We discovered early on in A Song of Ice and Fire that Eddard Stark did not know how to play the Game of Thrones. No, he shouldn’t have opened his mouth to Cersei, and yes, the precious cinnamon roll was too good for this world, too pure. He might have also been more prepared for Joffrey’s wrath had he first played another Game of Thrones: the board game.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games includes such mechanics as army expansion, area control, and bidding. The game takes place right after the death of King Robert Baratheon, when all Seven Kingdoms make a mad dash for the crown. Players command the armies of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Greyjoys, Martells, or Tyrells and compete for victory in combat as well as politics. The aim is to control seven castles, achieved through careful combat strategy and behind-the-scenes bidding for power on the influence tracks.
But to why you really came here: how to win the game of thrones and not die trying. There are a few important concepts that, grasped early on, can prove fatal to your enemies.
Probably the most essential idea to master is that of the support ring. Every house starts the game controlling a territory that acts as the center of their support ring (or they can take it in one move). If you are able to plan your orders correctly the other players will be unable to attack you. Orders consist of raids, which enable you to remove adjacent enemy orders; consolidate power orders, which help you spawn troops and gain power tokens to use as betting chips; support orders, which allow an army to add its strength to an adjacent combat; defense orders; and march orders, which move your armies to adjacent areas.
With a support ring, you take control of every area around your center and can fend off incoming attacks. Once you’ve ensured control, place a support order on your center and now every adjacent area has the added combat strength of your base of operations. The support ring is a solid defense, as anyone attacking the edge of the ring also has to deal with the supporting armies in the center.
Another important concept to understand is how to effectively use ships to your advantage. Ships can transport land troops from one end of the board to the other and can support adjacent land or sea combat. In one turn, you can march from Winterfell all the way to the Eyrie with only two ships in the sea zones and one march order.
If you’re playing as the Starks, you NEED sea zones, particularly the Narrow Sea, in order to threaten the southern kingdoms. Everyone else, besides the Lannisters, benefits from using ships to quickly snatch up sea zones to add to their support rings.
To have a decent chance of winning A Game of Thrones, you need to know which house cards are the most powerful. Each house card represents a character from the series, and they are used in combat.
Once you’ve declared your intention to fight, you compare your combat strength with your opponent’s by adding up the strength of any knights, footmen, ships, and siege engines in the area, as well as that of adjacent troops supporting that area. Then you choose your house card, adding its combat strength to your existing total.
Every house has the same amount of cards with the same distribution of combat strength and with various additional effects. The distribution consists of one card of zero combat strength, two ones, two twos, one three, and one four. The cards either have unique effects or the more prevalent sword and castle icons. Each sword icon on a card destroys one enemy unit if you win, and each castle (fortification) icon defends against a sword if you lose.
You should always be aware of how many swords and fortifications you have because there will be times when a victory in battle is not enough, when you will need to destroy your enemies rather than simply beat them. Wiping out armies can be more prudent than taking castles in the long run, and we know that playing the Game of Thrones is all about the long con. (*Cough* Littlefinger *Cough*)
The Greyjoys have one of the stronger hands, mostly due to Aeron Greyjoy’s card, which allows you to switch out Aeron (a zero strength card) for any other Greyjoy after you’ve seen your opponent’s choice. Instead of having to risk playing a strong card when a weaker one would have been fine, you can play the bare minimum to beat your opponent.
The Starks are also a decent choice not only because of their location on the board but also because of Roose Bolton’s house card. This game takes place before the Red Wedding, so Roosey Goose is still friends with the Starks. Up in the north, they are isolated from the rest of the board and can often sit pretty and turtle, gaining nearby castles and expanding until another player challenges them. A two-strength card for the Starks, Roose Bolton’s effect is scarily over-powered. If you lose a combat, playing Roose will let you recover everything in your discard pile (including Roose himself). Essentially, you can use this resurrection ability over and over again to get your entire hand back.
Hopefully we’ve helped you learn a bit about how to win A Game of Thrones, or at least about how to understand it better. As for the actual Game of Thrones, here’s a tip on how to win: stay away from the Boltons. And Cersei Lannister. And Littlefinger. Actually just stay away from everyone.
What strategies have you used to claim victory in this game? Who do you think will win the real Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments.