Over the past few years, I've introduced several people to the Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Invasion living card games. Afterwards a few of my friends asked me about A Game of Thrones as well. That game was actually the first one that Fantasy Flight Games transformed from a collectable card game, into a living card game (hence LCG).
Not having read the books, and assuming it was strictly a political game set in a fantasy setting, I hadn't really done much research into the A Game of Thrones LCG. Even when the TV series started showing on HBO, I still didn't really pay it much attention, even though it got good reviews and was mentioned to me by several people as something I might like. Part of the problem was my initial thought that it was a political drama type of thing, something along the lines of Battlestar Galactica. That show had been recommended to me several times as well, and the three or four times I tried to watch it, I sat there watching people talk and argue. "Where was the action, fighting, adventure and space battles that would make this interesting?" I wondered.
Truth be told I still haven't seen the TV show, but that is largely in part due to the fact that I no longer have cable TV. It's been almost a year since I cancelled my cable in favor of DVD sets and a Netflix account. I save a lot of money that way, but I digress. The sheer amount of times that A Game of Thrones had been mentioned to be over the past few months finally converged with my purchase of an e-reader device. Wanting to get a good value for my first purchase, I decided I would give the novels a try and bought a bundle including the first four books. At just over $15, I wouldn't have even been able to buy used copies at a book store for that cheap. I've recently finished the first novel, and it is a good story. Rather light on the fantasy elements, but engaging nonetheless, and I do intend to continue reading the series in the future.
Ok so that's a lot of text that doesn't even really address the game in the title. Before jumping in and simply buying the core set for A Game of Thrones LCG, I was actually able to try the game first! Collin has a core set and brought it by for William and I to test drive.
The game plays very well with multiplayer, and the three (of four) decks provided in the starter box seemed quite well balanced. William had some issues with drawing playable cards early, and Collin got off to a quick lead. Granted, it was his game and he had played a few times before. My deck generated a lot of coins that allowed me to play more cards in the late game...and on the seventh turn I was able to choose a title that protected me from Collin's attacks and push through both opponents for victory.
I think the game would play equally well with 2 or 4 players, and it is one of the few card games that shines in a multiplayer format. I certainly would recommend it to anyone who likes a deep game with lots of options, variation, and difficult choices to make. Do not play this game with casual gamers, or people you are trying to entice into playing more games with you. They will hate it, because it is complex and highly variable. It's simply too much to provide those people with a satisfying experience. For anyone who enjoys other card games and has a little experience with them, this is well suited.
The core set also seems highly playable directly from the box. This is a strength of the Living Card Game format, as both Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Invasion are also fabulous games that stand on their own with just the core sets. If you are going to be the only one providing cards to your play group, I would actually recommend sticking with the core set, and perhaps adding in a deluxe expansion once in a while. Deck building is not a necessity, and in some cases I think actually makes the LCGs less fun.
As for me, I think I will be picking up a copy of the AGoT LCG core set at some point in my future. Even though one of my friends has a copy and I'm sure would be happy to bring it to our gaming nights, it's a good enough game that I'd like my own copy to have in the house!