Episode 111: Hear Me Roar!

111: Hear Me Roar!

Release Date: Sept. 20, 2010

Running Time:  190 min.

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Winter is coming. In our first Book Club episode, we discuss A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; then we play and review the board game and the card game based on the novel. Are they worthy of Westeros?

News & Notes: HBO TV series, web resources
Book Club: In-depth discussion of A Game of Thrones
The List:  A Game of Thrones: The Board Game 
The List:  A Game of Thrones: The Living Card Game

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

News & Notes

HBO Series: A Game of Thrones Official Site

Coming in 2011, a 10 episode series based on the first novel in Martin's epic fantasy series. The series is currently in production in Northern Ireland and Malta and stars Sean Bean (Eddard), Lena Headey (Cersei), and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion). Check out the teasers listed below. Written and produced by David Benioff and D.B Weiss.

Great Game of Thrones Web Resources


Tower of the Hand

Making Game of Thrones

Winter Is Coming

George R. R. Martin's Site

Book Club

A Game of Thrones Forum Discussion


The List

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Official Site | BGG

In this game, you take on the mantle of one of the noble houses of Westeros. Rally your troops to conquer and hold regions with cities and strongholds. Problem is, you'l almost always need help from others to acheive your goals.

A Game of Thrones: The Living Card Game Official Site | BGG

Each deck in the game represents a major family from the novel.  Use plots, titles, and characters to issue challenges (military, power, and intrigue). Chapter packs and expansions make the decks extremely customizable and create many paths to victory.


Music credits include:

Hilario Abad - A Game of Thrones Score

Composer and filmmaker Hilario Abad has set himself the task of creating an original orchestral score to A Game of Thrones. To hear complete versions of the selections you heard on the show, check out  his web site. Selections include:

Queen Cersei

Leaving Winterfell

Arya's Incursion

Bran's Fall / The Things I Do For Love


Five Direwolves and a Ghost

Hear Me Roar

Joffrey's Verdict

The Tournament

Medieval Knight


I'm sure there are some goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!


 An epic show - you didn't just walk from Kings Landing to Winterfell, you walked all the way back again.

For me it was a refreshing, and interesting, change of pace to have the majority of the show taken over to a book discussion. You guys should start a 'Book Podcast'.

I had some thoughts on the observations you made but have posted them over in the discussion thread.

I had to laugh to see that Sean Bean has taken the role of Ned Stark. He'll be bumped off at the end of the first series and not get to star in any of the latter parts. It's like Boromir all over again - just as things are hotting up his contract expires.


Your take on the Game of Thrones boardgame pretty much resonates with my experience. I played it once, many moons ago, before I read the book and I thought it was merely ok. Having read the novels I'd be happy to play again but only because it a familiar setting not a cool implementation.

The card game on the other hand sounds intriguing (multiple puns intended).

I think the crux of the matter - and you hit the nail on the head - is that A Game of Thrones is not a book about war. It is a book about people. Which makes me wonder if "Battles or Westeros" will really resonate with the Song of Fire and Ice crowd.


Anyway, great great stuff. Do it again!

It's pretty obvious, I am in my element talking about books. This was a lot of fun. We would need a few more pledge drives before I can find the time to start a separate book show, though! Or you need to invent a time compression machine that can allow me to do twice the amount of work in the same number of hours. Even with tons of advance preparation, this first book show nearly did me in! Not to worry, we'll do it again, but probably just 1 a year.

Bean has a found a new typecasting niche: the likable guy who dies too soon.

I've heard from other Spielers (including this good post on the BGG Guild) that  the expansions do a much better job of bringing more of Westeros into the board game.

As you said so well, I think my problem is that the novels are not really books about war. Absolutely there is a military component, but these conflicts serve as a vehicle for understanding the characters, not as a straightforward chronicle of historical events. Trying to boil the game down to a wargame of any sort seems to miss much of the point of the story, no matter how well implemented. Square peg meet round hole.


Thanks for the great show! I loved those books, although I had to stop so long ago (waiting for the last set of books) that I think I need to read them again. Anyway, I write to disagree, at least a bit (or a lot?), with your comment about the theme in the game. To me, it felt very thematic and very well tied to the story in the book(s).

  • While it's true that the books aren't exactly about war, they are about intrigue: secret alliances, sudden betrayals, etc. The series is a game of Diplomacy come to life, in a world with some magic thrown in. As in the books, no house can hope to win completely by itself: any (secret) alliance will prevail. I don't know whether or not your games had alliances; it sounded like you didn't.
  • Battles and wars play a significant role in the story. People die, although a few key characters manage to somehow stay alive and fight again.
  • The battle mechanic -- compairing strengths/support and adding your character secretly -- is something of a psychological game where you try to figure out what they will commit and therefore what you should; that fits very well with the feel of the books.
  • The Wildlings are a bogeyman in the books; not fleshed out until later, if I am remembering correctly. While it might have been nice if more had been done with them in the game, I think the mechanism works well: an external, poorly defined threat that will usually hurt you if you ignore it completely.
  • One minor bit: remember how an army suddenly appeared way up in the north? I remember thinking how odd that was when i read it. The game, though, allows for exactly that type of sudden movement by ship convoy. Not a new mechanism, really, but just one that I thought went well with the books.
  • As you said, they are physically differentiated only by their house cards -- they otherwise all have the same number of units/power available. However, I think they all play differently: not because they have some special power, but because of their position on the board. Some have more access to power, some to supply, etc. Some have more territories adjacent. Some have more enemies nearby. The starting positions -- in terms of units on the board (army/navy), geographic location, and positions on the three power tracks (iron throne, valerian blade, raven) -- are all different and that in and of itself forces houses to behave differently. From what I remember, the play styles also reflected house actions in the books; but I can't remember (it's been a long time since I've played) if that was because reading the books made us act that way, or if it was the setup, or both.

OK, enough for now. Looking forward to the next one...!

My gaming group went through a solid period of infatuation with the AGOT boardgame several years ago.  We were tabling it up every chance we got, and also managed to play through a rather involved PBEM version (so much fun, but utterly life destroying, filled with cross talk, emailing, texting, phone calls, etc for several weeks).  

Unfortunately, this was way before I'd managed to read any of the books (I've since read them all), so I had absolutely no perspective as to how well the theme mapped to the game.  However, despite this lack of knowledge, the differences between the houses quickly gelled for our group.  Like Diplomacy, there were seems to be "standard" openings, typical alliances, midgame backstabbing, etc, but part of the fun is stepping outside the "typical", exploring different approaches.   Only later, after I'd read the books did I truly appreciate how the playing styles for the different houses really mapped to the houses in the books.

I think the designer(s) did a fantastic job of melding a tricked out version of Diplomacy with the overarching themes from the books.  It's not perfect (indeed, the consensus seems to be that the base game is broken, and must be played with the 1st expansion), but it offered hours and hours of fun, and still hits the table occasionally.

I tried the card game at a local con a few years ago, and frankly wasn't all that excited about it... and this was after I'd read the books.  Perhaps this is due to my general aversion towards the CCG (or even living) style game, which I've personally found to be intimidating and unapproachable due to their open ended nature (those who buy more cards/packs tend to do better.)  I recall that I felt the game was pretty chaotic.  However, after listening to your review, I think I'll have to re-investigate this one...

I have heard the expansions address many of the thematic elements I see as missing in the base game.

I do agree that geography does dictate alliance and subterfuge to some extent and that does play out in the books, but it seems to me that the houses themselves should have more game elements or attributes beyond simply where they start on the map.

 Nuns on the Run ?


In what way does sheep='on the run' ?????

Am I missing an Americanism?

To "take it on the lam" is American slang dating from the 1920's and 30's meaning to flee hoping that whoever you're trying to get away from doesn't notice you leaving until you're long gone. Rent an old gangster epic with Edward G. Robinson or Jimmy Cagney and it'll probably pop up. In games, it's a handy card to have in that classic all time world beater of a light zap card game, Family Business, still  firmly on my top ten since 1984.

Not that recognizing the pun on lamb made that answer any less irritating, mind you...



Gregory beat me to the punch with his great explanation. I'll add only this little tidbit:

The Thesaurus of American Slang proclaim that lam, lamister, and "on the lam" — all referring to a hasty departure — were common in thieves' slang before the turn of the Twentieth century. Mencken quotes a newspaper report on the origin of 'lam' which actually traces it indirectly back to Shakespeare's time.

"Its origin should be obvious to anyone who runs over several colloquial phrases for leavetaking, such as 'beat it' and 'hit the trail'. The allusion in 'lam' is to 'beat,' and 'beat it' is Old English, meaning 'to leave.' During the period of George Ade's 'Fables in Slang' (1900), cabaret society delight in talking slang, and 'lam' was current. Like many other terms, it went under in the flood of new usages of those days, but was preserved in criminal slang. A quarter of a century later it reappeared."

See, it's the Brits you need to blame. Not us Yanks!

Forgive me for forgetting my Olde English.

I am anaspeptic, phrasmotic even compunctious to have caused you such periconbobulations

I loved the book review and I look forward to the next time you do it again.  I have recently been talking to my brother who has read "A Game of Thrones" and I have been on the fence about reading it.  Your discussion has really pushed me into picking it up, especially after hearing the quote from your college professor.  I know I would be better served to turn off the computer and read a book, creating balance in life is the hardest thing to achieve!

Just drag yourselves out of the muck and read."

Dr. Samuel Longmire was a beloved literature professor of mine and he closed every class with this thought. He taught me a great deal about how to dissect a text and still be able to enjoy it.

Glad to hear his words can still inspire new readers to action! :)

Have fun with the book.

Hmm. Wonder how much this counts toward the final grade? Shouldn’t have stayed up all night getting buzzed and playing RKR the night before an exam. Jeepers, if Prof Conway finds out I’ve been slacking off class to hang out in the parking lot with those bad kids from Andy Looney High School, he’ll blow a gasket for sure. Where are my shades? Now if I just slouch way down in my desk here and turn my collar up. Yeah, that’s inconspicuous. Smooooth.

Whose story? I thought it was an ensemble piece although Jon Snow, Daenerys and Tyrion seem to be closest to the events that ultimately drive the plot. Too many eraser marks there. Wonder if I can combine it with this next question- lessee, technique of shifting between characters, hmm. Aside from being a necessity with this many characters, it’s an old technique to generate suspense- leaving one storyline at a pivotal moment to check in on the others. It works brilliantly for the first novel but kills the successor stone dead as it reveals how painfully the story is being stretched. We return to characters to find their stories still stuck at almost the same point as the book treads water. Which is a shame really; I still think that the trilogy originally announced- or even the series of five later claimed- might have been more compelling. Hang on- pencil broke. Spare pencil, spare pencil- what? No just looking for my spare pencil. I was not looking at Steerpike’s paper! No! Sheesh… Well, I’m insulted that you would even think… Wish I’d thought of it though. Too late now, hmm…Why does Martin attack the time tested tropes? Because let’s face it “time tested tropes” can be just a nicer way of saying “hackneyed clichés” and Martin, always an absolutely ferocious writer, really seems to want to walk confidently up to the safe and cozy fantasy genre and rip its fanboy throat out. More power to him. See when you get right down to it, the time-tested tropes of fantasy are, in and of themselves, wearing so thin as to be downright two-dimensional by now. That's what kept Asprin and Pratchett in work. The works regarded as classics got there because, behind the wands and wolves, they are about something real. What? Gum. No. No- I- didn’t- bring enough- for- the- whole- class. Yes- sir. Sorry- sir. Grr. Where wuzzeh? The Lord of the Rings is about the temptations of power and the inevitable loss of innocence that comes in war even if you win. (Peter Jackson aside, Faramir’s original speech and the scouring of the Shire were in there for a reason. In fact, they’re kind of the whole point.) Gormenghast is about the inevitable decay of empire and class system. His Dark Materials is an angry protest of religious indoctrination of the young; the Narnia books are religious indoctrination of the young. Dune, which despite being across the border in science fiction offers a closer cousin to Martin’s feverish and brutal courtly intrigue, is a meditation on the political origins of religion and the nature of imperialism especially as regards the middle east. A Game of Thrones is less concerned with this sort of subtext although it has something to say about the disconnect between the fairy tales we imagine of ourselves and the more frightening creatures we can actually be. This gives the book a powerful vortex-like structure, inexorably spiraling down to the fate of Eddard Stark. When that axe falls though, that point has been made as strongly as it can be and the subsequent books either need to get down to the business of pure storytelling or develop another dimension to sustain the amount of time the reader is being asked to invest. If the nihilistic deconstruction of good and evil (there’s five points of extra credit right there, ha!) continues to be the main point, the hard edges eventually feel a bit gratuitous as things settle down into a well written but increasingly conventional fantasy soap opera only with more explicit sex, language and violence. Come to think of it, of course, it’s perfect as an HBO show although I do wonder how they’re planning to deal with the ages of some of the characters involved. It’s True Blood with swords; it’s Deadwood & Dragons. Nothing at all wrong with that, mind you, but without that subtext, it ain’t Tolkien or Herbert; not yet anyway. On reflection, though, I don’t think it wants to be. It’s just a extremely well-told story with a nihilistic outlook and a hard R-rating in a genre that tends to be more timid than that and this discussion almost encourages me to try again, to climb that big paper mountain, to find that compelling idea. (Mind you the opposite transition in which an amiable piece of popcorn fluff suddenly decides that it must have importance, weight and subtext can be equally annoying. See Lucas, George.) What, sir? No sir, can't sir! Conjunctivitis, sir! I'm being very brave to be here. The fantasy trope Martin seemed unable to escape was less the medieval setting (and that is a tough one- how about Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or the novels of Tim Powers like The Anubis Gates? Harry Potter isn’t exactly medieval but then younger readers can go to Oz or through The Phantom Tollbooth or to any of hundreds of wonderful places) than the unending series measuring its importance by how many inches it takes up on the shelf because, by Gandalf, JRR wrote three so that’s the standard minimum now. What? Nothing. No I’m not passing notes – I’m just- it’s a doodle, it’s nothing it- it- it’s the lomphfrmyrkbnd- I said it’s the logo for my rock band! Okay maybe not but I will one day and- and they’ll be really great and I’ll be able to buy this school and we’ll turn it into a really cool place where the kids can you know just hang out! Oh sh- no sir. Sorry sir. Thank you sir. How much time left? Thanks. But really, in fewer pages than Martin has given us so far James Joyce not only got to “riverrun” first but showed us the unspoken mind of humanity. Tolstoy gave us the Revolution and subsequent peace. Conan Doyle gave us the entire career of Holmes and Watson from post-collegiate meeting to doddering beekeeperhood and Herbert told the culture and history of a alien planet on a geologic scale culminating in the rise of the Emperor Worm. And Martin’s only a little over halfway finished. The only rivals he’s got at this point for sheer volume devoted to a single story are Alexander Dumas (pere), Marcel Proust and, well, other fantasy novelists. Think about it George! Robert Jordan died, Mervyn Peake lost his faculties and Philip Pullman went a bit squidgy halfway through the third book. Writing a neverending story (ooh! Was that medieval? Can’t remember. Damn, I need more coffee…) is asking for trouble. I mean I shouldn’t have been assigned this in a single semester, especially when I’m in Professor Coleson’s probability class at the same time. And I know those dice he used in the final were loaded. What dragged me into the book? The same thing that will no doubt one day drag me back to try to finish them- Martin; the man's an evil genius. But really how can a writer like that so completely lose control of his content and waffle on and on until- oh. Excuse me sir? Could I have some more paper? 

 Hey Gregory - you're still going to Prof Coleson's probability class ? I gave that one up after the first semester when it became clear that he lost every roll.

And as for Prof Conway's lessons I would have got an A+ grade if you weren't sitting behind me lobbing curve balls at the back of my head.


I do politely disagree as to your assessment of the second book. Maybe you spilt ink over it. I agree that it does feel a little like 'treading water' - in some ways it has that 'Two Towers' in between feel - but I think the central theme of what happens in the face of a power void and, specifically, the way it causes individuals to change (often in a bad way), does hold a fascination.

I've not finished it, yet, but I'm finding it an equally compelling tale.

Of course everything pales into insignificance next to the mighty Gormenghast. When are we going to get that board game???


Is it time for PE yet?

I never hurled curve balls sir! That's a vicious slander, that is, sir! (Shut up, man; you'll get me suspended... again...) It- it- was Moody, sir! My real problem with the probability class was getting the same "roll call" joke every single morning as if we'd never heard it before.

As I say, I would like to give the books another chance; it has been a while but I remember just not being able to get around the sudden drastic change in the pacing.

And yes, Gormenghast the game would be fantastic. I mull over an idea from time to time that would use the disappearing board trick used in things like Save Dr. Lucky, Survive or Forbidden Island as the backdrop for the chase between Titus and Steerpike as the castle floods at the end of book two. Since we've come to it, I'd love to know your take on Titus Alone. There's a fragment of writing between Prunesquallor and the Countess as well and its a sad little thing, characters waiting for their creator to come back and explain everything yet vaguely aware that they have penetrated as deep into reality as will be allowed. I think it's on the shelf over there- look... no higher...


(innocently whistling while looking at the ceiling)


Your posts are beginning to make me think you're channeling James Joyce. :)

I'll reserve judgement on Martin's overall themes and ideology until the series can be read as a whole. I get the impression he's writing the kind of fantasy he wanted to read and couldn't find. He is certainly concerned with the overall epic hanging together as a tale well told, but I think he's up to more than simply keeping the pot boiling until the big finish.

FYI: Coleson's class is an easy A, as long as you have dice for bribes...

Listeners should know one thing: the current card game is different from the original trading card game. I don't know how much, but it is different -- for example, I don't remember anything about the 6 roles that you guys mentioned on the show.


Hmmm... that's something I guess I didn't pickup on in the show.  I tried the CCG awhile back, but was annoyed the the CCGness of it... having to collect different decks, etc.  Now I definitely need to look at the LCG... 

 Just a short comment:


Best show ever! Surpassing the Spiel des Spiel Episodes.


I am looking forward to you discussing the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire books. You will do that? Right? Please!

Thanks very much!

I'm not sure if we'll devote another show  to discussing the other books some time in the future. It might be interesting to do a follow up once the series is finished and talk about the whole story, especially since we can compare it with our impressions from book 1 by itself.

I was hoping to have read the book in time for the show - I have in fact had to book on reserve at the library for 6-8 months.  Turns out, it's so popular, that I'm still a ways down on the waiting list.  You guys definitely increased my want to read it (perhaps I'll hit the book store at lunchtime today  I hit the bookstore today and bought their only copy)

As for the game, I've watched it being played, but never had an oportunity to play it myself.


You'll have to do "Pillars of the Earth" next

I owned the "Pillars of the Earth" game and played it many times beforre reading the book and it was great - after reading the book, the game just came alive.  I then got "Pillars of the Earth: Builders Duel" and found it even more thematic.  Having read the book, put persoanlities to the character names and you understood the love, hatred and other interactions of the characters. (I'm now in the middle of wathcing the Pillars mini series)