Stats at a glance
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Catan has been a powerhouse in the board gaming world ever since Klaus Teuber first designed it back in the ’90s.
In a similar vein, the HBO show A Game of Thrones has thrown fantasy back into the public spotlight, which it hasn’t seen since the original Lord of the Rings trilogy was released. The sheer number of board games based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and A Game of Thrones TV series is staggering. So much so that we wrote an article about it.
The match seems like an ideal one, but is Brotherhood of the Watch just a reskinning of a classic with the flavor of the week?
Let’s find out.
“I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.” — George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Brief Overview of Brotherhood of the Watch
A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch plays very similarly to Catan, but with a few extra GoT bits thrown in.
Players take on the role of candidates for the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and compete for glory and renown in order to claim the spot.
How does one become the new Lord Commander?
Uh… by getting 10 points, of course.
Players gather resources in traditional Catan fashion at the Gift, the land just south of the Wall. Players then must build fortresses and infrastructure to bolster the strength of the Night’s Watch.
The second part of the game comes in the form of Wildlings, creeping down from the north. Wildlings will constantly attempt to breach the wall and if they aren’t dealt with by the Watch, they’ll wreak havoc on the surrounding lands.
Versions & Expansions
Brotherhood of the Watch: 5-6 Player Extension
Now you can play with 5 or 6 players! Adds new tokens, tiles, and cards. Requires the base game to play.
If you love Catan, be sure to check out our overview of all of the best Catan expansions.
Unboxing Brotherhood of the Watch
There are a ton of miniatures here. They’re actually really cool-looking. I’m not entirely sure whether they are all necessary, but if you’re just low on minis for whatever reason you’ll have spares from one box. I suppose you could use them for a swarmy D&D campaign if you wanted to.
I particularly like the giants. They look pretty neat.
The artwork on the cards may look familiar. It’s the same artwork that’s used in the A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. I really liked the artwork from the card game because it’s all original artwork and isn’t just stills from the TV show. I think that’s just lazy, so it’s nice to see them put in the effort.
There are 40 different Wildling minis in the box. That seems a bit of overkill to me, mostly because I’ve never used all of them, but they’re cool to have. They work well. They’re not the most detailed minis I’ve ever seen, but they work well for the game and are of a high enough quality that they could potentially pull double-duty for some other tabletop game if you’re into that sort of thing.
The box organizer isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It has a few card slots to store cards. The cardholder can be removed to reveal space to store all the tiles, and then a big open space. It does come with little baggies so that everything can be stored a bit easier, but it actually works out that everything fits a bit better than the original Catan.
The original Catan box is how I got my reputation as being an insane person who needs to organize my games properly, especially in the original where everything needs to perfectly fit into its assigned spot, otherwise, the box won’t close.
I’m not crazy. You all know my pain.
Tokens & Game Pieces
I do like the settlement and city pieces. The standard wooden blocks have been replaced with plastic castles and outposts. They work well thematically and go with the flow of the GoT theme. I actually really like the road pieces, which are much more detailed than the standard wooden logs. Overall, it’s very nice (if not a bit overproduced).
The colors of the resource tiles and cards are all pretty standard Catan colors. The only thing you’ll notice (which can’t be unseen) is the sheep. The poor sheep on the cards has only 3 legs. It’s very sad.
How to Play Brotherhood of the Watch
The biggest selling point for me is that GoT Catan functions as a full vanilla version of Catan. If you don’t already own the original Catan, the GoT version actually isn’t a bad choice for your first board. It’ll allow you to play a normal game of Catan and the expanded Game of Thrones version.
The shape of the board will be a bit different, but it works basically the exact same way. It’s always nice when a game pulls double-duty like that.
If you’ve played Catan, you’ll be able to learn the new mechanics very quickly. The game runs a lot like the original version but with some added bells and whistles.
BUT I’VE NEVER PLAYED CATAN
Wait, what? Have you been living under a rock since 1995? That’s okay, we’ll walk you through it.
Alright, welcome aboard the hype train. You’re in for a treat. Catan is one of the modern classics that has catapulted boardgames out of the black hole that is Milton Bradley & Parker Bros.
Catan is rather simple to learn but often takes a long time to explain for a number of stupid reasons.
1. Roll 2 dice.
2. Get resources or resolve the robber (Tormund Giantsbane).
3. Trade, build, and play Development cards.
4. Pass the dice.
In the original Catan, each player takes turns rolling 2 dice. The result of the dice shows what resources players receive.
If you roll a total of 6, any player that has a building touching a hex space with a 6 on it, gets the resource of that space. It can be summed up as: roll dice, get resource. Pretty simple.
Lucky Number 7
I lied. 7’s aren’t lucky in Catan. You’ll notice that there isn’t a 7 spot on the board. There is, however, a Robber (or in GoT Catan there’s Tormund Giantsbane). On a roll of 7, the player who rolled must move Tormund to a new hex space. That space will no longer be able to collect resources until he is moved off of that space with another roll of 7 or the use of a Development card.
There are a few other things that happen on a 7. Any player with more than 7 resource cards must discard half of them, rounded down. Just to be clear, if you have 7 cards you’re safe, but if you have 8 or more you have to discard. So gathering a ton of cards is good, but make sure to spend them while you have them.
The last thing is stealing cards from another player. When you place Tormund on a new hex, if any player is connected to that space, you’ll be able to steal 1 random resource from them. It can turn pretty ugly if you have players that get mad at each other and are constantly targeting each other with vengeance in their hearts. Usually, it’s the silent ones that sneak by in points.
There are 5 different types of resources in the base game:
Each one is used to build structures and buy Development cards.
- Road: (1) Wood & (1) Brick
- Settlement: (1) Wood, (1) Brick, (1) Wheat, & (1) Sheep
- City: (3) Ore & (2) Wheat
- Development Card: (1) Sheep, (1) Wheat, & (1) Ore
You’re not always going to get the resources you need, but that’s okay because you can always trade resources with the bank or other players.
On your turn, after you roll the dice, you’ll be able to trade. If you trade with the bank, you’ll get a 4:1 trade. Four of any one resource for one resource of your choice. Trading with the bank isn’t exactly efficient, but sometimes you won’t have any other choice.
Alternatively, you can trade resources with any player and it all depends on your bargaining skills.
The object of the game is to get 10 victory points. Each settlement you own is worth 1 point and each city is worth 2 points.
There are a few other ways to get points too:
- Having the longest road, starting with the first player to build a continuous line of 5 roads.
- Having the largest army or in the GoT version, having the largest patrol, starting with the first player to use 3 patrol cards from the Development card deck.
- The Development deck also has several cards that simply give victory points.
OH, I’VE PLAYED CATAN
The rules are rather easy to figure out once you understand the base game of Catan.
There are a few new steps to add to the turn order and guards have a much bigger purpose in this game.
Let’s look at the updated turn order:
1. Roll 3 dice
2. Get resources or resolve a 7.
3. Move Wildlings based on the third 12-sided die.
4. Build, trade, recruit guards, and play cards.
5. Pass the dice.
There are 3 types of Wildlings that you’ll have to contend with.
Regular: These guys are all about strength in numbers. They’ll continually gather around the outer edges of the Wall and wait until their numbers are great enough. Once they outnumber the guards on the section of the wall, they’ll breach.
These are also relatively easy to deal with. You can see them coming, and if you have a few guards on the wall you can buy yourself some time to deal with them. Letting them stack up too long can be dangerous and force and early end game with breaches.
Climbers: These are the minis with a climbing ice pick in either hand and they know how to use them.
If climbers ever get to the wall they immediately make it over and start to block the first space they can.
They’re a royal pain in the butt but whenever a climber gets over the wall, it doesn’t count as a breach. They’re going to be more likely to get through your defenses but they’re a bit easier to deal with than if a horde of other wildlings or a giant comes smashing through your walls.
Giants: The mini is pretty cool. The giants will lumber along and if they ever hit your wall, they’ll immediately kill a guard at the wall and return to the forests. If there isn’t a guard at the wall, well then there’s nothing to stop them from smashing down your wall.
Every player’s reference card is double-sided. One side is for the standard vanilla rules and the other side is for the GoT version.
The GoT version has spots underneath all of your buildings to place the wildling tokens. Every time a player builds a settlement or Keep (city), they’ll need to reveal the spawn token and place wildlings on the track accordingly. Each token shows which kind of wildling goes onto the board and where they need to be placed based on the symbols of the token.
When a settlement is upgraded to a Keep, the settlement goes back onto the board with a new wildling token. This way, there’s always a risk when building and one player who is building too fast can quickly flood the board with wildlings. Keeps force you to spawn 2 wildlings as well.
The other way wildlings come onto the board is through the Longest Road and Largest Patrol cards. Any time a new player receives these, they’ll take a spawn token from the pool and spawn wildlings. As with buildings, if two players are fighting for the longest road and it bounces back and forth quickly, it can really flood the board with wildlings.
This is where the extra 12-sided die comes into play. Every turn players will be rolling for resources, but they’ll also be rolling to see where and if the wildlings will move. If you look north of the wall, you’ll notice the path coming from the 3 tribes of wildlings will have numbers. You can check the 12-sided die and compare it with the numbers on the different paths. If there are wildlings on the path, they’ll begin to move down that track towards the wall.
Guards to the Wall!
The guards play a much more integral part in GoT Catan. For one thing, there are actual guard pieces in the game.
If you’ll look at the 4 sections of the Wall, you’ll notice that each one has 5 slots on it. These are spots where players can recruit Night’s Watch guards to man the walls. These will help deal with wildlings trying to break through, and they can be used for victory points as well.
3 guards on the wall = 1 victory point.
5+ guards on the wall = +1 victory point.
An extra 2 bonus points is the maximum you can have for guardsmen.
If you drop below 5 or 3 guards on the Wall then you’ll lose the bonus points. This works similarly to losing the longest road. One minute they’re there and the next, gone.
The Wall Has Been Breached!
Each type of wildling works a little differently. The only ones that will actually cause a breach are the normal and giant variants. Climbers will be a pain and jump over the Wall, but they won’t end the game.
The normal wildlings need numbers to breach the Wall and the giants will simply wipe out guards on the wall and if there aren’t any, they breach.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have your wall breached, wildlings will begin to spill into the Gift and block resources. Ouch.
Each wildling that gets through will go to the next available space that they can and block resource production.
If ever there are 3 breaches in a single game, the game ends. The player that has the most guards currently on the Wall becomes the winner. It seems a bit anticlimactic and whenever I play I consider 3 breaches a complete ‘game over’ and nobody wins. Technically, somebody wins, but it’s a very hollow victory. You’ll still feel like you lost.
- Jeor Mormont
- Bowen Marsh
- Samwell Tarly
- Othell Yarwyck
- Ser Alliser Thorne
- Mance Rayder
- Benjen Stark
- Qhorin Halfhand
The Heroes of the Watch and the wildlings will grant players special bonuses and abilities on their turn. During setup, each player will receive 1 hero card and on their turn, they can play it to perform the ability listed on their card.
After a hero has been played there are 2 two options you have for what to do with it:
1. Return it to the hero pool and select another one.
2. Flip it over to side B and use it one more time before it’s returned to the hero pool.
It’s very similar to the system used in the Star Trek Catan.
When playing the GoT variant, there is a very clear difference from the original in how the game can possibly end. There’s still the ‘first player to 10 points wins’ but there’s also kind of a crappy way to win/lose too.
As I mentioned earlier, the wildlings are coming south to the Wall. If the wildlings breach the wall 3 times, the game ends immediately. There’s absolutely nothing else you can do and no last-minute bonuses. The game ends.
There’s also an overrun end-game scenario. If there are 8 or more wildlings south of the Wall, the game ends immediately.
However, according to the rules, there is still a winner. The winner is the player with the most active guards on the wall at the time of the third breach.
There are several tie-breaker scenarios here too, so I’ll list them quickly:
1. Most active guards on the wall.
2. Most active guards with the most points.
3. Then it goes to the oldest guard (The lowest positioned guard on the wall).
4. The final tie-breaker goes to the player with the guard in the most western location.
If you keep getting a tie, just go down the list until you find one that allows for a winner.
I personally don’t like this scenario. Not because it doesn’t work, but because it seems like a hollow victory. If the wildlings breach and end the game, it feels like a failure even if you win.
On the other hand, if you’re a particularly sneaky player, it offers a cool comeback scenario. If you have crap for points and are going to lose on points alone, you can focus on building up forces on certain sections of the wall and trying to allow the wildlings through in order to force an end-game scenario in which you’ll win. It’s a tricky way to play, but it does offer some players another strategic avenue in certain situations.
Your First Game of Brotherhood of the Watch
I highly suggest for your first game you simply play the original vanilla Catan to get the feel for it.
It’s a classic game in its own right and on top of that, you’ll be ready for the added mechanics thrown into the mix with the wildlings and Wall.
Playing the original Catan also lets players familiarize themselves with the building costs and different strategies. You can use the suggested setup in the rulebook to give everyone a relatively fair chance at the beginning. The suggested setup gives everyone a decent pool of resources to work with.
Catan is a game in which your opening choice can drastically affect the outcome of the game. If you’re unsure of what a good location might be, it can be a particularly brutal and unfun game for newbies.
For your first game using the Game of Thrones rules, here are a few helpful tips.
- Don’t forget about your hero powers. You can use them a maximum of two times before they must be returned to the pool. Keep in mind that you cannot use a hero card/power on the turn that you pick it up. It’s very similar to Development cards in that regard.
- The Game of Thrones variant relies heavily on guarding the wall. If you ignore that aspect of the game, you’ll let a ton of wildlings through and if they reach a wildling end-game scenario, it’s your guardsmen that will win you the game.
Pros & Cons
- Functions a lot like the original Catan
- Very cool minis
- A Game of Thrones elements do work well
I really like that the game can be played in two ways: with or without the GoT mechanics. There are a few cards from the original that are absent, however. The monopoly card, which is probably the most brutal card (when played correctly) is missing. This is only a minor issue at my gaming table but each to their own. Some people might see this as a deal-breaker.
- Is Jon Snow dead?
- Is it even necessary?
- There’s not a lot of room for expansions
- Is it really a Eurogame anymore?
Where is Jon Snow?
The big question on everyone’s mind is, “Where the hell is Jon Snow?” Ygritte is there, Mance Rayder is there, and even Samwell Tarly is accounted for… but no Jon Snow. It just seems a little off that one of the iconic characters in the story is noticeably absent from the wall, especially since that’s where he spends most of the books and TV show pouting and staring at the camera with that stupid look on his face. It’s really odd that he’s not in the base game.
Fantasy Flight did end up correcting this. They put the Jon Snow character in the 5-6 player expansion. This just seems odd to me. I’m not sure whether that was a conscious decision to leave him out for later or just a corrected oversight with the original game.
How to Classify?
A Game of Thrones Catan adds some interesting elements to gameplay, but you can clearly see that it’s been built on top of Catan. This highly-thematic version starts to blend thematic games with Eurogames. It’s an oddball hybrid between the two. I enjoy the game, but it’s a bit hard to classify.
It does have thematic elements and there is a fair bit of luck involved, but it’s mitigated a bit through strategy and card abilities. It begins to cross into the realm of Ameritrash games. I honestly hate that term and prefer to just say a highly-thematic game, but nobody knows what the hell I’m talking about when I say that.
The Worst Part
The worst part about the Game of Thrones Catan is probably the fact that it’s more Game of Thrones than Catan. That’s going to need a bit of explanation.
Catan has been around for many years now and has a large list of expansions that it can draw from. The GoT version could be seen as cashing-in the popularity of the hit HBO show and the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. That alone doesn’t make it a bad game, but it limits the amount of support that it will receive from designers and developers.
In a few years, the popularity of Game of Thrones could be seriously diminished, especially with the show’s ending. However, I can almost guarantee that 5 -10 years from now Catan will still be going strong and will still be a powerhouse in the board game world.
Again, that doesn’t make this one a bad game but it’s worth noting that the developers and publishers simply aren’t going to be pushing Game of Throne Catan expansions. The only current expansion right now is the 5-6 player expansion. I personally think that they could have just combined that with the original version because they know that people will want to play with more players anyway.
It’s a great place to start but it simply will not have the longevity of classic Catan.
A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch is a Catan-variant in which players compete for the standard 10 victory points while recruiting guardsmen on the Wall to prevent wildlings from breaching and invading the Gift.
There is a bad/game over end condition set for when the wildlings breach the wall x-number of times.
It can be played as a standard version of Catan but it is missing the monopoly card from the original.
I’m a big Catan fan and still a bit torn about the GoT version.
It’s trying to appeal to A Game of Thrones fans by adding in a lot of thematic elements, but as a board gamer, I can still see the Eurogame underneath. It does a bit of everything and it does it… okay.
As A Game of Thrones IP, it has a lot of the things I would expect from the franchise but it’s also missing a lot. There’s nothing of the intrigue or dragons included and Jon Snow, arguably one of the more important characters in the story, is noticeably absent.
I get it. Trying to smash such an enormous storyline into Catan would be impossible. I do think, however, that limiting the game to one tiny aspect of GoT was a smart choice and there are aspects that really give it that feel. I think I’m just left wanting more… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I think this is actually a pretty economical version to get especially if you’re a big Game of Thrones fan. I keep harping on the fact that this can be played with the vanilla rules and I think that just adds a ton of value to the game. The downside is that it’s not at all compatible with any of the original expansions. So you’ll never see a Cities & Knights expansion, but there are all of the extra Got bits to keep you occupied.
Have you played Brotherhood of the Watch? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the game or board games in general. Drop a comment below and let your voice be heard!
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.