At a Glance: A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a highly thematic card game that perfectly captures both the dark intimacy of the backroom backstab, and the epic battles of Westeros.
A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a deck-building card game for 2-4 players that is branded as an LCG by Fantasy Flight, the publisher. A Living Card Game is different from a typical Collectible Card Game in that you don’t buy packs with random cards in them. Everything is standardized and you know what you get in each pack. In this game, each player takes control of a House from George R. R. Martin’s novels, then constructs a deck around that particular House. There are Plot Cards which set the scene at the beginning of each round, but every other card may be used in your customizable deck. The object of the game is to be the first to get to 15 Power. At the beginning of the round, each player selects one Plot Card to kick things off. These are revealed simultaneously and resolved. Whoever has the most Initiative showing on the Plot Card (plus any modifiers on characters or locations) decides who will go first. Players receive gold income based on the Plot Card plus locations and characters that provide gold. Gold is used mainly for Marshaling cards which is where you play cards from your hand and pay their gold cost. Once everyone has marshaled, the Challenges begin. There are three types of attacks in the game, represented by three different symbols on the cards. Some characters may have all three on their card, or maybe just one. First is Military, represented by a red axe. The winner of a Military challenge gets to kill one of the defender’s characters. An Intrigue challenge, shown by a green eye, allows the winning attacker to randomly discard an opponent’s card. Lastly is Power, shown as a blue crown, where the winning attacker takes Power from the opponent. Whenever you resolve a challenge, you compare the Strength (STR) of all participating characters (+ or – modifiers) and whoever has the most wins that challenge. If an attack goes undefended for any reason, the attacker gains 1 Power as a bonus. You may declare one of each type of attack on your turn if you wish, but each time a character is used for anything, they kneel (Card turns sideways) and cannot be used for anything else that turn. After the Challenges, you check for Domination by adding the STR of all standing characters plus any leftover gold and whoever has the most gains 1 Power. Players then lose any unused gold and stand all their characters again and a new round begins with the Plot phase. Whoever reaches 15 Power at any time is the winner. They also have Titles that are used when you play with more than 2 players where you choose a different one each turn that grants a bonus and interacts with the other Titles in interesting ways, allowing you to form temporary alliances.
There are so many aspects of this game that I really like. First are the Plot Cards. They really set the stage for that round and they can be significantly powerful. In fact, one Plot Card is called Valar Morghulis, and it kills ALL characters in play. Aside from the abilities or modifiers Plot Cards provide, they also provide much of the gold you will use for Marshaling your cards into play. I like the thematic ties the cards have, as depending on the character they may be stronger in Military might or they may be more underhanded or seductive, focused on Intrigue and deception. Littlefinger, for instance, has bonus STR as you have gold in your pool, which is greatly thematic as he specializes in bribery and backdoor dealings. And like the novels, MANY people will be killed. It is always a good idea to have a character in play that you wouldn’t mind losing to a quick death to protect your stronger characters. But ultimately you cannot prevent all deaths, so through the inevitable carnage you need to find ways to gain Power. Now we come to what might be my favorite part: each constructed deck feels unique depending on what House it is focused around. I generally play with a Baratheon deck, which is not a popular choice per se, but I love how Power-focused it is and how it has a great potential for defense, smothering your opponents and making their military aggressiveness impotent. But there are several other decks that might suit your playing style. The Stark deck is highly militaristic and have different special ways that they can kill your characters. The crooked Lannister House has by far the best access to gold and a lot of ways to undermine your strategies. Targaryen is fairly balanced, with a slight focus on military strength. With expansions, you can also create decks centered around House Greyjoy, House Martell, House Tyrell, or the Night’s Watch. There is an almost overwhelming amount of material for this game, so you can really dive deep and into the world.
Components are nice and I especially like the artwork. The Title figures are intricately designed and they’re a nice surprise as they could have just been represented by tokens. I own the 1st edition and some expansions that correspond to it, but they have since released an updated 2nd edition, with some gameplay tweaks. I would say it does not really matter which you get your hands on, but the 2nd edition is certainly more readily available and affordable. This is my favorite game in this genre of CCG’s and LCG’s and thematically captures George R. R. Martin’s brutal, epic, intense fantasy world so well. Excellent!
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