Mark Collins(GrimTree)United Kingdom
For article with pics see here=http://grimtreegames.com/grimblog/?p=265.
Hello all, I took our freshly unboxed Game Of Thrones to the Wigan Wargames club before Christmas to give it a test drive. Being a club consisting of thoroughly nice people it’s always good to sit down with them as even if the game is rubbish, you are in good company. Luckily, Game of Thrones is not rubbish, it is very good. I however, I am rubbish at conquest type games. I always misjudge expand vs consolidate decisions, attack the wrong fronts and have seemingly endless bad luck with dice rolls. The last excuse I listed was not applicable for Game of Thrones however, in a normal game there is no luck factor, just cold hard tactics. So I was really screwed.
We played a 4 player game, so that eliminated a few of the factions from the game. You chose one of the Houses that feature in the books and TV show, I chose Lannister, my opponents were Stark, Baratheon and Greyjoy. The game dictates how the starting units are set up so we all set up our pieces. The Starks set up in the north, they have quite a wide expanse of land that they can expand into, however they have few castles up there to take over. Capturing castles is the objective of the game, you have 10 turns to be the one with the most castles, or the first to 7 wins the game. So, that makes life a bit harder for the Starks as they have to push right down into enemy territory for castles. The flip side to that is they have a lot of uncontested land that they can use to consolidate power. Consolidate power is one of the possible orders that you can give your troops, and the order mechanics are the real meat of the game. You have several orders available,
March: Allows you to march onto an adjacent territory and attack enemy troops if they are there.
Defend: Troops stay put but get a bonus to defence.
Support: Your troops don’t move, but can assist in any adjacent combat.
Raid: Remove an adjacent Raid, Support, or Consolidate power icon.
Consolidate Power: Gain a power token. Used to keep control of land once you have moved out of it and to bid for power.
Everyone places their order tokens face down, then everyone flips them over, then they carry out Raid orders, then March orders, then Consolidate Power orders.
So as you can see, with no one to attack or use raid orders in the beginning the Starks can build up a pool of power tokens. Power tokens are very important as they are used when bidding for power. At certain points in the game all players bid secretly to gain a position on one of the three influence tracks, more on this later. This means that even though the Starks had not a lot of castles, they were able to bid their way to power.
That’s enough about the Starks, people want to hear about the Lannisters. I was situated in the middle of the map, close to Greyjoy, and with the Baratheons a little further south. There was a number of castles here to take and it would be hotly contested.
I won’t go into the details of the rules here, we do that in the game overview video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axMfYMReXbI, and that was hard enough. It’s a tricky one, as the rules when read don’t seem complicated, but the act of trying to explain them seems mammoth. I think it’s because of the way rules interact with each other, you can’t really just explain one rule and leave the rest out until it is relevent, you need to know everything before you start. However once you know the rules the game flows very quickly.
One the first turn, I thought it would be a good idea to come out fighting, so I launched an attack against the Greyjoys on my first turn. Unfortunately this made a counter attack inevitable, using a tactic I had not taken into account. Units can travel via ships without penalty and any distance. My shore based units were attacked by troops that came from a few sea spaces away, and were defeated. Losing units this early was not ideal and I started to lose my foothold. This tactic is important to remember as sea spaces surround the map. Enough ships and you can attack the other side on the map with one order. At the same time House Baratheon was amassing troops and land mass.
Here is where another mechanic came into play. You can only have as many armies as your supply track indicates. An army is any territory that has 2 or more units in, and your supply track is a track on the board that shows how may armies you can have. The more territories you control with barrel symbols, the more armies you can have. When you gain new troops, you place them on the castle that produced them, and the trigger for gaining new troops is a random card draw so you never know when it’s going to come. Based on that I as the game progressed I was reluctant to move my troops away from my castle and leave it weak, but that meant when mustering came (the term for acquiring more troops) I couldn’t place them as it would mean my army was too big on my castle.
As the game progressed the order placing phase became nerve wracking. Trying to second guess opponents and place suitable orders is one of the core game play mechanics, and also can lead to some spectacular back stabbing (Of course I will support your attack *flip* Sucker). There were are least 2 turns where myself and house Baratheon had 2 territories just placing defend orders, neither side wanting to risk combat. Myself and house Greyjoy agreed on a fragile truce whilst we dealt with Baratheon who was quickly expanding, whilst Stark was busy acquiring land and power. I lost several battles by going up against small numbers, who had a cunning support order from a larger force behind.
A quick note on the influence tracks at this point. At random points in the game dictated by event cards, players have to bid for power on each of the tracks. In turn players secretly bid available power tokens for The Iron Throne, The Fiefdoms, and the Kings Court. Being at the top of each track has its advantages, the Iron Throne determines turn order, the Fifdomes determines combat ties, and the Kings Court give you access to special orders. There are over advantages that we go through in the Overview video. At any one time you will probably see a benefit in one of those and bid your power for that, however when you need more you need to split your available power between them when bidding. This is when alliances and formed and broken, you want to be on the good side of powerful players, however when their influence drops, then is the time to pounce. This game is ready for some heavy backstabbing and plotting, which is awesome. The rules do state that with a few limitations, they encourage players forming deals and plotting between themselves.
We saw the influence track change wildly in our game, however House Baratheon seemed to have sway most of the time through clever bidding.
In the end though, Greyjoy came right round my territory and rushed a Baratheon castle on the last turn, giving them victory. I know I am generally pretty rubbish at Conquest games, but House Lannister needs a solid plan from turn 1 and to keep the pressure on. The Starks and Baratheons seem to have a more leisurely start, but in hindsight if I had made a rush for the castles sooner that may have won me the game.
So there you go, hopefully you get a taste of the rules and tactics possible. It’s like I said previously, it’s not a complicated game when you break down the individual parts, but the game when played has so many tactics available, its can be hard to get your head around your options to begin with. Once the game is flowing though it is all second nature. I can’t wait to play this again, the depth of the game means there is plenty of life left in it yet.
Thanks for reading!