The second edition of the A Game of Thrones card game has been officially released for about four weeks now in the UK, so I thought it was time to do a review of my experiences with it so far.
Before second edition was released I’d played a couple of games with some proxy cards and was interested enough by the game mechanics to buy into it when it came out. Since my main card game is Warhammer 40,000 Conquest (another LCG by Fantasy Flight Games) I was already familiar with the business model, so bought three core sets in order to get a playset (three copies) of all the cards so far.
The artwork and card layout are for the most part fantastic (especially compared to first edition, but that’s perhaps an unfair comparison). The strong background colour for each faction helps differentiate them at a glance (not a big issue, but helps reinforce the theme).
The big characters included are instantly recognisable and it seems that currently they are the best way to make decks. In Warhammer 40,000 Conquest playing the big elite units in large quantities is a sure-fire way to lose, so it’s nice to see that the flagship characters for the factions are viable. I’m sure that this will change to some degree as expansions are rolled out, but for the time being it’s nice to be able to use characters like Tywin Lannister and not feel like I’m harming the effectiveness of my deck.
The plot deck is a really fun aspect of both gameplay and deck-building. Using Conquest again as an example, the plot phase feels similar to the start of the command phase where you use your dial to secretly choose where you are sending your warlord this turn. In addition to the mind games of choosing your plot (and its effect), they also regulate your income, initiative bid, claim and hand size; so many different things to consider!
Onto the gameplay itself, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve tried joust (two-player) and melee (multi-player), both of which have been enjoyable. The melee’s titles (which you draft each turn) force shifting allegiances and rivalries, and eliminates some of the ganging-up that can happen in other multi-player games (MTG Commander springs to mind).
The game seems quite balanced so far*. Even in the games where I’ve had a slow or bad start I’ve not always been so far behind that I couldn’t get back into it. There are always going to be games where you simply cannot recover, but thankfully they have been few and far between.
*There’s a lot of talk online and locally about the current strength of the Baratheon faction. They are very powerful, and I’d be inclined to agree with the assessment that a complete beginner can do very well with them. Since it’s only the core set meta I’m happy enough to see how the first cycle plays out before crying broken. Anecdotally, I’ve been having a lot of success with my Lannister Fealty deck, also against Baratheon Fealty, but that could be down to the players involved rather than the relative strength of the factions.
“Tired of seeing me yet?”
Joust & Melee
Initially I thought that I would only really be interested in playing Joust, as two-player mode is the default for most competitive card games (when I say competitive, I mean anything that would have tournaments). However, after playing a few games of Melee I can definitely see how it is its own format and not just something tacked on as a feature. Over my years as a card player I’ve been conditioned to think that multiplayer variants of two-player games are only for casual play (MTG Commander or WoW Raids), but competitive Melee is something I would like to try.
So far I’ve built Joust decks for nearly all of the factions (keep holding off on making a Baratheon one though), but still haven’t explored all the available options. The fact that you can banner with any other faction means that there is a nearly endless list of possibilities (at least given the amount of time that most of us will be able to devote to play AGOT anyway).
I’ve tried a control-style deck with Lannister Fealty and found it to be very effective. The large amount of gold that they can generate means that you maybe don’t need to play so many high gold plots and can focus on ones that help your strategy. I’ve also tried more aggressive decks (combinations of Greyjoy/Stark), which were either utterly devastating or totally useless, but that’s probably my fault in how I used them.
For Melee I’ve tried out a few different decks, usually built with using a few particular cards in mind. For example, someone like Eddard Stark is even better in Melee, as every time a challenge is thrown your way he is going to stand. Another card I’ve enjoyed using is Palace Spearman. Whenever you are not the first player (i.e. most of the time) he gains an intrigue icon, making him very good value for four gold.
Your plot deck is also something that can be tailored for Melee. For example, the plot Naval Superiority (treat the base gold value on each revealed kingdom or edict plot as if it were zero) is quite likely to affect one or more players, probably ruining their turn. Marched to the Wall (each player chooses a character they control and discard it from play, no save) can also be really nasty, especially if someone only put one character into play during setup.
These things mean that when looking at cards you need to evaluate them not only for one versus one, but also for multiplayer*. In my opinion, this is great as it increases the chance that there will be few truly useless cards.
*In the previous edition there was also drafting, so if that makes its way into 2.0 that would mean that there were three different formats.
“Have I mentioned that Winter is Coming?”
As mentioned previously, my main card game is currently Warhammer 40,000 Conquest, and as such I really didn’t think that I would find A Game of Thrones 2.0 to be more than a passing distraction. Turns out I was wrong. So far it’s been loads of fun, both Joust and Melee. I find myself being as excited for the upcoming expansion for AGOT as I am for Conquest!
As you can probably guess, I’m a fan of this game. To any of you thinking about getting into it, ask one of your local players and they will undoubtedly be happy to give you a demo. If you like any of FFG’s Living Card Games or Game of Thrones, you will probably enjoy this game.
Any questions please ask in the comments section below; I’ll be happy to answer them.