Hand of the King (engl.)
The Hand of the King was the second-most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms. He spoke with the king’s voice, commanded the king’s armies, drafted the king’s laws. At times he even sat upon the Iron Throne to dispense king's justice, when the king was absent, or sick, or otherwise indisposed. Robert was offering him a responsibility as large as the realm itself.
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
After the king himself, no man in Westeros is more powerful than the Hand of the King. As the saying goes, What the king dreams, the Hand builds. Yet the office of Hand has just become vacant, and all of the Great Houses have gathered in King’s Landing to vie for the king’s favor and claim this lofty office. You only have one chance to prove your worth when Hand of the King arrives at your local retailer soon!
The Spider’s Web
As we explored in our announcement, Hand of the King begins with the thirty-six character cards arranged in a six-by-six grid, representing the tangled and intrigue-filled courts of King’s Landing. Thirty-five of these characters belong to the Great Houses: Stark, Greyjoy, Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Tyrell, and Tully. The final character card is your means of influencing these nobles—Varys, the Master of Whisperers.
On each turn, you’ll move Varys by simply naming a direction (up, down, left, or right) and one of the Great Houses. Then, you’ll move Varys as far as you can in the chosen direction, landing on a character who belongs to the House that you’ve chosen. The character you landed on and all characters that you passed over belonging to that House immediately join your cause, potentially swaying the entire House to give you their support. The player with the support of the most Houses at the end of the game is the winner, but the loyalty of the Great Houses can be fleeting. If an opponent lures more of that House’s characters to join his cause, then the entire House may turn its cloak and join your foe!
Over the surface of these simple rules, your first games will immediately reveal a twisting, unpredictable layer of social intrigue. It’s a simple fact that every move your opponents make will dramatically affect your fortunes. For instance, you may be desperately striving to win the support of House Greyjoy, but you can’t ensure that your opponent will end his turn leaving Varys in a good position for you to influence more Greyjoys. That’s where the ability to make deals and talk your way to victory become essential.
If you can convince your opponent to set you up for your next turn—perhaps by thwarting another player who’s competing for the same Houses—you’ll be much more likely to get what you need. You’ll also learn that the companions alongside the court are a perfect tool for intrigues and dealmaking. For example, you may threaten to use Jaqen H'ghar to destroy your opponent’s plans, unless he plays along with your schemes. Or you may offer to use Ramsay Snow to switch the positions of two character cards, creating a situation that’s much more advantageous for your opponent.
All this scheming can be further complicated if you choose to play with the Three-Eyed Crow variant. During this variant, table talk is strictly forbidden—you aren’t allowed to converse with your allies or your enemies… unless you use the three-eyed crow token. In this variant, every player begins game with a single three-eyed crow token. If you want to talk to another player during the game, you must spend this token for you and your chosen opponent to step away from the table and secretly strategize for a minute. Whether you’re able to reach an arrangement or not, your opponents at the table will be none the wiser!