Monday, July 23, 2007

True Kings Of The North

After a game each of Ca$h 'n Gun$ and Bang! (including my first time playing with the excellent Dodge City expansion), I spent much of Sunday playing Fantasy Flight’s A Game of Thrones board game. I’ve played this one before, and after having figured it out a lot more, I like it even better. I played House Stark again in another five-player games, and this time around I had a much better idea of where I needed to be headed in the early game. I was able to grab the critical choke point of Moat Calin in the first turn, through aggression on the part of both Greyjoy and Lannister kept me from marching on Seagard the following turn. My reluctance to fight a pitched battle combined with Lannister’s movements along his southern flanks kept Greyjoy’s attention elsewhere, though he did smash my nascent western navy in the Bay of Ice. Along with my early defeat in the Narrow Sea by Baratheon, this kept me confined to overland movement.

In the middle game, however, I was able to slowly creep down toward the middle of board, taking the Twins and eventually moving into the Mountains of the Moon. Lannister had rebuffed Baratheon’s early gambit for victory, and Greyjoy had repeated invaded Tyrell’s capital of Highgarden, so I was largely left to my own devices. By the time the next bidding phase came around, I had maxed out my Power, allowing me to substantially improve my position on all three tracks. This, along with having a powerful force of three cavalry units near the middle of the board and rebuilt navy in the Shivering Sea, put me in great position for endgame.

The key component of my final strategy was finally dislodging Baratheon from the Narrow Sea. Once I had done that, I had three ships there to provide support to all of the adjacent areas. I took The Eryie from Baratheon and moved quickly to grab Crackclaw Point before Lannister could get there. That gave me five Cities and Strongholds to everyone else’s three or four. With three turns to go, all I had to do was hold on. Yes, I was adjacent to the two additional spaces I would need to win, but I was stretched pretty thin. I decided to hole up, consolidate my power, and prepare for the final push.

That strategy worked pretty well. I was able to take King’s Landing in the second to last turn, but Greyjoy’s resurgence almost doomed me. He took Winterfell from me, but I didn’t panic. On the last turn, I lost Crackclaw Point to Baratheon but retook it and Winterfell before fending off one final assault from Greyjoy to pull off the win.

As usual, there was something strange about the game. In this case, it was lots of Musters and few Supply cards coming out. As a result, I had almost my entire set of troop markers out, but I was incredibly constrained as to how I could move them. I spent most of the game controlling six supply spaces, but because of the timing on the card I never moved past four on the track.

Overall, I was satisfied with the game. I played a deliberately conservative style, and I was able to capitalize on the mistakes of others. I wasn’t overly aggressive, and I didn’t over-extend myself. I’m sure that this strategy worked better than it should have because of the number of new players in the game, but even if I hadn’t won I still would have enjoyed it. There’s a lot of nuance to this game, and I was pleased that I got the chance to explore it further.


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