King Robert Baratheon the First is dead. While many see his son Joffrey as the obvious claimant to the Iron Throne, others are not so sure. The chaos of the sudden death has caused other factions to also grab power and land. And, as everyone knows in the back of their mind, winter is coming. It is into these tumultuous times that players are thrown in A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game (ASOIF:TMG). They must gather together their forces and take to the field of combat, proving their worth to decide who will be in charge of all of Westeros.
Bringing such a beloved book series as George R.R. Martin’s award-winning A Song of Ice and Fire to gaming tabletops was a task that the developers took very seriously. Designer Michael Shinall steeped himself in every bit of lore he could find. He not only read through the books, but also immersed himself in the various analyses of it, wanting to make sure every figure on the tabletop was an accurate representation of their literary counterpart.
“I’ve played wargames all my life, and this is the third one I’ve designed. With ASOIF:TMG, since we’re coming from one of the most established intellectual properties in the world, it was important that the game truly reflect the setting. As a result, it was a tireless effort to make sure all the iconic characters really felt like they should.” Shinall said. He added, “The source material is massive, and one goal for the game is to allow players to create as many “what if” moments as they can think of- the battles they always wanted to see but the story didn’t facilitate.”
This attention to detail manifests itself in many ways. A lot of the characters in the book series are not soldiers and would never be on a battlefield. However, the designers still wanted to make sure they were represented in the game. This happens via the Tactics Board. It represents the actions taken in conference halls, throne rooms, and back-halls that have as much an impact on the outcome of battle. Sure, Robb Stark may be able to duel any man on the battlefield, but Cersei Lannister can make sure the troops her forces field are properly equipped and motivated. Each character is just as important as the other to the outcome of battle.
With the book series spanning such a wide range of time, there was deep discussion as to where the game would “open.” Since the lore is so heavily tied to the figures, this was an important part to get right, and would create a base for releases to come. The designers decided to not begin at the very first page of the book series, instead starting the game with the death of King Robert.
“The only set timeline we have for the game is that it begins with the death of King Robert Baratheon. Unfortunately, that means anything before that point is not something we’re looking at at the moment. Anything that transpires in the book series can appear in the game, however, we’re not following a strict timetable with our releases, so you might see elements from later books touched on before earlier ones.” Shinall discussed.
Every game must have an entry point, and for ASOIF:TMG, that’s the Stark vs. Lannister Two-Player Starter. A lot of thought and detail went into getting this first starter set just right. It is the foundation upon which everything else was built. Discussing the process behind what went into the Starter Set, Shinall stated, “The core behind the Starter Set was to give players a complete experience right from the beginning. I’ve played wargames my entire life and, while they’ve expanded greatly in recent years, it was always the case where the starter only ever gave you a small “taste” of the larger mechanics of the game- to the point where the game in the starter and the actual game could end up being different entities all together. Here, we wanted to give the complete experience, including variety and options, right out of the gate. “
No further purchases are required to get new gamers going right out of the box. The figures come pre-assembled, so there’s no need to wait for glue to dry. There’s dice and movement sticks, so the combat can be played out and troops can move around the board. And the figures in the box are enough for a complete army, including several options for a player’s Commander or Unit Attachments. It means not every Starter Set army will be played exactly the same.
However, as the name suggests, a Starter Set is still a starting place. Complete as it may be, players will want to further supplement their forces with other releases. When asked about early releases for the game, Shinall responded with, “We have a very aggressive release schedule for the game’s early life. Variety, both in available factions and units/models available for said factions, are very important for the early stages of the game’s life. We have monthly releases moving forward, with something new for everyone often enough. Of course, as more and more factions are released, not everyone will see a monthly release. This is also to ensure we avoid “faction bloat”, aka just releasing new stuff for a faction for the sake of releasing new stuff- everything must have a purpose in the army!”
When pressed about those other factions, Shinall gave, “We’ve already announced both the Night’s Watch and Free Folk factions as upcoming releases, and with the Neutral Heroes Set you also have the option of playing pure “mercenaries” as a faction in their own right… There are plenty more scheduled down the line… But those would be spoilers, and I hate spoilers.”
Seems like surprises will just have to remain as surprises for now.
Releases down the line are only part of a wargame’s life. There is also the community, and ASOIF:TMG has plenty planned in terms of organized play. Shinall mentioned, “We’ve actually already announced not one but two Organized Play Kits for the game, the first of which is available at launch. So right out of the gate we have means for local stores to host events and attract players. We also have an extensive plan for Organized Play that will be further developed and rolled out in 2019. All prizes for these events will be items like alternate sculpts, faction bling, that sort of thing- It’s important to note you will never see gameplay exclusive content from this- the competitive scene is one we aim to keep level for all players.”
With the release of ASOIF:TMG, the game’s designers have taken everything into account. Partnered with Dark Sword Miniatures for the figures, CMON’s known commitment to titles, and producing quality gaming experiences, the game looks to be every bit the epic tale that the book series it comes from is, but with the players making their own history in Westeros.
Jason "Polar Bear" Koepp is a Content Producer for CMON and Editor in Chief of the Tabletop Gaming News website. He lives in Atlanta where he enjoys baking and sharing the results with the others in the CMON offices.