Game of Thrones Review

Game of Thrones board game mid play

Another game from this weekend to review (while its fresh in my mind) is A Game Of Thrones.

In Game of Thrones, each player takes on the role of one of the noble houses from George R.R. Martin's book series A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) (which I recommend, as it is a great fantasy series). From there, at the beginning of each turn various random events will occurs including mustering new troops, adjusting players' supplies, having the "Wildlings" attack, bidding on positions of power, etc. After this, all of the players place "orders" at the same time, and after all of these have been placed, then the players will execute the orders in turn order. At the end of 10 rounds, or once someone has taken a certain number of cities/strongholds, then the game ends and the person with the most cities and strongholds is declared the winner.

There are several things that I like about Game of Thrones. First off, I like the orders, where there is a limited number of things that are available to you each turn. For example, there are only 3 orders with which you can attack, and they each have a different attack modifier. If you are only planning on attacking once, then you can use the +1 modifier - if you plan on attacking with all 3, you wind up using a -1 modifier for one of your attacks. Another aspect of orders that I like is the concept of the "Raids". These orders are executed before any others and can allow players to destroy some of the other players' orders. Overall, the concept of how the orders works is incredibly well executed and adds a lot to the gameplay.

The next thing that I like about Game of Thrones is the combat system - specifically the support. One of the available orders is "Support". If a player places this on some of his units, then those units are able to lend their combat strength to any battles that happen adjacent to them (even if they are not directly involved in the combat). This is a neat system, as it will allow a third party to potentially determine the winner of a battle, and thus they can determine who they want their closest aggressor to be. Also, when battling, at the end of the battle each player chooses a "character card" to add to the total combat value (and affect other aspects of the battle such as casualties). However, once the character card is used, it will not be available again until all of the other cards have been used. This aspect of the game allows a prudent player to attack when they know someone doesn't have their valuable character cards available, and also forces players to sometimes choose how critical a fight is (in addition to adding a bluffing aspect to the game).

A third concept of Game of Thrones that I liked was the positions of power. There are three positions: the Iron Throne, the King's Messenger, and the ruler of the Fiefdom. Players bid "points" on these positions, and not only does the winner matter, but placement matters as well. For example, the winner of the Iron Throne gets to break all (non-combat) ties, but the order on the Iron Throne track also determines what the turn order is. Another example is that the King's Messenger gets to adjust one of his orders after all of them have been revealed, however the order on the messenger track affects how many "special orders" a player can play each round.

There are, unfortunately, a couple of cons with Game of Thrones. The first one is that it does not scale well. If you read the rules, it states that it is a 5-player game that can be played with only 3 or 4. It means this. With less than 5 players, the game is not especially well balanced and a lot of time is spent expanding each player's kingdom without running into any opposition by other players. This makes the game mechanics not work as well.

The next aspect of the game that I did not think worked very well dealt with random events.  As stated previously, at the beginning of each turn various random events occur - one of these events is a "muster" event in which players are able to gain reinforcements. Unfortunately, these cards, since they are randomly pulled out (and since there is a card that does nothing but reshuffle the deck) may occur very frequently but also have the potential of not occurring for the entire game. (In the most recent game that we played, it was a 7-round game and a muster came up once.) Another frustration that I had with the random event cards is related to how frequently the card can come up that allows players to re-bid on positions of power. These cards have the potential of coming up very frequently, which would mean that a player gets very short term benefit from gaining a position, but they could also come up hardly ever which would cause people to have the position for longer than they should simply due to random luck. (In the latest game we played it took several turns for one to occur, but then they occurred back to back, which meant that the first time positions went for about 10 power points, and the second time they went for about 1-2 points.)

Overall, Game of Thrones gets a 7.5/10. It has a lot of good aspects, but unfortunately the difficulty of getting a game together (since it really needs 5 players) limits how often you will wind up being able to play the game.  Also, you need to be willing to deal with random elements of the game being... well... random.  Being familiar with the books will help a player enjoy the game a little bit more, but is not a prerequisite for being able to play and enjoy the game.

Some other Fantasy Flight games that you might be interested in reading about are Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Battlestar Galactica, Chaos in the Old World, and Civilization.


  1. Could you make labels for the ratings? It would be nice to see all the ones that are rated similarily together. Also, I can't log in with my Google Account. The box to sign in never shows up.

  2. Do you just mean add a label at the bottom of the reviews for "9.5" or "7" or whatever and add a widget to the side that groups them? That is an interesting idea. I'm not sure how to do that right now, but I may need to look into it. About your logging in, I'm not sure what's going on there. I normally have a "Sign In" in the top right corner of the page.

  3. well more like a label at the bottom that has, A, B, C, D, F. Or some other way for people to see all games that are of similar rating. I figured out the login issue.

  4. Oooo yay, I see the rating thing now! It's great! :D Good blog.