22 September 2012

Game of Thrones CCG overview

David in our group owns the Game of Thrones Collectable Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games and have been bringing it along down to the club over the last couple of weeks - so I finally got the time to try it out myself. As I have mentioned in a few review posts in the past I'm really not "card game" fan, it stems from several problems I have with cardgames.

First of allI like to have a clear overview of what's going on, this is often helped by having a board and markers of some sort. Cardgames usually have a bunch of cards facing all direction making it nearly impossible to keep track of what is what and who's got what.

On top of that there is often an overwhelming amount of information in cardgames that you can't grasp as a newcomer as opposed to a boardgame. With a boardgame you can read the rules and understand 85% right off the bat. With a cardgame you can learn the mechanics, but then every player have a couple of dozen cards each with additional skills, traits, events, actions and whatnot - making it impossible for you as a newcomer to be able to foresee and plan or be able to in any way anticipate what the opponent can do. This certainly goes away after repeated games, but it is always the owner of the cardgame that has the edge over everyone else.

Beside that I often feel that cardgames are badly put together. Games like Call of Cthulhu by FFG is a gorgeous game that I think really sucks ass. Nothing happens and then suddenly one player wins. Warhammer Invasion is quite OK, but of the cardgames that I have played I think I like Game of Thrones the most. Game of Thrones related games are really a hit and miss kinda deal, you can't really tell if they are good purely based upon the license. This game did seem to simulate the various characters and houses of the Game of Thrones universe quite good. David had a suitcase full of decks for each of the houses of Westeros - i randomly picked house Baratheon and David picked Lannister.

Baratheon had quite good army capabilities and included Stannis Baratheon as their faction leader, Lannister on the other hand were just showering in gold and were able to pull off a lot of scheming. They also had Jaime Lannister who was wicked in duels with other characters.

The game can be played (and the impression I got it is recommended) with more than 2 players as there s a board with titles such as Master of Coin, Hand of the King and so on each granting a special bonus for the turn in which you possess this title. Each player has his own deck with the house he's playing and you slowly start to build up your home region and armies that you then send to fight other players. You win by accumulating 15 power tokens, which are won either by glorious victories on the battlefield or by scheming in the shadows with plotting characters and spies. Much like in Game of Thrones the boardgame you don't have to annihilate an opponent to win the game.

The game mechanics were quite good, even though I had to keep up with David as this was my first game. There certainly were more reasonable attributes to the skills and the way the battles played out compared to the GoT Boardgame (I hated 1st edition but have not played 2nd which is supposed to have been greatly improved). The theme is quite strong and makes sense, it's not just a tacked GoT on gimmick, the characters and events actually feel like something from the Game of Thrones universe.

In our game I was able to muster armies and powerful characters while David was mainly defending against the wave attacks I was sending against him, he still managed to hold up quite well and eventually won because of his spies and scheming characters. He also managed to kill Stannis in a duel with Jaime Lannister by isolating my commander from the rest of my army with an event card.

It's certainly worth checking out if you get the chance, and especially if you are a fan of both cardgames and Game of Thrones. And while this game is a collectable card game, and the amount of cards is ridiculous (thus including one of the problems listed earlier) I still think the game balance and the use of theme outweighed the stuff usually putting me off games like these.

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