Need to know
What is that? A harsh policy game and strategic maneuvering.
Expect to pay $ 20 / £ 16
date of publication Out now
Developer Dyer Wolf
publisher Asmodee Digital
Reviewed at AMD FX-8350, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, 32 GB RAM
Multiple Up to six
Link Official site
More than just a game for the fans, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game is the definitive medieval strategy game. At least on the table top, as she is 17 years old and in her second version. The reasons why it’s popular translate well into the digital version if you bring your friends, but the multiplayer infrastructure is not set up for gameplay with matchmaking. It is also hampered by a mediocre user interface and slow single-player gameplay speed.
Given its fundamentals drawn from classic diplomacy, A Game of Thrones is a matter of negotiation between players – negotiations that are completely unenforceable within the rules of the game. All orders are given in secret, and fights can be greatly unpredictable without a numerical advantage, which is difficult to muster. In its fundamentals, it is a game of strategy, but at play it is social bargaining and deception. Everyone lies, everyone breaks deals, everyone stabs others in the back. Only one person can win if he is the first to obtain seven Castles, but you cannot win without compromising.
In each round, players secretly give orders to each area on the map while their forces are in it: they move to another area, defend, and support other forces, boost their power to gain resources, or attack to disrupt enemy orders. I might ask my knights to advance into enemy territory, my ships to support the attack, and my infantry division to raid and disable enemy defenses before I go. The effectiveness and diversity of orders are often determined by one of the three paths of power, in which no house can be a master: the Iron Throne, Feudalism, and the Court of the King. The Iron Throne Bearer breaks ties outside the fight, the Feudalist breaks ties in the fight, and the President of the King’s Court must change the matter after they see what others are doing.
The combat is simple and inevitable. Adds the power of the respective units and one of the character cards from your hand adds up to the total. Hands open, so you always know whether or not you can win a fight. A highly divisive option among players, adding some randomness to combat, but not enough to affect them if one side has an overwhelming advantage.
The commands are the only thing you can really control. Recruiting units, gaining lots of resources, and pushing yourself up in the political role ranking and paths of power are all factors that are drawn from random event cards at the start of each round. Some factions can count on these draws to win or lose, and if the card they want does not appear until the fifth round, then luck is bad.
The overall simplicity of the rules is thanks to this. Troops of equal size are often disrupted, and your soldiers and ships are valuable commodities that no more is easy to obtain, so choosing when and where to fight is crucial. Each region will only give you some of what it needs from the three main resources: supply, energy and strongholds. It is so tightly balanced that no player can defeat another player without his full army, but you cannot focus your entire army on another player without leaving yourself open to other houses. The only option, then, is to forge unstable alliances to achieve interim goals. Your enemy’s enemy is never your friend, but maybe you can kill the common enemy first.
But there’s not a lot of wounds if you want deep simulations and mechanically complex strategy. It’s more of a strategy game planner and draftsman than a logistician or thinker.
However, the simplicity of the digital copy does not generally count. It is a nice abstract game but a functional implementation of backgammon. Functional, not fancy. He doesn’t revisit much of the game’s design, nor how it was presented, to paraphrase that for a digital medium. The map itself is a simple, steady image with some polymorphic patterns lowered on top. It’s a disappointing focus for an epic struggle and doesn’t compare to the sprawling and controlling experience of the table in a board game.
The interface is bulky and high performance and cannot be scaled or changed. Parts of it dominate the screen, which appears to be an attempt to divert attention from the sad map. It is set up more like a tablet game than a computer game.
But what really kills the experience is the speed. You have to watch every action each of the six factions takes at every turn – you have to watch as they decide to reject what they have not done. The camera moves according to their movement, or the soldier walks or decides the fight or the raid occurs, complete with animation. In multiplayer, this makes sense, given that human opponents’ actions are inherently interesting, but against AI, they draw what could be 20 minutes of matches into hour-long events.
I read a book while AI turns into a solution which is, frankly, a damn thing as far as I can say about a game.
Playing against AI is as interesting as it can be, which is a pleasant surprise. He fights hard in regular skirmishes, and especially understands how to punish players who seek to overuse themselves. You can even do some rudimentary diplomacy by threatening commanders or entering vaguely binding non-aggression agreements.
Singleplayer is most interesting in challenging scenarios, however, a series of missions force you into puzzle-like conditions with goals outside of normal conditions of victory. It’s a shame that there are only challenges for four of the six homes, and only 10 challenges total.
Playing with others is the heart of Game of Thrones, and the social aspect – bargaining, titration, and engagement – has made it enduring popular. The truth is, it’s hard to do the kind of backroom negotiation and dealing that makes Game of Thrones enjoyable without creating separate voice chat channels, and there’s no way to facilitate this without a deeply invested group.
What that means is that A Game of Thrones is great with friends, but matchmaking is not enough of a task to make it fun with strangers. Moreover, there is no demarcation between simultaneous or asynchronous gameplay, so games are constantly suspended by one player – and constant errors that can disrupt games for several hours.
Social games work on PC only because of the powerful voice chat or text chat for asynchronous playing. So even with pre-made signals and text chatting, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game – Digital Edition just doesn’t get there.