Buy Cyvasse Board
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Cyvasse is a board game which originated in Volantis, and spread through many of the other Free Cities. Due to Dorne's heavy trade contacts with the Free Cities, it recently spread there as well, starting in the first year of King Joffrey Baratheon's reign. It first arrived in the port at Planky Town, then spread up the Greenblood River valley. The game is all the rage in House Martell's court at Sunspear. It has not yet spread to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, though soon after Tywin Lannister's death, the game is newly introduced to the capital, and Margaery Tyrell and her handmaidens are observed trying to learn the rules. The game is popular among both highborn and lowborn, and there are Cyvasse parlors in Volantis.
buy cyvasse board
During the sea voyage from Pentos, one of Tyrion's new companions, Haldon Halfmaester, teaches him the game; he quickly becomes an expert player. He plays it often in the fifth novel against various people, and mostly wins. His is careful to learn what his adversary's overall strategy is, offensive or defensive, then play accordingly. During the slave auction, he brags about his cyvasse skills as a selling point, and indeed wins a lot of money for his new master Yezzan. Tyrion also uses cyvasse to play a meta-game with his opponents, to learn their personalities and real-life strategies. When the sellsword "Young Griff" (actually, Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar and Elia) played against Tyrion, he boldly committed all of his powerful pieces from the beginning - from which Tyrion deduced that he was brash, arrogant, and easy to lure into a trap. In contrast, when the sellsword Brown Ben Plumm played against Tyrion, his style was entirely reactive, cautiously playing to survive instead of to win - an accurate reflection of Ben's character, as the sellsword switched sides twice (from Daenerys Targaryen to Yunkai, then back again) depending on who he thought was more likely to win, because he was more concerned with ending up alive at the end.
George R.R. Martin described the board game as loosely a cross between Chess, Stratego, and Blitzkrieg. Martin did not, however, develop a full set of rules for the game, instead advising fans to take elements from these other three games, then "mix well and add imagination".
Martin actually said that he intentionally didn't develop a full set of rules for cyvasse: he compared this to the old advice that writers are not usually songwriters as well, so if they want to include a character in their book who is master-songwriter, they should only describe the character as "a master-songwriter", not attempt to invent songs to quote within the book - nothing they invent will live up to the level of ability their character is supposed to have within the story. Similarly, Martin explained, he is a writer but not a board game designer. In real life, Chess has been a classic game of strategy for centuries - popular among common people but also a masterful exercise for professional players. Cyvasse is the equal of Chess within Westeros and Essos - but Martin said that in reality he isn't actually capable of designing an entirely new board game the equal of Chess. Therefore, he simply described cyvasse as a Chess-like game, but doesn't feel he is capable of ever producing a full set of official rules for it (though he did encourage fans to make up their own if they want).
The game is played by two players, usually one using white pieces and the other black pieces. Somewhat like Stratego, each player actually sets up their own side of the board before the game begins, allowing them to position several obstacles such as mountains. Dragons can "fly over" mountain pieces. A screen is put between the two players when they are setting up so they can't see what the other side is doing, but the screen is taken away when the game starts (in Stratego, neither player can see the identity of the other player's pieces, and thus a player can position landmine pieces in strategic positions). Players take turns moving apparently one piece for one move each turn.
The details here are amazing. Each piece is hand-drawn and laser engraved. The board and pieces have been hand-finished and waxed for protection. The 88 board has a screen, 66 land tiles, 46 player pieces, and two different sets of rules. This is going to kill it on game night.
Case in point is a board game designed by Michael Le Page, medical scientist and PhD student by day, board game enthusiast and Game of Thrones fan by night. Inspired by a Cyvasse set that appeared on Thingiverse last year, he decided to make his own.
His set, therefore, looks quite different to the traditional square board seen in games like chess, draughts and previous versions of Cyvasse. The board is hexagonal, with three different colours of hex on the grid -- neatly hollowed out so the pieces can slot in, a design choice born of cutting costs by minimising the amount of print material required.
The finished set, available on Shapeways, comes in at a total of $304 (AU$322, 179) plus shipping for the board and each of the two sets of pieces. You can read more about the development of the rules on the Westeros forum, and take a closer look at the set in the video below.