Game of Thrones Card Game Hand of King Boxart

Game of Thrones: Hand of the King. A Game of Thrones Card Game Review

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.

Game of Thrones Card Game Hand of King Board View

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 Hand of King Varys Cardhouse 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.

Hand of King Banners View
Example of some of the banners and cards

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.

Hand of King Banners View 2
More examples of the banners and artwork.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Basic game so might not be challenging enough for some
  • Very short game
  • Competitive so not suitable for those after a co-operative experience

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Sarah,

    Thanks for talking about this game. I had seen it in a couple of different places in my local stores and had wondered a bit about it. It seems really straight forward. I’m a Monopoly love myself so maybe I’m looking for something a bit more complicated, but at least now I know! Being a Game of Thrones lover myself, maybe it’s worth gifting to one of the younger folks in my family and just sliding in for a game or two when they are around.

    So many board games, so little time!

    1. It is really straight forward and would be great for someone that hasn’t played many board games or card games. I used to love monopoly myself, but you’d be surprised how many board games are out there with different themes. There’s even a lot of different versions of monopoly with different rules. I always encourage people to give something different a try, you never know you might fall in love with trying new board games like we did.

  2. Cool game and one that is excellent for Game of Thrones fans. It seems like one of those games that gives people something to do during their downtime and even can make for a great end table or coffee table game. It definitely looks like something my brother would be interested in, as he’s pretty big on Game of Thrones.

    1. It is a brilliant introduction to card games for Game of Thrones fans. It’s easy to learn and play too. I’m always encouraging people to give board games or card games a try during their down time. You buy them once and then you can go back and play as much as you want. It mixes the games up with different opponents etc and gets you thinking. There’s games out there for every age too.

  3. Very thorough review Sarah. I like how you take us through a game and then explain the intricacies of the gameplay. I’ll be returning as this is good for us game players.

    1. Thank you. I hope to go through quite a few more games and eventually be able to have lists of different ones recommended for different types of players. For example; players after a competitive experience, short games to play etc.

    1. Glad you liked it. Game of Thrones is just a theme for the card game. You don’t need any previous knowledge of Game of Thrones to play it. It’s a fun little card game all on its own.

  4. I think my cousins can play this game. They love Game of Thrones and I will get this as a present. You wrote that it is easy to play but they are completely new to this stuff. Is this suitable for them?

  5. Hi!

    I like the fact that it’s a simple game and isn’t overly complicated. Sometimes board games can be do cumbersome to progress in that it makes you not even want to play anymore. While I do like a challenge, I like to do things that don’t require much thought when I’m trying to relax.

    Thanks for sharing this informative review!

    B

    1. This one is very straightforward and doesn’t take much time at all to learn or play. I agree sometimes board games can be very cumbersome to progress and difficult to learn especially when you’re new to board games.

  6. Personally I am probably one of the few people on planet Earth that has not seen even one episode of the Game of Thrones .It sounds like a very interesting board game according to the positives /pros as described in this article .I actually thought board games have gone by the way side along with am radio and cassette players .However over the Christmas holidays i took part in a game called Taboo.This game me so engaged as it was men -vs-women .Of course the women kicked our behinds ,but the point is I had fun and was surprised at the competitiveness of this game . looking forward to get revenge next time the Holidays rolls around again because of that game and my tarnished male pride and ego needs redemption

    1. I haven’t played Taboo yet, but I have heard of it. We don’t get chance to play many party games at the moment. Board games are actually making a bit of a comeback at the moment. Board game cafes are opening up all over the place and some pubs have even started stocking board games for people to play. Hope you manage to get your revenge next holidays.

  7. Thanks for bringing this game to my attention! I love game of thrones and am always looking for quick new card games to add to my collection. I can’t wait to give this game a go, I really like the idea of collecting different houses. Great article!

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