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Mindflayer Chef
Canada
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I'm uncertain if this has been suggested yet or not, but I've found the following variants for 4 or 5 players the best options over toying with neutral armies. For those who might not know, Baratheon (in particular) has a very easy time winning the game in a 4 or 5 player game as set out by the rules due to the neutral armies in Dorne being easily defeatable (a siege engine works particularly well).

4 Players: Rumble in the South

In this variant, Stark and Greyjoy are unplayable and their lands are impassable. The impassable regions thus include: Bay of Ice, Flint's Finger, Ironman's Bay, Seagard, The Mountains of the Moon and The Narrow Sea. This variant is excellent at creating a true 4-way battle with shifting alliances! However I tend to make the win condition only 6 castles instead of 7 to speed up the game.


4 Players: Struggle in the North

In this variant, Tyrell and Martell are both unplayable and their lands are impassable. The impassable lands start at: Highgarden, The Reach, The Boneway, Storms End and includes all lands south of there. Interestingly, this variant leaves the oceans around the southern end of the continent open, and I recommend The Arbor remain in the game as well.


5 Players: Race to King's Landing

In this variant, Baratheon is unplayable and Dragonstone is impassable. But all other areas on the board are fair game. I like this variant since everyone else, except Greyjoy really, has a shot at taking King's Landing first.


5 Players: King in the North

Despite its name, this variant has Stark as the unplayable house, with their lands and the Arryn's lands impassable. This includes: Bay of Ice, Moat Calin, The Twins, The Mountains of the Moon and The Narrow Sea. I don't like this variant as much since Greyjoy goes at Lannister, and Tyrell tends to go at Martell, leading to a relatively easy Baratheon victory unless Tyrell and Martell team up on Baratheon. But it's still better than the neutral armies in the rules!
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David Laine
United States
Whittier
California
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pbonnick wrote:
5 Players: King in the North

Despite its name, this variant has Stark as the unplayable house, with their lands and the Arryn's lands impassable. This includes: Bay of Ice, Moat Calin, The Twins, The Mountains of the Moon and The Narrow Sea. I don't like this variant as much since Greyjoy goes at Lannister, and Tyrell tends to go at Martell, leading to a relatively easy Baratheon victory unless Tyrell and Martell team up on Baratheon. But it's still better than the neutral armies in the rules!


I'd remove Greyjoy before Stark. Then Baratheon literally has 4 direct competitors, and Lannister gets a little buff by not having Ironmen at their backs all game. Removing Stark pretty much requires Greyjoy to plow through Lannister, so Baratheon's only threat is the combined might of the south.

Another option is to use the original, 1st edition, 5-player map:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1226534/a-game-of-thrones...

Print out the bottom of the board and use it as an overlay. There's no Martell, and the board has significant changes making the south a lot less lucrative for Baratheon.
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Eric Ruhland
Canada
Ottawa
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pbonnick wrote:
4 Players: Struggle in the North

In this variant, Tyrell and Martell are both unplayable and their lands are impassable. The impassable lands start at: Highgarden, The Reach, Dornish Marches, Storms End and include all lands south of there. Interestingly, this variant leaves the oceans around the southern end of the continent open, and I recommend The Arbor remain in the game as well.

I assume you meant to include The Boneway rather than the Dornish Marches (which would already be impassable by virtue of being south of Highgarden and The Reach)?

For 4 players I was thinking of something similar except the impassable lands would include Highgarden, Dornish Marches, The Boneway, Storms End, and all terretories to the south of them. Also consider the two sea zones, West Summer Sea and East Summer Sea, to be one zone to further facilitate conecting the east and west coasts by way of the southern sea.

I hadn't considered leaving The Arbor in but I think it is of little consequence and if you combine the Summer Sea zones it is equally accessable to both Lannister and Baratheon so why not...
The real difference then would be the availablity of The Reach. Do others think that it is important to remove The Reach as well. It seems to me that both Lannister and Baratheon will have a go at it but maybe it is just too far out of the reach of the other houses?

I do think bringing east and west closer together by way of the Summer Sea would be a great improvement though. What do others think?

For 5 players is it enough to just exclude Starfall, Yronwood, Salt Shore, and Sunspear?
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Dan Zubb
Russia
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4 Players is best without Tyrell and Greyjoy. Pyke and Highgarden are insurmountable, Sea Guard has defence of 5, Oldtown of 4.

Our group played like 15 games and we find this variant most pleasing.
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Mindflayer Chef
Canada
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David: You're completely right that removing Stark sets Greyjoy against Lannister exclusively. However, without Greyjoy, Lannister tends to become very powerful, very quickly due to the concentration of very valuable spaces in that region of the board. Placing neutral armies in Seagard (and possibly Riverrun) as Dan suggests may be a good way of tempering their growth though.

I should point out that I strive to keep the amount of mustering points divvied up evenly among the players when I cut off areas of the board. You'll note that if you allocate the closest castles to each houses' starting location evenly, every house has relatively easy access to 5 mustering points at the beginning of the game.

Eric: You are right, I did mean The Boneway, not the Dornish Marches (I've fixed this in my post above). Brain misfire!
Also, I like your idea of combining West Summer Sea and East Summer Sea into one zone. In this case, I would also make Redwyne Straights and Sea of Dorne impassable to keep the sea combat relatively facile. Having two 'contained' sea areas off one contested sea area would get messy and with only 6 ship arsenals, probably not in a good way.

Regarding The Reach, I think it is important to make it impassable to maintain the '5 mustering points per house' balance, and Lannister will have too much trouble with Greyjoy at the beginning of the game to make any decent attempt to take The Reach before or from Baratheon.

Regarding excluding Starfall, Yronwood, Salt Shore and Sunspear: Yeah, this might work well as a simple alternative to using the old 5 player map printout referred to by David. I would also exclude Sea of Dorne in this case.

Dan: I'll have to try your 4 player suggestion, but I'm still very wary of allowing Lannister access to Seagard (even with a neutral army). My experiences with 3 player games where Stark and Lannister fight for Seagard tend to always weigh heavily in favour of Lannister since they can control both Ironman's Bay and The Golden Sound, which makes taking any area next to them extremely difficult and taking Sunset Sea nearly impossible.

Thanks to all for your comments!
 
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Piotr Kaplon
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I really dislike playing with less than 6 players, but recently it's not easy for us to assemble a full time. During latest 5-player game we introduced a minor change, a variant I could call Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, despite Martells being passive (but aren't they, most of the time?).

We simply added 1 strength point to each Martell neutral garrison (each southern one, not King's Landing nor Vale). It made is slightly more difficult for Baratheon and Tyrell, but Baratheon won anyway, with in turn 7, with Sunspear and Yronwood among his castles.

And of course we play with Tides of battle, it makes it slightly risky to attack neutrals unless you use really superior forces.
 
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Josh Lacey
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Portage
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Thank you for this. We just played our first game as a 4 player game and really it was terrible. Baratheon would have won on the 3rd turn as they just started snatching up the Neutral forces, while I as Lannister was defending myself against Greyjoy. The only reason it went to a 4th turn was Stark, after being told to, attacked one of Baratheon's castles before he wanted to which limited Baratheon from taking the 7th castle immediately. It was over very early in turn 4 though.

I think if we had played this several times it would have started out differently, but having to play a scripted first 2-3 turns just to hold of Baratheon would defeat the purpose of playing a game that is fluidly changing.

So again thanks for these ideas, I'll try and get them back around for another game...was really sour on this after the game.
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Stoodster
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Santa Barbara
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pbonnick wrote:
5 Players: Race to King's Landing

In this variant, Baratheon is unplayable and Dragonstone is impassable. But all other areas on the board are fair game. I like this variant since everyone else, except Greyjoy really, has a shot at taking King's Landing first.


Thanks for posting these variants! We just played our first game last night with the Race to King's Landing variant and we had a blast.

One question about these variants: Do you still place neutral armies? Or do you leave them out entirely?
 
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David Scheele
Germany
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pbonnick wrote:

4 Players: Rumble in the South

In this variant, Stark and Greyjoy are unplayable and their lands are impassable. The impassable regions thus include: Bay of Ice, Flint's Finger, Ironman's Bay, Seagard, The Mountains of the Moon and The Narrow Sea. This variant is excellent at creating a true 4-way battle with shifting alliances! However I tend to make the win condition only 6 castles instead of 7 to speed up the game.


I just tried this variant and it was very balanced.
But we thought about reducing the stronghold in Riverrun to a normal castle, or removing it entirely as we all felt that Lannister already had the supply for a large army in it's reach and two strongholds from the getgo that you can only remove from them with combined effort (namely martell not poping a cap in baratheons a** while he tries to rob lannister of it's superiority.

I'm eager to try the other variants.
Thanks for the ideas
 
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Peder Bergenwall
Sweden
Örebro
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pbonnick wrote:
5 Players: Race to King's Landing

In this variant, Baratheon is unplayable and Dragonstone is impassable. But all other areas on the board are fair game. I like this variant since everyone else, except Greyjoy really, has a shot at taking King's Landing first.


This worked out great for our first game! The other players didn't quite realize how fast Martell (me) could get going on the eastern shores though, so I managed to take King's Landing and six other castles/keeps quite fast. Next time we play, this won't be a problem.
 
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Samuel Wallace
United States
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We played Race to King's Landing last weekend when we couldn't wrestle together 6 players. It was decent but not amazing. The main problem was that Lannister made a poor first play (going into Riverrun immediately, with no backup march). Greyjoy saw weakness and attacked, pulled a skull on Tides of Battle to kill the Lannister footman, and lucked out with a 2-turn muster.

This set off the predictable Lannister-Greyjoy slugfest, and Stark had to come in to keep Greyjoy from eliminating the Lannisters. Meanwhile, Martell was going unchecked in Shipbreaker Bay, and would have won easily on Turn 4 (the four Dornish castles plus King's Landing, Crackclaw, and empty Harrenhal). As Tyrell, I had to launch a full scale assault (which I won over the course of 4 turns, slowly destroying his land armies).

So it boiled down to 2 separate fields of battle: Stark vs. Greyjoy and Lannister in the North, Tyrell and Martell in the South. Stark eventually fought back the Greyjoys and had a rather anticlimactic Turn 7 victory, with me as Tyrell sitting at 6 castles but unable to reach the last one.It was a deserved victory--they beat the Greyjoys soundly--but the overall battle had felt disjointed. If Greyjoy had just held back from Lannister, it would have been a different game, since Lannister could have contested King's Landing. But it feels odd to have the game force players into making the "correct" alliances to achieve game balance.
 
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Anton Pettersson
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pbonnick wrote:
5 Players: Race to King's Landing

In this variant, Baratheon is unplayable and Dragonstone is impassable. But all other areas on the board are fair game. I like this variant since everyone else, except Greyjoy really, has a shot at taking King's Landing first.


We tried this out yesterday and it worked much better than the RAW-version of a five player game.

A question though, Since you remove Baratheon this gives Lannister the lead in two influence tracks, which in one way I can understand since they are smack down in the middle of the board and in a disadvantage in being surrounded.

How do you guys usually handle the influence tracks in this version of the game?
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Kokken Tor
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pbonnick wrote:

5 Players: Race to King's Landing

In this variant, Baratheon is unplayable and Dragonstone is impassable. But all other areas on the board are fair game. I like this variant since everyone else, except Greyjoy really, has a shot at taking King's Landing first.


This one sounds fun! I would like to try it with adding a neutral garrison on Storms End, to slow down Martell a little, and to represent the efforts of Stannis.
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Gary K
Ireland
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Race to King's Landing
We played Race to King's Landing last weekend and it worked out great! So thanks to Mindflayer Chef for suggesting playing that way

We left the Neutral Forces at King's Landing and The Eyrie, and didn't have any others in play. As someone mentioned above, taking out Baratheon leaves Lannister at the top of two influence tracks, so we decided to move Lannister down to position 3 on the King's Court track, moving Stark up to position 1 and Martell up to position 2. We also decided that we wouldn't consider the first 'half-round' a real round and that we would do 10 full rounds after that.

It all seemed to work out pretty nicely and everyone enjoyed the game, hopefully we'll be playing again next weekend and we'll try it out again then. I would definitly recommend giving it a go if you're playing a five player game!
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Nicolas Charette
Canada
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I played my first game ever today with new player as well (4 players in total). The game ended after 4 turns with a Baratheon victory. We tryed the rumble in the south variant and it was a much better balanced game and would recommanded it hands down, even for new players. I would also recommand (like DaveS suggested) to downgrade Riverrun to a simple castle. The Lannister had quite an army, but in the end, the Martelles won after ten turn.
 
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Robin Jastrzebski
Netherlands
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Eirikr wrote:

For 5 players is it enough to just exclude Starfall, Yronwood, Salt Shore, and Sunspear?


We played our first ever Game of Thrones game this weekend with 5 players using this variant. This seemed to work pretty well and resulted in a very intense game with Tyrell winning a narrow victory after 10 turns.
 
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MRKAL WVRLR
United States
Pennsylvania
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We played a variant tonight with Tyrell instead of Greyjoy. Only impassable areas were Pyke and Sunspear w/neutral forces in the south as per the normal 4/5 player rules except that we played to 8 castles. Lannister had a bit of an advantage in the early going and could possibly be nerfed by having a neutral force in Riverrun. Tyrell is a good counterbalance to Baratheon's southern strategy. Lannister won in round 7 with 8 castles, but only after some tactical mistakes by Stark and Tyrell (Stark let me take Flint's Finger easily and did not contest, Tyrell left Starfall unoccupied and allowed me to sweep in with a long boat chain). Overall, I would recommend this variant because it allows for a tight 4 person game with almost the whole map open.
 
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Richard Hunt
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Rumble in the south
pbonnick wrote:
4 Players: Rumble in the South

In this variant, Stark and Greyjoy are unplayable and their lands are impassable. The impassable regions thus include: Bay of Ice, Flint's Finger, Ironman's Bay, Seagard, The Mountains of the Moon and The Narrow Sea. This variant is excellent at creating a true 4-way battle with shifting alliances! However I tend to make the win condition only 6 castles instead of 7 to speed up the game.


Me and three other newbies played with this variant this night, including the 6-castle victory condition. We ended up with a tie-breaker victory, three people at 4 castles each.
Thought it worked very well! The play area was very claustrophobic and there was quickly conflict with all of the other players. Getting six castles definitely felt achievable with smart play, and none of the houses fell particularly behind (well, the Baratheons kinda stayed low for a lot of the game but it felt more like the player's error than imbalance).
 
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István G
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Tootwagger wrote:

Me and three other newbies played with this variant this night, including the 6-castle victory condition. We ended up with a tie-breaker victory, three people at 4 castles each.
Thought it worked very well! The play area was very claustrophobic and there was quickly conflict with all of the other players. Getting six castles definitely felt achievable with smart play, and none of the houses fell particularly behind (well, the Baratheons kinda stayed low for a lot of the game but it felt more like the player's error than imbalance).

Last week we played similar variant (with minor changes - we left Mountains of the Moon in game but excluded Twins and Fingers).
The game broke into East vs West fight - Martells were thrashing Tyrells (Tyrell made the serious mistakes in starting turns) and Lannisters pushed Baratheons to the gates of King's Landing.
In the middle of the game Martell (me) made some moves against Lannister, so the last was forced to divide his forces between two fronts. In the last rounds Lannister (despite having largest army) didn't make both to advance against Martell and defend against Baratheon's counterattack. So I won the game thanks to Baratheon.
 
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Dean the mean
Australia
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one thing my group has done a lot of lately is all random (so if we have 4 players we can be assigned any of the 6 houses)
Some people on here hate random but I think this is awesome because
its the best way to find a balanced variant (trial and error my friend)
gives you new struggles, alliances and possibilities
no straight forward stratergy (except stark)
can turn into a bit of a role playing game (once we had stark, lannister, greyjoy and martell us northies had to work together) although house stark decided he had to place three ships on the east side giving martell a 6 vs 3 in the sea needless to say us northerners turned on ourselves and martel just sort of cruised to victory with only soft resistence from lannishit.
basically it takes you away from the standard game while still giving you the game of thrones factor of backstab or be backstabbed.

basic rules are home areas with no players are no go zones.
and basically just before the game you all need to decide which other castles/barrels to remove from the game

just something to try if you run out of ideas
 
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Nils De Clerck
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pbonnick wrote:

4 Players: Rumble in the South

In this variant, Stark and Greyjoy are unplayable and their lands are impassable. The impassable regions thus include: Bay of Ice, Flint's Finger, Ironman's Bay, Seagard, The Mountains of the Moon and The Narrow Sea.


We played this game tonight and it resolved in a win by the Tyrell player in the 4th round and after 3 mustering cards (!) conquered Starfall and Sunspear with Loras and the Queen. We agreed to a 6 VP game so I ended with Highgarden, Oldtown, the Reach, Starfall, Yronwood and Sunspear, having lost Kings's Landing in round 3. I would suggest playing till 7 VP just to avoid it.

I'm sure we'll be giving the other variants here a try, thanks!
 
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Sky Zero
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Illinois
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Are folks using neutral armies with the 4 and 5 player variants mentioned here or is it a blank landscape minus the starting house armies?
 
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Chris Scott
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skyzero wrote:
Are folks using neutral armies with the 4 and 5 player variants mentioned here or is it a blank landscape minus the starting house armies?


Sorry for the bump but I was wondering this, as well.
 
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Marcus Elghag
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Hi!
I've read alot of suggestions on how to make the game more balanced when playing with less then 6 players. I'd now like to test my own balance suggestion on you guys. What do you think of this?

5 players and less: Lannister is removed. Also, remove one supply and the stronghold in “Lannisport”, remove one supply and replace the stronghold with a fort in “Riverrun”.

4 players and less: Remove either Stark or Martell (or both if playing with 3 players).

If removing Martell: Replace the fort with a stonghold in “White Harbor”, remove the following regions completely; “Sunspear", Yronwood" and "Saltshore” and finally, merge "Sea of Dorne" with "East summer sea" so that "The boneway" in addition to "Starfall" and "Storms End" is accessible from "East summer sea".

If removing Stark: Remove the all regions and seas north of "Moat Cailin", also remove "The Eyrie" and "The Fingers". Also, place a port in "Moat Cailin", replace the fort with a stronghold in “Yronwood” and replace the fort with a supply in “Crackclaw point”.

Here's a document where I've placed pictures that can be printed, cut and placed on the map to make the changes on the board that I describe:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwQ6ODID3udhVWl0RTB1QjdlNzg...

If you try it out, please comment!
 
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