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Subject: Why Game of Thrones is my Favorite Board Game rss

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Erich Thalacker
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*** This BGG forum post was composed as a course requirement for an honors seminar at Central College (Board in Class: An Academic Survey of Modern Board Games, SP18). Constructive feedback and conversation from all BGG users is welcomed and encouraged! *** Words = 841

Game of Thrones (GoT) is a wonderful game; perhaps I am biased though because of my love of the story. However, the story is well integrated with each Houses’ abilities and starting position so it certainly does play a part. In fact, the way I convince most of my friends to play (primarily non-board gamers) is when they have watched the HBO TV series of it. If you haven’t at least heard of Game of Thrones, then you may be living under a rock. The basics of the story are that there are Great Houses that each vie for power and control of the “Iron Throne” which represents ruling the “7 Kingdoms”. The objective of the board game is to gain control of 7 castles or strongholds. Complex board games like GoT are often hard to recruit people too, but I have been able to convince non-board gamers to play with me quite a few times.

The game’s worst quality in my opinion is that the rules are hard to explain. It is a challenge to get started, especially if a new person is playing. The rulebook is a thick manual chalk full of little details that requires extensive knowledge by at least one player. I find myself often referring back to it even after playing the game 10+ times. However, once players figure out the rules and general learning of how the game progresses, they are quick to make strategies and alliance with other players, just as the game intends.

My favorite part of the game is its lack of luck needed to win. It relies heavily on strategy, both through knowing the game and interacting with other players. You always have to be evaluating the positioning of everyone on the board, alliances that you have, and also alliances that others have made, all while understanding that alliances can be broken at any point. After all “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” People don’t play for second and therefore many people will find themselves getting screwed over by their friends more often than not. It is certainly a game that can leave some post game tensions if someone is backstabbed too hard.

The trick to not getting backstabbed is to stay in the middle of the pack until the end, right under the radar. GoT is certainly a game were being the leader will get you punished by others as they don’t want anyone to get too far ahead. This makes me play the game in an interesting way by making my House appear to be weaker than it actually is. I also enjoy playing the game differently each time and making new alliances with different Houses. Because of this, I have never played the same game! It feels really satisfying to win, and when I do lose, I do not chalk it up to their luckiness. It is instead because they have played a better game than I.

I do find it most fun to play the game with 6 people, that way every House is represented and there is the most interaction between players. I think all the houses are well balanced. If you have poor positioning, then you have strong cards (House Greyjoy) or perhaps you have great supply tracks and influence tracts, but poor positioning and cards (House Lannister). “Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.” Figuring out your strengths and weaknesses as a House is critical to winning.

In conclusion, Game of Thrones is a very versatile game, allowing players to win with a variety of strategies but each with the same common goal, to rule! Recently when I do play, I try to play as the Lannisters. Its not that the Lannisters have some advantage, (actually they are consistently rated as the worst House to play as) I actually do it for other thematic reasons. First off, Tyrion Lannister is my favorite character and I enjoy his house. Second, I enjoy the challenge of winning with a less powerful house and it makes it more balanced when playing against newer players. But the true reason I play as them is because I hope, after having a victory so schemy, unseen, and downright ruthless, that I will make my final move, play “The Reins of Castamere”, and walk out; leaving my opponents to ponder how I could possibly pull it off. Essentially the equivalent of a mic drop for board games. I have yet to have such a perfect storm happen, but I know my dream will eventually come to fruition.
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