A Game of Thrones Card Game
A Game of Thrones card game began as a collectible card game (CCG) based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. It was created by Fantasy Flight Games in 2002. As a CCG, players were encouraged to buy booster packs containing a random set of cards to add more strength and variety to their decks. These “blind packs” forced players to invest quite a large amount of money, either by buying more packs or trading with fellow players, in order to get the cards they require. This system left most players at the mercy of those who could afford to buy the rare and powerful cards. In 2007, Fantasy Flight Games solved this problem by converting A Game of Thrones card game into a “Living Card Game (LCG)”. Instead of booster packs with randomized cards, a fixed pack was scheduled for release each month. These “Chapter Packs”, which contained the same amount and type of cards, effectively diversified decks and gameplay while removing the frustration and exorbitant cost of getting into a CCG.
Despite the deceptively large rulebook, the A Game of Thrones card game is relatively easy to follow, especially for those who are familiar with Magic: The Gathering. Each player has a House card, a House deck, and a plot deck. The House card, aside from identifying which noble House a player is playing as, contains a helpful outline of each round of play. At the start of each round, each player must choose a card to play from the plot deck, which consists of seven cards. Each of these plot cards has thematic effects that can possibly impact all players throughout the round. Some effects are devastating while others are beneficial, but through the course of the game all seven cards must be played at least once. The plot cards also determine resources available for the player, the turn order, and how effective their other cards are for the current round. Thus, the player should study his plot deck and carefully plan when each one should be played. The last set of cards, known as the House Deck, contains 45 cards and enables the players to facilitate combat, provide support, and grant additional resources. It consists of Characters, Locations, Attachments, and Events.
Each round has six phases that each player must fulfill. The Plot phase is when plot cards are played. As its name implies the Draw phase allows players to draw cards. The Marshaling phase is when players’ incomes are determined. Players spend this income in order to play cards. The Challenge phase is when actual combat takes place. Players may have to kneel (turn a card sideways) cards during the Marshaling and Challenge phases in order to use the effects of their cards. This is important in counting their remaining strength during the Dominance phase, wherein the player with the most strength of standing cards claims one power token for their House card. The last action is the Standing phase wherein all kneeling characters are put back in their original position to signify that they are ready to be reused for the next round. When a player has 15 or more tokens, he wins the game and ends the gameplay.
The game has remained faithful to the book on many levels, pleasing fans and non-fans alike by producing an innovative game that is as engaging as its namesake. Each deck has a variety of cards representing the unique flavor of its House. The strength of the Stark deck, for example, is in its military capabilities, while the Lannister deck manipulates the normal flow of the game to its advantage. The thematic plot cards also add an element of surprise and complexity to the game, while staying true to the Houses and events in the book.
In short, A Game of Thrones card game is highly recommended for both CCG players who are looking for a fresh, exciting game that will not empty their wallets, and for board gamers who want a serious multiplayer card game in their collection. The core set alone contains four complete decks for the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens and enables immediate gameplay for 2-4 players – a good investment for any gamer and one that never gets old due to its nature as a living card game.