There are a number of Game of Thrones tie-in games out there (including the beast that is A Game of Thrones) but Hand of the King is a quick-moving game of card-collection that plays in about 20 minutes.
The cards are laid out in a 6×6 grid on the table, with each card representing a person or rank and privilege in the GoT world. One card is the character Lord Varys, and this is whom the players control.
The game’s theme is that players are trying to gather support in order to be named as the new Hand of the King, and how they do this is by moving Varys around the grid. Varys can move as far as he likes in a straight line, and you’ll pick up (i.e., gain the support of) any character that he stops on – plus any cards he went past that are from the same family – clearly denoted by card colours and banner.
The player who has the most support of a family – even if it’s only one character – claims that family’s banner. If there is a tie, the player who just forced the tie claims the banner. If you collect the final member of a family from the board, you may choose a special card and put it to use (they must be used instantly). These can be game-changers!
Play continues either until Varys has no legal move left (all directions have empty rows) or all banners are claimed. The winner is the player with most banners, and ties are broken in favour of the player with most individual supporters.
Note that with four players, the game is played in teams of two.
A canny game that will appeal to tacticians as the options narrow, and eventually close. The publisher suggests ages 14 and up but we think (despite the source material) the game can be played at much younger ages than that. Because of its simple rules it’s very accessible – though of course the Take That quotient is pretty high…
It's all Take That! If you play Hand of the King passively, you're playing it wrong.
There may be the odd lull as someone weighs up their options...
...but there are only ever four options at most, so it's not a brain-scrambler.
It's not a game with massive variety in play, but there's randomness in both set-up and which special cards are available to you.