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Game of Thrones: The Card Game

| Published: 2012
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Game of Thrones: The Card Game

“The wolf and the lion will be at each other’s throats. We will be at war soon, my friend.” – Lord Varys

Game of Thrones is a card game for two players based on the epic HBO series where players wage war in the fields of Westeros and conspire to crush their opponents at court in Kings Landing. You can shift the balance of power with game-changing plot cards, then marshall your forces and engage your opponent in a series of challenges to gain power for your House.

Two fixed, fifty-card decks allow players to experience their own battles and courtly intrigues in the lands of Westeros as House Lannister or House Stark. Each deck includes many of the show’s most recognizable characters and locations, including Eddard Stark, Cersei Lannister, Robert Baratheon, Littlefinger, and Jon Snow.

Game of Thrones: The Card Game sample cards 2 Game of Thrones: The Card Game sample cards 1
images © Fantasy Flight Games

User Reviews (2)

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Hockey Fan
Tinkerer Beta 2.0 Tester
40 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you rage-quit out of frustration – Cercei Lannister”

People who would enjoy this game:
Fans of the HBO show and/or Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, casual/beginner gamers looking for something a little more strategic, gamers looking for a good “gateway” game to introduce to non-gamers.

Who this game may not appeal to:
Die-hard/Experienced “A Game of Thrones Living Card Game” players.
Gamers that are “Deck builders”

What this version is all about:
This “HBO themed version” is a streamlined reworking of the popular “A Game of Thrones Living Card Game”. And while the two versions are very similar in their root mechanics, it’s important to note that this HBO version is a standalone game and is not compatible with the LCG version on which it’s based. It’s basically “LCG Lite”.

The game pits two fixed 50 card decks (Starks vs. Lannisters) in an epic battle to garner the most power to your house banner. This is accomplished through the marshaling of Characters and Locations and engaging one another in a series of Military, Intrigue and Power challenges. Along the way, both sides are able to manipulate certain rules through the use of “Plot Cards”. All of the cards contain high gloss photos of all your favorite Game of Thrones characters with fantastic and stylish looking House Sigil artwork on the backs.

A few words of caution:
Although this game is a stripped down version of the regular LCG game, it still retains much of the same round structure and basic rule flow as its predecessor, which still might be intimidating to a “non-gamer” type not accustomed to hobby type cards games. (Or to put it another way, this game might be closer to a “Magic the Gathering” game than it is say to “Uno” or other basic type card games you typically find at Target/WalMart/Etc). If you are turned off by strategy games that require reading and referring back to a larger than normal rulebook, then this might not be for you.

It should also be noted that this is a 2 player ONLY game, which might be a strike against it if you are looking for a new group game. Since Fantasy Flight has designed this as a balanced standalone game, it’s unclear at this time if there will ever be any further expansions adding to the set.

For those already familiar to the Living Card Game:
First, let me start off by saying I have owned and enjoyed the LCG for years, and have several of the expansions. However, if I had one bone to pick with the “full version” it that it can get a little heavy on the rules sometimes. Most of the 2 player Joust games I’ve played with my wife last for hours and almost always gets derailed several times a round having to consult the FF Forums or FAQ for an answer to some “legal jam” when a conflict of card resolution gets called into question. We play this game often and STILL inevitably have to go hunting for some sort of rules clarification.

So, when FF showcased at GenCon 2012 that they were releasing a streamlined version of the game, I immediate thought, “Great, I’m on board”. It’s clear that Fantasy Flight was attempting to boil this game down to its most basic level in an effort to appeal to a wider audience. (Especially given they are selling it at Target). So, what are the major differences? Well:

The play decks are fixed, but the plot cards are not. In fact, the game comes with 32 different plot cards, of which you perform a “plot draft” to get to your 7 total. (A pick and pass system, think “7 Wonders”). This small bit of deck building variation helps with replay. I will note that the effects on the plot cards feel a little more watered down, i.e “when revealed draw 2 cards”, but there’s still a few epic ones in here. (And yes, the classic “Valar Morghulis” is one of them).

If you have played and understand the LGC rules, then you are pretty much ready to go out the box with this version. The keywords for the cards have been almost removed entirely with the exception three: Renown, Stealth, and Limited. (Which function the same as the LCG). The turn order, the challenges, the “dead pile” & “discard”, play to 15 power, all the same.

You might be happy to know that the decks do contain a few duplicate copies of certain characters (Eddard, Robb, and Jon Snow for Stark, Jaime, Tywin, Tyrion, Cersei and Joffrey for Lannister). For those of you like me that purchased 2 or 3 copies of the LCG Core set in order to have multiple dupes, FF has at least thrown you a bone with this one.

There are a few rules differences with HBO version that I thought I’d point out.
First, both decks contain the same unique “neutral” cards (Littlefinger, Varys, The Iron Throne). However, there’s no restriction for each player to have their copy of their unique character in play simultaneously. Meaning that both players can have a Littlefinger in play without violating any rules about them being unique. Also, just because my Varys is in my dead pile doesn’t prevent you from playing your Varys. He’s only “dead” as far as my side/deck is concerned.

Another rule pertains to the lowering of strength and it’s affect on challenges. Characters who have been reduced to zero strength through plot effects can still initiate and WIN challenges (and even gain an additional power for unopposed challenges). So, if I initiate a challenge with a character whose strength is zero, and you block with someone who also has a strength of zero, I still break the tie and win the challenge. I’m fairly certain that in the LCG you have to have at least 1 strength to win, but Fantasy Flight has confirmed this “Zero Rule” to be true on their discussion board.

The game is fantastic to look at. The cards have a high gloss photo-like sheen which really becomes a thing of beauty when the game is in full action on the table. This card coating does however make the cards a little slippery when stacked. The house sigil artwork on the back of the cards is a great stylist touch and back of the plot cards have an ominous image of the Iron Throne. The Dragon Coins and Power markers are made of thick cardboard (very similar to the LCG). As one can always expect from Fantasy Flight, high marks for the quality and design of the components!

Instead of the house cards, the game includes great looking house banners (Also made of very thick cardboard). It’s a great touch that looks good on the table, but I will say that there’s something strange to note: Unlike the LCG house cards, these banners no longer include the turn order/steps for quick reference. That’s not really a problem for the veterans, but given that this is designed to be introduction game for beginners, it’s curious that they took those out! It’s a Minor quibble and basically a non-issue for people who already know what they are doing. The back of the manual however does have a nice Turn order reference sheet.

Final Thoughts
The game looks great and plays much quicker than the LCG (seeing as many of the keywords have been reduced). The HBO version is much simpler than the LCG (which my wife and I can appreciate) but even so, we’ve STILL come into a few head scratching timing/resolution issues. As of this moment (December 2012) Fantasy Flight doesn’t really have a FAQ, so we’ve already had to adopt some house rules when dealing with certain card conflicts. Over time though, the FF Forums may hammer these issues out, and maybe they’ll create a FAQ.

My real concern is if we’ll eventually tire of the same “Stark vs Lannister” routine, especially since the decks are fixed. In fact, the first thing my wife said to me when we opened the box was “I want to be Targaryan”. (which is her LCG go-to deck) so there was immediate disappointment. Sorry folks, no Dany or Drogo to be seen here! It is known.

Given that the purpose of the product is to introduce gamers to the basic rules and then expect them to “graduate” up to the LCG, it’s probably unlikely that any sort of expansions will be coming for this HBO version. If that’s true, then it’s a shame, because I really like this HBO version a lot and would definitely buy a Baratheon, Targaryan or any sort of deck expansion. It seems like it would be easy to do, given that there’s no lack of characters to draw from on the HBO show. Come on Fantasy Flight… DO IT! Print-and-Play!

The best part is, the game is VERY reasonably priced given the quality of the components (as of Xmas 2012, they are going dirt cheap online), which made it a no-brainer purchase for a huge Game of Thrones fan such as myself. Just understand that you are buying a 2 player only game that is not compatible with the LCG version.

But, I’m happy to report though that there’s room enough in my gaming world for both versions! Hodor, Hodor, HODOR!

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4 of 12 gamers found this helpful
“A brutal show turned into a brutal game.”

This game can be quite fun and frustrating at the same time. It is a series of brutal attacks on each other that can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Although it is fun playing cards that are completely overpowering on both sides, it is usually based on luck of the draw and has very little strategy involved.
There are better card games out there, however the detail on the cards and the imagery is great for fans of the show. Each card makes sense for the character on it, and it can be exciting to get your favourite characters.


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