A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King

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When you play the game of thrones you win or you die

The king has called for a lavish feast and tourney, the likes of which have not been seen in the Seven Kingdoms since the days of Aegon the Conquerer.

What's more, the king has declared that at this feast, he will choose his new Hand — and you have a chance of rising to this lofty position.

Of course, you're not the only one with eyes set on becoming the power behind the Iron Throne. In A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King, you need to scheme and backstab to outwit your opponents, and you need the help of Varys, the Master of Whispers, to do it.

Luck:

A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King is a simple game but don't be decieved, much of the game relies on the decision making of the players and very little to do with the luck of the draw. Very few interactions in the game rely on luck, as you and the other players are completely in control of the outcome of the game. The one aspect of luck that comes into play is in the setup of the game, as all the tiles and companion cards are completely randomised making no one game the same. If players opt to use the 3 Eyed Crow tokens (And no that is not a typo show watchers, its a crow in the books) then there is an added mechanic of not being able to communicate between teammates that can add some randomness to the mix, but not a lot.

Strategy:

This is a strategy game, or maybe more aptly put, a puzzle. In Hand of the King players take turns moving Varys, The Spider, around the board, picking up sets of characters trying to collect the most of all the great houses of Westeros. While the game may seem straight forward, a single turn can change the game completely. The companion cards add an extra something to the game that really turns the game on its head when used properly. The game requires forethought and clever planning to best serve the players but is thankfully not prone to analysis paralysis. Decisions are important for the player to make but can at any point be limited in scope.

Complexity:

This is not a complex game, this is what you would call a filler game. This is a quick little game that can be setup in minutes and played by as few as 2 players. This is a perfect game to play when waiting for other guests to show up or as a quick break between more intense games. A players turn consists of moving the central card and collecting others. While there are tactical decisions to be made they ultimately boil down to an A or B situation for the most part.

Replay Value:

As we mentioned above, this is a great filler game and for that reason this is a game I will see a lot of play from. The game is so quick and simple to play that it will be an easy choice to get off the shelf. What makes it so appealing is its simplicity. This is a game that you will want to teach new players with. Bruno Cathala, the designer is a master of the two player game (even games not designed specifically for this, see Five Tribes), making this an excellent date night playthrough. That all being said I don't see this as a game that will be played immediately one game after the other, games such as Love Letter and One Night seem to reign supreme in that area, this game feels more akin to games such as Lanterns or The Grizzled.

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Components:

Fantasy Flight has put together a wonderful little package here, first of all can we just applaud them for not overstating the box size? Too many smaller, filler style games have tried to fit themselves into larger boxes for next to no reason other than to take up more space, Hand of the King comes in a sleek little box that comfortable holds everything you need to play. The game has nice card stock and the tokens are great, but what really sets this game apart is the art style. This wonderfully cartoony take on George R.R. Martins world of A Song of Ice and Fire is both adorable and true to the source material. The characters are designed the way they are described in the books which will please those who aren't just fans of the show.

Learning Curve:

This game is a breeze to pickup, it's one of those games that you can literally sit someone down and tell them what they want to do to win and what they can choose to do on their turn. Once players understand this, the game is straight forward and anyone is able to master it. My first game was a back and forth between me and my partner where in the end I was left behind by a single point and left with only one option before the game ended (an option that didn't impact the score in any way), being the owner of the game I had assumed my understanding of the game would help me much more than it did.

Theme:

Don't be fooled, this game is a wonderfully fun game even for those who aren't fans of the source material, Bruno Cathala has crafted a tight system that anyone can enjoy. That being said, the theme is there, albiet lightly tacked on to the system. A major theme behind A Song of Ice and Fire is the political game that is played between the great houses of the land and that is easy to see in the mechanics at play here, and the artwork lends itself to setting this world alive in the players minds.

Scaling:

This game is at its core a 2 player game, there are modes of play that see up to 4 players (as teams and as individuals), however it is at its best when played one on one. It is not unlike a game of chess, where players weigh up their decisions to determine what moves will set them up the best in the future while not allowing their opponent to get a proper foothold on the game.

Final Thoughts:

A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King is a excellent game even for non-Game of Thrones fans. Bruno Cathala has become one of the leading designers in the industry and its not hard to see why. His dedication to unique mechanics, paired with Fantasy Flights excellent production value make this an easy buy for anyone looking for a quality filler game.

It certainly won't be a game that you will gather your friends around for, but at such a cheap price, this is almost a must have for any collection. 

Have you played Hand of the King? Do you agree with our review? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and please like us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!

Brent

Brent is the founder of OzBoardGamer, he has a passion for the hobby and especially loves games for 2 to 5 players


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