Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Backstabbing, murder, full frontal nudity, this game has two of those three things, I’ll let you figure out which ones. Most games set in the Game of Thrones universe are large and complex so when FFG announced a 10 minute card game with whimsical art I was intrigued.
Hand of the King revolves around a 6 by 6 grid of character cards that forms King's Landing. The characters are all major members of the 7 houses and the eunuch Varys. To play the game you move Varys either vertically or horizontally naming one of the 7 houses. You must stop on a card that matches the house you named, then you collect each character of that house that you passed over during your move, including the one you landed on.
If you have the most or joint most of the characters from a house you take their banner, either from the supply or from the player who currently holds it. If you take the last member of a house then you can claim one of six special power cards known as Companions. The player with the most banners at the end of the game wins. The mechanics are incredibly simple but the choices are actually fun and complex. You need to consider your moves carefully as each move potentially sets up your opponents to stab you in the back. Because you only need to draw with another player to take their banner the advantage lies with the player who acts second. For example if you claim one of the two members of the Tully house, you will lose their banner if any other player claims the second one.
Hand of the King is a short game and incredibly easy to teach meaning that you can easily slot it in between longer games or play multiple times in an evening. With four players the game can be played with partners to reduce the chaos. Overall I really like this one, fast playing, tactical and fun, highly recommended.