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.