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A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First impressions: small and mighty rss

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Spider Jerusalem
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Played a couple of 4-player games today and it was a blast. Everyone enjoyed it.
I was looking for a quick 15-30 min game, so we could fit at least a couple of plays during a lunchtime break. However, I wanted a game that wasn't necessarily a party game and had a bit more strategy to it, but without the 10-page rule explanation. Hand of the King definitely fits the bill.

The rules can be explained in 2 minutes, but every turn you have plenty of decisions to choose from. You need to have a long-term strategy - do I go for Stark or Greyjoy, big houses that can secure me a victory in case of a tie but are harder to get, or do I go for a smaller house, like Tully or Tyrell, for a quick win to get a banner? -, but you also need to adapt quickly to a changing playing field. House banners will change hands fairly often and timing is key: claim that Greyjoy banner too soon and someone else might snatch it from you just before the game ends.

The companion cards add plenty of variety without being overpowered and while also giving you a short-term goal (getting that last Tully could give you the chance to play Hodor and snatch Bran Stark to increase your influence with two houses in one go).
Where Varys is on the board during your turn plays a big part in your decisions: you could go for those two Lannisters to solidify your power base with that house... but that would set the next player up to scoop up three Baratheons in one go! What to do?

In one of the games we played, my friend made a brilliant move where he collected enough Greyjoys to gain that house's banner, putting him in the lead, and at the same time leaving Varys stranded without any legal moves. Even though there were still a few characters on the board, that move triggered the end of the game and locked in his victory. Checkmate!

We played the game with both GoT fans and people who haven't read the books nor watched the series. I'm happy to say the game can be enjoyed by both groups. GoT fans familiar with the source material will get an extra kick out of playing Jaqen H'ghar to eliminate three characters from different play areas or gaining an extra turn by playing Melisandre, but you'll also create hilarious scenarios which aren't in the books: 'What? You killed Daenerys? You can't kill the Mother of Dragons!'
And don't get me started on Khal Drogo, who can snatch (read: rescue) Daenerys from any play area and then kill Viserys, leaving a trail of destruction and traumatized players in his wake.
The Jon Snow companion card has a brilliant twist that just makes it so much fun to play. I won't spoil it here, but let's just say that he really is a bastard...

The game comes with a team play variant, which I have yet to try, but I think would be entirely fitting with the theme of plotting, backstabbing and changing alliances.
This variant can make use of the 'Three-eyed Crow' tokens which limit how you can communicate with the other players (a bit like the information tokens in Hanabi). I'm not sure how well that would work and whether it would slow the pace of the game down, but I'd be curious to give it a try.

Hand of the King comes in a very portable box that showcases the great artwork, but you could easily throw all the components into a cloth bag or one of the baggies that comes with the game and carry the whole thing in your pocket.

Definitely two thumbs up.
I can't wait to play it again!
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Spider Jerusalem
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Tonight I played a few two-player rounds with my better half. Even though it wasn't as fast and frantic as it had been with four players, the game still clocked at well under 20 min.

If anything, playing with only two players made the game even more tense, which came as a surprise!
When playing with four, speed (of tactics) was a key factor. You have to move swiftly with your strategy to influence the houses you want, before other players move on them and close down your path to victory. As you have more player strategies to contend with, a lot hinges on how quickly you can adapt your strategy to respond to their moves.

With two players, you definitely need to think a few moves ahead. You can't just leave Varys in a certain position on the board, say, next to two juicy Lannisters, and hope no one goes for them, because your opponent is definitely going to snap them up.

Those big 8-, 7- or 6-character houses are going to be split between only two players. That means you have to invest a lot more to gain their banners. The problem is your opponent is probably doing the same! Can you risk spending all those moves collecting Starks, when a well played companion card could take out two of your precious characters and bring all your plans crashing down?

At the same time, Varys is more likely to travel around the entire board, which means those smaller 4-, 3- or 2-character houses are not going to be sitting there for very long. Can you afford to ignore them?

What a fascinating puzzle this game is. The GoT theme fits so well and has been applied in such clever and fun ways, but knowing the source material won't necessarily make you play better, which is great for introducing the game to players less familiar with GoT.

I really enjoy looking at the board, with its 6x6 grid of colourful characters and Mihajlo's fantastic art, trying to picture Varys moving between them and whispering in their ears.

With Bruno's credentials, I expected it to be a great game, but this is a veritable little gem.
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kai
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Thanks for the review! I was already interested in the game and it sounds like it'll work great in our group.

A topic not related to your review, any chance you can let me know the size of the square cards? I can't find this information anywhere.

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Spider Jerusalem
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itskaikai wrote:

A topic not related to your review, any chance you can let me know the size of the square cards? I can't find this information anywhere.



Sure. See here: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/24206979#24206979
 
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Lazy McCrow
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Reassuring to hear your thoughts on the two player game - I'm looking forward to trying it with my partner this evening!

Having played just a handful of 3-player games so far, I was holding back on making any comments until my opinion has fully formed, but I'm pleased so far - its been well-received and definitely short enough for '...Another?' to be the first thing on everyones lips as soon as each game is finished.

Im looking forward to exploring the games depths and also trying the 2-vs-2 variant. Really hoping that this one is a keeper!

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Mark Turner
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Farnham
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This is indeed a good game - surprisingly deep with very simple rules.
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