Our Blades Are Sharp. Those are the official words of House Bolton. And any poor fool to cross them learns this the agonizing way. Now, this gruesome, brutal house is the newest army to join A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game in the form of a new Bolton Starter Set. We've covered the Martell Start Set previously, as well as an overview of some of the older Starter Sets, and now CMON sent us a review copy of Bolton to check out, so follow along for our Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set review!
What's Included in the Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set?
Included in the Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set is everything one player needs to get into the game and start a House Bolton force. This includes:
- The Official Rulebook
- Attachment and non-combat unit cards, combat unit cards, tactics cards, various tokens, rules reminders, a measuring stick, and terrain tokens
- 10 flesh colored (gross!) Bolton d6 dice, 1 white d6
- Roose Bolton Miniature
- Ramsay Snow Miniature
- Jeyne Poole Miniature
- Walda Frey Miniature
- Reek Miniature
- Bolton Flayer Miniature
- 11 Bolton Blackguards Miniatures
- 22 Bolton Cutthroat Miniatures
- 12 Dreadfort Archers Miniatures
- 1 Bolton Blackguards Bannerman Miniature
- 2 Bolton Cutthroats Bannerman Miniatures
- 2 Dreadfort Captain Miniatures
Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set Unit Breakdown
Now let's take a look at each of the units included in this starter set, and talk a little about how they operate on the field of battle. First, we'll look at the units, then we'll look at the special attachments, commander options, and Non-Combat Units (NCU's).
Meant to take and hold positions on the battlefield, the Blackguard are all about defense. This stout and sturdy unit can hold its own against many foes with a strong 3+ defense stat. Adding to that very hearty defense stat, their "Horrific Visage" special ability forces panic tests from opposing forces who would attack them. Get them into position (but be warned, they're a bit slow), and let them hunker down and hold position.
The Cutthroats are described as being simply armed and armored, but so well-known for their brutality that they strike fear in all who come against them in battle. With their Ruthless Aggression special ability, giving them Vicious (enemy units defending against their attacks suffer -2 to their panic tests) and allowing them to re-roll their attacks while forcing enemies to re-roll any/all of their defense die. There's no getting around just how solid these are on the battlefield, and the starter set gives you two batallions of them.
As any Game of Thrones Rickon fan knows all to well, Ramsay Snow and his lot are deft with a bow and arrow. And though this game is thoroughly inspired by the books and not the show, these Dreadfort Archers are pretty nasty. Along with ignoring units and terrain when drawing line of sight, they also suffer no penalty in shooting when they drop down a rank. Get them into a plum position, and fire away!
Roose Bolton and Ramsay Snow
As far as their enemies are concerned, the less said about this father/bastard son duo, the better. But here on the tabletop, they're ferocious as Commanders, Unit Leaders, or even Non-Combat Units. I won't go into the full details here, but for Roose Bolton it's all about instilling fear and causing panic in his enemies. By forcing panic tests in almost all his iterations, you'll be whittling away your opponent's army without having to swing many swords at all.
Ramsay is also dedicated to spreading panic, with an interesting (and cruel) ability that allows him to be joined by Reek to set an example for nearby enemy units. But be careful -- abuse poor Reek too much, and get unlucky with dice rolls, and you'll lose him.
It's a fun mechanic that is deeply tied to the storytelling of the novels while shaking up how the game is usually played, and it's a stark reminder on the battlefield of this army's cold, calculating, sadistic brutality.
Walda Frey and Jayne Poole
Finally, there are our two remaining Non-Combat Units, Walda Frey (Roose Bolton's wife) and Jayne Poole (aka "Arya Stark"). Walda Frey can use her Frey Ambition (of which there is no limit, it seems) to boost and augment the effects of various control zones on the NCU board. Through this, she's often healing wounds to friendly units, searching up command cards, and more.
Jayne Poole, on the other hand, can influence a unit to raise its morale, and - because she's an imposter - can once per game be given over to an opponent until the end of the round. In exchange, you become first player for that round. Incredibly handy in a pinch, and this little ability may end up making Jayne Poole a power player on the board.
How Does The Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Army Play?
As you can likely tell from the rest of this review, this army is completely focused on intimidating enemy forces, making them panic and lose ranks. This is an absolutely perfect marriage of flavor and gameplay mechanics, as House Bolton truly only excels at making everyone around them miserable and afraid. A reprehensible house, I can't wait to bring them onto the tabletop.
To truly get the most out of this army, right out of the box, you'll want to focus on putting your enemies in bad positions and watch as their units slowly run for the hills -- chipping away at even the stoniest resolve.
What Are My Final Thoughts On The Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set?
I really love the way the creators of A Song of Ice and Fire TMG clearly love the source material. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, no one better marries mechanics and flavor than this crew. And even though, story-wise, I like (hopefully) everyone else loathe House Bolton, I absolutely can't wait to get them onto the tabletop again and cause more havoc.
Should I Buy The Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set?
If you're looking to get into the game, this is a fantastic way to go. This is a great, approachable army that focuses on doing one thing (forcing panic tests) really well, and the synergy between all units is very clear and straightforward. I also think it will likely be a contender for a pretty powerful army, and is worth consideration among veteran players as well.
Interested in learning more or picking up a set for yourself? Check out the Asmodee shop for more info.
The copy of Song of Ice and Fire TMG Bolton Starter Set used in this review was provided by Asmodee. All photos courtesy of the author. The terrain used in the background of this image was provided by Battle Systems Tabletop Games & Terrain.