A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King is a Game of Thrones Card Game. It features popular characters from the show and revolves around the players trying to become the next hand of the king (adviser to the king) by gaining favour with the different houses or betraying them with the aid of Varys. It is for 2-4 players and has a very quick play time.
What’s it about?
This Game of Thrones card game is set in the world of the popular TV and book series. The King of Westeros has arranged for a tournament in King’s Landing where all the well-known houses attend such as: Stark, Lannister, Targaryen and Baratheon attend. It is rumored at this tournament that the King will be choosing the next Hand of the King.
The players compete against each other to become the next Hand of the King by recruiting and betraying members from popular houses with the aid of Varys, who is known as a master of spies. The aim of the game is to finish the game with the most banners and become the new Hand of the King.
How does it play?
We played a 2 player game of Game of Thrones: Hand of the King so I will be focusing on the rules for 2 players. However, there are varied rules with 3-4 players that I hope to have chance to try in the future. The game play is simple and easy to learn with a playtime of 15-30 minutes.
First the Varys card and 35 character cards are shuffled together. These cards are then dealt to create a six by six grid as seen in the photo. Place the banner tokens nearby and then shuffle the companion cards. Once shuffled deal 6 companion cards and place them in view of all players. We dealt them to the top of play area to make them easy to see for the both of us. Then decide who is going first. The game recommends the youngest player, but we normally flip a coin.
The first player then decides where they want to move Varys to. Varys can be moved in any direction vertically or horizontally. The player declares which house and direction they will move in and then collects all members of the house in that direction. For instance; in our game I went first and moved down to recruit the Starks, Sansa and Arya.
However, I could have also moved down and recruited the Lannisters, Kevan and Jaime. Or vertically to recruit any of the characters on the top row such as; Daenarys or Olenna. Once, the characters are recruited they are then moved to that players play area.
This is then the end of the turn. If the character cards that have been obtained by the player in that turn give them the majority of or equal to the other player’s amount of characters for that house the player then takes the banner for that house. For example; in that turn I obtained 2 Stark cards whilst my opponent had 0 Stark cards so I took the Stark banner.
Players continue to take turns like this until Varys cannot move in any direction as there are no character cards for him to move to.
The companion cards are obtained throughout the game by completing sets of houses. For example; if a player gets all 3 Tyrell character cards they then get to choose a companion card. Each companion has a different ability that is used straight away in game. These abilities vary from having another turn, to taking a specific character card from the board and adding it to your hand, to killing a character. If a character card is ‘killed’ they are removed from the game.
The winner of the game is the player with the most house banners at the end. If there is a tie, which is unlikely in 2 player games, then the player with the house with the highest number of characters wins. For example; Stark has a possible 8 characters and Greyjoy has a possible 7.
Experience of Playing
We played Game of Thrones: Hand of the King as a quick game before I went to work for a night shift. The rules were very easy to pick up even in my half awake state. It is not a ‘heavy’ card game at all. The box says it is suitable for 14+ years old, but I see no reason other than the content of the show that younger players couldn’t play the card game. As it is very simple to learn and quick to play I would recommend it as a good ‘starter’ game to introduce people to card games. Fans of Game of Thrones are likely to be won over as it is a familiar theme.
It took us roughly 20 minutes to play and that was with learning the rules and set-up. I think 15-30 minutes is an accurate playtime with longer games being more likely with more players. I’m interested in playing the ‘three-eyed crow’ variant with 4 players. This variant has 2 teams of 2 who can converse and strategise together in secret to obtain victory, but ultimately there can only be one victor so may lead to backstabbing within the teams. I think this could add an interesting layer to the game.
I lost this game with 3 banners to Chris’ 4. I’d like to blame my sleep deprived state, but we’ve noticed a pattern. I tend to always lose the first game of games we play, but then slaughter him in any further games. We will have to see if this is the case with Game of Thrones: Hand of the King too.
I’m not a huge fan of the artwork, but it does have its own charm. I like the fact that haven’t just copied the TV show and have interpreted the characters in their own way.
- Short Card game (15-30 mins)
- Easy to learn
- Will appeal to non-card game players
- Nice artwork
- Familiar setting
- Works well with 2 players
- Good warm-up game
- Basic game so might not be challenging enough for some
- Very short game
- Competitive so not suitable for those after a co-operative experience
A short Game of Thrones Card game that is playable by both fans of the series and people that have never seen an episode. It is very easy to learn and doesn’t take much time to play. I would recommend it as a good game to introduce non-card game players to. Particularly non-card game players that are fans of Game of Thrones as the theme is likely to interest them. It is a good game for 2 players and I will likely play it again as a warm-up game. It’s not a favorite game of mine, but it is a fun, short game that is a change from others I have played recently. If you’re interested in finding out more or purchasing you own copy check it out on Amazon here.