In this hobby, recipe some of us are fortunate to have a regular game group. Some of us are even fortunate enough to have a group of gamers that like to play all the same kinds of games. Yeah, generic okay, I’m not that fortunate either, but that’s cool. Although my groups is a disparate group of gamers (made up of a hardcore Ameritrasher [me], three casual wargamers [also me] and a few Eurogamers [hell no, not me], we do have a selection of games we all really dig. This is one of them.
AGoT is an area control game with very light wargame elements such as tactical movement, supply and combat. Bidding, negotiation and random events are thrown into the mix as you try to obtain seven castles or strongholds for the win.
What makes this game so unique – and what ultimately grabs my motley crew’s attention – is the mechanic of placing hidden orders on the map and, of course, executing them.
To quickly summarize, orders allow players to move, attack or defend with units in areas where orders are placed. They also allow players to gain currency (power tokens) or place support tokens. Support is crucial for it allows an area to lend its strength to any adjacent area for combat and defense. Oh yes, my friends, you can even support your opponent's units.
The orders create an electric atmosphere of tension and at times intense discussion between players. This is where the game moves from being about static pieces on the board to reading, reacting and possibly manipulating your opponent’s actions. Our group lives for moments like these.
There are three tracks on the board that determine 1) turn order, 2) tie-breakers in combat, and 3) access to special orders. The higher up on the third track a player is the more special orders he or she will get. The 2nd edition now allows players the extra ability to muster units or destroy defense orders, which is HUGE for defensive and/or offensive purposes.
This edition has also included ports, previously only available through a 1st edition expansion. It’s a great addition but trying to remember exactly what you can and can’t do in them has been a bitch for my group. The leaders cards that are used in combat have also been altered from the last edition.
As far as how well it scales in terms of players, we found that the three player or six player games work best in terms of balance, but for completely different reasons. The three person game works well as an excellent introduction to newer players. It allows players to get a feel for the orders mechanic without worrying about conflict from other players right off the bat. For experienced players, though, it lacks the dynamic nature and tension of the 6 player game.
In our experience, the 4 & 5 player games can be a bit of a wildcard. It doesn’t help that three players start in very close proximity to one another. This may result in one player being hamstrung very early and in some cases coming close to being taken right out of the game. By the same token a couple of players have the time and space to grab uncontested areas fairly quickly. Veteran players may not find this as much of a problem as perhaps less experienced players; just a word of caution.
A new variant that has been included in this edition is the Tides of Battle cards. They are drawn by players during combat and add a modifier and the possibility of mandatory casualties. Our group has not had any interest in this. Yeah, I know that sounds kinda odd from a die-hard ATer but adding these cards to the game seems at odds with the mechanics and spirit already present.
All in all, my group and I have been enjoying the hell out of this game. There just seems to be enough elements here that appeal to our varied tastes. For those of you that still have the first edition game and expansions, I would recommend holding on to them until you’ve had a chance to play this edition. For those of you wondering about theme, you don't need to be a fan of the books or TV series to enjoy this game, just a fan of area control and negotiation games.
Disclaimer: The blogger received a review copy of this game.