Monday, 27 July 2015

Faction Review (Review): House Stark

As part of the leadup to the full release of the second edition of A Game of Thrones LCG (which I'm going to begin calling 'AGOT 2nd Ed' for the sake of the skin on my typing fingers) I had been planning to run reviews of all the various Houses and their cards.  I'm not going to do that, in fact.

From starting to play the game with proxies, and through reading other websites such as CardgameDB, I've come to realise that I don't understand the game well enough to accurately review the cards and value them, see all the interactions, understand the deckbuilding and spot rules interactions.  This was brought home on one card in particular - "Like Warm Rain" - which I was going to say I didn't like because you could only play it after you lose an Intrigue challenge and thus could have been forced to discard it.  In fact there's an action window for you to play the card before the Claim of discard occurs, making it much better.

So I'm not going to review the Houses, what I'm going to do is actually much more meta than that: I'm going to review the reviews of the Houses that are being done by the CardgameDB team.  Where I think they've called it right I'll say so, and where I think they've misvalued something I'll throw my tuppence in and put my side over.

So with that out of the way, welcome to my first Faction Review (Review): House Stark

All the above ratings were drawn up by a group of the A Game of Thrones LCG veterans at CardgameDB, with each rating a card from 1 to 5 and the percentage score being an aggregate of all their marks.  So a card that gets 100% means everyone rated it 5/5, while a slight wrinkle in this method (or their refusal to hand out 0/5 scores) means the lowest result possible is 25% if they all gave the card 1/5.

The general feeling about House Stark was that although a few of the Stark characters were very good for their cost (Catelyn and Arya got the most love) the faction was badly let down by having some pretty uninspiring heavy hitters in Robb and Eddard, and that the Direwolves packet was pretty underwhelming.  I feel like Eddard in particular pays a power level price for being the only faction leader not to be Loyal, and that it hurts the Starks a lot not to have a real leader to rally the house behind.  You can always banner in for some strong midrange cards comparable to Arya and Catelyn but the strongest characters in most factions are Loyal so the Starks can't really compensate for the relative weakness of Eddard and Robb.

Personally, when I think about Stark I think of terms like "solid" (Robb and Arya) or "frustrating" (Catelyn and Bran) but aside from Winter is Coming what doesn't leap to mind are words like "dominant" or "powerful".

It's not difficult to see what the Stark strategy is designed to be - win Military challenges with increased Claim, while defending due to being able to Stand after you attack - but that puts the Starks uncomfortably between two stools, particularly without a compelling big hitter to ensure you win those Military challenges.  What the Starks can't do in any meaningful way is Intrigue, with Catelyn Stark their only Intrigue card of note and further Intrigue defence depending on you playing a bunch of Direwolves for Like Warm Rain.

What you find in Stark is that although they only have as many Loyal cards as the other factions there is bunch of other cards that are effectively Loyal as well because they require a heavy investment in Direwolves or Stark cards (Direwolf Pup, Gates of Winterfell, Like Warm Rain, The Wolfswood as well as the obvious faction reducers).  The Direwolves in particular feel like a packet of cards that is incomplete and Stark players will be looking for better Direwolves to come in future sets.  This pseudo-loyalty further hurts the Stark players looking to round out the weaknesses in the core house - the more you bring in from other houses the more you lower the density of important trigger cards from within House Stark.

I roughly agree with most of the ratings, the one card I think they may have undervalued is Ice.  Yes, for three cost it's expensive character removal... but it's also one of the best available and when you're about to lose the game to Robert Baratheon you're going to feel like 3 gold was a small cost to pay.  The value of Ice probably depends heavily on how much Bodyguard sees play, or how much you can control their attachments - 3 gold is a great price to remove your opponent's 6 or 7 cost faction leader, but a pretty lousy cost if all it's going to do is clear out a 1 cost Bodyguard.  I would rate Ice around a mid 70% mark personally, just because targeted removal is hard to come by and can be a real gamewinner.


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