player game that can average four hours. As you can probably tell from the introduction, this is an emotional game. The young lady sitting next to me was visibly mad for the next three hours after I betrayed our alliance and attacked her. I even felt a little guilty….just a little. After all, that is the genius of this game and others like it. You have to lie to win. You have to form alliances. You have to attack those who you once called friends. The game literally forces you to do this be giving specific victory conditions and a set number of rounds to make this happen.
When you play the game, do everyone a favor and make it very clear that whatever happens in the game, stays in the game. I had heard stories about people kicking others out of their house over this game. Stories of friendships, even relationships, ending. I was fortunate to play with pretty level headed people, but still, it was not always a comfortable game. You have to go into the game knowing that will happen. Give all players that warning before the first round starts.
Outside of the chaos one finds on the battlefield, you will also be trying to capture points of power and supply within certain territories (crowns and whiskey barrels). Power gives you tokens that let you perform certain auction functions that determine things like turn order, determination of combat ties, and how many special secret order tokens you have access to…and boy, will you want those special tokens. You see, Game of Thrones is brilliant not only because of the combat, but because of these extra decisions that really force you into corners some times. While the supply mechanic pushes the game near over-complexity, it never actually arrives, leaving a wondrous mix of choices that will make you question your every move.
The easiest way to tell if a game is good, is by the conversation that follows afterwards. If the designers did their job, the game will be able to tell a story and make each player question how that story could have developed differently. In Game of Thrones The Board Game, I will always remember how I came to the rescue of the Baratheons. Hell, I even gave them a castle! I will always remember how the Tyrells had a massive lead in the beginning, but their gloating got the best of them. This is a game that creates memories and delivers the experience of what this hobby is all about. If you can manage getting a group of five or six people together, or four with the Feast for Crows expansion, then definitely get this game.