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.

2nd Edition Crib Sheet

I'm not along in preparing for the 2nd Edition of A Game of Thrones LCG, and on the eve of the Kingslayer Tournament at Gencon kindly UK player Roy Martin has compiled a very useful crib sheet for all the new rules and keywords.

2nd Edition Crib Sheet

Whack this double-sided onto a piece of A4 and kiss goodbye to flicking back and forth through the rules reference every five minutes as you learn the game!

Cheers, Roy!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Game of Thrones LCG - Rules Basics

As we grow closer to the launch of the 2nd Edition of the A Game of Thrones LCG there seems to be many new players interested in beginning to play (including myself) and so the best place to start the journey to Westeros seems to be learning how the game works!

FFG have already published the Learn To Play Guide and a Rules Reference but what I'm going to try and do here is cut through a lot of the detail and really get to the spirit of what the game is about, trusting that you will still go on and read the rulebook to work out the specific details.  I'll try and keep it all in plain English but I probably do assume at least some knowledge of how TCG/LCGs work in general so if you're a complete newcomer to the genre FFG's Learn To Play Guide may be the right place to start.

Note: in the main I'm going to focus on explaining the rules for a 2-player 'Joust'.  The rules for 'Melee' games of 3-5 players are pretty much the same with the added layer of complexity of each player choosing a 'role' after they have chosen a Plot, which further defines what happens on their turn.  It's a neat mechanic that should be familiar to players of board games like Citadels or Puerto Rico.


In A Game of Thrones LCG each player adopts one of the eight great houses of Westeros (the LCG include the Night's Watch as a house) or forms an alliance of houses, and then seeks to win control of The Iron Throne.

You win control by amassing 15 Power - get 15 Power between your House and your characters in play and the Iron Throne is yours.

Power is primarily gained in three ways:

1. Establish Dominance
Toward the end of each turn the Dominance Phase determines who is currently 'winning' the Game of Thrones by counting up Standing character Strength and unspent Gold, and that player gains 1 Power.

2. Unopposed Challenges & Power Challenges
Challenges are the bread & butter of A Game of Thrones LCG - think Magic: The Gathering's combat step, or a Run in Netrunner.  I'll talk about Challenges in more detail later but for now suffice to say that each times you Challenge an opponent who cannot defend himself that challenge is considered 'Unopposed' and you gain 1 Power.

Power Challenges are one of the three types of Challenge available and specifically aims to steal your opponent's Power and add it to yours.  Stealing Power from your opponents can be a critical moment, not only do you get closer to victory but you're also further from losing!

3. Card Effects
Some of the cards specifically gain Power when they're used, perhaps most commonly the major characters such as Tywin Lannister or Daenerys Targaryen that come with the keyword 'Renown'.  There are many examples of cards that will generate Power in some way, such as The Wall or Joffrey Baratheon and they are often a critical element in a player's strategy - if you can build The Wall and defend it then you'll gain a big Power boost towards victory, the same if you can keep the grinning little bastard Joffrey alive for a few turns.


There's a key distinction in how Joffrey Baratheon works, and cards like him (such as characters with Renown).  Joffrey and Renown characters gain Power themselves rather than adding it to your house's total.  Those Power counters add towards your winning total while the characters are in play, but should Joffrey be killed all the Power counters he gained go with him.  It makes these characters very important, but also huge targets that you have to work hard to keep alive.


Each turn begins with the Plot Phase, in which players select a Plot from their custom Plot Deck that they want to enact for that turn.  That Plot determines a lot of the key factors for the player's turn - whether they go first or second that turn, the amount of Gold they have to spend on playing cards, the strength of any challenges they make, and their maximum hand size at the end of the turn.  In addition to this most Plots also have a special effect that either happens when you reveal your plot, or is active during that turn.

After Plots have been chosen each player draws two cards and then they take turns playing cards from their hand in the Marshalling Phase, spending the gold they got from their Plot (and any other cards that also give extra gold) to add Characters, Locations and Attachments to their side of the board.  They might choose to spend all their Gold or to hold some of it back to play Events during the turn or for the Dominance Phase later.

The Challenges Phase is where most games of A Game of Thrones LCG will be won and lost, as players use their characters to attack their opponents.  There are three types of Challenge - Military, Intrigue, and Power - and a player can declare one of each type during a turn, beginning with the player whose Plot had the highest initiative.  Once a player has declared all their Challenges, or doesn't want to declare any more, then the next player becomes the active player and can declare their Challenges.

Each character in A Game of Thrones LCG is tagged as able to participate in one or more type of challenge and when a player announces a challenge he chooses which characters he wants to use for it and 'kneels (Magic: The Gathering players: 'kneel' = 'tap') that character to show it's been used.  This can matter where a character could participate in two challenges as usually once they've 'kneeled' to do one thing they can't then be used a second time to launch another challenge OR to defend against an opponent's challenge.

Once you've announced the challenge and the characters participating the defending player can choose any number of characters with the appropriate type of challenge to defend against it (remember that if a challenge goes unopposed the attacker gets a bonus Power, so even if you know you can't beat the challenge there's value in showing at least some resistance).

Once attacking and defending characters are chosen you total the Strength of those characters involved and declare if the challenge was successful or not.  If a Challenge was successful then what happens next depends on the type of challenge that was initiated, and the Claim value of the active Plot (most Plots have a Claim value of 1).
  • Military Challenge - the defending player has to choose characters they control equal to the current Claim value and kill them.  Military challenges aim to destroy your opponents armies and characters, giving you control of the board.
  • Intrigue Challenge - the defending player has to discard cards from their hand equal to the current Claim value.  Although they don't affect anything currently in play Intrigue challenges try to disrupt the tricks and plans your opponents have for future turns.
  • Power Challenge - the attacking player 'steals' Power from the defending player equal to the current Claim value.  Power challenges are a straight up battle for victory, they don't help you destroy your opponent's armies or disrupt their plans, but they do bring you closer to winning the game!
One important to thing to note is that it doesn't matter how much you won your Challenge by, just that you won it.  The Claim value of your plot affects how damaging that Challenge was to your opponent, not whether you won it by 10 Strength or 1 Strength.
Once you have worked out all the Challenges that players want to declare that turn then you move onto the Dominance Phase, where you total up the Strength of characters in play that are still Standing after the Challenges Phase along with unspent Gold - the player with the highest total is said to have Dominance and gains a Power.

At the end of the turn you 'Stand' any 'Kneeled' cards ready for the next turn, then return any unspent Gold to the Bank and discard cards from their hand down to the maximum hand size allowed by your current Plot.

That's the end of the turn and you immediately start a new turn with players choosing a new Plot.  Repeat until one player gets to 15 Power and you have a winner!


The above is a rough guide to the game - it's absolutely not intended to be a replacement for reading the Learn To Play Guide but it should have given you a very good flavour for how the game works.

In skimming through the game like that I skipped over a few very important points that really change how you go about trying to win the Game of Thrones.  Once you've let all the basics above sink in have a think about how they're changed by the following...

1.  Choose your plots wisely.
At the start of each game you choose seven Plots to form your 'Plot Deck' and the contents of your Plot Deck are maybe the most important cards you bring to a game of A Game of Thrones LCG.

As I said earlier I'm going to devote the whole of my next blog to looking at the various types of Plot but for now what you should take on board is that whenever you choose a Plot for that turn you can't choose it again until all your Plots have been played.  So on the first turn you've got your whole Plot Deck to choose from (seven cards), on turn two you've only got six Plots left to choose from, turn three you have five... and so on until on the seventh turn you play the only Plot you've got left. 

The final Plot you reveal remains faceup while the other six Plots are shuffled back to create a new Plot deck of six cards, and you start again.

5 Gold makes A Noble Cause a good plot for Marshalling new characters, especially Lords & Ladies
8 Initiative means you're likely to declare the first Challenges that turn, good for offense
Playing the right plot at the right time is hugely important.  When you're trying to marshall a new army you need a Plot that provides a lot of Gold, but when you're trying to launch an offensive a Plot that gives you the Initiative to declare Challenges first might be critical.  Just as important is seeing what plots your opponent is playing so that you can be better prepared for them from turn eight onwards as you'll know all seven Plots they are using.

For more about Plots, as I keep saying, I'll be covering them all in much more detail in my next blog.

2.  Consider your challenges well

Because many characters in A Game of Thrones LCG sit across more than one type of Challenge you have to decide carefully how to use them.  In Magic: The Gathering you frequently have to work out if you can afford to attack with your creatures or need to hold them back for defence but in A Game of Thrones LCG that's further complicated by whether you need them to attack/defend on Military or attack/defend on Intrigue instead (for instance).  Multiple lines of attack, with different outcomes on success, adds layers of options and decision making.

This brings a more tactical side to the Challenges Phase as you try to outmaneouvre your opponent as well as outmuscle them.  You can use your characters to try and force your opponent into 'kneeling' one of their defenders in an Intrigue challenge, clearing the way for a Power challenge, for instance.  You might also have to decide if it's best to throw all your might behind a single challenge with all your characters, or splitting their forces for multiple challenges.

3.  Valar Morghulis - all men must die
I haven't alluded to this yet, but an important part of A Game of Thrones LCG is that there are two piles for cards you've played or have had killed - a Discard Pile (where discarded cards and most destroyed Locations/Attachments go) and a Dead Pile (where characters killed from play go).  This is a departure from most other card games where there's usually only one pile - Magic's 'Graveyard' or Netrunner's 'Heap/Archives' and the distinction is important because in A Game of Thrones LCG there's no coming back from death.  When Eddard Stark gets killed he goes to the Dead Pile and you can't play another copy of his card to 'bring him back to life'.

Death is a central theme in the world of A Game of Thrones and that's true in the books, TV show and the LCG - that important people will die and stay dead is a key to recreating that world in card game form.  Many of the most powerful characters in the game are tagged as 'Unique' and once those characters are sent to your Dead Pile (usually by being killed in play, such as during a Military challenge) you can't play them again.  The Dead Pile goes further than these mechanics usually go in similar games.  In Netrunner if a unique card like Caprice Nisei gets trashed you can just play/rez another copy, in Magic: The Gathering if a Legendary creature is in play you can't play a second copy... but once they're dead you're free to play it.  In A Game of Thrones a dead character stays dead (south of the wall, at least!).

Keeping your Unique characters alive is important
Aeron is a rare example of a card that brings the Dead back to life

So why play with multiple copies of Eddard Stark if as soon as one gets killed the others are useless?  Well because of the 'Duplicate' rule that effectively allows you to use copies of Unique cards as 'extra lives'... so if you've got two Eddard Stark cards and one of them is killed then you can't play the second to ressurect poor doomed Ned, but you could have played the second card as a duplicate onto Eddard Stark while he was in play and then discard it the first time Ned would be killed, indicating that they somehow survived the attack.

What do we say to the God of death?  Not today.


There's some good news and bad news regarding what just buying a single copy of the Core set brings you...

Good News
Standalone, the Core set is actually a little bit like A Game Of Thrones-themed edition of the hit game Smash Up! in that you get eight core faction minidecks that you can throw together to form various alliances and extend the lifespan of your game.  A one-off purchase potentially gives you quite a long experience if that's all you're looking for.

Bad News
In terms of deckbuilding and creating your own proper decks the Core Set gives you nowhere near what you need.  If you have a Core Set and enjoy the game then and you'll almost certainly need to have access to three (THREE!) copies of the Core Set if you're going to jump into the game seriously and start making your own decks.


Deckbuilding restrictions in A Game of Thrones LCG are 60 card decks with maximum 3 copies of a card, and in the Core Set you get 1 copy of each card.  So first off all you'll need to buy 2 Core Sets into order to legally make a deck of 60 cards, and secondly you'll need a third Core Set to ensure you've got access to enough copies of key cards for your deck, like 3x Eddard Stark, or 3x The Wall.

At this point I'll make a helpful reminder... this doesn't mean everyone buys three Core Sets, necessarily, I think A Game of Thrones LCG is going to be a perfect example of game where three people with one Core Set each can combine their card pools to help each other out.  Unlike Magic: The Gathering or Netrunner, where some cards are common across many decks, with eight factions to choose from there's likely to be a lot loss crossover of players wanting the same cards.  Touch wood that's the case!

Hopefully that's given those of you uncertain about what the game actually was a good flavour of what to expect, though please remember to go and read the Learn To Play Guide to fill in the gaps that I skimmed over - especially those new to TCG/LCGs in general as I probably did assume a certain amount of base knowledge of how games like this work.

As I said above my next blog is going to focus on the various Plots because I think that's one of the key mechanics in A Game of Thrones that really makes the game different to similar TCG/LCGs.

Friday, 17 July 2015


Welcome to The Old Gods and the New, my new blog about the 2nd Edition of Fantasy Flight Games’ A Game Of Thrones LCG!

I’m not going to have much game-related stuff to say this time round, this is really just a wee bit of an introduction for those who don’t know me.  I have over 20 years of experience of TCG/LCGs, primarily Magic: The Gathering, the World of Warcraft TCG and Netrunner, during which time I’ve played at every level from the kitchen table to the Pro Tour and back again.  In that time I’ve also worked as a strategy and coverage writer for Starcity Games, Wizards of the Coast (makers of Magic) and Cryptozoic (makers of WoW TCG), as well as running a blog about Android:Netrunner that people seemed to like.

In terms of the Game of Thrones LCG… so far I’ve only played the HBO version, though it was enough to pick up the flavour of how the game works and to know that I like it.  Compared to Magic I really enjoyed that layer of strategy that the Plots added, and if the full first edition of the LCG hadn’t already been several years old with a truly daunting amount of cards needed to jump in I might have played more.  I dove into Android: Netrunner few a couple of years instead.

This relaunched 2nd Edition of the A Game of Thrones LCG represents the perfect opportunity for many people (including myself) to get on board with a game that I’m really excited to explore, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring some of you along with me for the journey.  


Old Gods: If you're arriving on this blog as a seasoned player of the 1st Edition of the Game of Thrones LCG then I have two requests for you: firstly, please bear with me while I tune into the nuances of this game compared to those I've played before, and secondly (related to the first) if you think I'm getting something wrong or missing the point then please feel free to add a comment and point me in the right direction.  

New Gods: Those coming to the game either from the books and TV show, or from other card games... you're going to be seeing the game through new eyes, just like me.  Hopefully we can learn together and explore together, and I'll take pains to try and keep this blog accessible for those without decades of card shuffling experience.  If you think there's something in the game you need some help with then let me know, and I'll try and cover it in a blog.


Ahead of the game’s relaunch (fingers crossed for August, just a month away) I’m going to dive into the raft of material that already exists for the game and see what there is to learn so that we can make a running start once the actual box arrives in our actual hands.  Look out for a quick series of blogs over the next few weeks as I catch up on what has already been announced and start to get ready to play the game of thrones!