Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition) is based upon the incredibly successful book series of the same name written by George R.R. Martin (and not the TV show in any way, it is worth mentioning). The series is full of death, political intrigue, and power struggles between the Great Houses of Westeros. Each one trying to claim the Iron Throne for themselves, and they have no problem with who they hurt or kill along the way.
Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a Living Card Game for 2-6 players, and it has been going a long time. Now, Fantasy Flight Games has released a Second Edition Core Set to start a new line of products, so we thought this would be a good time to jump aboard.
You will muster your armies and iconic figures from the book series to your side in order to beat the opposing Houses at the table. You have several methods to assert dominance over your opponents, but it’s how you use your unique abilities that’ll matter the most. The one thing that will remain constant is that Littlefinger may be playing all sides!
How does Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition) compare to other popular LCGs? Read on to find out…
If you were expecting artwork and references to the television series within Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition), you may be disappointed. The card game favors an original illustration style that represents the descriptions given in the books. I found this approach to be much more in line with the traditional artwork style seen in other popular LCGs. Fantasy Flight Games’ extremely high production values can be seen throughout the contents of the core box set, as usual.
Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition) has one of the quicker setups of an LCG. The cards and layout of the game can be achieved in a matter of minutes. The guidebook that comes with the base set suggests you begin playing with cut-down versions of the Lannister and Stark decks. When I tried this, I did find a slight imbalance in the power level between the two decks, and so you should only see this suggestion as a way to learn the game and not as a competitive scenario. This will come later when you can custom-build your own deck.
The way you set up your initial board is one of the best I’ve seen. You draw 7 cards from your deck that will contain Character, Event, Attachment, and Location cards. Every card has a Gold cost in the top-left corner. At the beginning of the game, you may put up to 8 Gold’s worth of cards in play face-down as your setup, and then all players reveal these simultaneously. You can play Character and Location cards only at this stage, as Events can only be played in certain phases and Attachments can (usually) only be placed on face-up characters.
All players can then choose a Plot card from their Plot Deck that will aid their strategy that turn. You have 7 Plot cards in total and will need to cycle through all of these during the course of the game before you can repeat any. After all of the basic setup is complete, you’ll draw up to 7 cards again and the real gameplay begins. There are a decent number of phases to get through and whilst it may seem confusing at first, they are all relatively quick to get through.
Gold is your primary resource within the game. There are few ways to acquire Gold, but the main gains can be made from your Plot card. All players will have the opportunity to Marshall (summon) Characters onto their board and play any of the cards from their hand that they can afford. You’ll find that the majority of the game’s activity takes place in the Marshalling and Challenge phases. Every other phase is over very quickly with very little impact on the overall game state, except perhaps the Dominance phase where a Power token can be awarded.
Combat in this game actually comes in three forms. There are three Challenge types that you can conduct once each during your Challenge phase. Each of these has a differing reward outcome that can shape the board state by killing characters (Military), tip the balance of victory points (Power), and interrupt your opponent’s plays by discarding cards from their hand (Intrigue). All of these make for some excellent strategy choices that you’ll be committing to from the moment you turn your Plot card over. Many of the cards in your deck will work in synergy with one another. You may find that the level of strategic depth offered in this game is far greater than some other LCGs out there.
Your goal in this game is to amass a Power total of 15 across all of your cards. If you can do this then you will win the game. Most of the Power collected will be present on your Banner card which carries your house symbol. Some Character cards can also store Power, but if they are killed and sent to the dead pile you will lose their stored power. The great thing in this game, as in the books themselves (for the most part), is that when a unique Character dies, they are permanently out of the game! Unique Characters in the “Dead pile”, separate from the discard pile, cannot be played again from your deck even if you have more copies of them. Realistic and thematic!
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
In Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition), you can create custom decks by combining sets and expansions. If you buy more than one core set you can experiment with the basic decks and have multiple copies of the same card in your deck. This would be ideal if you plan on playing competitively at constructed events. Having multiple copies of powerful cards ensures you will draw them sooner and improve your deck’s consistency. Remember that if you do decide to include multiple copies of a unique Character and they then die, your subsequent copies will be useless to you!
The two-player game is the most common style of game you will play and this is called a Joust. You can play with up to 6 players in a Melee-style game and the rules remain largely the same, but with a few minor variations. You may want to explore this game type if you have a number of friends over or are hosting a game night. It can get pretty wild. This is my favourite way to play the game, full of meta-game politics and lots of arguing about bargains and betrayal. Just try not to take it too seriously!
All of the Houses / factions come with their own style of play that you will want to exploit if you want to come out victorious. For example, the Lannisters excel in Gold generation and Intrigue Challenges, and you can use this to discard cards from your opponent’s hand in order to shut down their strategies. The Starks have an abundance of Military might that can help you eliminate troublesome Characters your opponent controls if you win the Military Challenge. No matter what you choose to do, you will have fun doing it!
Once you’ve got a grasp on the basics or have exhausted the core set’s faction decks, you’ll want to move onto the expansions. Wolves of the North is the first, upcoming deluxe expansion (not available at this time yet) and its contents bolster the ranks of the Stark family as well as add cards for other Houses / factions. In here you’ll find new Stark family members as well as a means to draw support from House Tully. You can make better use of the Direwolves or use winter itself to empower your House. The box also contains new versions of iconic Character cards such as Arya Stark, Eddard Stark, and Jon Snow.
You can expand the core game with additional, non-randomized Chapter Packs that will add new cards to the game. Some may bring new tactical choices, whilst others add in a new way to thwart your opponents’ strategies. There are a number of Chapter Packs available so far from the first cycle, and each one will take your experience in a different direction. There are even deluxe accessories to enhance your Game of Thrones experience when playing! Faction sleeves and Deluxe playmats are totally awesome, and are a great way to get into this game with style.
- Taking the Black – Renly Baratheon, the Hound, and Maester Luwin join the lineup of iconic figures from the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire.
- The Road to Winterfell – House Targaryen support, with a card so powerful it is limited to one per deck!
- The King’s Peace – Eddard Stark arrives in King’s Landing to serve as the Hand of the King. What fate will be drawn from these new cards?
- No Middle Ground – Focusing on the chapters where Daenerys sails across the Dothraki sea to Vaes Dothrak. Among the cards included is the legend that is… Of course, Hodor!
Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition) is entertaining, but be warned, the games can take some time to finish. A match can go on for longer than most CCGs, especially faster ones, but this is because the game is more of a classic CCG design at its heart, full of strategy and important decisions. The Second Edition just cleaned up some of the rules for more clarity and altered a few small things to improve the gameplay experience overall.
The throw-back to the original artwork style of the books gives the game a more authentic LCG feel and less like a cheap cash-in of the popular TV series. Fans of the show may be disappointed by this, but shouldn’t be discouraged from trying out such an excellent LCG. The artwork has improved even above the First Edition of the game. It’s simply mind blowing how good the art is, but I have come to expect this from all of Fantasy Flight’s games now.
There is a steep learning curve in this game, at first. Finding how best to combo your cards with your chosen Plot cards may take a while, and the overall depth of the game is more complex than a lot of other LCGs I’ve played. This does add to the game’s enjoyment later, but for those new to LCGs, it may be a bit too much to swallow at the beginning. Unless you’re experienced with similar card games, you may want to start with something a little more simplistic before trying out Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition).
All that’s left to say is, “Valar Morghulis!” (High Valyrian for “All men must die.”)
For more screenshots, click here.
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