So what happens when you put Game of Thrones and Risk together is just what you might expect: the two get along famously. The board game is now available on HBO’s website and going into wider release in August — and it is a War of the Five Kings (up to Seven Kings, in fact) that even your grandparents would happily spend an afternoon fighting in.
The game lets you take the role of one of seven houses. Six are familiar — the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens, the Baratheons, the Tyrells and the Martells. A seventh “house” is the Ghiscari, a catch-all title given to all the slaver cities in Essos that Daenerys has been slowly working her way through for six seasons. This is basically so Dany and her Targaryen forces have someone to fight over on the Essos board, which can be played on its own as a two-player game.
Those who haven’t played Risk in a long time will be happy to learn that there’s a very basic “Skirmish” version to get you into the swing of things. This game is over whenever the “Valar Morghulis” card shows up at random, lending an appropriately sudden ending in which, basically, everyone but the family with the most territory dies.
The main version isn’t that hard either. It’s still Risk, where you take turns choosing territories at the start and get large boosts in army numbers for controlling entire areas (e.g. The North, The Vale, Dorne) that will be the primary factor in helping you win. There’s a satisfying extra layer of castles and ports (important for extra manpower and money respectively), gold, and special pieces like siege engines and knights that add to dice rolls.
But in essence, you’re still just invading territories and rolling dice.
Those looking for a more accurate simulation of exactly what went on in the show, or more complex game dynamics, can check out the Game of Thronescard game or board game, both of which are well regarded and very good. This still has the epic sweep of the show — especially if you’re playing with six or seven people, which allows you to use both the Westeros and Essos boards at once.
Show fans will be happy that their favorite characters are always face up on the table and available to play, albeit once a turn in limited roles, if you spend gold on them. There are some gameplay decisions that seem slightly off — I know why they’ve put Renly Baratheon with the Tyrell house, for example, but it still seems weird to make Stannis the only representative of his family.
But again, this is a game for the widest possible circle. My sense is the pedants and the extreme gaming nerds will still be happy with it because they can get their whole families to play it —and because care has been taken with its appearance. The board almost looks like something you might see on the show, though the pieces are of course plastic.
The board is colored in just the right medieval shade, although they could have made the outlines of a few territories clearer. (Over in the Vale, we kept confusing the Mountains of the Moon for two territories.) The large army pieces you get — the wolves, the lions, the stags, the dragons, the roses, the harpies — are nicely molded. They won’t quite have you thinking you’re standing above Stannis’ big war table, but it might just have you humming the theme tune.