Battles of Westeros – Epic Game of Thrones Infusion, or Battleflop?
Westeros. Land of adventure and intrigue. Inspiration for a solid RPG, an excellent LCG, and one of my favorite conquest games. You would be forgiven for thinking that we tend to fawn over all things Westeros here at GFG. Indeed, most games based on George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy tale are compelling, complex, and a joy for people who are familiar with the setting. We have reviewed them positively here, and it would be an understatement to say that we were looking forward to the Game of Thrones themed version of Battlelore that Fantasy Flight Games has produced.
We recently got to give this game a go, and while I would shy away from treating this as a proper review, I think those of you with interest in either Battelore or the Game of Thrones setting will get a lot out of these impressions. Click on through for our gameplay impressions!
After unboxing, we wanted to immediately start the first scenario in the included scenario booklet. Those of you familiar with Battlelore will know that its minis came pre-assembled right out of the box. The initial assembly for Westeros was the first frustration we encountered. Unlike Battlelore, none of the units come inserted into their bases. The rulebook advises that some of the pieces may not fit snugly into their bases, and that in these instances you should use glue to fasten them. We found that nearly every unit failed to fit snugly into their bases. We didn’t feel like gluing 100+ figures before getting to play though, so we soldiered on despite dealing with frequent separation of unit and base. This might seem irrelevant, or like needless disappointment to some, but after playing Battlelore more than a few times, you get used to the level of quality in the pieces and presentation. All of the flag carrying units, for example, are included in their own molded clear plastic tray, which lets you easily see what you need and protects the more fragile pennant units.
Once set up, we launched into the first scenario, a fairly small skirmish on the Kingsroad.
The skirmish itself was typical fare. It was very reminiscent of the Agincourt scenario from Battlelore. Stark had the advantage of numbers, sporting ranged units and middling infantry, with slight cavalry presence. Lannister had a large contingent of strong infantry, and a mess of low grade, highly mobile infantry. Gameplay after setup proceeds much like a standard game of Battlelore, the difference here being that this version eschews the command zones of its predecessor, instead basing the command areas on the new commander units.
The commanders are notable personages related to the different houses, and some of them have two different versions and abilities, based on the scenario you are playing. They are paired with a certain unit on the battlefield and act as strong, hard to kill versions of the unit they are paired with. They also create a command area, to which they can issue commands. The area stretches two hexes out from the commander in all directions. This new commander/command area method of play is probably the greatest strength of Westeros, encouraging the players to move units in a cohesive manner across the field, and lessening the random nature of the old command areas. Nothing was more frustrating than having several units that you could only move one at a time if you got an unlucky command card draw.
Unfortunately, this is also a weakness. Many of the commanders are peripheral characters, and while they change the game for the better, most of the scenarios are a little underwhelming in terms of feeling like the War of the Five Kings. Sure, Jaime Lannister and Robb Stark are around, but for each of those we have forgettable Outrider Commanders and peripheral characters that just aren’t exciting, even if they do exist in the books.
All in all is game is more than a little strange. Taken at face value, it’s a competent rehash of Battlelore. Unfortunately unless you really love the Westeros skin, you might just want to pick up the original Battlelore instead. If you already own Battlelore, you may want to pass on this. For those that are fans of A Game of Thrones, you may find something to like here. Unfortunately it lacks many of the iconic battles in the books, and with only Stark and Lannister represented the real flavor of the warring houses is completely absent. Who wouldn’t want to try and rewrite history as the Starks are overtaken by the Greyjoys? What about the battle of Blackwater Bay? There is just so much missing here, and the price being as steep as it is, it is really a difficult recommendation to make. If the price isn’t an issue, by all means, go for it. Even so you may still want to wait on some expansion material before making the plunge. Stark and Lannister are a great pair of houses, and certainly iconic in the series, but one on one just isn’t interesting in Westeros. Just look at the other Westeros products and their multiplayer design.
Please not that this review is based only on the scenario portion of the game, and does not take into account the scenario mode. We will be addressing that in a later article.