A Song Of Ice & Fire, Free Folk Starter Set – Project Complete

Here Comes The King Beyond The Wall

In Glorious Contrast Colors

If you have read any of my articles or seen any of my YouTube videos, you will undoubtedly know for certain that I don’t need any more models to paint. Ryan surely knows this, as he gives me shit regularly for indiscriminately adding to my pile of shame. He helped me count said shame for a video last summer. 

Well, that (wonderful) bastard, fully knowing I don’t need any more model debt, asked if I would be interested in trying the Game of Thrones miniature game. 

Amazing art for the Savage Giants from A Song of Ice and Fire Miniature Game; Art by Filipe Pagliuso, copyright CMON (I assume)

What kind of question is that? Of course I do.

First off, I was corrected, the game is based on the A Song of Ice and Fire books that the Game of Thrones show was based on (then surpassed, and ultimately took a kindly shit on, but I will leave that for a later article). Ryan gave me a rundown of the forces available.

Oh, the choices. 

Questionable Life Choices

In the standard of “That’s Tyson. He makes bad decisions”, I settled on the Free Folk and the Nights Watch for two main reasons. First, my dangerous mind likes to have narratives planned out. So having two obvious story based adversaries makes the kind of sense that leads me to have big plans and hobby debt. Second, I could buy a winter gaming mat, and make a few pieces of snow covered terrain and call it done. That was the plan anyway.

Most of an army, the rules, cards, dice and terrain to play with all in one lil’ box
They slot right back into their trays after painting, no need for expensive foam cases

Kera ultimately consented to let me invest in yet another fuckin game, but only if Ryan ordered guys first. Haha. That woman is smart! Except that I informed Ryan of this, he immediately placed an order. Needless to say, I find myself with more hobby debt. Free Folk were on the way. 

But, wait! Don’t keep us in suspense! What about the Brothers In Black?  Well. Kera proclaimed something along the lines of, “Wait, I can have dragons!?” and all of a sudden a Targaryen starter set was on the way instead. Don’t worry yourselves fearless readers, I am sure The Watch will happen eventually. 


Why the free folk, you ask? Wow. The bone clad, pelt wearing savages are people too, you know? Honestly, it was the thought of Giants and Mammoths rampaging around and squishing the shiny assholes in armor on the other side of the board. Simple as that. 

The box arrived with a haste that only Amazon can muster. In a fortuitous change of pace, the models come assembled. AWESOME! I am halfway there. I got to priming them in Mechanicus Standard Gray followed by a top town zenithal style priming with Gray Seer. It was only after I primed them all, twice, that the realization dawned on me: I didn’t clean up the mold lines. Regardless, I launched into a few intense contrast paint sessions. I used various browns, a gray or two and Black Templar for only a few bits so as to keep the colors as natural as possible. Once the contrast was dry, an all-over drybrush of Pallid Wych Flesh was applied, to bring out the details and bring the whole unit together. After this the bases were painted dark brown and some matching dead looking tufts of tundra grass. 

To finish the models, I used Valhallan Blizzard for the first time in my hobby career. Damn, that shit looks so much like snow. Has that puffy fresh snow look when applied thick, and that slushy look when applied thinly. It looks particularly great when applied in both manners across the base, amongst the tufts. Lastly, to finish the unit, the movement trays were airbrushed the same brown as the bases, and the same tufts and fake snow was applied to them after painting white into the forward facing arrow and facing indicators in the corners. 

Having not been invested in this game for multiple decades(like 40K), I was not stuck on a particular painting style or detail level, and was thrilled to quickly paint them up with contrast. I wasn’t expecting this to be my new favorite game, and I didn’t want to spend months painting an army when I could spend days. I am happy with that decision and satisfied with the result. Quick and dirty was fine for me. 

The next thing I knew, the starter set was done, and just in time to try the game out for the first time. Guess whose army had Freshly-Painted-Models Syndrome?


There are a lot of things I like about the A Song of Ice and Fire game. It’s quick and easy, concise without being simple, and pretty damn mean. It plays well and it was a joy. Oh, and it’s the cheapest wargame I have ever entered into.

My first thought was that the ASOIAF game ( I am simply not going to type the whole name too many more times) is like a rank and file game for people who don’t hate themselves, too much anyway. A lot of the tedium of a rank and file game is gone. Wheel a unit around on its center point, ignore other units while it turns about, so long as it doesn’t end on top of another unit: the warriors in the unit will avoid walking through a group of enemies. 

Two units of Raiders
Two Raider attachment characters, which end up being free upgrades for Raiders

Another thing that makes the game move fast is the small number of units. This allows alternating activations to feel less cumbersome. The unit cards also make life easy, as the attacks that are listed on it indicate how many attack dice to roll and what number they need to roll to hit. The number of dice rolled is determined by how many ranks of models are left; even a partial row counts as a full rank. Unit sizes are standard: infantry units have three ranks of four models, while cavalry units have two ranks of two models. With only the model representing King Stannis, he himself standing there looking worried, dick in the wind by himself, he got to make a number of attacks as if the whole front rank of archers were there. It seemed a little silly at that point but the game plays well for it.

Speaking of Stannis. Characters are handled as upgrades for units. King Stannis, or in my game, Tormund Giantsbane are not running around causing mayhem on their own. This is not Warhammer and these characters are men, not superhumans, magically endowed sorcerers, or monsters. Both named characters, and simple unit upgrades called Attachments work this way. Tormund allows the unit he is in to charge after their melee opponent is dead, Jaime Lannister counterattacks by turning each passed armor save into a hit against the original attacker and the Mountain kills a few models automatically in melee before the unit he is in attacks. You pay for the character or attachment, and then they take the place of one of the models in the unit in the front rank. 

trappers, with both ranged and melee attacks
Characters, both combat and non-combat units.

I made the mistake of thinking the game is too simple; I didn’t adequately prepare for my first game. I paid for it. To be fair, it was a rough week at work. Because it’s not cumbersome, I was able to take it quickly though. I found the Game of Thrones board to be a spectacular addition. 

While combat characters alter how a unit fights, I spent as much on non-combat units as I did raiders for my free folk. Instead of activating a unit, you can activate a non-combat character to take one of five spots on the side of the game board representing the political battles going on. Some of these characters have additional rules that happen in addition to that of the spot they selected. While others have to replace the rules on the gameboard. Either way they have a huge impact on the game; I kept losing models to failed morale and Craster kept bringing them back for me. 

I was impressed with just how few rules the game makes use of to make the units feel different. There are literally only a few conditions that get applied during combat and each unit can fit all their rules on one side of their card. Turns out it’s just enough, the game doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae; no one is going to live long enough. 

These guys are great on the table.
I want more giants.

So the most immediate, and probably obvious thing, about the A Song of Ice and Fire game is that it is as absolutely fucking brutal as you would expect. Every ability could just be labeled “Fuck you”, have a picture of a middle finger, and it would feel about the same. Every tactics card feels like a punch to the gut. There are only a few tactics card per army, and you get multiples of each, on top of which each commander adds three additional cards of their own. These cards often feel like being kicked while you’re down, and can even make what you hope will be a small victory turn into a punishment. Whomever gets to the victory point goal first, or whomever has the most after 6 turns wins the game. 

While ASOIAF will never take the top priority in my gaming headspace, it has certainly already shown me that it is perfect for a quick shit-kicking game after a day of work. Its fast and fun, as well as brutal and beautifully realized. It feels like the world of Westeros leapt off the page and onto my gaming table. 

Too bad I feel like the Mountain got ‘hold of me and squished my eyes out… 


One of the best parts of the A Song of Ice and Fire game is how they handle the expansions. Want another unit for your army? Just buy the box. One box, to be specific. Each box comes with a complete unit entry, a movement tray if applicable and the unit card featuring the rules. Oh, speaking of the rules! Wait, no. We’ll get back to that one. It’s a relief to know that you do not need multiple boxes to fill in a unit. Grab a box and you are ready to play it. 

Immediately, I set upon ordering some War Mammoths, giddy at the idea of a stampeding Snuffleupagus crushing Lannisters and Baratheons. And I figured some Bear Rider cavalry was in order to handle the cavalry that was likely to be charging straight at my cowardly folk from beyond the wall. 

Angry ladies, with spears, on polar bears? Sign me up.
These guys, plus the giants were my first draw to the army

As if I have nothing to do but waste my free time, I found out that the included rule book that came with the Free Folk Starter set was out of date. The current rulebook is free on the web and so are the replacement cards, but I chose to order the replacement card pack. After years of codex purchases for Warhammer, spending $20 on new cards seemed more than reasonable to update the 2021 rules. 

What’s next?

So, we all know I am a glutton for punishment and I am usually planning four or five projects into my hobby future. Well, this is just like any other time. I already have the Targaryen Starter set for Kera, and I am anxious to paint up the Dothraki riders. After that I will want some Unsullied and The Mother of Dragons set to get my wife’s army in a good place. After that I will work towards having a Nights Watch force painted up. Should be quick; how many shades of black can there possibly be?

A box of Cavalry awaits. And hopefully Dragons, soon…

My hopes for the game is that we will eventually get a White Walker army; I am not entirely sure how they would make it exciting and more than just an undead army with ice-headed commanders. But, I fuckin’ want it anyway. Until that day, I will just paint more horses and some frozen emo-music listening fuckers with swords.

Because, Winter is Coming.

And I definitely want more giants; the 2nd Character upgrade kit comes with two named Giants, Wun Wun and Mag the Mighty. I can’t wait to get them, because Mag can actually lead the army to battle.

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

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