Saturday, December 13, 2008

Its About Time

In December of 2006, I last played A Game of Thrones (playing the Storm of Swords 4-player game). The last time I played the regular/expansion version was two and a half years ago! So I was quite happy to finally get this one to the table again. Joining me were Nathan Winchester, Mike Gingold, Matthew Frederick and Amelia Boli. Now the plan had originally been to play Starcraft, but that plan changed and in retrospect, I'm glad. A Game of Thrones is my #2 favorite game (behind Age of Steam of course), but it doesn't come out much, probably because of its length - if you don't start the night with it, you won't finish (or more likely, you stay up too long). At any rate, I drew Baratheon, Nathan was Tyrell, Mike was the Lannisters, Matthew was Grayjoy, and Amelia was house Stark. I've played Baratheon before, but never won with them, so that was fine by me. Having Amelia to the north of me was good, because I knew Matthew would be harassing her the whole game. Despite being a first time player, I don't assume Nathan will be an easy mark, so I needed to establish my foothold early and try to hold on hoping he and Mike would fight it out. The early game was a bit strange, as the first few turns saw Mike and Matthew dink around back and forth befor drawing a line in the sand and wasting a turn re-organizing and planning. Nathan played Tyrell well, but was probably not aggressive enough against either Mike of I. My problem stemmed from the fact that while there was early mustering, there was not much supply changing, which killed me in terms of armies - I was spread thin over too large an area. I eventually lost ground to Nathan (and probably should have lost more). However, I was able to place two ships off the northern areas, and those two ships probably made all the difference in the game. With them, I was able to help Amelia keep Matthew from decimating her and position myself for a strong last turn free for all. Going into the last turn, I had 5 cities, Nathan and Mike 4, and Matthew 3. First tie-breaker was supply and Mike was sitting at 6 barrels, so all he needed was to drop me one city - or so he thought. My plan involved finally turning on Stark and taking Amelia's area(s) through attacks that everyone else would think were happening in the south. Nathan struck first causing me to retreat. I used my ships and move my retreating knight to an empty space with a city in Amelia's area - in retrospect, I should have not done that, but it mattered little as Matthew immediately invaded the same space and booted me out. Strangely enough, Nathan moved a knight out of a city he controlled (forgetting to place any influence marker) and I ended up retreating their after losing another battle elsewhere. I was also able to take Harrenhall from Mike and ended up with 5 (or six cities - we didn't check if the retreating knight counted for occupying the city space, but it didn't matter as nobody else had 5). What I really enjoyed about this game (and every game I play of A Game of Thrones) is the balance. The game really balances well and while you may hate your current position or feel out of the game, it rarely happens. In fact, everyone spent most of the night complaining about not being able to do something, or how badly they had screwed up, but pretty much everyone was in it until the end. Our game clocked in at about 4.5 hours + 30 minutes for rules, which I didn't think was bad for a full 10 round game.

8 comments:

Mike G. said...

It was a great game and came down to the wire as usual with AGOT. I think if we played again soon, we would all be a little more aggressive.

Tatsu said...

If we were replaying that game, you and Nathan would be more aggressive, which would have left me as Baratheon normally is - screwed.

sourwyrm said...

I've always thought the Greyjoy and Baratheon have the slight edge. Meanwhile, Lannister has the slight handicap.

Tatsu said...

It all depends on who squeezes whom. Lannister might have a handicap if Greyjoy puts the squeeze on them at the same time that Tyrell does. In our game, Greyjoy and Lannister immediately set the dividing line and did their own thing the whole game. In that case, Lannister has a pretty good advantage. They can freely grab a lot of good spaces on the board and set themselves up for a good endgame against the Baratheon and Greyjoy forces.
Tyrell needs to be aggressive against Baratheon, but can't if Lannister is not being harassed by Greyjoy. That's what makes this such a good game. You absolutely must politic such that people don't let someone run away with things. While two players can gang up on another (Greyjoy and Baratheon can squish Stark if they want), doing so usually just creates a race between those two players only - nobody should let that happen. In fact, in the case I just described, the treaty should emerge between Lannister and Tyrell. They should agree to hold off hostilities so that they can hit Greyjoy and Baratheon while their attentions are north.

That is why this game is so great - the dynamics really require everyone to try and balance conquest with misdirection.

Matthew Frederick said...

A nice, tight game.

I'd very much like to play again soon, while I remember how things really work together.

sourwyrm said...

I didn't say the game was broken or hugely unbalanced. I meant the two naval powers (black & yellow) have the *slight edge*. Gamesmanship & diplomacy can take care of the advantage they have.

sourwyrm said...

how much deal making and diplomacy goes on in your games? or are the actions selected pretty much silently?

Tatsu said...

There is an appropriate amount of discussions. It depends on the people of course. Some people I play with (Noah) will whine about their position and we all know he's full of sh*t. There are usually the deal or two going on and we'll certainly point out the things that we don't want to go a certain way.