As we wind down to the end of season three of Game of Thrones, now seems like a great time to tell you all about the excellent Game of Thrones: The Card Game. Now you can take control of the fate of your favourite house, battling your opponents for control of Westeros through politics, subterfuge and all-out war.
Be warned though, this game isn’t for those short on time or wits, and will almost certainly cause arguments and bitter resentment between players. Of course, this being Game of Thrones, that’s the whole point, surely?
The core game includes decks for the four main Houses (Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryen) and additional decks can be bought through expansion packs, if you want to play as House Greyjoy, or expand your Stark deck to include new characters. It also comes with a throne-room board and a huge number of Gold and Power tokens (more about those in a bit). Everything feels solidly crafted, made from sturdy cardboard and coated in rich colours. The cards aren’t flimsy, and each presents some excellent card art and a relevant quote from the book. It’s all very high quality, which makes the game that much more enjoyable – it’s nice to focus on the game rather than worrying you’re going to break or tear something.
The aim of the game, as it is in the books, is to be the first House to acquire the most power. In GoT:TCG, power is represented as Power counters, and you need 15 of these in your House treasury to win. Power tokens can be acquired in a number of ways, from being the most dominant House at the end of a round, to directly stealing them from your opponents through Challenges. It can take a long time to collect all of these counters, so expect games to take a few hours – or more, depending on how many players are taking part. (The games I’ve played have ranged from two-hour skirmishes to a five-hour epic involving all four Houses.)
Rounds start with Plot Cards being played – events that determine who goes first, how much gold everyone gets, and any special effects conditions that apply for the round (for example, perhaps two players may be unable to fight each other, or must pay extra gold to start a war.) Gold from these Plot cards and any Land cards is spent to enhance your armies and characters, and then challenges are presented. Challenges come in three types – Military, Intrigue and Power challenges. Military challenges are used to destroy other players’ armies. Intrigue challenges reduce your opponents hand size. Power challenges are used to steal Power counters directly from others. Challenges are easily resolved by totalling the strength of the attackers and defenders, so its nice and quick to determine outcomes. After all challenges are complete, the player with the biggest army and most gold wins Power for their House.
If this is sounding very complicated, that’s because it is, and I’m not even explaining half the rules here – there are Attachment and Event cards to worry about, and there are Titles that each player can claim to enhance their abilities in certain challenges. All of this coupled with the length of the game can make it drag a little if you’re not invested with it, but if you stick with it and expend some imagination, you can craft your own epic to rival the books.It will just take you a couple of games to get used to the flow. Once you do get used to it though, the game becomes yours to explore. Create fragile alliances with other underdogs to take down the current dominant power. Spend a few gold coins to make a particularly nasty attack disappear. Hold a silent grudge for an entire game, to stab an ally in the back at their most vulnerable moment. GoT:TCG can be as exciting and scandalous as the stories depending on how you choose to play it.
I can highly recommend GoT:TCG to anyone who enjoys the show and is willing to spend a little time learning the rules. It’s probably better if you’ve had some experience in card games in the past (tapping cards and resources is a universal rule that can be applied to most TCGs), but it’s easy enough to learn from scratch. So grab a copy, grab some friends (who you don’t mind having arguments with) and enjoy a good, old-fashioned grab-for-power, set in the universe that defined underhanded tactics.