Catan is a game that is close to the hearts of many. It is seen as a gateway game and, as a result, it is many people’s first venture into the world of board games. With such a beloved game, there is a risk of upsetting diehard fans by creating a themed version. On the flip side of this, A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch has the potential to upset GoT fans as well. Does this joining of worlds disappoint or delight? I’m pleased to say that it is the latter.
This game has the option to play basic Catan without worrying about the extra elements that the GoT theme brings to the table. If you are new to Catan, then this is a great place to start.
The game consists of collecting resources to build structures and collect victory points. The board is made up of hexes of five different terrains producing five different resources. Each hex also has a number placed on it between 2 and 12. Each player takes turns to roll two dice to determine which hexes produce a resource. If you have a settlement built next to a hex with a number that corresponds to the dice roll, you collect that resource. There is also the option to trade resources with the active player to help get that commodity that you are struggling to obtain. You can then use your resources to build more settlements, upgrade settlements, build roads or gain a development card. The more you build, the more victory points your receive. The first player to reach ten victory points wins.
So what does the GoT theme bring to this game? Quite a lot actually, and it does so in such a way as to maintain the mechanics and feel of the original. It also addresses something that could be argued is missing from the original – depth. Don’t get me wrong, Catan is a great game with a lot of replayability. Yet, it can feel a little simplistic for more experienced gamers. However, in GoT Catan the players have much more to consider - they have to defend The Wall.
Every time a player builds a settlement, it generates a wildling in one of the three camps north of the wall. If a player upgrades a settlement to a keep, they generate two wildlings. Once any wildlings are in the camps, the players must roll a third die alongside the production dice. This third die determines if any wildlings move down their trail to the clearing next to The Wall. If there are more wildlings in the clearing than there are guards on The Wall, then there is a breach and the wildlings invade The Gift (resource hexes).
Not only does a breach stop production, but the third breach will end the game. If you choose, you can spend resources to place a guard on The Wall. This helps to prevent a breach.
All this adds something new to Catan – collaboration. Even though you are all competing to be the first to ten victory points, you have to work together to prevent wildlings from invading the gift.
So what do you do with your resources? Build structures for victory points but risk generating more wildlings and creating a breach? Build a guard and place it to protect your hexes or where The Wall is most vulnerable? Perhaps it’s best to just play your character card.
Character cards are another addition to this game. Each card features a character from Game of Thrones. Each character has their own special ability such as removing a wildling from the gift or gaining a free resource. A player may carry out their character's ability up to two times, after which you have to swap it for a different card. This means you have to consider when it is best to use your ability and what card will be most beneficial next.
All these new elements create extra considerations and introduce more strategy and tension to the game. It opens up more player interaction. Players need to discuss the best course of action to protect the gift from the wildlings. The game encourages you to work together to defend The Wall. This added depth increases replayability as you explore different tactics to support, sabotage, or surpass your opponents. The GoT theme is not just for lovers of the show or books as it brings so much more than simple fan fodder. It is implemented in a clever way so as to bring interesting and enjoyable elements. It never feels like a superficial add on but an integral part of the game.
Components and Aesthetics
On top of all this is the added bonus of the game’s production value. The artwork throughout the game is of a high standard and at times, beautiful. The hexes and game board are good quality with lovely detail that complements the theme. The player pieces are detailed plastic miniatures that help the game feel special. However, the biggest addition is the numerous miniatures that represent the wildlings. Whilst not necessarily being of the highest quality, they help to further raise the enjoyment and production value. You definitely feel like you get your money’s worth. If I have one criticism, it would be that the resource cards feel a little flimsy and are easily creased. They just don’t feel up to the same quality as the rest of the game.