Ten years have passed since we first heard the gravel-toned voice of fantasy film favourite Sean Bean uttering the immortal phrase ‘winter is coming’. While Lord Eddard Stark might have lasted about as long as a packet of chocolate biscuits in the Dice Box office, the impact that HBO series Game of Thrones had on popular culture is still as strong today as a decade ago.
So, in this triumphant return to our games and culture blog, we bend the knee and offer up a salute to the legacy of Westeros and the incredible way in which the adaption of George RR Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ reignited the flames of fantasy.
‘When You Play the Game of Thrones, You Win or You Die.’
Regardless of whether you loved or hated the way the show ended, GOT provided some of the most memorable, most intense, and most hotly debated topics in popular culture of the last decade. The success of the show directly contributed to an enormous resurgence in sales of fantasy classics. It also prompted increases in network budgets for serialized fantasy shows, paving the way for new television adaptations of works by authors like Neil Gaiman and Andrzej Sapkowski.
Possibly the most impressive thing about Game of Thrones was how it bridged the gap between traditional fantasy fans and newcomers to the genre. While swords, sorcery, and dragons had always been staples of the genre, very few shows before it have culminated in bringing together such a widely spread army of fans, both inside and outside the fantasy community.
For many, Thrones was a gateway show. In a sense, it made fantasy mainstream and provided those who had previously thought of the genre in terms of Tolkienesque tones with something accessible.
Seeing bars and sports centers offering screenings to audiences of hundreds, all gathered to see the final undoing of the Night King made the ‘Long Night’ episode akin to the Super Bowl of fantasy.
What Do We Say to The God of Death?
Ensemble casts in fantasy are nothing new. Take Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. That had a cast longer than Arya’s list after the Red Wedding. The difference between GOT and other works of similar style was that, of course, in this show, the good guys didn’t all live to see the end.
All bets were off and nobody was safe. In the words of Ramsay Bolton – if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention. So we did pay attention.
And we were rewarded with characters like Syrio Forel, whose line ‘What do we say to the God of Death?’ has been uttered a million times despite his character only having just over six minutes of screen time in a show running for eight years.
Characterisation played a massive part in the popularity of the series. It gave us characters we loved, characters we hated, and characters that prompted us to ask do I really like this person? Is it OK to root for them?
Take Kingslayer Jaime Lannister, for example. Despite an incestuous relationship with his sister, his attempted murder of a small child, the actual murder of his cousin, and other heinous crimes, Jaime performed some of the most heroic acts in the show. For example, the saving of Brienne of Tarth from a bear pit, abandoning his position to ride north to fight at Winterfell, not to mention him saving an entire city of people from being burnt to death by Wildfire.
It could be argued that Jaime Lannister was just as much or as little a hero as Jon Snow, the more traditionally styled good guy who, in many ways, was responsible for just as many deaths. Even if his failings were less calculated and more, well, miscalculations.
You see, like many great shows, the success of Game of Thrones lies not just in its popularity but in its ability to be surprising, divisive, and shocking in equal measure. It doesn’t matter whether your opinion of it was good, bad, or you weren’t quite sure either way. The important thing is that almost everybody had an opinion on it.
The show may be over, but the impact still carries. Rumours of a follow-up series have permeated popular culture since before the last episode ended, and with it looking more likely than ever that we will see some sort of prequel in the next year or two, now is a great time to head back to Westeros for another watch. As always, here at Dicebox, we like to intersperse our box set binging with some suitably thematic board games.
If you are tempted to turn your hand to a Thrones-inspired game night, we have compiled a list of some of our favourite games for you below, plus our take on which GOT characters might like them.
‘Best Game for Those Who Covet the Iron Throne.’
Game of Thrones Oathbreaker ($51.00) is a social deduction game, where the lords and ladies of the houses of Westeros plot, scheme and conspire against the King or Queen. Card-based, Oathbreaker is ideal for people who like their games centred on deception and revelation. Designed for larger groups, making it a good choice for big parties or game events, Oathbreaker is one for GOT super fans.
The character most likely to play this game? Petyr Baelish, of course. After all, chaos is a ladder.
‘Best Game for People Who Live Beyond The Wall.’
You’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t need to defeat the white walkers to play ‘The Coldest Night’ ($34.00). This cooperative strategy game depends on players keeping the fires burning long enough to survive a winter night harsh enough to make anyone shiver. A great team game with a short playing time makes it a good choice for between episodes. Played by between one and four people, it’s also a good option for smaller groups. The character most likely to play this game? Snow storm veteran, Tormund Giantsbane.
Best Game for Anyone Who Wishes They Had their Own Sword.’
As far as epic fantasy board games go, we really can’t recommend Sword & Sorcery: Immortal Souls ($127.00) highly enough. This beautifully presented cooperative game pits players against an ancient evil and tasks them with achieving legendary status through battle. Customizable characters, highly visual game pieces, and several tactical playing options make an experience well worth the slightly higher price tag. Sword & Sorcery is an investment in your gaming repertoire that can be played time and again.
The character most likely to play this game? We can’t envision anyone playing this game better than the mother of dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen.
‘Best Game for People Who Drink and Know Things.’
A good choice for parties, ‘Loaded Questions Party’ ($24.00) challenges players to guess which of the group gave what answers to questions and to come up with their own creative responses to the many preset and hilarious questions the game provides. A firm favourite at any of the Dice Box office gatherings, this is a great one to bring out after a few introductory drinks to break the ice and will help get your game night off to a memorable start.
The character most likely to play this game? Tyrion Lannister, naturally. He drinks and he knows things.
However you theme your sessions or parties, here at Dice Box, we’re glad to be back in the blogging saddle once again (dragon saddle, naturally). We’ll be posting regularly with the best recommendations and discussions about board games, pop culture, and any other fun stuff we can think of.
Don’t forget to keep checking back for more blog updates, take a look at the new products on our website, and send us your updates on what you’ve been playing recently via our social media.
Until next time – happy gaming.