James Hibberd
March 27, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

TV is about to get medieval on your arse.

There’s three lavish premium cable drama series launching in April featuring more scheming, sword fights, ale toasting and bodice ripping than has almost certainly ever graced our televisions at one time. Below is EW’s guide comparing Starz’ Camelot, HBO’s Game of Thrones and Showtime’s The Borgias — three new shows about the struggle to claim (and keep) power in an exotic land. Even if you don’t know mutton from Mordor, this will help you tell the shows apart and you’ll learn which you’ll like best. Fair warning: While there are no real spoilers below, there’s basic details about the each show’s plot and characters that some may not wish to know…

Epic Show

Camelot Game of Thrones The Borgias

Premieres April 1 April 17 April 3
Based on

Arthurian legend George R.R. Martin’s novels History (sort of)
Setting England, a really long time ago

The mythical realm of Westeros, where seasons last for years Rome, 1492: “The Center of the Christian World”
Story starter Poisoned king sets off power struggle for throne Poisoned “Hand of the King” results in retired warrior being called back into service The pope dies (he’s not poisoned, but don’t worry, somebody gets poisoned)
Seat of power Camelot! A castle in ruins on the sea Kings Landing! A sprawling compound on the sea The Vatican! No castle, but lots of rooms that look like they’re in castles
Hero Young Arthur (newcomer Jamie Campbell Bower),  beds ladies in the grass but is destined for greatness How much time do you have? In this sprawling cast, the king’s friend Eddard Stark (Boromir, er, Sean Bean) comes closest Power-hungry Cardinal Borgia (Jeremy Irons, clearly enjoying himself) plots to become pope
Villain The king’s scheming power-hunger daughter (Eva Green) spent a decade in a nunnery and came back pissed Scheming power-hunger siblings (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey) conspire against the king’s best interests A conclave of scheming power-hungry cardinals  want the Spanish Borgia family dead
Scene Stealer King Lot (a typically lusty James Purefoy), who teams with the king’s daughter Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), a drinking, whoring “imp” who’s always the smartest guy in the room Cardinal Rovere (veteran actor Colm Feore) who sees right through Borgia’s facade
Power Quote “From now on, everyone will challenge you” “Winter is coming” “What’s Rome without a good plot?”
Spectacle Level Medium. Gorgeous  countryside, horses High. Shot on location in Northern Ireland and Malta, looks like it cost a fortune Medium. Neat architecture and costumes, plus CGI
Geek Level

Low. As easy to follow as the jousting at Medieval Times High. Should come with a map, glossary and cast of characters Medium. There’s some papal terms, but you really should know them anyway
Incest Level Low. Sibling heirs only focused on the crown (for now…) High. There’s two pairs of siblings who are way too familiar with each other Medium. Siblings enjoy close gazes, cuddling, and bedroom spying
Magic? Merlin can perform shapeshifting, but he’s not fighting orcs or anything We’ll meet the zombie-like White Walkers, but most characters don’t believe in them No magic (unless you count how Romans in Hollywood always magically sound British)
Violence Relatively family friendly: A swordfight, a massacre site A gory beheading, dismembered bodies Lots of stabbings and poisonings
Sex Only one major scene in pilot, but has an Arthurian version of “Say my name!” Tons. Incest sex, reluctant sex, little person sex, sapphic grinding, party guest sex The naughtiest of all: Cheating Catholics
Watch if you liked Excalibur, A Knight’s Tale HBO’s Rome, AMC’s The Walking Dead Showtime’s The Tudors

Where’s the trailer? Here Here Here

Follow me on Twitter: @james_hibberd

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