Jacob
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Elkhorn
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Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne is a cutthroat game for 3-5 players. Being a fan of the television series (or the books) will add to your enjoyment of the game, but it is not necessary. For those of you who are not aware, the game borrows many of its mechanics from an old classic called Cosmic Encounter, but I think it is different enough to warrant its existence. I'll give a brief overview of the flow of the game followed by some of my thoughts.

Each player takes control of one of the famous Westeros houses, selecting one player as their leader (which gives them a special power-- 25 total in the box), and the other four characters are available during the game. In addition to their unique power, each house has a personalized deck of cards they will be using throughout the game. Players take turns drawing cards off of a deck that says who their current conflict is (who they are attacking), and then the other players go around the table and offer their support (by means of contributing one of their characters) to either side. The attacker and defender select a card to play, reveal simultaneously, and see who the winner is. If the attacker was successful, they get to spread an influence to the other player's house. Once someone (or multiple someones) have spread 5 influence, the game is over and they are the winner. There are a multitude of outcomes to the conflicts apart from the attacker winning. If the defender wins, their character becomes more powerful and they can draw cards. The two players could play truce cards and work out a deal. One player could think they were going to have a truce, only to be betrayed by the attacker and lose, but not without taking hostages.

That's basically the gist of the game, but there are a lot of variables that mix it up. Each character power has the ability to change the flow of the game, and will alter how people play. As an example, Cersei Lannister has a power that lets her force someone to help you defend if you have influence over their house. Just this simple ability will alter who will invite you along to attack, how your defenses will go, etc. On top of those unique character powers, each house deck has unique cards for each character that can alter the outcomes of conflict even further.

This is a very fun game, but I must warn you-- it is very mean. This is not a game for the faint of heart. You will backstab your friends. You will kill their characters. You will torment hostages at the right time to kill their favorite Game of Thrones character. If you don't, you will lose. As such, this will not be game for everyone. If games with extremely high conflict do not sound appealing to you, you should absolutely stay away from this game. On the other hand, if you want that Game of Thrones experience where you rally your friend for help only to stab them in the back moments later, you will find great enjoyment in this game.

Remember, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."

Due to the amount of player interaction, I think five is the best number of players for this game. I haven't played it with three, but I just don't think it would capture the same magic.

As a final aside, I'd like to make a few comparisons to Cosmic Encounter. If you haven't played Cosmic, you can ignore this paragraph. I felt like Cosmic is a bit more chaotic and swingy than The Iron Throne is, partially because of the card distribution and partially due to the vast swath of alien powers. The powers in The Iron Throne are not nearly as drastic as some of those in Cosmic, and as a result the game does feel tighter. That isn't to say better, but it felt like a different experience. I also felt like The Iron Throne is a much meaner game, as lots of the powers have direct negative impacts on your opponents. I don't think this will sway diehard Cosmic fans over, but I do think it does a good job at tailoring the same type of experience to Game of Thrones fans (or even just people looking for a more concise game).

8/10

This copy of the game was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
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