Do you have a little time in front of you? Are you a fan of the Game of Thrones? Do you love Bruno Cathala's games? Want a game that's easily transportable? Why not take a look at this game that seems to have everything to please you ... The King's Hand is a game that Fantasy Flight Gamesreleased in 2016. This is a little collectible game by Bruno Cathala.
The King's Hand is based on the license of the most watched series of the moment: Game of Thrones. Here, we are closer to novels with the presence of characters absent from the TV series. Once played, you won’t make that mistake again. The theme could have been anything else. Fortunately, the game has the talent of illustrator Mihajlo Dimitrievski. This one offers his personal vision of the characters. Halfway between realism, the cartoon and sometimes the manga, his touch are easily recognizable. The game is based on the license without going beyond offering a specific gameplay. We are clearly in a collector's game, leaning strongly towards the abstract game. The seven great families are represented by characters: Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Targaryen, Greyjoy, Tully, Tyrell. Your goal will be to collect the maximum in order to win their coat of arms. To become the King's Hand, you will need to get support from the houses. At the end of the game, the player with the most banners behind them, wins.
The game consists mainly of thirty five cards, representing families. Each family is made up of a different number of characters. This number is recalled on the cards. For example, there are seven Greyjoy members while there are only two Tully. So you take all these cards, you mix them well and you place them on the table in 6x6 square. This play area represents King's landing. Among these cards, there is one special card: Varys. The spy master is not part of any family. It is with him that you will play. On your turn, you will move him on a column or line.
The player, who’s turn it is, will choose one of the cardinal directions and will indicate a family. They have to move Varys to the last card of this family in that direction. They then gains this card (the Spider takes its place) as well as all those with the same family name that Varys passed through. The player then counts the number of cards of this family that they own. If they have the majority or equal with the player who has the most, they take the family's coat of arms. They then keep this until another player equals or exceeds it. Depending on the family, some banners will be easier to win than others. But that's not all, whether you own or not the coat of arms, if you take the last card of a family in King's landing, you win a bonus. The game ends when it is impossible to move Varys.
During the installation, you have to mix some smaller cards. Companions. You draw six that will be the only ones used during this game. The companions correspond to emblematic characters of the works. Each brings you a specific bonus to play immediately. Thematically, they feel that there was a semblance of effort to stick to the universe. You win a companion when you take the last card of a family in King's landing.
There you go. Besides the universe, the strength of the game is its simplicity. The rules are explained and very quickly understood. During the first games, we played with very little feeling. But very quickly, we felt that this abstract game hides something more tactical. From there, the game takes on another meaning, another flavor. I’ll just tell you right now, if you play against someone accustomed to chess or other tactical games, you will have little chance of winning.
When reading the rule, the game seems to offer luck that allows everyone to have the chance to win. But in reality, the luck is absent from the game. If we want to quibble, the only time you’ll feel this is at the time the game is laid out. But it is also what allows the game to be replayable. This setting up different for each game is a real bonus and allows The Hand of the King to renew itself from one game to the other.
The interaction is ubiquitous. You must continually pay attention to what you do and what the other player has so not to risk giving them a big advantage. At every moment you have to visualize the progress of the game and plan a turn in advance. And again, it is a minimum. If you play like a jerk, you will quickly find yourself behind.
The addition of companions is nice. It also hide a little unexpected side that allows you to have more surprises and twists. There are also some neat little deceitful moments. On rare occasions, using the right character at the right time can turn the situation around. But they are not so easy to obtain. Companions alone will not save the game against players who want a real turn of events or make the game more fun.
We can legitimately ask questions about the replayability of the game. To be too computationally, the only real thing that renews the games is the positioning of the maps in King's Landing and the available companions. This may be enough for a dozen games, but in the long run the game is less likely to come out, only to be played occasionally.
The big advantage of the size of the box and its ease of transport are offset by the place it once took on the table. The square of 6x6 occupies a rather important place. So, it will not necessarily be able to be played anywhere.
Contrary to what is stated in the rules and on the box, the game is clearly a game for two players. Playing with four and especially the three are to be avoided. The game loses all interest, becoming largely less controllable and favoring Kingmaking. The team mode or the raven variant does not save the game either. We really feel that to sell more, the number of players has been artificially increased. I can only advise you to stick to two.
Even if the theme is clearly there to sell, the game serves to be something other than a derivative product. I feel that the author tried to do what he could to stick closer to the original work. Whether you like it or not, the illustrations bring a unique stamp to the game. The speed of the game is a real quality for this type of game. You will be surprised to chain them easily together. Ideal for two players, perfect for those who hate luck, The Hand of the King can surprise you with its qualities. Sold at a small price, it would be a shame to miss this little game that can fit in the hand ... the king.
Technical Score 6.5 / 10 The game is quick to install, easy to carry. The graphics add to the atmosphere. Everything is clear and easily playable. Having something other than a card for Varys could have been nice to better spot his presence. Contrary to the box size, once installed, it takes up space. By cons, for the price, the fun factor is there.
My BGG Score 6/10 (Ok game, like to play from time to time) I admit that the license Game Of Thrones plays a lot in my desire to play again. But the theme is quite abstract. The game is short, tactical, devoid of chance ... Maybe too much. It may be the surprise side or the possible reversal of the situation.
Combined Score 6.25/10 Now, it's your turn to play ...