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A Game of Thrones?

Picture of the Richard III game

Picture of the board game “Richard III”, showing the map which comprises the playing area and the lid.

I was lucky enough to get a board game for Christmas from my 29 year old son, Jim, who is a board game fanatic! Luckily his wife, Kat, is too!

Anyway, this one is a bit special because it is called “Richard IIITM – The Wars of the Roses” by Columbia Games, Inc. (Incidentally, I’m not sure you can trademark the words “Richard III”!) Yesterday, I took it with me when I went to visit them and Jim and I spent the next five hours playing it. It is a very good game, but extremely complicated, as indeed the Wars of the Roses were, but I found it most enjoyable. Basically, it’s for two players (or teams) and you decide at the start who is Yorkist and who is Lancastrian. Each side has five major playing pieces, representing their five ‘Royal heirs’ – so for the Yorkists these are: Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York; Edward, Earl of March; Edmund, Earl of Rutland; George, Duke of Clarence; and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Then there are various loyal nobles and other not-so-loyal ones, as well as rebels, mercenaries and churches playing their parts. The game consists of three campaigns each comprising seven game turns. The game board is a map of Mediaeval Britain.

However, the game plan does not necessarily follow the course of the actual Wars of the Roses, so you can end up with various different possibilities. As an example, in the game we played, the Yorkists ended up on the throne, with the Duke of York and Edmund both dead (which was what actually happened) and Edward ruling. But you could equally have the Duke of York surviving to rule and become Richard III in the first campaign! Then, in a later campaign, he and all the other heirs except Richard of Gloucester could die and Richard might thus end up as Richard IV or even be killed before becoming king!

The Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester are minors at the start of the game and don’t come into play unless or until the senior heirs are killed. You can therefore play a game without Richard of Gloucester even taking part! This is only an issue because of the title of the game, which I feel, is a blatant attempt to cash in on the Richard III media bandwagon. To be fair there are other scenarios that you can use, apparently, on the makers’ website. However, despite this one criticism, it is an excellent game and even allows for the heirs to withdraw into exile (Burgundy or Ireland for York and Scotland or France for Lancaster), forced marches, plague and treachery. For the latter, there are some nobles from each side (e.g. Buckingham, Stanley and Northumberland) who can be ‘turned’ to fight for the other side. These include Clarence and Warwick, so the designer obviously knows their history. The Treachery option makes the game more interesting and true to life.

That being said, it was a great pleasure to me to ‘turn’ Buckingham and have him fight for the Yorkists!

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