A Game of Thrones: Genesis is based on 1,000 years of lore leading up to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, a much beloved fantasy epic centered on the kingdoms of Westeros. I highly recommend it to any lover of fantasy, but you've probably received a hundred other recommendations for the same series already.
Cyanide is also known for Blood Bowl, several sports management titles, and the upcoming A Game of Thrones RPG. We can always hope that the folks over at Cyanide will get a little more creative with their naming process, but for now we're stuck with A Game of Thrones: Genesis, a real time strategy game that branches away from base building and advanced army tactics.
The biggest mistake any new player can make going into this game is assuming that it's going to be anything like Starcraft 2 or Company of Heroes. It's not like Supreme Commander or even the Total War series. Unfortunately, if you're looking for epic battles, you're going to have to look elsewhere. Most fighting in this game consists of small skirmishes, but the game does reward other play styles.
This guide to A Game of Thrones: Genesis covers all the basics, from buildings and units to diplomacy and subterfuge. It's incredibly difficult to win a game with one particular strategy, so you'll want to master them all. The relative lack of units and tactics does limit this strategy game's appeal somewhat, but newcomers will find a short learning curve.
Every game starts you off in a feudal home, which is your base of operations. From here you'll hire new units, research upgrades, and ransom off enemy units. It's the only building in the entire game which will fire back at enemies automatically.
However, you'll notice a number of other building types on the map:
- Gold Mines
Start sending out envoys immediately to build alliances with towns and gold mines especially. Once you secure an alliance, merchants will start trading between your feudal home and the allied building, vastly increasing your gold stockpile. The more gold you have, the more units you can hire. With more units, you can expand even faster or shore up your defenses. There's no base building, and resource gathering is limited to gold and food, but you'll need to hire peasants for the latter.
Early on, keep an eye on the peace and war gauge at the top of your screen. Red stands for war, and blue stands for peace. War is almost inevitable in the long run, but maintaining peace can give you more time to build up your forces.
You'll also want to keep tabs on the prestige bar on the right side of your screen. Filling that prestige bar is a sure way to win each round. How do you earn prestige? Securing alliances, earning more revenue than everyone else, killing the most units, and controlling a sept all increase your prestige points. In peacetime however, besieging a castle will lose you as many prestige points as peace points remain. Losing a bastard sired by your great lord also loses some prestige points. An easy but expensive solution is to formally recognize your bastard, costing 250 gold.
Also, keep on checking your alliances for secret agreements. Each secret agreement against you will cost you 10 prestige points when war is declared.
Chess with More Units
Every single unit serves a purpose. Some fighting units, like assassins, are very specialized. Others, like envoys, are completely necessary, fulfilling a number of roles. Just like in every other strategy game, A Game of Thrones: Genesis sticks to the old "every unit has a counter" formula. No single unit is overly powerful, nor is any unit too weak to play an effective role either.
For example, horsemen are effective at running down ranged units, but they're weak against more heavily armored forces. The trick is to figure out what your opponent is going to build before you meet on the battlefield when it's already too late. Don't just focus on fast but expensive mounted units or a long-ranged army of crossbowmen if you want to take down enemy soldiers before they can even reach your lines. Generally, you need a mixed, balanced force to deal with any force unless you learn what your enemy's up to.
Gather intelligence. Make good use of your spies, rogues, and assassins. Uncover your enemy's secret agreements against you and set up your own to leech their resources. Subterfuge plays a huge part in this game, and you may build a huge army only to find your economy wholly crippled when you march off to war.
This last tip will be the hardest to follow: try to strike multiple places at once. Keeping all of your forces together isn't usually the best strategy. Your border towns are especially vulnerable, so at least keep some guardsmen around them to fend off enemy armies until your own can arrive. Check your opponent's defenses whenever you can by sending out one or two units at a time. At the very least, you'll distract your opponent from more important matters.
Single and Multiplayer Modes
As with almost any other game out there, you'll definitely want to play through the game's tutorials and single player campaign long before you head over to multiplayer. The A.I. isn't terribly clever, and you'll have enough freedom to learn the game's basics before testing yourself against much more difficult human players.
However, good luck finding a multiplayer match. I tried automatching, but there didn't seem to be enough players online to make it worthwhile. There were a few game lobbies set up, but A Game of Thrones: Genesis simply isn't popular enough to nurture a multiplayer community. Then again, it's been out for less than a month, so Cyanide might be able to attract more players if they address some of the community's underlying concerns.
These units in A Game of Thrones: Genesis use diplomacy and subterfuge to help you secure the map, often without shedding a single drop of blood.
Envoys form the basis of your diplomatic efforts, and you should focus on hiring an envoy or two at the beginning of each game to rapidly expand the number of towns and castles allied to you. Outside of the campaign, alliances will weaken over time. You may also use envoys to expel enemy envoys trying to win over your buildings to their cause.
Spies, on the other hand, work behind the scenes to undermine enemy alliances, uncover cloaked units, and check your own buildings and units for corruption. A cloaked unit itself, a spy can sneak into enemy territory and create secret agreements with enemy towns and castles, earning you 50% of the building's normal income and denying your enemy any income at all. The best part? Your enemies won't realize what's happening unless they use their own spies to uncover secret agreements. You want to periodically check for corruption as often as possible so that it doesn't happen to you.
Noble ladies play a more nuanced role. Available only your great lord is married, marry your noble ladies off to allied buildings to cement your alliances. Towns with noble ladies in them are diplomatically secure, so enemy envoys can't win them over. Such a building generates an additional 50% income. Noble ladies can also seduce enemy units except for great lords. Such units will work in your favor, but your enemies will still think they're working for them.
Merchants begin to automatically trade between your feudal home and towns and gold mines once you're allied. Towns are limited to one merchant and gold mines to two. If you lose your merchants, you can hire more, and you definitely want to since it's the only way to generate sufficient funds.
Rogues undermine your opponents as well but in a very open manner. Use rogues to foment uprisings in enemy towns, rendering them all but useless until your enemy sends guardsmen to quash the rebels. Rogues may also use gold to buy off enemy units, essentially performing the same function as the noble lady's seduction ability.
Peasants can harvest crops to build up your food stores, necessary if you're going to focus on producing a large standing army.
Maesters can heal friendly units.
You'll want to focus almost exclusively on non-fighting units in the first few minutes of the game, but you can't win on charisma alone. Producing "underhand" units early on can hinder your opponent's progress, provide you with extra income and vision, and protect you against your enemy's moves. While you probably won't be able to win a game with these fighting units alone, they'll give you a basic defense.
Guardsmen protect individual units, like your great lord or noble ladies. They can also defend towns and castles, or you can use them in a limited role on the battlefield. if you can catch enemy units like assassins, guardsmen can arrest them and send the prisoners back to your feudal home, where your enemies can ransom them off.
Assassins kill lone units, but don't send them against guardsmen or armies. While cloaked, they can only be seen by ravens and enemy spies. You can use assassins in conjunction with spies to slip past enemy guardsmen to murder protected units in enemy towns. Also, spies can infiltrate enemy feudal homes to pose as assassins. Your enemy will think the assassin has done his job, but your units will actually return to your feudal home with your enemy knowing about it.
Mercenaries are relatively cheap and moderately effective fighting units. They don't require a stable source of food like armies, but their loyalty is forever in question.
Men-at-arms are good against guardsmen but poor against bowmen.
Bowmen are good against men-at-arms but poor against knights.
Knights are good against bowmen but poor against guardsmen.
When matters turn from bad to worse, you'll want a large army. Unlike mercenaries, army units also require food, which you can harvest with peasants. However, don't ignore spies, envoys, and other units once war is declared. You still need to keep your economy going even in the midst of battle.
Men-at-arms are your basic foot soldiers. They're great for laying siege to towns.
Strengths: pikemen, horsemen
Weaknesses: bowmen, crossbowmen, knights
Pikemen are generally weak in battle, but they're very effective against mounted units.
Strengths: horsemen, knights
Weaknesses: men-at-arms, bowmen, crossbowmen
Bowmen perform well against slow moving units.
Strengths: men-at-arms, pikemen, crossbowmen
Weaknesses: horsemen, knights
Crossbowmen, on the other hand, excel against armored targets.
Strengths: men-at-arms, knights
Horsemen easily run down ranged units, but don't send them against armored units.
Strengths: bowmen, crossbowmen
Weaknesses: men-at-arms, pikemen, knights
Knights are arguably the strongest unit in the game, but they aren't without counter units.
Strenghts: men-at-arms, bowmen, horsemen
Weaknesses: pikemen, crossbowmen
Clearly, no one unit will win battles on its own. There's nothing more frustrating than investing most of your resources into a strong mounted army only to realize that your enemy's protected by a number of pikemen. Gathering intelligence on your enemy's armies cna help you build the appropriate counters, but if you can't find out what your opponent is up to, simply build a few of each unit so you won't be completely defenseless.
Commanders are the final type of army unit. While commanders can't do much on their own, they provide powerful buffs to surrounding units. If you purchase upgrades, you can give them a very helpful healing buff to keep your units at peak performance.
Play to Win
Unlike other popular strategy games like Starcraft 2 and Company of Heroes, the vast majority of A Game of Thrones: Genesis matches are very short, generally lasting between 15-20 minutes. I won't go into detail here why such short battles don't fit in with the epic feel of the books, but players have to understand that they don't have any time to spare in getting their economies up and running. In an average team game in either of those other RTS titles, getting a slow start doesn't necessarily spell doom for your team. Because Genesis games tend to be so short, a slow start almost always means defeat.
It's not a game which favors turtle tactics. Genesis favors bold moves even if that boldness is completely underhanded. Don't focus on just diplomacy, subterfuge, or large scale battles. Prepare for all three, and you'll conquer Westeros more quickly than Aegon himself.
- Cyanide. A Game of Thrones Genesis. Focus Home Interactive, 2011. Microsoft Windows.