A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game (ASoIaF TMG) is a wargame by CMON, based on the hugely popular books of the same name and TV Show, Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game has recently had a retail release following a very successful Kickstarter. As we've done for a few other wargames, we're going to approach A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game with a Start Collecting Article, looking at the Starter Set options and how well they work as starter sets for beginners as well as looking at the game itself.
There are currently two ways into A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game and these are through either the 2-Player, Stark vs Lannister Starter Set, or the Single Player Night's Watch Starter Set. Both sets provide all the rules, tokens and dice you will need to play and enough troops to get your force started for 1 or 2 players. Future playable factions should come as single player starter sets following the same design as the Night's Watch Starter Set.
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The Stark vs Lannister Starter Set contains 103 miniature (48 Starks, 55 Lannisters) split between troops, unit leaders, commanders, and non-combat units.
The Night's Watch Starter Set contains 47 miniatures split between troops, unit leaders, commanders and non-combat units.
More troops can be added to your chosen faction through expansion packs with further units, but the two sets contain enough units to get you started with your force, as well as experiment with how they play, and find out what you would like to add to them.
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All the miniatures are produced in a hard plastic, with no assembly required as they are single piece miniatures. This means the entry level for ASoIaF TMG is low and also means that the 'to table' time (the time it takes to get a game onto the table) is also very quick. Some veteran wargamers don't like single piece miniatures produced in plastic as there can be some detail loss compared to other materials, but CMON have done very well with the production of their miniatures and the sculpts have been produced with the material in mind. The results are great, as can be seen in the gallery above.
Games of A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game take place over a number of rounds, split between two phases. The two phases are simply, the Activation Phase and the Clean-Up Phase. The Activation Phase is where most of the action happens and players alternate activating their units. Units come in two types, combat units and non-combat units. Non-combat units in a wargame may sound odd, but fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and the Game of Thrones tv series know how important the political characters are to the setting. If anything the political actions have a greater effect than the battles themselves, and the A Song if Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game reflects that accurately. Combat units have five actions available to them, Maneuver, March, Retreat, Attack or Charge.
The movement options are very well designed to keep the game running. Units in ASoIaF TMG are placed on trays, the most common is the infantry unit tray that holds 12 models in three ranks, which makes it easy to move units around the table. The Maneuverer action allows a unit to pivot before and after moving the distance listed on the unit's stat card. Pivoting allows players to rotate a unit on its centre to change its facing. Taking the Maneuver action gives greater control to a units facing, but at the cost of movement distance. The March action allows a unit to move twice its movement distance and only pivot at the end of its move. The Charge action is the only way to directly engage a unit in close combat and units move a distance equal to their movement value, plus the roll of a D6 (six sided dice) and then make an attack afterwards. There is some risk involved with a charge, if the enemy is further than your movement distance and you don't roll high enough on a D6, your unit won't make the charge and could be left in an open position.
The retreat action is interesting because in most wargames, removing your units from close combat comes at the cost of a free attack action by the enemy. This can usually mean that units end up locked in combat until one unit dies. In ASoIaF TMG units can move sideways and backwards to get out of combat. This means that ranged units can be positioned to fire the following turn, or melee units can be repositioned to re-engage the enemy from a better position.
The attack action is used for both ranged and melee and is very easy to work out and complete. All units have on their combat card the dice roll required to hit, this is listed on the unit's available weapons. The amount of dice rolled depend on how many ranks the units has left. Once the amount of successful hits is worked out, the unit being attacked rolls a dice for each hit, needing to roll higher than their defence value listed on their unit card. Any dice that don't roll over the required amount result in a wound to that unit and usually results in a miniature being removed from that unit's tray. Most units lose combat effectiveness as they lose ranks, some units though, like the Umber Berserkers become more effective as they lose ranks.
The Non-Combat Units are used to claim zones on the tactics board each turn. To claim a zone, the non-combat unit's miniature is placed on the board to show that they have claimed it. Each zone gives a direct benefit when claimed, such as the Tactics zone, which allows you to draw 2 additional tactics cards and also place a condition on an enemy unit. The non-combat units also offer benefits of their own, like Cersei Lannister, who when placed in the tactics zone, as well as getting the benefit mentioned above, also attaches her card to a unit and gives them -2 to Morale tests until the end of the round. This represents Cersei bringing her political influence to bear on the battle.
Some units also get added benefits from the tactics board. The Maneuver zone allows a player to make a free maneuver or retreat action with a unit. If the Stark Outriders are targeted with this ability, they can make a free charge action instead.
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There's also a tactics deck for use during play. This deck is made up of set card from your faction choice and also 2 copies of 3 cards from your commander choice. Examples of these are the very thematic, such as Winter is Coming for the Starks, which after you charge with a unit it stops your opponent from playing tactics cards or using orders for the rest of the turn and if you control the Combat zone on the tactics board, it panics the unit your unit charged.
The rules for ASoIaF TMG are very streamline, and with the unit trays and stat cards, play becomes very fast. There aren't many additional rules and modifiers to remember, those that are required are printed on the quick reference card or are on the back of the rulebook in the rules summary. This means that players can concentrate on the individual unit and character abilities that are printed on the stat cards.
A game of ASoIaF TMG takes around an hour, which is pretty fast for a tabletop wargame. This is entirely the result of the smooth ruleset and is great for campaign gaming, or fitting in several games in a play session. Because of the straight-forward rules and the movement options, games tend to be very focused on sequencing (the order in which you activate units) and positioning. If you leave your unit poorly positioned, your opponent can take advantage of it, or move to avoid your unit's charge completely. To gain the full benefit of a Tactics Board zone, you'll want to make sure you capture it first, but you will need to make sure your units are positioned in order to take advantage of the abilities it provides.
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The 2-Player Core Stark vs Lannister and the 1-Player Night's Watch starter sets are simply starter sets. They provide enough units to get you started for your chosen faction, but purchase of further units is required to balance them out and allow you to field enough points for a full game. There's some flexibility in force building straight out of the box, but only in the commanders and upgrade slots, the included units will be taken every game until further expanded. The Starks and Night Watch have the best variety out of the three starter forces, with their cavalry and Dire Wolves providing them with great maneuverability. The Lannisters have solely infantry units that they can drive forwards into the enemy, using their tactics and abilities to gain advantage.
As with all wargames, I always advise new players to chose what they like the look of and build from there. Players may find that they don't like a particular play-style with some forces, but in ASoIaF TMG starter sets, the difference in the forces is predominately with the commanders with the flexible play-styles coming by expanding your army with additional troops. There is a lot to love about ASoIaF TMG, especially for rookie wargamers as the rules and components are perfect for them. But veteran wargamers will enjoy the stream-lined rules and fast paced nature of the game. Being able to battle out a game in around an hour is also great. Fans of the books and TV shows will enjoy it more than those who've no interest in the setting, but the ruleset is still solid enjoy to be an enjoyable challenge.
We will continue with more Start Collecting A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game articles soon, with details of how best to expand your army from the Starter Sets.
This copy of A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game, Starks Vs Lannister and Night's Watch Starter Sets were provided by Asmodee UK.
Have you played A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game? Which is your favourite faction? Are you a fan of the setting? Let us know in the comments below.