Being a ruler of a kingdom is not an easy task. No matter how strong your army is, enemies are always lurking right behind your borders, ready to scheme and strike. As a young ruler, taking over the realm after your uncle’s death, you’ll have to deal with them sooner than you think. An inexperienced king sounds like a tempting reason to attack your homeland and there are first signs of an opposing army marching your way. Will you give up what you’ve inherited or pick up a sword and fight back?
Protect Your Throne
Thrones, a board game designed by Chad Anthony Randell, has launched on Kickstarter this week and immediately caught our attention. The designer is a huge fan of The Song of Ice and Fire and his dream was to create a game with a feeling similar to conflicts known from the popular franchise. Chad was also inspired by a board game mentioned in the books. Star Wars have their Holochess, the Witcher novels mention Gwent and the saga by George R.R. Martin features a game named Cyvasse.
In Thrones you fight against each other on a square board shaped similarly to one known from games like Chess or Stratego. It’s designed for 2 players but the author mentions that the game is expandable and will be playable in bigger groups when you have a second copy.
A Homeland to Defend
The goal in Thrones may sound simple. As a young king you have to protect the main fortress of your realm and conquer the one belonging to your rival. The game has a lot more depth though, as you can fully customize your lands and use a pretty large variety of units with abilities usually not found in classic strategy games.
When starting the game you have to create your own kingdom. To do this each player receives tiles symbolizing a set number of plain, forest, mountain and water areas and arranges them on his or her half of the board in any way they prefer. This entire part is done in secret thanks to a screen dividing both halves at the beginning of the game.
As your units have certain strengths related to terrain, placing it strategically is vital. Mountains cannot be fired over and onto. Most units cannot attack these located on water. Forests give protection against dragons but can be turned into plains by Rangers. The list of these interactions is pretty long and makes the game incredibly replayable and exciting, as you never know what to expect from your opponent’s area.
Your Faithful Army
When you’re done with the map, it’s time to set up the army. There are 10 types of units with Throne being easily the most important one. It can attack anyone anywhere but losing it means instant defeat.
We’ve already mentioned Rangers and their forest related ability, but they can also fire from mountains which isn’t allowed for most units. Spearmen on the other hand are allowed to throw their spears to any unit placed on water and also travel through it without limitations.
Next come the ranged units that are allowed to fire instead of regular attacking. These include Crossbowmen, Catapults with longer range and Trebuchets which can fire as far as 3 tiles.
Cavalry units are divided into incredibly fast Lancers, defensive Elephants and Warhorses which can switch positions with other pieces.
The final, and easily most powerful unit is a Dragon. Dragons are the fastest travelers and are able to attack all terrain types. Sadly, you only have one of these in your army.
Capturing a Fortress
When you’re done with the set-up the screen gets removed and the battle begins. Players take turns performing one action of the four available ones. First of all: you can decide to move 2 units. The second action called “switch” allows for exchanging positions of 2 pieces located near each other and additionally moving with a single piece. Next, there’s attacking which basically means moving to a tile where an enemy unit is standing – chess style. The final action called “firing” is related to ranged units and lets them take out enemies without moving.
To win in Thrones you have to first reach your opponent’s fortress and successfully breach it which basically means a successful attack on it. After that happens, your pieces are allowed to start a battle for the fortress. The winner in this one is determined by a coin toss or a dice roll. That makes the final part of the game unpredictable and it’s worth it to prepare well by bringing more units to the battle to keep your siege active.
Even More Ways to Play
The main mode in Thrones is well designed and all the units and terrain types click with each other perfectly to bring a thinky and unpredictable experience each time. If you’d like to play the game in a different way than described above, there are additional modes designed by the author.
First: instead of each player starting with a fortress you can place 3 neutral fortresses in the line dividing both kingdoms and use a victory point system awarded for capturing them. Second variant allows players to build one farm and one city, each of them able to respawn lost units, which changes the gameplay a lot.
Thrones on Kickstarter
Thrones is quite the treat for all classic strategy game fans, especially if you’re looking for modern board game take on the genre. Designing your own territory paired with units that use terrain in different ways creates an incredibly repeatable experience. Especially with alternative play modes described in the manual. We can’t also ignore the visual side of the game. Pieces are made of metal, look high quality and so does the board. Thrones is certainly a result of huge passion, lots of work and without doubt: deserves checking out.