In July 2017, the game publisher CoolMiniOrNot made a surprise announcement by offering on Kickstarter, A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game. This is not the first time that this publisher has offered a miniatures game, but the risk is always great, especially when we say that it is a niche market. Here, the risk seems diminished by the use of one of the most loved and prolific licenses of recent years: Game of Thrones.
The game takes place at the beginning of the "War of the Five Kings". The game is not linked to the TV series but directly to the books of G.R.R. Martin (hence the visual of the heroes). Moreover, the author has followed the project closely as a consultant. CMON, for the occasion, is associated with the company Dark Swords Miniature (which already has had experience in this universe) for the creation of the figurines. Many sculptors and artists have contributed to the project. On a rules level, we find Michael Shinall (Rum & Bones) under the supervision of Eric Lang (Rising Sun, Blood Rage, Arcadia Quest). In the basic starter, the players are at the head of one of the big revival houses: either the Starks or the Lannisters. To enlarge their army, they can recruit troops in other houses such as Tully, Bolton, Ombles (especially thanks to expansions). For now, the choice is focused on these two big houses. To see more ... Competition is tough in the world of miniature. So apart from the big names and the license, is it worth the interest?
Let's start with what is certainly the most important element in a game of this type, the miniatures! The starter contains more than a hundred (103). Like many games, they are hard plastic. The big advantage of this range is that they are pre-assembled. No need to know much about the game, or to spend long hours of assembling pieces. You open the box and you can start. There is no need to say that this is a large bonus especially when, without exception, the assembly are well done (no apparent holes, arms not aligned etc.). We feel that behind the scenes a lot of time was taken in preparing this. The miniatures are clean (no traces of casts). Some weapons or spears can be a bit crooked, but pop into hot water and everything becomes normal again. Size wise, they are on the 32mm scale. The level of detail is pretty strong. There is no telling, but there is a feeling of concern to do well. On a table, everything is really good, even unpainted.
Kickstarter campaign are a requirement at CMON, many things were in KS Only, including iconic characters like Ramsay Snow or The High Seneschal (and accessories such as grounds, playmat etc). Nothing essential, but always nice to find in the box.
For example of paintings, you are spoiled by choice on the cards, the illustrations of the rule book and the achievements of other players. In short, you can easily find your happiness with these examples. And again, even unpainted, the stuff is really beautiful. As for gameplay, this is a game for 2 players. The space required to play ideally is 120x120cm (or a big battle 120x180cm). It is a turn-based game with unit-by-unit activation in alternate activation. The duration of a game on a standard format is about 1 and 2 hours. It will depend on the game mode chosen and the number of recruitment points.
We are in war game territory and not skirmishes. Here, you’ll embody not a band of some miniatures, but an army with dozens of figurines. A little like Warhammer Battle or Saga but less complicated. You’ll also find the layout for your troops' plate according to their army corps. A troop does not correspond to a miniature but to a group of miniatures.
Before each game, according to the desired length, you will have a number of points common to each player. With these points, you will have to create your army to prevail over the other. Again, nothing too complicated. Points can be spent to recruit whole troops (who have their own cards with their own ability), captains or heroes (who will be added to your troop to strengthen it), solitary heroes (who serve as a troop alone, as the Mountain), or non-combatants or politicians (who will not directly act on the battlefield).
You can also recruit neutral troops but while keeping to a certain limit (yes, your army belongs above all, to a family, beware of interference!). Everything is well indicated and you’ll never feel lost in front of too much choice. But you can not take everything. Even if the temptation to recruit your favorite heroes is great, you must also take into account the objectives. Moreover, the game offers five game modes (which take the name of the novels): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of King, A Storm of Sword, A Feast for Crows, The Winds of Winter.
A Game Of Thrones is a mode that allows you to play with goals to capture and possess at the end of a turn to score the associated points. Each goal possessed also allows to gain an extra capacity. A Clash of King offers a more realistic side of the war. Even if there are still objectives, you will not start with all your troops. Reinforcements will arrive as the battle progresses. A Storm of Swords offers a mode that changes the most. One of the players is entrenched in a castle and must defend it at all costs. The other must seize it. A Feast for Crows simulates combat fatigue. Your troops will gradually suffer and more their moral decrease, more victory point the other player can win. The Winds of Winter adds secret missions that will have to be completed to score points.
Despite the variety of scenarios (very pleasant), the goal often remains the same. Be the first to win a certain number of victory points (depending on the size of the chosen army). You must not deceive yourselves, you are facing a war game between two armies. Beware of devastating or frustrating dice rolls.
You can also find the possibility of trying heroic charges, desperate attempts or even genius shots. To help you, each faction also has a deck of clean cards: tactics (basic cards with special cards depending on your captain). These cards used at the right time can change the course of a battle and hurt for those who do not pay attention.
I also talked about the possibility of recruiting non-combatant characters. We thus find the political aspect and scheming, very dear to novels. Indeed, these characters will not participate in the battle itself but will influence the policy of the King’s Council. Depending on where you choose to position yourself (and where the other will not go), you will get immediate tangible benefits or play cards that match the symbol.
The basic rules are really simple for those who have a dabbled, and a little more complex rules for neophytes. It's a placement and combo game that brings a lot of richness to the gameplay. The choice of possible actions is easy to remember but without falling into the ease. Once the rule are read, we did not return. On the other hand, each unit has its own characteristics. This may require some time to control them and not forget anything without touching the fluidity. Because yes, the game is very fluid. The towers are linked quickly. However, despite an apparent simplicity, the game is rich. Many aspects of a real battle are taken into account such as morale, injuries, displacement that can vary, type of terrain, speed ...
A Song of Ice and Fire is a complete game but not necessarily complex to take in hand. CMON has managed to create a simple game of figurines to make you want and allow neophytes to navigate, while at the same time being rich and deep enough to allow seasoned players to dig their teeth into and have fun there. I admit that when the game was announced, I was very skeptical. And I was wrong. At the end of my game, we just want to start again. Even if the different game modes are finally quite close, the small variations of gameplay allow a lot of replayability. But make no mistake, the heart of the game lies in the choice of your army. And here we have something to do. Especially that CMON seems to want to continue to live this range. The Night's watch faction and the Free Folk faction were recently released. And that's a great news. All factions are very different to play. It is really very pleasant and very thematic.
CMON continues to develop this game while respecting the license. We feel that there is a real love for the universe of the world created by G.R.R. Martin whether in the aspect of figurines, illustrations, but also in the choice of abilities. Everything transpires the theme and mood of the books. A very good surprise and a big crush for me. If you like the universe, it's clearly a game not to miss. One of the best games 2018 simply.
Difficult to make a real review of this type of games without first having tried all the factions or units available (unfortunately finances are lacking for me). I will therefore limit myself to this first impression which will bring you already a good content and a good idea of what it returns with this game. If I had to score it, here is what I could have put: