A game that I wished that I had discovered a long time ago is the Game of Thrones: Living Card Game.
In A Game of Thrones, each player takes a deck representing one of the four main houses (expansions add more houses) in the Game of Thrones book series (by George R.R. Martin). From here, the game is played in a series of turns until one player has collected 15 power. First, each player selects a plot card and reveals it at the same time - the plot cards have an immediate effect, but they also determine how much gold each player receives, what each player's initiative is (who goes first), and what each person's claim value is (how much damage their house does in combat). Next, players draw two cards and have the option of playing any cards from their hands - characters, attachments, etc. Next come challenges. In initiative order, players have the option of challenging their opponents in three different areas - military, intrigue, and power. Both attackers and defenders have to "kneel" (turn the card to the side) in order to participate in the challenge. If an attacker successfully wins a military challenge, the defender must lose characters equal to the attacker's "claim" value. Intrigue challenges force the defender to lose cards from his hand, and power challenges force the defender to give power from his victory pile to the attacker. Plus, any undefended challenges gain a power for the attacker. After each player gets to take his turn initiating challenges, players compare how much gold and "standing" (non-kneeling) characters they have; whoever has the most gains an additional power. Finally, all kneeling characters are returned to standing, and any leftover gold is discarded. Play continues in this manner until one of the players has gained 15 power - that player is immediately the winner!
|I love plot cards|
The next thing that I love about the Game of Thrones card game is how the challenges work. This works well with the initiative, because if you are able to get a higher initiative, then you can be the one forcing your opponent to react to your moves (after all, if you attack first, then you might be able to kill some of his characters before they have the chance to do anything - or at the very least convince him to kneel some of his characters to defend). Each of the different challenges are very strong, but in entirely different ways. Military is phenomenal and straightforward - if you kill your opponent, then they cannot attack or defend. Yet, with intrigue, you can prevent your opponent from bringing in reinforcements; or from hitting you with a nasty Event. Power, finally, wins the game. Regularly defeating your opponent in power will keep him from ever being able to gather enough power to defeat you - while helping you grow ever-closer to victory. These different strategic elements give an abundance of different strategies when building decks, but they also are critical during gameplay. Each turn you must decide how many characters you want to commit to which challenge - sometimes attacking simply to force your opponent into defending, and sometimes pressing all of your attack into a single challenge that you know your opponent cannot prevent. Once you have mastered the challenges in Game of Thrones, you will be a very skilled player!
The next thing that I like about Game of Thrones is that you truly are playing a game in which your cards represent characters - they are unique. Game of Thrones takes this uniqueness a step further than any other game that I have played. In Game of Thrones, if a unique character dies - he is dead. He cannot be played again, and he is placed in a separate discard pile. This makes deck building more interesting, as you must decide whether a single character is valuable enough to put multiple copies of in your deck - and if it is that important, you need to make sure that you protect that character, or else you will have extra cards that you cannot use later in the game!
Finally, I believe that the decks that come with the core set of Game of Thrones are well balanced and provide enough strategy that the game is enjoyable, even with a single core set of cards. If you are not intending to play in tournaments (I'm not), then you could play the game with just the core set, and you would really have a very solid game.
|This is one of the duplicated cards|
Overall, I give the Game of Thrones: Living Card Game a 9.5/10. The gameplay easily deserves a 9.5, and the small nuisances of the core set are trivial enough to not drop the total score. Plus, the great news is that Fantasy Flight (I believe) is releasing all of their new expansions with the three copies of each card that you need, and are even re-releasing some of the older expansions to have this same three-copies of each card format! I truly look forward to continuing to play this game, and I really hope that I have several friends that fall in love with it so that I can have people to play against.
If you enjoy the Game of Thrones: Living Card Game, you might also check out the Game of Thrones Board Game, the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game, Star Wars: Living Card Game, and possibly Summoner Wars.