A Boardgame of Thrones: War of the Four Kings
After the death of King Robert Baratheon, Westeros remained calm for only a short while before the lords Alyn Baratheon, Garys Stark, Petyr Lannister, and Steffon Tyrell began expanding their influence throughout the Seven Kingdoms. These lords were too busy mustering their troops to notice the Wildings testing the strength of The Wall. In fact, despite the fact that it was only a small band of Wildlings attempting to scale The Wall and cause chaos to the Night’s Watch, these four lords nearly failed in the protection of the realm because they had been too busy exerting their influence on the Iron Throne by manipulating the lesser lords of the King’s Court and imposing their will on their fiefdoms. Thankfully the lords Garys Stark and Petyr Lannister had some foresight and sent enough men to the Night’s Watch to repel the Wildling attack. After the Wildlings’ first attempt on entering Westeros failed, the war began proper.
It was not long before these warmongers gained the support from many of the cities and strongholds throughout Westeros. In the south, Lord Steffon held Highgarden, Oldtown, The Reach, and King’s Landing while Lord Petyr held the lands close to The Neck: Lannisport, Harrenhal, Riverrun, Pyke, and Seagard, which was also held by Lord Garys on few occasions. To the east of Tyrell’s forces, Lord Alyn held Dragonstone, Crackclaw Point, and Storm’s End, and in the north Lord Garys held Winterfell, White Harbor, Moat Cailin, and Flint’s Finger, which Steffon Tyrell had the pleasure of holding for some time before Petyr Lannister supported Garys Stark’s claim to it and helped Stark’s army take it for the King in the North.
The less experienced footman were unable to lend support in combat during the Rains of Autumn and in the following Storm of Swords the rival lords briefly held back their forces for fear that their defenses would not hold. Despite being able to muster forces often before the war began in earnest, less soldiers were inclined to follow their lords into battle as the War of the Four Kings dragged on, forcing these lordlings to bide their time and pray that there strongholds would not fall.
The war effort remained relatively close between Stark, Lannister, and Tyrell despite Lord Petyr Lannister’s apparent inability to recognize enemy support for lands in which he had hoped to conquer and bring under the rule of his golden fist. Luckily for him, more often than not when the battle was lost he was able to successfully fall back and hold onto the lands afforded him by his bannermen. It was a rare sight to see Petyr Lannister suffer casualties. These setbacks, however, caused Petyr to wonder at the validity of his claim to the Iron Throne. Such memorable defeats occurred at Flint’s Finger, held by Garys and supported not only by Stark’s host and ships but also by the ships of the insufferable Tyrells; at Crackclaw Point, held by Alyn Baratheon’s host, had support by his own ships as well as Steffon Tyrell’s armies.
In month eight of this bloody conflict Steffon unwittingly left his home of Highgarden unprotected so Lannister marched footmen into the Tyrell capital. Although Petyr had thought to try to hold onto Highgarden, Steffon had to quickly split his army to march back and reclaim it, lest Petyr Lannister validate his claim on the Iron Throne by having the support of the people in his seven cities and strongholds.
Finally, in the tenth month of war, these warring kings found the people once more enamored by the power of their lords’ hosts and once more did they swell the ranks of their lords’ armies in the hope of spreading their will across Westeros. Once more these self-stylized kings clashed and exerted much influence over the peoples of the Realm, and for the second time since they began warring did the Wildlings attack, though this time it was with much greater strength and numbers. This time the Great Houses were prepared; Garys, Petyr, and Steffon easily stopped the Wildlings from wreaking havoc throughout Westeros.
By this time Alyn Baratheon realized that the Red Priestess Melisandre’s words were false. He had burned his gods and taken up the sword for her god R’hollar, believing that his cause was just. He was losing the war, the kingdom, and possibly his home. However, there was little that he could do beside raiding two of Garys’s lands, preventing him from gaining additional influence and allowing Stark to support his own armies at Moat Cailin.
Though he was tempted to attack Garys at Moat Cailin, Petyr instead chose to strike once more at Flint’s Finger. Petyr Lannister finally saw the whole board, where each piece was and how to counter it. This time Petyr would not fail. Lannister’s armies were overwhelming for poor Garys Stark; the city fell and now Petyr held six cities and strongholds. The first part of his plan was a success so Petyr then turned his eyes on Crackclaw Point. The next phase of his plan was trickier, since it involved Baratheon being strong enough to hold off the advances of Tyrell’s host.
As Petyr Lannister saw it, even though Crackclaw Point itself was not well protected, it would be supported by Alyn Baratheon’s ships in Shipbreaker Bay and Steffon Tyrell’s armies at King’s Landing and in the Blackwater. Although Petyr already had six cities and strongholds and thus the better claim on the Iron Throne compared to the four cities that Steffon controlled, Steffon was prepared to take Storm’s End by way of Kingswood and intended to take Crackclaw Point himself by invading from King’s Landing with support in Blackwater. Should Steffon be successful in his conquest of both Storm’s End and Crackclaw Point he would have a stronger claim to the throne due to his great number of supplies he held in reserve.
Knowing that his armies in Harrenhal could not successfully invade Crackclaw Point and quickly end the war, Petyr instead invaded the Blackwater in the hope that by removing the support of Steffon’s footmen Tyrell would be unable to take Crackclaw Point from Alyn. As he expected, the Lannister host overran Tyrell’s footmen. Of course, in the game of thrones, you win or you die. Petyr chanced upon winning the Iron Throne by not attacking the city that, if he had been able to capture it, would give Petyr rightful control over all of Westeros.
Steffon attacked Alyn at Storm’s End, as all knew he had to do; he would not sit idly by and do nothing and let Petyr win the throne. Alyn’s pride would also not allow him to give up his lands to Tyrell without a fight and although both fought with their strongest generals, it was Steffon who was ultimately victorious in the sacking of Storm’s End. Next, Steffon invaded Crackclaw Point. It was a close battle, as all knew it would be. However, Petyr’s gambit pad off; without the support in Blackwater, Steffon was unable to take Crackclaw Point. There was no more that Tyrell could do to shift power away from Lannister and thus the War of the Four Kings was ended.
The Lords Baratheon, Stark, and Tyrell were forced to bend the knee to Petyr Lannister who, after the Battle of Crackclaw Point, was declared King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. However, in order to ensure peace throughout the realm King Petyr demanded hostages from the noble families to be raised as wards by the noble House Lannister of Casterly Rock.