Over the past nine years, Game of Thrones has become renowned for its climactic battle sequences, from Season 2’s Battle of the Blackwater to Season 7’s award-winning Battle of the Bastards. Now, as HBO’s fantasy epic heads towards its finale, fans have another fight to add to the list – the Battle for Winterfell.
WARNING: This article contains some significant spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8.
The third episode of the final season – The Long Night – sees the amassed forces of the North face off against the Night King’s army of the dead, making for a battle that will decide the fate of all of Westeros. It’s all very dramatic, but as there have been a bunch of complaints about how dark the episode is, I thought I’d help brighten it up a bit. Sadly, I don’t have access to HBO’s $90 million budget, so I’ve had to figure out a different way to bring the episode to life. And what better way to do that than with Totally Accurate Battle Simulator?
TABS is a ragdoll physics-based game which allows you to pit a variety of vaguely historical military units against one another. Once you’ve amassed your armies, you’re forced to let the battle play out from the sidelines, watching helplessly as your units clumsily duke it out. The rules are simple: each battle ends once one army has completely defeated another, wiping out every enemy soldier.
Setting up my battle requires a little bit of creativity. Winterfell itself isn’t an option when choosing my battlefield. Instead, I choose a map with a large mountain to one side, which can stand in for the Stark castle. Horses aren’t available either, so my Dothraki horde has to be replaced by a squadron of Wheelbarrows, who can run screaming into the fray. Just as terrifying.
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Behind them stands a handful of catapults. The left flank is headed up by two knights, Jaime Lannister and Brienne, as well as squire Podrick. They’re joined by a selection of knights of the Vale, who all rock some pretty nifty shields. On the right, two more knights, The Hound and Ser Beric, are accompanied by my stand-ins for Sam, Tormund, and Gendry, while the centre is taken up by a squad of Hoplites that are acting as Daenerys’ Unsullied.
Away from the frontlines, Theon and his Ironborn archers protect Bran (a scarecrow) in the ‘Godswood’; on the walls of my Winterfell stand Arya, Ser Davos, Melisandre, and Lyanna Mormont, all with their own ranged protection; and on the hill overlooking the battle are Jon (a knight), Dany (a king), and their dragons (dragons).
Putting together the Night King’s army is comparatively easy. There has to be a lot of them, but apart from the king himself and his dragon, there are only a handful of relatively minor characters to consider. I decide to opt for a swarm of headbutters, who catapult themselves towards their enemies with little to no regard for either personal safety or tactical nous, but who offer significant strength in numbers. I could have gone with unleashing a bunch of uncoordinated wildlings but that’s better left for the army of the dead.
With my two armies prepared, I pray to the Seven to protect my PC from the load of several hundred units, and begin the simulation.
The opening moments of the battle play out much as they do in the show. My alternative Dothraki pour forward and are immediately swallowed up by hordes of undead. Jorah, following close behind, is quickly mobbed as well, his hero’s death denied as he’s punched to death by the Minotaur meant to represent Lyanna Mormont’s least favourite giant. His sacrifice is not entirely in vain, however, as it allows the Unsullied to catch up and start taking the fight to the Night King.
On the left flank, Brienne and Jaime are holding out well, but what they likely haven’t accounted for when drawing their battle lines is friendly fire. Not only are they being peppered by arrows from the walls of Winterfell, they now have to contend with John and Dany’s dragons, which have wandered close enough to start spewing flames over the battlefield, apparently unfazed by the fact that they’re cooking their allies.
The Night King made a beeline for Bran and Theon in the Godswood the moment the battle started, but Tormund and the Hound are doing a decent job of holding his forces back. Sadly, the same can’t be said of Sam, who was headbutted to death in the opening moments of the fray – but let’s be honest, that’s how that would play out in real life anyway. Viserion might have caused a bigger problem had the Ironborn’s projectiles not played havoc with the physics engine.
As the numbers of undead start to fall, it looks like the living are starting to get the upper hand. Apparently bolstered by the success of their allies, Ser Davos and Arya have waded into the fray, while Melisandre is doing her level best to keep people alive. At one point, Dany takes three fireworks arrows to the back, just seconds apart. Had it not been for the Red Priestess, I’m sure the Targaryen queen would have perished in the subsequent explosion. Curiously, however, Melisandre is also paying a lot of attention to Tormund, sometimes sending out healing beams across the battlefield – anyone taking last minute bets on who Azor Ahai really is?
As the battle draws to a close, I watch as Arya strides confidently towards the Night King and his remaining soldiers. Thankfully, this time around he won’t be bringing the fallen back to life, but he certainly puts up a fight. As the Stark forces close in, he dispatches Brienne, before squaring up to Jon and Dany. Arya takes a few final steps forward, but her miraculous killing blow is not to land for a second time. Instead, an arrow (dragonglass, naturally) came arcing out of nowhere to finish off the battered king, sticking firm in the back of his neck. Sadly, the rest of his army doesn’t immediately collapse as he dies, but with its strongest unit gone, it doesn’t take long to finish them off.
My PC emits a sigh of relief as the army of the dead is defeated. Now it’s just time to see what kind of resistance Cersei can put up in the wars to come.