Derrick Billings
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I got a chance last weekend to sit down at Days of Ice & Fire to play the Dance with Dragons scenario for the Game of Thrones board game, and these are my thoughts and impressions. This is based on one playthrough, so it's not going to be complete by any means. Unlike the base game, you cannot play this expansion without exposure to spoilers, and I will be making no attempt to hide events and references to the events of the latest books.laugh

It's a print on demand expansion which comes in a little clamshell box containing setup cards, rule cards, and a new set of House cards. I own it now and I am not aware of any embargo on information on it, so I'm going on the assumption that I can speak freely. What I won't be doing, since it's card based and is PoD, is providing sufficient info for people to play it with proxies. I'm sure that'll happen eventually, but I won't be the one to do it, particularly not in advance of its normal release date.whistle

The first impression of the board is that it resembles (an amusingly unlikely) session of the base game in its third or fourth turn. No house has less than 7 points of units in play, and as many as 11. Baratheon is fragmented, with only pockets of holdouts in the south, and their fleet and more forces in the far North. House Bolton holds everything from Winterfell to The Twins, and Greyjoy's fleets stretch from the Bay of Ice to Starfall, though their land forces outside Pyke are pitiful. Lannister holds much more territory than the base game, including Riverrun, Harrenhal, and King's Landing. Tyrell shares a long border with them, including three ships in Shipbreaker Bay. Martell holds nothing outside of Dorne, but their defensible position is balanced by the fewest starting units. It does require a full six players, in keeping with the second edition's focus on that number.

One thing I was surprised to see is a number of Power Tokens already on the board, in addition to the starting five. Also used are various Neutral Force tokens which serve as de facto Garrisons in those cities, though they aren't "home cities" in any other sense. The Supply and Victory tracks are more distributed than the base game, as you'd expect from a well-developed board position. The game is also limited to six turns, so expect combat and cutthroat diplomacy immediately.

The house cards are all new and I am absolutely giddy at the fun ways that they actually invoke canon. The most spoilery changes are for Baratheon, who now claims the services of both Jon Snow and a rattle-shirted Mance Rayder. Tyrion and Tywin are unsurprisingly gone from Lannister, and House Bolton has completely ousted the Starks (though the faction is still nominally called "Stark.") For my money, though, the most interesting hand of cards is Martell, though I spent the most time looking at them since that was my faction. Back when the first Clash of Kings expansion came out, Martell was highly aggressive and vicious. As the later books have unfolded, we've seen just how long of a political game Doran Martell was playing and hence the house cards now lend themselves towards patience and long term planning.

Is it as much of a game changer as Clash of Kings or Storm of Swords was to the first edition? No, emphatically not. The second edition of Game of Thrones was already a mature game coming out of the gate and was more noteworthy for the excess features it actually removed or streamlined. Given that it largely preserved the setup of the first edition, it was almost becoming a "solved" game, as much as presumptions of ideal play and the vicissitudes of the event decks could allow.

What Dance With Dragons does is make the game feel fresh again, as the new board positions and new cards will require us to devise a truly new set of strategies. Also, not all territories are contiguous. In addition to Baratheon's scattered armies, Greyjoy and Tyrell hold fragmented territory. That brings more diplomatic options--do you try and unify your territory with a pincer attack? Do you throw your forces at an isolated group and hope to squeeze it off the board? It's too early to say, but I suspect this is a deliberate effort to shake up expectations and expand the pool of viable strategies.

Personally, I plan to make this my go-to game for six players; it’s that fun.

House Leaders, in no particular order:
Qarl the Maid
Rodrik the Reader
Ser Harras Harlaw
Aeron Damphair
Euron Crows Eye
Victarion Greyjoy
Asha Greyjoy

Nymeria Sand
Areo Hotah
Doran Martell
Quentyn Martell
The Bastard of Godsgrace
Big Man [aka Ser Archibald Yronwood]
Ser Gerris Drinkwater

Randyll Tarly
Mace Tyrell
Ser Jon Fossoway
Paxter Redwyne
Willas Tyrell
The Queen of Thorns
Margaery Tyrell

Cersei Lannister
Ser Jaime Lannister
Ser Kevan Lannister
Ser Ilyn Payne
Qyburn
Daven Lannister
Ser Addam Marbrand

Roose Bolton
Ramsey Bolton
Reek
Black Walder
Walder Frey
Steelshanks Walton
Damon Dance-For-Me

Stannis Baratheon
Melisandre
Jon Snow
Mance Rayder
Ser Axell Florent
Ser Davos Seaworth
The Bastard of Nightsong
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Frank La Terra
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Didn't read the above as I haven't read Dance with Dragons, but I do have a question - is this expansion pack compatible with the first edition of the game?
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Big Bill
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Grim your my hero thank you
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Derrick Billings
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Mr Skeletor wrote:
Didn't read the above as I haven't read Dance with Dragons, but I do have a question - is this expansion pack compatible with the first edition of the game?


After a fashion, if you have the Clash of Kings map overlay. 1st Ed gives you 4 Knights and 3 Siege Engines, whereas 2nd gives you 5 and 2 respectively.
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Frank La Terra
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So just to be clear if i have 1st ed and CoC I can use this expansion?
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Eugenio -
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Great, thank you!
Looking forward to knowing more details (possibly from FFG itself)!


Finally it seems like the characters are appropriate: no Alester Florent among Tyrell.
Hope they are also balanced (e.g. Patchface is not more powerful than Melisandre).
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Derrick Billings
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Mr Skeletor wrote:
So just to be clear if i have 1st ed and CoC I can use this expansion?


Like I said, after a fashion. This scenario was designed under the assumption that you'd be using 2nd Edition's component limits, Westeros decks, Wildling deck, and a board that still has some slight differences from CoK+1st ed. If you're willing to muddle through any game balance issues that might arise, more power to you.
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David Laine
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Interesting that the players don't start with nearly-symetrical starting distributions as in the base game. In your experience, did this make the game FEEL unbalanced, to the point that any player who starts with House X will just groan, or did you feel they handled the setup well? I'm not saying the base game handled that perfectly either--I'm just intrigued by the asymetrical setup.
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Alex Banks
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Thanks so much Derrick! Very interesting stuff

One thing I've found is that the House Card balancing, in my opinion, could have been a bit better in 2nd edition. Just wondered how balanced these cards felt and also, if people felt inclined to mix n match or come up with new setups, do you think these cards would work well alongside the originals? You seemed to imply some cards are designed to work together in some way, and I can imagine they might be taking into account the new set-up?

Also a minor thing but just wondered whether the cards tend to err on the side of 'effects' or just the sword/fort symbols? Or is it still roughly the same as before?

Thanks for all the info, hopefully not too long now till we can get our hands on it
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David Schallert
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I haven't gotten to play yet, but I'm assuimg tomorrow I'll get my chance, heh.

It does seem like a missed opportunity that
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Tyrion is not part of Martell, or that Targaryen isn't a new house, though of course their territory would be mighty tiny, heh (not to mention the headache of deciding who would be their leaders...)


Anyway, I do really love the new house cards. Especially Martell's, though Stannis is pretty amazing (he'll need to be). I do kinda thing the asymetry may wear thin, but the new house cards in the base game should have some staying power.
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Derrick Billings
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miesdeldolor9 wrote:
did this make the game FEEL unbalanced, to the point that any player who starts with House X will just groan, or did you feel they handled the setup well? I'm not saying the base game handled that perfectly either--I'm just intrigued by the asymmetrical setup.


The asymmetry is by design. As near as I can remember, one staff member said, regarding the base game, "So many people look at the game, they see a map, pieces, resources, and they start thinking tactics and area control, and that's not what the game's about. Sure, Greyjoy can destroy Lannister militarily, but that's not the smart move. Think about it. How often have you seen Greyjoy do that and actually go on to win?"

If anything, in the new scenario, it feels like everyone is equally off balance and overextended. This isn't a bad thing, as the difference between a porous and indefensible border and a fortress of interlocking support is a matter of teamwork.

That's what I saw come out of this scenario, the sense that diplomacy was more about genuinely working together, making real alliances of necessity. (It made the sudden but inevitable betrayals all the more satisfying.) The isolated starting areas of the base game, in my local meta, all too often led to immiscible territories and an unwillingness to really collaborate beyond tentative non-aggression pacts. At that point, it's just a matter of who gets screwed by the Westeros decks or Tides of Battle, that's no fun.

I wish I could say more, but just take it from me, pretty much everybody will take a look at their starting positions and go "OH $%&#." Revel in it. (Except Martell. Doran Martell has his feet up and is enjoying a big bag of popcorn.)
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Derrick Billings
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Fromage wrote:
I haven't gotten to play yet, but I'm assuimg tomorrow I'll get my chance, heh.

It does seem like a missed opportunity that
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Tyrion is not part of Martell, or that Targaryen isn't a new house, though of course their territory would be mighty tiny, heh (not to mention the headache of deciding who would be their leaders...)


Anyway, I do really love the new house cards. Especially Martell's, though Stannis is pretty amazing (he'll need to be). I do kinda thing the asymetry may wear thin, but the new house cards in the base game should have some staying power.


My guess is they're saving the Golden Company, Tyrion, and Danaerys for a future expansion. There's a lot of development left to go in that plot line.
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Alex Banks
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Has there been any hint of when this should get a release? Can't be too far off right?
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Mike Sarver
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FFG stated that it will be available as a Print on Demand product "a couple months" from now. Hopefully that means being able to jump on their site and pick up a copy by the end of summer.
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Amin
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Are we allowed to talk about some of the card details? (strength, text ability) in this forum? I have some opinions on them already, lol Not sure if they are all set in stone or FGG might change things (some free playtesting here)
 
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Joshua Siegfried
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I don't know if you are allowed to or not, but I would love to hear some more specific information on the different house cards.
: )
 
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Moshe Sulamy
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Why wouldn't you? It's yours.

Unless FFG signed everyone on some NDA, and then it will be obvious that you can't ..
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Derrick Billings
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The problem is, because it's a Print-on-demand, anyone who knows enough about the house cards and board setup wouldn't need to buy it to mock up proxy cards. Nobody from DoIaF is under NDA, but at the same time, I hope that nobody is going to be enabling what amounts to piracy. It's a personal choice.

Inasmuch as a review is intended to help you decide whether to buy a product, yes, you should grab this when it's available.laugh
 
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Amin
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A friend ordered me an extra copy so I wasn't there to see what sort of agreement or restrictions are on it.

I will say the start-up looks interesting, should have battle-filled, high diplomacy first few games. 6 turns is also nice so hopefully the game won't take all night. I don't think the starting positions are balanced, and I think that will come out after playing a few sessions (the "ideal" starting moves) but since it is a variation anyway, you can probably tinker with it in your own gaming group anyway.

The cards are interesting as well, though I think there are a few unbalanced ones (of course), a card that could be up to a 7 if used properly and another that could be equivalent to a 9 or 10 (though again very rarely, but it is a base 0 card that will usually be a 4 card or higher which is a bit much), without having to dish our power tokens like the old Tywin card. On the plus side, Greyjoy doesn't seem to have overpowered cards this time and at first glance is fairly balanced with Lannister, so it may be worth using these cards in the base game. We'll see after I play a few sessions, but I'm definitely happy to have this add-on.

 
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Joshua Siegfried
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I just want a taste of some of the more interesting cards...just to tide me over until the actual game is released.
 
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Josho R
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Is anyone out there willing to sell their copy of the expansion ?????? Sadly I'm stuck all the way down in new zealand and there was no way to make it to the weekend they had when they introduced this expansion. I love this game and theres a group of us that play it all the time and we have even created our own rules for total domination and everything. But yeah if anyone is willing to sell their copy of it let me know
 
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Joe Reil
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joshonz wrote:
Is anyone out there willing to sell their copy of the expansion ??????


It is going to be available to the general public at some point. I don't think FFG has announced exactly when, but I think it almost has to be before the year is out and probably within the next couple of months.
 
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hi, thank you for your fresh preview

the only thing that i need to ask is whether house lannister is still unbalancely weak in this new expension?

is this house much stronger than it of the original second edition? and how ?



thanks again for considering my question
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Amin
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rrssttrst wrote:
hi, thank you for your fresh preview

the only thing that i need to ask is whether house lannister is still unbalancely weak in this new expension?

is this house much stronger than it of the original second edition? and how ?



thanks again for considering my question


I wouldn't say Lannister has been strengthened, but the situation may be better or less predictable. There are a new set of cards and Greyjoy's card balance vs Lannister is not quite favouring Grejoy as much as before, at least at first glance. It remains to be seen how the cards match up in the field.

Also, due to the initial setup and location of each house's units + the 6 turn limit (making each turn count more), Greyjoy might be tempted to attack Stark or Tyrell for once, rather than Lannister. I think that the first few games will have a variety of alliances and results. That doesn't mean that Greyjoy might not still go after Lannister (particularly the Golden Sound) right off the bat.
 
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Amin
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I have to say, for any FFG lurkers out there, I am a little worried with the Doran Martell card. House Martell basically lacks a 4 card now, compared to all the other houses, in exchange for a text ability that is hardly impressive. Playing without a 4 card right off the bat (with no way to get it back) is a weakness that carries on through each of the 6 rounds, added to the fact that most high level games will probably go to a tiebreak and Martell has trouble with the first few tiebreakers.

I can only think the card was part of the balancing act to counteract the potential powerhouse effect of Quentyn. So House Martell needs to do a few meaningless battles early on to thin out their deck, something kind of counter to their thematic, long-term planning style. Or, I guess, if Martell gets hit early on, they can strike back with deadly strength
 
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