This post was inspired by the best Christmas present any Game of Thrones fan could ask for: Game of Thrones RISK (special edition). With seven Great Houses to choose from, GOT risk transports you back to the War of the Five Kings. (If RISK is unknown to you, I suggest you check out this link!) Defending the North against numerous enemies is a challenge. However, the opportunity to exact revenge and write the story of your chosen house’s conquest of Westeros is fantastic. Playing as house Stark, I annihilated my friend’s Lannister forces at Casterly Rock. It felt like justice. However, this is not a review of Game of Thrones RISK!
Fighting for dominion of Westeros and Essos brought me back to the early seasons of Game of Thrones, when the Great Houses were strong and the outcome of war still uncertain. It also made me reflect on how the fortunes of those houses have changed over the past six seasons. Some are far weaker. Others have grown in power. All have had significant losses. Whilst there are actually eight main Great Houses at the beginning of Game of Thrones, this post will focus on five that have been prominent throughout all the seasons. So, without further rambling, let us reflect!
At the beginning of Game of Thrones, we are introduced to House Stark. Wardens of the North and one of the oldest Great Houses in Westeros, the Starks are allied with the throne through Lord Eddard Stark’s friendship with King Robert of the House Baratheon. This places them in a position of power, something that their dominion of the North reinforces. However, after six seasons, it’s fair to say that House Stark is a shadow of its former self. Eddard, Catelyn, Rob and Rickon are all dead, leaving Bran, Ayra and Sansa as the only surviving heirs. Yet, with Jon Snow’s victory over Ramsey Bolton, House Stark once again controls the North. As such, they are a House on the up, despite the fact that their forces have been greatly reduced through repeated war and conquest.
House Lannister were arguably the most powerful house in Westeros at the beginning of Game of Thrones. Linked to the throne through marriage, House Lannister are also the wealthiest House in the land and the one that commands the largest army. During the War of the Five Kings, they suffered defeats to House Stark and House Tully. However, through an alliance with House Frey and House Bolton, the Lannister’s finally one their victory at the Red Wedding. After Tywin’s death and the death of Cersei’s children (Baratheon in name, Lannister in blood), as well as Kevan Lannister’s explosive demise at the Sept of Baelor, House Lannister have lost their aura of invincibility. Yet, coming into Season 7, they still have a large battle hardened army and more gold than the other Houses in Westeros.
In Season 1, House Baratheon controls Westeros. King Robert Baratheon rules in Kings Landing, his brother Stannis is Lord of Dragonstone and his youngest brother, Renly, is Lord of Storm’s End. This puts House Baratheon in a position of great power. Yet, their fortunes change with Robert’s death, which ultimately lead to the House tearing itself to pieces. Stannis claimed the throne, as did Renly, both declaring (rightly) that Robert’s children were illegitimate. Now that Stannis and Renly are dead, as well as the false Baratheons, Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommon, House Baratheon is technically no more. Or maybe not? Bastards are doing well in Westeros and perhaps this is the chance for Gendry to rise. In the books, another of Robert’s bastards, Edric Storm, resides in Storm’s End. Yet, since we’ve not been introduced to him in the TV Series, I think Gendry is the more likely heir.
In Season 1, the only character of House Tyrell that we meet is Sir Loras, the eldest son of Lord Mace Tyrell of Highgarden. Yet in Season 2, we see much more of them. After the death of King Robert, the Tyrell’s rebel against the crown in support of King Renly. Yet, after Renly’s death, they join forces with the Lannisters in order to defeat Stannis Baratheon. The Tyrells grow in power throughout the seasons, with Margery’s marriage to Joffrey and then Tommon. They are the second most powerful house in Westeros by Season 6. However, the wildfire explosion at the Sept of Baelor changed that for the worse. Margery, Loras and their father, Lord Mace Tyrell are all killed, leaving the matriarchal Olenna as the lone leader of the House. The Tyrell’s still command a large army, however, they are severely weakened.
It’s fair to say that House Targaryen are in a pretty bad state at the beginning of Game of Thrones. After being defeated during Robert’s Rebellion, the last remaining members of House Targaryen fled to Braavos. Yet it is in Pentos that we first meet Viserys and Daenerys. Viserys refers to himself as the one true King and is willing to sell his younger sister to the Dothraki in order to gain an army. However, as we know, this plan fails. Viserys dies and Daenerys becomes the Mother of Dragons. Now, after six seasons, Daenerys is finally sailing to Westeros. She is accompanied by three dragons, Dothraki and Unsullied warriors, the ships of Dorne, as well as half the Greyjoy fleet. She is also in alliance with House Tyrell. House Targaryen have risen from the ashes under Daenerys’s rule. We shall soon find out whether they continue to rise.