Welcome to Empirical Purple

A blog by Simon Brady to cover a surprisingly wide range of geekiness, in a combination that no-one else does quite the same way. Probably. Either that, or it'll just be Simon talking about the likes of Football (usually the Soccer variety), PC & Tabletop Gaming, WWE, Movies, Music and occasionally even my actual job of Graphic Design, depending on what I'm up to in the world.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Returning to Westeros

Note to TL:DR types who just want a review of A Game of Thrones The Board Game: it's about halfway down beyond my vague GoT rambling.

It's interesting how anything about the 'A Song of Ice and Fire series' has transitioned, simply, into being called 'Game of Thrones'. It'll all be down to the HBO series, of course, but if you're a fan of the books, the show or the various games, it's now all about GoT, rather even than AGoT or ASOIAF.

Season 3 of the GoT TV show will be hitting our screens in four months time at the end of March. Once again I'm looking forward to it immensely. Even with my great disappointment, strangely enough, of the very final scene at the end of Season 2 where the White Walker looked more like a frosty Green Man than anything I'd actually imagined from the books, it's very exciting to return to the world they've adapted from the books onto the small screen.

On the books side, it's around a year and a half since A Dance With Dragons was released. Thanks to the TV series, though, we're not clamouring every minute for updates on The Winds of Winter. Everyone seems to have their least-favourite book, usually A Feast for Crows or A Dance with Dragons as the plot becomes ever more muddled and lost with so many different stories. A good percentage of them do feel like they're going nowhere, or at least going somewhere very slowly. GRRM knows he's only got two books left to finish this thing, right? Either way, I may end up re-reading the series, again, just for fun.

The LCG rolls ever onwards, now up to a ninth set of chapter packs on top of the deluxe expansion for each house. I haven't played this in a fair old while, mostly because it's such a heavy game in terms of your thought processes that it's hard to play too much of it at once, and can be a bit daunting for newcomers. It's still something I enjoy playing, but would like another purchase or two (such as the Greyjoy expansion and another copy of the Martell expansion cards, for instance) in order to fill out and create a few new decks. I'd like to play with too many different styles of deck for my own good, that's the problem.

The Roleplaying game is still sitting firmly on my shelf. It has been read on several occasions, but my thoughts on gathering an appropriate RPing group and whether I'd volunteer to DM it or not (with my massive experience of pen-and-paper RPing adding up to very little at all) means that the weighty tome is simply a reference book with lovely art, at the moment.

And now, to the actual point of this post!

Over the weekend I got to play the Board Game for the first time. The first edition, with expansion, laid out five players (Stark, Baratheon, Tyrell, Greyjoy and myself taking my favoured Lannisters) to take control of the island continent of Westeros.

It's a game where forging alliances over the board is equally as important as the strategy of piece placement. Not only do you have to supply and muster your troops at random points as you go along, you must balance your available heroes in battles, keep your power for retaining land and bidding for the three areas of influence. The Iron Throne decides who goes first, the Sword tells you who breaks ties in combat, while the Raven enables you to change orders and give out extra special orders with their own bonuses.

This all came into play when our Greyjoy player - who being on Pyke starts right next to Lannisport - engaged in one aggressive skirmish with Stark before moving on to strike almost immediately at the Lannister fleet, sending it cowering back into port. A Lannister always pays his debts, so the saying goes, so the next turn - after a handy building phase for more ships and troops - that Jaime Lannister led the fleet to smash the Greyjoy fleet into retreat and besiege Pyke. This was only possible, however, because I actually asked the House Tyrell player, who controlled the area south of my own as well as most of the sea surrounding Lannisport and Pyke, if he wouldn't mind supporting me (or at least not directly supporting Greyjoy) in my assault.

Once the fleet was smashed, it was actually Cersei (who has no combat bonus leading an army in of herself, but winning with her allows you to remove your opponent's orders for another army) who led the troops from Casterly Rock to take Pyke and never give it back. With his the Krakens of his ships now being replaced by Lions and repainted red, Greyjoy's raiders were trapped around Moat Calin and the Twins. It wasn't long before the Lannisters and Starks mopped up the remaining Greyjoys to remove them from the game. Whoops.

It's not often in these sorts of multi player games that you can actually eliminate a player completely - especially when the game lasts as exceptionally long as it does - but because he was too aggressive and didn't make any contact with the players around him, or the ones surrounding them, the retribution destroyed him. We do not sow, they say, without mentioning "nor make any alliances and promptly get battered". Tyrell was excessively nice to Baratheon and helped out Lannister. Lannister actively avoided Baratheon while making no aggressive moves towards Tyrell. Stark claimed their northlands with little opposition and Greyjoy was flattened by three of the four other houses.

So the territory was slowly swallowed up and all claimed and a Cold War of sorts began. The political manoeuvring stepped up and the houses jockeyed for position, just before the Wildlings invaded and were beaten back (just). Then the opportunism began. As Stark and Baratheon contested the same areas in the Vale, Baratheon moved within a single city of victory. This, of course, couldn't be allowed, so Tyrell made sure they caused trouble as Stark and Baratheon fought from the Fingers to the Eyrie.  Lannister, who by now had the largest army, packing the most effective punch, decided to make a strike into the heart of Baratheon territory, while Tyrell claimed Sunspear from the Stag, too. Suddenly Baratheon was in last place, while Stark and Lannister vyed for the top spot.

Asthe game drew to a close for the 10th turn, Lannister was simply too powerful to stop, despite only Stark actively opposing them. Baratheon and Tyrell decided it would be better to try and stop Lannister from taking their cities for the victory, while the Wolf and the Lion traded Seaguard and Moat Calin back and forth. As the game ended, it was the red and gold of Lannister that controlled the most cities and, ultimately, the fate of the game.

I enjoyed it, but it was tense throughout. At no point, other than when destroying the Greyjoys, did any other house actually look weak. It is very difficult to actually kill units, and you don't want to bring enough force to bear to try and destroy one opponent, because it's incredibly obvious to see the troop movements and bring together enough forces to stop it. Once that's going on, of course, the other houses can probably just walk in and take your barely-defended lands.

It's not a game that you could play two in a row, such is the mental effort expended (a little like the LCG, which is a lot of thinking in a session) but if you intersperse it with some Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan or Fluxx in between, then you've got your one 'heavy' game amongst the ones designed for sheer fun.

Definitely recommended, if you like that sort of thing.

1 comment:

  1. This has made me really want to play the game, Guys that Game in Stoke play the LCG quite a bit, I gave up my only chance of playing the game at Beer & Pretzels (sadface) hopefully I'll get another chance.

    To the king of the Lannisters *raises up glass*