Grand strategy title A Game of Thrones: The Board Game has plummeted down to £42.95 over at Amazon, the cheapest you can grab it for, barring some shady eBay offerings. Unlike the usual culprits in this genre, it encourages plentiful backstabbing and treachery, which makes it a fun way to relieve tension and fuel new family feuds over the Christmas season. It's also an ideal present for a Game of Thrones fan, doubly so if that person's bonkers about board games.
Set after the death of King Robert, three to six players compete to take over Westeros and sit upon the infamous Iron Throne. Playing as one of the great houses - whether that's the stoic Starks or the treacherous Lannisters - an intoxicating mix of trickery, military might, populism and diplomacy are required to ascend. As well as being pitted against other players, the savage Wildling people (controlled by the game) pose a threat to all participants, among a host of other horrors. This means that you might find yourself teaming up with your foes in order to stay afloat in the murderous landscape, beautifully depicted with a ginormous map.
Every round of play is split into three phases: The Westeros Phase, the Planning Phase, and Action Phase. This is more straightforward than it sounds. The first phrase involves the day-to-day running of Westeros, the second involves diplomacy and deduction (it's in this part you can betray your allies, or make promises to new ones), and the third phase, as the name suggests, involves battle. Although strategic manoeuvres are important in Game of Thrones, much like in the books and TV series, true power lies in alliances. As such, it's a game that can encourage acts of real wickedness and cold-blooded cruelty!
Although the box suggests the game takes two to four hours, playtime actually tends to pan out closer to over four hours. This depends, of course, on how much discussing you're going to do, and whether or not you're role-playing. You'll want to allocate an afternoon or evening to give this a proper shot. Additionally, it can take a little while to set up (all those wonderful moving parts), but like a lot of other Fantasy Flight games, it's straightforward once you get to grips with the rules. That said, if you're just a Game of Thrones fan and don't have much experience playing board games, we definitely recommend playing with someone who does. Or watching one of the many, many YouTube videos that rifle through the rules and show you how to play. The rules book is pretty dense, but to emphasise, works fluidly once you understand the basic premise.
So, you might be asking, as we did: where the heck are the dragons? This is Game of Thrones. We want ginormous death reptiles and also maybe cursed sorcerers and definitely Dothraki hordes. Well, this is where the Game of Thrones: The Board Game expansions come in. The aptly titled Mother of Dragons addition gives you a side board that includes the Free Cities of Essos and the Eyrie, plus new leaders from House Targaryen (for the uninitiated, that's the one full of dragons) and House Arryn. It also adds a vassal mechanic, as well as the sinister Iron Bank of Bravos - which always gets its due.
So if you're looking to get stuck into a board game, long to feud with your relatives and closest friends over imaginary lands, and you're a fan of Game of Thrones (statistically, that's pretty likely), then give this Fantasy Flight offering a shot. However, for less complex games that are still packed with fun story elements, take a gander over at our selection of the best RPG and creative storytelling games at our sister site Jelly Deals.