Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Recent Trend - Part 1.

Taking a look at my most recent played list over there on the right and you'll notice that for the past 3 weeks, I've been hitting the Fantasy Flight games pretty consistantly. First was A Game of Thrones, then Fury of Dracula, and finally DOOM: The Boardgame this past game night on Friday. One thing I realized that all three had in common was a heavy theme to each of them. I think I can safely say that this is probably my biggest draw to a new game - a good theme.

Of the three, A Game of Thrones is probably the weakest theme-wise, but only just barely. Set in the land of Westeros from the fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin, up to 6 players each represent one of the major Houses fighting over control of the right to be King and claim the Throne. The theme in this game is brought to life through the various abilities of the individual Houses. Each House starts in a unique area, with varying troops and resource, and each set of House combat cards are unique with different strengths, weaknesses and abilities.

There are a few other game mechanisms that contribute greatly to the implementation of the theme, most notably the gradual build-up of a threat of a Wildling attack, the constant struggle for better positions on the Game of Thrones track, and the use of the order tokens to hurt others and help yourself. The heavy politcal intrigue and backstabbing from the books naturally finds its way into the game during the brief impromptu, negotiation phase that usually occurs before everyone places their order tokens.

Although not required for enjoyment of the game, the enjoyment level soars to new heights if you have read the series as characteristics from the characters in the books inevitably get brought up and players will tend to make comments to each other in a context from the books.

"A Lannister always pays his debts" usually gets uttered after the Lannister player retaliates against some other players transgression against them. "Winter is Coming" is often heard from the House Stark player.

A Game of Thrones is simply a great game when you want some conflict, diplomacy, and intrigue all tied up into an appealing package that you can immerse yourself in.

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