Tuesday, 4 August 2020

A Game of Thrones: Battles for Westeros

Sharpe’s Throne of the Rings - you have got to (King’s) hand it to Sean Bean - he has been in three epics and survived only one of them!

One of the side effects of the current pandemic is that SWMBO and I have indulged in all manner of binge watching via Netflix or on catch up TV. One of these has been the vast sprawling fantasy epic that is George R. R. Martin’s The Games of Thrones.

I have a chequered history with this series and the books upon the TV series is based. I missed it when it was out as it was on a SKY channel we did not have. By the time it was more readily available the real world was up to something like season 5. We watched season 1 and then it was no longer available to us. This happened a number of times until eventually the whole thing finished so SWMBO decided to download the whole lot for us to catch up with.

This was a good idea or so it seemed. The entire 8 seasons was downloaded in glorious HD BUT, following a SKY price hike we decided to bin the HD channels as, to be honest, we did not watch sufficient HD channels to warrant the additional expenditure. The only problem with this was that we found out later that as we had cancelled our HD subscription we were then unable to watch any HD downloads! Every time we went to watch an episode a warning message would appear telling us that in order to watch the following programme we would need to upgrade our subscription! SWMBO then went on to delete all the HD versions in order to download the SD equivalents.

We are now working our way through the entire series and am now halfway through season 5.

I have yet to read the books although I did make a start with the first volume on holiday a few years ago. I really could not get into it at the time and, as I recall, I opted to read the Seven Pillars of Wisdom as an easier option....

The base game includes forces for both Houses Stark and Lannister but expansions are available for additional figures for the above as well many of the other combatants and heroes of Westeros. Would I buy this? I would certainly like to but I would also want a lot of the expansions and the cost would be astronomical. To be honest I would struggle to justify the expense.

Given the popularity of the books and the TV series it is no surprise that there are a number games around covering the world of Westeros and the Byzantine/Machiavellian machinations of the great houses as they compete for the iron throne. There is a quite exquisitely designed board game using 32mm figures with a whole heap of expansions which looks stunning. The figures appear to be closely modelled on the TV series in much the same way as Games Workshop produced their Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit figures to tie in with the films. I have seen a number of strategic boardgames covering the series - including a Risk variant as well as some card game versions.

However, and I must confess that this has rather passed me by, there is another option available for fighting battles set in Westeros, albeit not as all encompassing as the game above but with a very high design pedigree.

This has been around for a while and there a number of expansions available for it but it does not have the coverage of A Song of Ice and Fire

I am of course referring to Battles of Westeros published by Fantasy Flight Games, modelled on the Command and Colours rule system devised by Richard Borg for his fantasy game Battlelore. I was able to pick a secondhand copy of the above and at first glance it looks really good. There is plenty of  GOT flavour so it does not just feel like a medieval battle and the components are top notch. The board is sturdy and all the game counters are of thick card, including the terrain cards. It is card driven in the same way that all Command and Colours games are and these can include the leadership traits of the commanders depicted. As you might expect Stark and Lannister feature in the core set and I have managed to track down a couple of the expansions - The Wardens of the North and House Baratheon.

Painted version of the House Lannister figures and....

....those of House Stark.

The rules and the scenario book

The figures are scaled at 15mm and are of plastic. They are really lovely in my opinion and there are some very helpful painting guides on the FFG website. The rules are the usual C and C style with some very welcome additions in respect of army morale, command radii for personalities and also the option to fight at a skirmish level.

My first impression of this is that it is a more, dare I say it, period specific Command and Colours set in that there is flavour aplenty with the rules and game mechanisms.

The figures in the base game are crying out to be painted and certainly this will satisfy my hankering for something medieval and fantasy-ish or should that be fantasy and medieval-ish? The figures are also based individually so there is always the possibility of the Portable WarGame of Thrones....

In closing, this is a pick up and put down mini side hustle of a project - I am really enjoying the TV series and will certainly attempt the books again - that I can dip in and out of as the mood takes. With the additional expansions there will be sufficient variety to extend the shelf life of the game and of course, there is always the possibility of using the figures elsewhere. The Portable Wargame for sure but also Dan Mersey’s Dragon Rampant as well as Hordes of The Things.


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


I have both the LOTR and EUROPA versions of RISK, and the figures that come with them are very suitable for wargaming, although they are closer to 12mm than 15mm.

I used some of them to play-test my Ancients version of PW, and although I did not paint them, I could have done so quite easily.

All the best,


Steve J. said...

Apparently the tv series, somewhat understandably, leaves out a lot of stuff that is in the books. The tv series is excellent, except for the final one, which was rather rushed to say the least.

Jim Jackaman said...

I also took the opportunity to watch the whole series having only ever got half way through series 1 before. I'm now on series 8 episode 6, so almost at the end!

Ray Rousell said...

The TV series is brilliant apart from the last few episodes, but the books are fantastic. The knock spots off the tv show.

David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

There have been lots of good figures included in various versions of Risk and as you rightly say, would be easy enough to get some paint on. Google Images has some quite wonderful painted armies of Risk figures for all manner of things. The Europe figures are particularly nice and I have a couple of sets myself with some ideas to go with them in due course!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve J,

I have heard some less than flattering things about season 8 but will watch it for completeness sake. I fully intend to persevere with the books and am sure there is much more in them than the TV series - which is usually the way with these things!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Jim,

We are now over the halfway mark in season 5 so are getting there.

I have to say I am really enjoying it.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ray,

That is often the way - Lord of the Rings being an obvious example. Sometimes though what reads well does not readily translate into a visual interpretation.

Here is Facebook style question for you - which character from the series would you say replicates any of the Rejects?

All the best,


 Ashley said...

I read and reviewed in passing the first book of GRRM's series, and while I enjoyed it, mostly, I found the narrative far too long for my tastes; as in by page 600 I thought, "what another 170 pages to go," rather than goody-goody gum drops this is exciting. YMMV,

AS for the TV series, we found the season with Greyjoy being tortured a bit much; as in too focused on the degradation and torture.

However, there were dragons, giants, ice zombies, and other crazy fun stuff. As for season 8 and the ending, well what did you expect? Dany & Jon riding the dragon into the sunset?

David Crook said...

Hi Ashley,

When I tried reading the first novel I was on holiday in Cyprus and the temperature averaged around the late 30s so reading anything snow and ice related was a struggle! I will try them again though.

The whole Greyjoy thing was a little over the top for sure.

The whole concept though has some cracking ideas in it and I hope that flavour of the game reflects this.

All the best,