**Disclaimer – I haven’t played this game for a while so I won’t be going into detail about the rules. If I get any wrong I apologise and feel free to correct me in the comments. but these reviews are more about my general opinion rather than a rule description. Also, I don’t own the game so there won’t be pictures like in my review of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.**
Published by Fantasy Flight Games, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game isn’t a game that recreates the narrative of the epic saga, nor does it allow you to play as your favourite characters. Instead, it’s a territorial battle in which you take control of the various houses (Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons etc) and seek to dominate Westeros. You can make and break alliances to promote your own agenda and often you can betray people and stab them in the back (in this way it does capture some of the themes of the story).
You win by reaching a certain amount of victory points, and these are earned by controlling the regions on the board. These are constantly in flux so even if someone is dominating it’s not certain that they’re going to win. On each turn you are going to place tokens which have different effects, like marching or boosting your defense, and in this way you control your troops and engage in combat with other players. There is also the threat of attack by the wildlings, and in these cases you may need to set you differences aside to combat the threat, or you may want to purposefully sabotage things and let your opponents spend valuable resources in a futile defense of Westeros. There is also a phase in which you bid for certain positions, like the Iron Throne, and the holder has special abilities.
I think that given the exposure the tv show has had a lot of people will see this and think that it’s a recreation of the universe, and while you get to control the houses you don’t get to play as the characters, although they do appear as cards that can help you in combat. So I think a lot of people may be disappointed with that, but it is cool to battle over the land of Westeros, and the theme comes out in the way you have to negotiate with other players. It plays up to 6, but I’ve only played it with 4 players. With that it’s okay, but certain areas get left open and are easier to conquer for certain players, so it can be a little bit unbalanced depending on the number of players. I think in all the games we played the Baratheons won almost all of the time.
It’s also an incredibly heavy, dense game and at the end of them all I felt drained. The first time you play will take a long time because setting up is an event in itself and the rules…so many of them! It’ll take you about 3 hours to play, maybe a little longer and it gets more tense as the game goes on.
I enjoyed it the first couple of times we played it, but after that it started to become too draining and too much like work. I think more variety in the gameplay would have helped. My favourite aspects of the game were at the start of each turn when you turn over three cards that have different events, and different things happen because of them. Although, even then a lot of the events are similar, but it is a nice break from the rest of the game. Other than that the turns are quite repetitive, always going through the same motions each round and I found it quite monotonous. You can play as the different houses which means you’ll start in different areas, and this gives a little variety, but by the end of the game I’m feeling so tired and drained I just want it to be over.
I think if you like heavy, strategic games then you’ll definitely love this, but this game was made for that audience rather than fans of A Game of Thrones. I think if you’re a fan of the books/tv series there’s a chance you might like it, but it’s not something that recreates the show so don’t buy this thinking you’re buying that particular experience. There’s a lot of bluffing and trying to figure people out, so if you like that kind of thing then you’ll like this too, but I didn’t find it that exciting or enthralling. I would play it again but I wouldn’t want to play it regularly, and I couldn’t see myself playing two games in a row.