Thursday, 23 July 2015

Plotting Your Way to Victory

As I think I probably said enough times in my last blog, Plots are one of the most important cards in A Game of Thrones LCG, and for many new players joining the 2nd Edition of the game understanding how Plots work is going to be crucial to you really getting under the skin of the game's strategy.  This blog is going to look in more detail at what the Plots do and then look at the various types of Plots included in the Core Set.


PLOT DECK & PLOT PHASE


The Core Set of A Game of Thrones LCG has 26 different Plot cards, which (props to FFG for this) is a really healthy degree of variety to get out of the base game.  You're going to use these Plots to build a 7-card 'Plot Deck' that goes with the 60 card deck of Characters/Events/Locations etc.  Your plot deck must have exactly seven Plots, and in that Plot deck you must play at least six different plots (in other words, you can choose one plot to play 2x and the others have to be 1x, or you can play seven different Plots if you wish).

I paraphrased the Plot Phase in my last blog and this time I've avoided repeating myself by simply copy/pasting directly out of the Learn To Play Guide, over to the right here...

As well as deciding Initiative and resolving the Plot abilities (as explained in the Plot Phase) each Plot also has a massive impact on how the rest of your turn will play out, so let's start by having a look at a sample Plot so that we know what we're looking for when we choose what Plots to play.




ANATOMY OF A PLOT

Plot cards have four numbers on them but in fact they've got FIVE areas that we're interested in, this is because the ability of the Plot is also very important.




Gold - The Gold value of your Plot plays a large part in determining how much gold you'll have available during your Marshalling phase to play your characters and other cards.  Other cards might boost this, such as Littlefinger, Tywin Lannister or some of the Locations, but most of the time most of your Gold is going to come from your Plot.  The range of Gold values on Plots fluctuates between 2 and 6, and that can mean the difference between marshalling Daenerys Targaryen or only having enough to summon her bonkers brother Viserys!

Initiative - The Initiative value of your Plot determines which player chooses who will play first that turn (usually they'll choose themselves to play first, but not always - the Martells, for instance, often prosper by going second).  That affects a number of things, most importantly who gets to declare their Challenges first but also the order in which cards are Marshalled and the order in which some card effects (like the Plots) occur.  Announcing your Challenges first can be a massive advantage, especially when you consider that successful Military challenges will force the opponent to kill their own characters before they can declare Challenges against you!  When you play the Game of Thrones often the best defence is a strong offense...

Claim - Spoiler: almost all Plots have a Claim Value of 1.  Claim is a very important number because it determines how hard you punish your opponent when a challenge is successful; a Claim of 1 means the opponent must discard 1 card when you succeed an Intrigue challenge, and a Claim of 2 is twice as punishing and forces them to discard 2 cards!  Because it's tied so closely to successful challenges a high Claim value is most prized when you're ready to go on the offensive.

Reserve - This might seem crazy to many new players coming into the 2nd Edition of A Game of Thrones LCG but in the 1st Edition there was no maximum hand size!  If you wanted to sit there with 30 cards in hand you could (and some decks did).  Reserve is a new addition for 2nd Edition and it sets your maximum hand size for the end of that turn, so that Reserve even exists at all is a big change to how the game will play compared to 1st Edition.  Reserve on most Plots is around 5 or 6 so in the Core Set it doesn't change much, but there is the odd Plot or two that really changes it, from as low as 4 to as high as 10.

Ability - So far Winds of Winter is the only Plot not to come with an ability, and a lot of the time the ability is going to be the reason why you put the Plot into your deck.  The impact of the abilities are wide-ranging, from forcing players to kill Characters to launching more Challenges, launching FEWER Challenges, gaining more Power in Dominance or simply drawing up three new cards!  It's tough to sum abilities up, so instead lets look at what all the Plots do.


KNOW YOUR PLOTS

There are 26 Plots in the Core Set of 2nd Edition A Game of Thrones LCG, and of those the good people at Boardgamegeek have managed to compile good images of 23 of them, and I also got just enough of a look at Calling The Banners to work out the numbers on it, even if I don't know the ability.

So, with the caveat that I still don't know what Marching Orders or Supporting The Faith do, here are 24 of the 26 Plots, which I've broadly categorised into four types: Marshalling, Challenging, Drawing and Control.




The common theme on Marshalling Plots is that they all come with a decent amount of Gold to help you marshall your cards that turn (the exception is Reinforcements, which comes with only 1 Gold but lets you play a 5 Gold card for free, so is effectively 6 Gold).

On top of giving a healthy boost to your coffers these seven Plots tend to also have abilities that either help you marshall cards (Taxation, A Noble Cause and Reinforcements), and are either defensive (Calm Over Westeros and A Feast For Crows, where you gain Power if you don't challenge and wait for Dominance) or at least don't support going on the attack (Rebuilding, Fortified Position).



The Marshalling Plots that look most interesting to me are A Noble Cause, which is the best way of guaranteeing you can play your house's most powerful Lords and Ladies like Queen of Thorns or Doran Martell, Calm Over Westeros because it will usually help you avoid facing a Challenge of a type of your choice, and I can imagine that A Feast of Crows could frequently provide a game-winning Power rush once you're within touching distance of the finish line, with the 6 Gold helping ensure you secure dominance even if you have to buy it!  Yes, Feast of Crows comes with a Reserve value of only 4, but if you win the game in theDominance Phase then who cares?



You'll notice that most of these Plots come with a low Initiative, which is the tradeoff for those extra few pieces of Gold.  Although Taxation and Rebuilding have relatively unexciting abilities they could become quite useful generic Plot staples for combining a healthy amount of Gold with a decent chance of taking the Initiative as well - when you're on top in a game having enough gold to marshall a big character and then Challenge first with them to keep the opponent down could be a vital play.

Fortified Position, the one marshalling Plot I've not namechecked yet, comes with an interesting ability that is hard for me to quantify yet.  Stripping characters of their text could potentially be massive, as most characters do something pretty good and having this in your Plot deck as a wildcard option could potentially give you a turn's grace to break up some powerful card combinations.  Whether that's needed often enough remains to be seen.




Challenging Plots are all very focussed, bringing you either a high Initiative value to ensure you get first stab in the Challenge phase, or a high Claim value so that your challenges hit twice as hard.  The trade-off for this, most of the time, is a bit less Gold so that you get to strike your opponent but won't be able to reinforce your armies much before that strike.

Sneak Attack breaks that symmetry, giving you the Gold to play a big character and then a whopping 11 Initiative that almost ensures you get to Challenge with that character first and then a Claim value of 2 to really close the deal!  That power comes at the cost of only making one Challenge, but this is a well-named Plot and an ideal way to either turn the tables on your opponent with a big surprise Military attack, or a final Power grab... bring down a big Renown character, launch your Power challenge, garner 2 Power then 1 from Renown and win the game.  


A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords are bother quite generic high Initiative plots that support Power and Military challenges, respectively, and Calling the Banners is a similar template although we don't know the ability yet.

The Winds of Winter is the final challenging Plot, due to its high Claim value.  There's no ability, just a bit of gold, a bit of Initiative, and 2 Claim.  That extra Claim is really important, though, and if you're in a position to win more than one Challenge that turn then being prepared to take advantage of The Winds of Winter could be a decisive moment in the game.  It also combines particularly well with characters, like Khal Drogo, who can launch additional Challenges - Drogo could slay four of your opponents characters during Winter, for instance!


 A rules question for those who know: under Sneak Attack does Khal Drogo get to attack twice, or only once?

Edit: the answer is in: the 'cannot' on Sneak Attack overrules Khal Drogo's extra challenge.  Shame! 




Pretty straight forwardly, the Drawing Plots... draw you cards.  In truth there's two things here - Counting Coppers gives you a massive power boost of 3 cards (although with only 2 Gold you may have to wait until next turn to take advantage of them), while Building Orders and Summons are more about card selection and card quality than they are about card quantity.


Typically something like Summons is kind of always generically good so I think it will see a lot of play, at least until the game matures through enough expansions that Plot decks become much more selective.  Building Orders is more specific, though, and I'm not sure everyone will want to play it.  It works very well for the Night's Watch as it helps them to build The Wall, which is critical to many of their plans, or for Daenerys to secure Astapor, but other decks might be more selective.

 


Finally, Control plots are pretty much entirely defined by having an ability that directly affects the game state and helps you to control the flow the game, although some do it to a much greater extent than other.


At the most obvious end are Marched to the Wall, Wildfire Assault and Confiscation.  All three of these Plots straight-up remove cards from play, and Marched to the Wall in particular is a Plot that I expect to see a lot of - anytime you find your Dornish Paramour forced to entertain your opponent's Tywin Lannister as the only two characters in play... off to The Wall with the pair of them!  If you can get ahead in terms of characters then Marched to the Wall helps you stay ahead, and that tends to help you win games.  Wildfire Assault is kind of the opposite - you want to play it when you've got less than three characters and are badly outnumbered, to even the odds.  How often this happens is not something I'm sure about just yet, but the potential impact of this card is huge if your opponent is caught unawares blindly vomiting his characters into play.  


Next up are four Plots that don't kill characters outright but do help you to temporarily deal with them.  Jousting Contest and A Game of Thrones both help you to control how your opponent declares their challenges, and Filthy Accusations is another wonderfully flexible Plot that does a very similar job, kneeling a character before they can attack or defend - they're not permanent solutions to a crisis, but they do help you to keep the opponent on the back foot while also giving a decent amount of Gold and Initiative to have a well-rounded turn.  Power Behind the Throne is kind of the flipside of Filthy Accusations, allowing you to stand one of your own characters at a crucial point rather than kneeling an opponent - that could be used a number of different ways, either to stand ready for a second Challenge, stand to defend a Challenge, or simply contribute more to Dominance!

Heads on Spikes is a card that doesn't directly affect the board, but forcing a random discard from hand is a bit like a free Intrigue challenge and that could easily hurt what your opponent had planned.  There's probably about a 50% chance the card you discard will be a character and give you 2 Power, which is nice, and maybe 25% of the time you'll manage to flip a character into the Dead pile that really matters.  That slim chance of killing Eddard Stark before he got out of his pyjamas is worth considering but the value you can rely on every time is taking a card out of their hand.


So, to one last control Plot that does something a bit different - Naval Superiority.  Naval Superiority seeks to cut off your opponent's supply of Gold by reducing the Gold value of Kindom and Edict plot cards to 0.  The value of this hugely difficult to estimate as it depends on entirely on whether your opponent is running Edicts and Kingdoms, but we can give it a go:
  • 11 of the 23 Plots spoiled so far are Edicts or Kingdoms.  The first thing we can say, therefore, is that on average the ability text on Naval Superiority is blank approximately 50% of the time.
  • The average Gold value of Edicts and Kingdoms is 4, which is only marginally ahead of average (3.9).  This is important because it means that as Edicts and Kingdoms aren't necessarily Gold-heavy you won't necessarily be able to predict when your opponent will play one by judging when they need Gold.
At the moment this isn't looking good for Naval Superiority, but I think it's a card that is going to take time to settle in, and if you ever see people swinging heavily towards Edicts and Kingdoms then Naval Superiority will be there to go to when you want to cut your opponent off from his cash.


SUMMING UP

This is still early days for me in understanding the tactical flow of A Game of Thrones LCG so I don't want to jump off too much on how to make a successful Plot deck.  What I really wanted to do here was give a framework for how to think about Plots, and what the various reasons you will want to play them are.  Hopefully I've done that, and if nothing else then please take away that Plots are VERY important, and dedicating yourself to making a Plot deck that not only works but complements your main deck is going to be hugely important if you want to claim the Iron Throne for yourself.

8 comments:

  1. The part about 30 cards in hand was definitely hyperbole. Even Bloodthirst decks with Rivers rarely held more than 15.

    ReplyDelete
  2. While I'm really looking forward to Second Edition, I can't believe Valar Morghulis isn't included with the core set! It's such an iconic plot that everyone had to take into consideration.
    I suppose with the increased gold curve having a board wipe that doesn't leave survivors was viewed as harsh. I imagine the tempo will be similar to draft where Valar is hard to come by.

    Hopefully it'll appear in one of the early chapter packs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Valar going is very deliberate and I doubt it will be back, that effect got moved onto Varys.

      I think they want to make characters more permanent and play up the combos abd interactions between your powerful lords and ladies. That means making character less destructible. Valar going is a key part of that.

      Delete
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