Thanks to an apparent IMDb leak, we now know the expected premiere date of Game of Thrones’ seventh season is June 25th, and fans are going crazy! Normally airing as part of HBO’s spring schedule, the summer 2017 date for means a longer wait to see who among the beloved (and behated) characters will die next, who will survive, and who will rise to claim the Iron Throne. But why wait? The second edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games lets fans dive right into the wartorn lands of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, featuring iconic characters, events and plots from the show and novels whenever they want.
Rather than a collectible card game like Magic: The Gathering, A Game of Thrones is one of Fantasy Flight’s Living Card Games, which feature regular releases of fixed product, sacrificing collectibility in favor of a level playing field in which players’ skills are tested, rather than their wallets. Each player selects one of eight major factions in the Seven Kingdoms, from the Night’s Watch in the north to the Targaryens in far-off Essos. Playable either as a multiplayer “Melee” or a two-player “Joust,” the game tests players’ talents for cunning, forethought, and (in Melee games) outright treachery. Key to A Game of Thrones are its signature “plot cards,” which are distinct from a player’s draw deck and enable him or her to adapt to a changing battlefield. Each round begins with players selecting plot cards from their seven-card decks and revealing them simultaneously. On any given round, players’ revealed plot cards determine several important things, such as how much gold they will receive to spend on characters and other cards; which player will act first that round; and how deadly their challenges against the other players will be.
Much like the final minutes of a Game of Thrones TV episode, the moment that plot cards are revealed can have both immediate and lasting repercussions that will linger throughout the rest of the game, and revealing the right plot card at the wrong time can turn a player’s noble aspirations to sudden and tragic ruin. At times it will be obvious which plot card is most advantageous to the player, and while the contents of each player’s plot deck are kept secret from the rest of the table at all times, there is a fair amount of depth in trying to guess what a player’s next plot choice will be, or whether they will delay playing that plot in the hopes of outwitting you, saving it for a later round.
The goal of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition is to be the first player to amass 15 power and secure dominance over Westeros, but the road to accumulating power varies wildly between factions. The Baratheons assert their claim by making foes bend the knee (represented by “kneeling” or tapping opponents’ cards and expending them for the round), while the Lannisters scheme in the shadows and deprive their enemies of options in the form of discard effects, and the sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch maintain their constant vigil at the Wall, ready to defend themselves if necessary, but otherwise standing apart from the feuding houses as they accumulate the power they need to maintain their independence and honor their vows.
Winter is coming, and war looms on the horizon. Will you answer the call and lead your favorite house to greatness? Or will you simply be one more broken body decorating the soiled landscape of the Seven Kingdoms? For when you play the game of thrones . . . well, you know the rest.