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Went to Gen Con 2012

StandardGr0an

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Go to the Battles of Westeros page
26 out of 27 gamers thought this was helpful

This is one of my favorites right now, and not only because I’m a fan of all things that are A Song of Ice and Fire. No surprises when it comes to the rules: like many FFG publications, the rulebook is not amongst the best written, and you have to consult forums, FAQs and even (a great) fan-compiled rewrite (available on Boardgamegeek), but once you’ve gotten past this patch of molasses and grasped the basic workings of the game (with or without house rules), the possibilities really open up. What you find is another that is easier to learn than it is to master; the game shines when you start to understand the importance of tactics and strategy, as well as working within the parameters of probability. The dice and card factor might introduce too much randomness for some players, but for others it will seem an interesting reflection of some of the unpredictability that comes with fielding an army, especially in the absence of radio communication. It’s an innovative reworking of the still recognizable BattleLore mechanics; it’s difficult to classify it as “better” or “worse,” and probably best to say “different” but “good.”

The game comes with plenty of pre-fab scenarios…at first ten might not sound like much, but I cannot emphasize enough the high replay value of each scenario. I have played the first one (which is the most rudimentary of all of them) three or four times, and each time unfolded and had an outcome that was radically different from the previous ones. Part of this is due, yes, to the magical randomness, but I think most of it arises out of the action/reaction factor; your strategy will be heavily affected by your opponents. Understanding your units’ strengths and weakness, your leaders’ abilities, and the role of chance and probability, and then applying that knowledge tactically to maximize and capitalize, these are all key, and when it starts to click you really get into what you are doing. The pre-fab scenarios also introduce all sorts of unique rules and situations, giving a glimpse of the nearly endless customization options. Victory does not necessarily have to come through the elimination of all of your opponent’s units; maybe it’s about holding territory for a certain amount of time, or accumulating a certain number of victory points, or whatever. And if scenarios aren’t your thing, the randomly generated Skirmish option allows for even more replayability.

Out of the box you have plenty of content, but throw in the expansions and you will have enough to make this game last a loooooong time. And with the soon to arrive Baratheon army exapansion, which will introduce rules, space and units to support up to eight (yes, 8) players in epic scale battles, well, let’s just say I’m drooling already.

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