Sunday, June 12, 2011

Game of Thrones the boardgame

(Warning: Spoilers for George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series below!)

I was exposed to Game of Thrones: the Boardgame before I read the Song of Fire and Ice books.

I have the minor curse of thinking like a game designer whenever games are discussed. When I originally wrote this I was in the third book of Song of Fire and Ice as I write, both Robb and apparently Catelyn having died, and to me the essence of the series is chaos and that you can only trust your own immediate family (and I suspect even that will change with the Lannisters): a breakdown of moral values. (I have since finished what has been published, and I seem to be right.)

Game of Thrones the boardgame is instructive now that I'm reading the books: as a simulation or even representation of the books, it's a failure. As a representation of the situation throughout the region where most of the books' action takes place, it does no better than the game Diplomacy does as a representation of World War I.

The boardgame Game of Thrones treats each of the "kingdoms" as a separate monolithic entity with no chance of internal betrayal. The situation described in the books calls for random events and Event Cards, not for something as straightforward as Diplomacy-style. So it could reflect the books much better, but it then would become a game for improvisors (who like chaos) rather than planners (who like order).

The situation just doesn't seem like one that ought to appeal to planners. As I said, chaos is a central theme of the books.

As a Diplomacy-style game the game appears to have a big geographical problem. Peninsulas do not make good settings for that kind of game, as someone ends up "in the middle".

This is not to assert that GoT:tBG isn't a good game. It IS to say it doesn't have much to do with the books, and may have problems as a boardgame.

1 comment:

EastwoodDC said...

Martin does love to torture his characters.

A Diplomacy style boardgame is the last thing I would expect for a representation of those books. It makes me wonder if the designer just skimmed the books.