A Game of Thrones, Fairy Tale, Santiago

I spent another Saturday afternoon at Michael’s house in Crawley. As usual, I had a good time.

“A Game of Thrones”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/6472
I have wanted to play this one for a while. It has had good ratings from people I trust, but I have always been put off by the theme. I read the first book and did not like it at all. Maybe I am just too much of an old-time Tolkein fan? There is none of the epic, noble flavour of the Lord of the Rings. It felt similar to “I Claudius” (flattering) or more like a thick gossipy paperback from the eighties. It turns out that the game is much better than the book.

The components are excellent. The board looks like England and Wales in a mirror, with Cornwall and Wales in the East. All the components are in thick cardboard or wood and the Raven and Throne markers are gorgeous. Most importantly, there were no usability issues and no player aids were required.

We played with five and even after only one game I can see is the only number this game should be played with. Otherwise the board would be too spacious and there would not be enough conflict early on.

It took about three and a half hours to play, which did not seem too long.

When reading “reports”:http://www.faidutti.com/index.php?Module=ludotheque&id=98 about A Game of Thrones, everyone is agreed that it borrows a lot from “Diplomacy”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/483. Unfortunately, I have not played Diplomacy, so I cannot really comment, but from what I have read and seen that looks about right. There is a clever ordering system, where everyone has action chits, which they secretly use to allocate actions. This makes “Wallenstein”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/3307 and A Game of Thrones surprisingly similar, even though they look very different.

It is ultimately a political game. The winner is almost always the person who is attacked least. The worst place to be around three quarters of the game through is in front; you can bet that you will be heavily thumped in the last turns.

It was very enjoyable, with plenty of vicious in fighting. Games like this are the reason I got into board games originally. I will not buy it for now, as I already have Wallenstein and want to see which one I prefer, but I still recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the books.

“Fairy Tale”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/13823
This set-collection card game from Japan is beautifully illustrated, but suffers from usability problems. The iconography takes some time to get used to. Once you understood their flow, they were comprehensible, but it took some time. Basically, it is a “card passing”:http://www.pagat.com/passing/index.html game, but jazzed up with plenty of special cards and themed sets to accumulate. It is a decent simple game, but the weird iconography and price do not balance out the good-looking cards.

“Santiago”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/8125
This is another game I have been hoping to try for ages. It is different, clever and difficult to play, while remaining simple. There is lots of interaction and there is just enough theme to make the game mechanics easy to understand. It is as tough as “Don”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1376, while having about the same weight as “Web of Power”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/491. Unfortunately, I was not able to wrap my mind around it enough, because I was burnt out, but I may well buy this.

  • I rather enjoyed AGoT myself the otherday. It does borrow a lot from Diplomacy. One guy even got pissed and quit in a manner I haven’t seen since last playing Diplomacy. The expansion provides a suitable 6 player variant, by adding more spaces down south. It also provides new options. I suggest picking and choosing a couple that work for your group before implementing them all. Personally, I found the new combat cards to be too powerful.

  • Yes, I read about the expansion and it does look like a must-buy addition. I suppose if all the combat cards are powerful, then things remain balanced? I expect you could leave them out, if you did not like them.

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