Friday, July 23, 2010

Books into Board Games: A Game of Thrones

I started this series of posts about board games based on books with sci fi and fantasy stories, and I'm bringing it back around to another fantasy series, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire [1], which currently includes the novels A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows.  Someday, Martin will finish A Dance with Dragons--even if he has to be reanimated, I assure you it will happen.  As a side note, this is one of my favorite fantasy series, meaning that I'm bound to like any game that lets me attack Lannisters [2] with Starks [3], Targaryens [4], or any of the other houses.  

Some background for those of you who have not read any of A Song of Ice and Fire.  It's an enormous, epic story told from the perspectives of many of the characters and deals in battles and intrigue among the noble families in Westeros.  Martin has created a rich fictional world with a variety of peoples, cultures, and religions.  It's more difficult to summarize than Follet's Pillars of the Earth, covered in my previous books to board games post.  Like Follett's work, A Game of Thrones is also being adapted into a series, and it will air on HBO sometime in 2011 [5].

Photo "Playing House Baratheon" by BGG user avssaleos

As far as games go, I've only played Fantasy Flight's A Game of Thrones card game [6,7], which I enjoy for its tough decisions on strategy.  It's what Fantasy Flight calls a Legacy Card Game, which differs from collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering in that there are no rare cards.  The monthly-released chapter packs include the same cards, keeping the pool of options for deck construction even for all players.  Gameplay involves marshaling an army from your hand of cards, limited only by the amount of gold you have.  Then, players challenge one another using their characters' strength in military, intrigue, or power contests.  That's when I usually stare at the table for 10 minutes figuring things out, while my wife waits to massacre my army no matter what I do.

Photo of A Game of Thrones by BGG user ansi

There are also a couple board games, one conveniently called A Game of Thrones [8], and the other based on the Battlelore system called Battles of Westeros [9].  I've heard A Game of Thrones can be brutal, like the classic Diplomacy [10], but set in Martin's world.

Photo of Battles of Westeros by BGG user Yugblad

If you're a fan of the books, but entirely new to board gaming, I'd recommend the new Battles of Westeros.  The Battlore [11] system pits one player against another, sending miniatures into battle on a board covered in hex spaces.  The minis on either side have banners that indicate what kind of attacks they can make.  Players maneuver their pieces into position and roll dice for their attacks.  The rule book likely comes with scenarios, challenging players with different battle set ups.  I'm looking forward to giving this game a shot at Gen Con [12] a couple weeks from now.

Lastly, I ought to mention that you can play the A Song of Ice and Fire role-playing game [13] for free because we own it.  The award-winning rpg was published by Green Ronin, and we have the core rulebook as well as the campaign guide.  I've never played an rpg, so I can't confirm it's quality for you, but at such a low cost, how could you not want to give it a shot?

I hope you've enjoyed this series.  I'll likely have more game-related posts in the future, but perhaps not as in-depth as these have been.  Be sure to check out the links below for more info on titles mentioned in this post.

[1] Check out George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series from the library
A Game of Thrones hardcover
A Game of Thrones paperback
A Clash of Kings hardcover
A Clash of Kings paperback
A Storm of Swords hardcover
A Feast for Crows hardcover

[2] Warning, there be spoilers at the Wikipedia entry on House Lannister
[3] Warning, there be spoilers at the Wikipedia entry on House Stark
[4] Warning, there be spoilers at the Wikipedia entry on House Targaryen

[5] IMDb entry on HBO's Game of Thrones series

[6] Fantasy Flight's A Game of Thrones card game page
[7] BoardGameGeek entry for A Game of Thrones card game

[8] BoardGameGeek entry for A Game of Thrones board game

[9] BoardGameGeek entry for Battles of Westeros board game

[10] BoardGameGeek entry for Diplomacy

[11] BoardGameGeek entry for Battlelore

[12] Gen Con, big gaming convention conveniently located in Indianapolis

[13] Check out the A Song of Ice and Fire role-playing game from the library
Core rule book
Campaign guide

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