You Need To Know Nothing, Jon Snow
I am a massive fan of “Game of Thrones”. In fact, you would have to go far to find someone more obsessed than I.
I run a Facebook page dedicated to the subject (and have done so for the last 4 years), and I recently won a pub quiz based on the TV series. So, naturally I was very excited when my friends bought me the Hand of the King card game for my birthday this year. All that being said, you actually don’t have to be familiar with, or even like, GoT in order to play and enjoy this game.
The idea behind the game is that each player plays the role of the Hand of the King, and you move between the various noble Houses of Westeros in order to gain their support in your cause. Contrary to how that sounds, you do not actually have to talk to or convince anyone to join your side. You collect supporters simply by moving a single card around the play area. Once you collect the majority of the characters from a given House (family), you win their support, and their banner token.
The general set up of the game is that you have 35 character cards and 1 Hand of the King card. You shuffle the cards well (especially between gaming sessions) and then lay them out in a 6×6 grid. The Hand of the King card looks different and shows the bald-headed character Varys on it – he has never actually been Hand of the King in either the books or the TV series, but I suppose he is the most unbiased of all the characters. His card is now somewhere in the grid, and it is this you will move around.
Looking For Companionship
There is also a set of smaller Companion Cards, which you keep to one side and display the top 6. These come into play later. The youngest player goes first, and then play proceeds to the left. During your turn, you get to move the Varys card either left or right, vertically or horizontally. You can decide how many spaces you move the card, but your aim is to pick up as many characters belonging to a single House as you can in your turn. In your turn, remove the cards you claim from the play area.
The main strategy of the game is to think ahead to the next player’s move. You may decide to move the Varys card along a row which allows you to pick up 3 character cards from House Stark, however, you must think about the position you leave the Varys card in for the next player. Are you putting the next player in an advantageous position, and is this to your detriment? The players continue to take turns until Varys can no longer move. He can only move along a row with character cards in it.
Each House has a varying number of characters belonging to it: that number is indicated on the corner of each character card. Once you have collected the majority of the members of a House, then you can claim the banner token for that House. When you pick up the final member of a House remaining in the play area, then you are also entitled to choose 1 available Companion Card. These cards have special abilities that can really mix up the status quo in the game, so choose them wisely.
At the end of the game, the winner is the player who has collected the most House banner tokens. If there is a tie in this case, then the player with the House with the highest number of members in it wins. The game also comes with “three-eyed raven” tokens, which may be used to give the game an added twist: a player may choose to use the raven token at certain points, and this allows the player to leave the table and discuss tactics with another player who they have, presumably, teamed up with.
Calvin’s verdict: A Game Of Thrones: Hand of the King
Personally, I never play with the “three-eyed raven” tokens as I feel they are a bit naff, to use the British slang for “lame”. Besides that, I really love this game, and it works perfectly as a quick warm-up before starting to play a longer, more complex game. The cards and tokens are quality and are nicely illustrated, following the descriptions of characters in the books more than the TV series. The Companion Cards add a nice twist, and always seem to throw a spanner in the works right near the end.
I love this game. As a warm-up before the meatier games of the evening, or as a simple portable travel game, this game is a winner. The artwork has a lovely colourful style and the game itself is easy to pick up and play. I do agree with Calvin regarding the playmat but that’s a minor gripe in an otherwise great little game.
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Designer: Bruno Cathala
Illustrator: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Players: 2-4 players
Play time: 15-30 minutes
*Funkos not included
A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
- The game is quick to play, easy-to-learn, and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of George R.R. Martin’s books or the GoT TV series. The box is small and doesn’t take up much space.
- Sometimes I wish the Companion Cards could be used a bit earlier in the game, but alas no. Also, a play-mat with a marked out grid to lay the cards on top of would have been the perfect finishing touch to this.