Between Two Lannisters – A Game of Thrones: B’Twixt Review

It’s a bad omen when a game doesn’t have a designer credited. I was, however, hopeful for A Game of Thrones: B’Twixt as it’s clearly derived from one of my favorite designs – Condottiere. The game does a poor job of pitching itself, but it’s a sell so easy that a mute salesman could hock it. Take Condottiere’s card play and add in more dramatic effects on every single card in the deck, oh and player asymmetry inspired by the Game of Thrones series. There’s also the quirky Between Two Cities shared neighbor scoring. Yeah, this game is kooky.

But it’s not good.

Winter is here.” – Unknown

I’m a big fan of drama on the tabletop. I like swingy effects, big plays, and standup moments. Condottiere has this with the Bishop and Key cards. They’re devastating and the table gasps when a high stakes conflict is turned upside down.

A Game of Thrones: B’Twixt says, “I want more.” But sometimes, more is less.

Condottiere is a tense game. It’s a small-box area control design with a strong core loop. Participants alternate taking turns and playing a single card from their hand. Mostly, these are cards with strength values between one and 10. You keep going around, each player building a personal tableau.

It’s somewhat like raising the pot in a game of poker. Each card played pushes the total higher, forcing others to respond or cut their losses and stop playing. Once everyone’s passed, the highest total wins the round and takes control of the area currently being fought over. Sometimes, though, the round goes belly up and things get ugly, like a beached whale swallowing a grenade. This is due to the Key and Bishop cards which immediately end the round when played. The Key still awards victory to whoever is currently leading, while the BIshop trashes the round causing a reset. They’re “oh, damn” moments that make the hair on the back of your neck go stiff.

B’Twixt is the same exact process of playing a card at a time, engaging in a violent game of chicken as greedy sons of bitches offer side-eye and crude heckling. In this instance, each action in the game seeks the impact of the Key and Bishop. You steal cards, you kill cards, you mess with the quirky scoring system. The whole game-state is volatile as all get out, not in an entertaining or meaningfully dramatic way, but in a frivolous manner that is so unstable to make the whole process pointless.

Chaos is a ladder” – Unknown

Atop this absurdity are asymmetric faction cards mapping to Game of Thrones characters from the leading houses. These are one-shot effects that are truly upending, even in an already tumultuous sea.

But wait, there’s more.

The scoring is also completely unpredictable. You are competing not over areas in B’Twixt, but instead over notable characters such as Bran, Hodor, and Brienne. These characters boast a scoring value as well as, of course, an ability. Maybe you kill another character that someone has already scored. Funny stuff. Or, maybe you draw more cards as managing your hand is of utmost importance in both Condottiere and in this lesser game.

Finally, when you win a character, you also get a random token worth 1-3 points but no one gets to look at it, not even the owner. Won cards are placed to your left, or right, residing as a shared scoring pool with your neighbor on either side. This scoring system is lifted directly from Between Two Cities, and it’s one I’ve never really been satisfied with. None of it matters, however. It’s all nonsense.

Fear cuts deeper than swords.” – Unknown

I usually love nonsense. I don’t love A Game of Thrones: B’Twixt.

This game serves a purpose, however, even if it’s unintended. Without proper editorial acumen, dramatic moments mean nothing. Repeatedly hitting the players with wild effects results in a watered-down putrid morass. Investment is lost because nothing means anything when you lose cards faster than you play them. The stakes are completely demolished, and it becomes a flowery dream, a cacophony of babbling heads rolling down the streets of King’s Landing.

When investment evaporates, so does the tension. You’re no longer sitting on the edge of your seat, sweating as you wonder whether the bum sitting opposite is holding a Bishop. They have an entire hand of Bishops. What even are we playing?

Restraint is a virtue in the field of game design. Uncredited Game of Thrones: B’Twixt designer doesn’t understand this. This is the CGI-fest over-the-top meaningless action that’s constituted the MCU formula for a decade. But in this instance, we don’t get the payoff of Infinity War.

This game released in early 2022, but no one has talked about it. After stumbling across it in the bowels of the internet, I was highly intrigued. It appeared to offer a truly bananas experience, something I’m always on the lookout for. Additionally, it actually captures the intrigue and political aspects of Game of Thrones somewhat competently. You’re reliant on your partners to your left and right contributing to the shared scoring courts, and it’s easy to betray an ally and move those won cards and tokens about to disrupt the status quo. In fact, it’s often too easy.

There are moments where you work together, tanking a round or manipulating played cards to help your neighbor win. That aspect is actually, perhaps excellent. But it is swallowed in chaos and completely overshadowed by all the rest.

I may sound angry, but in reality, I’m simply frustrated. It just didn’t deliver.


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  5 comments for “Between Two Lannisters – A Game of Thrones: B’Twixt Review

  1. Marc
    March 16, 2023 at 9:59 am

    “Without proper editorial acumen, dramatic moments mean nothing. ”

    Are we talking about the game or the show? 🙂

    This reminds me – I have Condottieri in my ‘to play’ pile!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. March 16, 2023 at 11:37 am

    Seems like there’s a reason why this one fell into the abyss of unnoticed games!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lukas
    March 30, 2023 at 11:47 am

    Overall your review has a lyrical quality. But your reasoning is too vague and one-sided for me to get your points.

    I am obviously biased as well because I do enjoy the game quite a lot, I even sold Condottiere because I felt it occupied the same spot but with less great moments in a box.

    Nevertheless, if you don’t mind taking the game too serious (scoring), btwixt can offer a really fun time. The only downside I see is the time it takes to play.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 30, 2023 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks for reading, Lukas and taking the time to comment. I apologize for the vagueness and will keep that in mind in the future.


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