LCG News!

Wow, folks! Just, wow! Things seem to be getting a little bit crazy in the Living Card Game world at the minute, with FFG announcing the end of one of their most successful LCGs, Android Netrunner just days after the announcement of a new co-operative card games, Heroes of Terrinoth!

Android Netrunner

The news that Netrunner is ending is quite the shock, I have to say. I’d always been under the impression that it was one of their biggest product lines, and thought that would be too much to let it go. While the article, Jacking Out, makes it sound very much like the decision was made by FFG, and the game was just at the end of its natural run as a product, there are other quotes scattered around related news articles that refer to “the unfortunate news about the Netrunner license”, which makes it sound more like they’ve lost that license, rather than anything else. A lot has been made in the past of FFG wanting to focus more on their in-house IP, which we’re now seeing with the second-edition-style of Terrinoth games such as the RPG, so I can see why they’re looking at things like the Warhammer license and perhaps choosing not to renew (though what exactly happened there, we don’t know!) Star Wars is doing well for them, and I think A Game of Thrones will continue to be an earner, as well. But it still feels a bit odd that they’re just letting this one go, especially so soon after the rotation period.

Android Netrunner

I’m going to be sad to see Netrunner leave the stable, even though I stopped following the game after rotation. I’ve had a lot of fun with this game over the years, and I still remember the excitement of that very first game I had back in the summer of 2013. When I used to live in my flat, I had neighbours out the back who would hold a massive birthday party around the 4 July weekend every year, which would invariably go on into the small hours – Netrunner proved to be my coping mechanism for that, as I’d just settle down to a night of watching the Naked Gun trilogy, and (initially) sorted out my entire card pool into each faction (up until this point, I’d kept them sorted by expansion). Year after year, that 4 July weekend would be when I’d go through the card pool once again, and see about mixing up my decks for the coming months. It sounds a bit strange, but I came to really enjoy these times, all the same! Netrunner was the game with which I somehow managed to infect my entire local community with the LCG bug, and led to one of only two official tournaments in which I’ve competed. I don’t want to turn this into some kind of eulogy for the game, but I’ll be sad to see it go.

Heroes of Terrinoth

Going back to in-house IP brings us nicely on to the news from earlier in the week, where another co-operative card game has been announced: Heroes of Terrinoth. This game looks like it is strongly influenced by the mechanics of FFG’s Warhammer Quest card game, something that turned out to be a one-shot before the license went away back in 2015. While I wanted to like it, ultimately I wasn’t really a big fan of that iteration, I have to say, which makes me a little wary of saying this, but I’ve been waiting for a Terrinoth LCG for what feels like centuries!

It feels at first glance a bit like Arkham Horror LCG, with heroes coming from a specific class. However, with eight quests in the core set, and a focus on dungeon-delving to slay the monster and grab some loot, I think this is more akin to Descent: the Card Game, than anything else! Maybe that’s just me being immersed in these games from the start, though…

It’s definitely got the potential to be a lot of fun, at any rate, something that I think has been the hallmark of the first batch of Terrinoth games such as Descent. While FFG has looked more at the tribal feel of the setting through factional games like Runewars and Rune Age, I think it’s interesting that they’re returning to the hero-driven style with this new game. It seems to be an aspect that a lot of people appreciate – and I’m guessing that if they had introduced another factional-based game, it would have the potential to be too similar to Legend of the Five Rings. Building a deck as a hero rather than a warlord has that classic RPG feel, which I suppose is another of the hallmarks of Descent-era Terrinoth games. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where this game goes next, and if the tribes such as Uthuk Y’llan or Daqan Lords will make an appearance. It could be telling that the announcement article mentions the setting as Mennara, the entire world of which Terrinoth is only a part, so perhaps we’ll branch out beyond any of the other games FFG has yet produced?

While it isn’t another LCG, I’m guessing that the distribution model will be very much akin to it, with campaign boxes bringing more quests and the like, and potentially class-specific upgrade packs to further kit-out your decks. A huge negative for the Warhammer Quest game was its lack of replayability, but with eight quests off the bat, this should at least be better in that regard.

It’s worth pointing out, incidentally, that all mention of the deck-building card game Rune Age has been removed from the products pages now. You can still find it if you search for it, of course, but I wonder if they’re planning to quiety do away with that one now that they have the LCG on the horizon?

There’s also the State of the LCG article up on the website, which looks into how the Netrunner announcement will potentially affect the other games on the roster. L5R is naturally a big component of this right now, and while I’ve not been paying attention to the latest of the living card games, it does seem like this is perhaps their principal thrust for the time being. The approach of releasing all six packs for a cycle across six weeks, rather than the usual six months, I find really interesting, as it was always something of a contention for the games I used to follow really closely, waiting for that one sweet card that I knew was in pack six, and having to stand by while seeing other factions getting awesome stuff. Warhammer Invasion was always a pain for this, but to a lesser extent, I’ve also seen it a lot with Lord of the Rings, when a card would come out in pack six that would have made the experience with quest #3 so much easier!

It’s interesting to read how the designers think the other LCGs are doing right now, and seeing their priorities for the future. Arkham Horror and A Game of Thrones also seem to be pretty big for the company right now, and seeing the designer insight for all four of the games here was really interesting as showing just how unique each game is now being encouraged to be. While it strikes me as a little funny that A Game of Thrones seems to be morphing a little into its first edition, it’s cool to see such attention to the story being given in Arkham Horror. It’s also kinda fascinating to see the differences that each game is trying, with stuff like the Return to the Night of the Zealot box for Arkham Horror that seems to function almost as a Nightmare Deck deluxe, and the intro decks for each House in A Game of Thrones.

Lord of the Rings still troubles me a little, though I think there is still the potential there to keep going for a while. We’re poised on the brink of the Ered Mithrin Cycle, of course, which is exciting as it feels like we’re going back into the heartland of Middle Earth after being away for so long, but there’s a part of me that wonders, will this be the end? I think a lot of players have been guilty for a long time of thinking the end is nigh, but with the launch of the new digital edition, it does seem that this is more of a possibility now. With seven full expansion cycles, not to mention all of the Saga expansions and standalone decks, would this be the right time to draw the game to a close? The glimmer of hope, for me, is seeing Caleb’s thoughts about implementing campaign play with the game now that the main six-part Saga expansion era is over. Not that we should be reading so much into it these days, but perhaps something like a Return to the Night of the Zealot box could be coming, marking a return to some of the older scenarios to make them into a more cohesive campaign. I think it’s really exciting to see them return to some of the encounter sets from the Core Set in the upcoming deluxe expansion, so maybe this could be a thing once again?

Anyway, this has been a very long and rambling post about Living Card Games, so I think I’ll stop here. I’m curious to see what other people think, though, so do feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Battles of Westeros

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and this week is the first in a two-part series that takes a look at a pair of fairly similar games from Fantasy Flight, tabletop wargames that use a hex-based map the players fight over. This week, we’re going to Westeros!

Battles of Westeros

Battles of Westeros was published in 2010 by Fantasy Flight, as “A Battlelore Game”, and uses a lot of the mechanics from the earlier, fantasy-based game. Set in the now-iconic universe of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, players take the armies of Stark and Lannister to bloody combat across a series of scenarios that recreate some of the climactic battles of the novel series.

The scenario-based system means that you get to play different games each time you play, as the victory conditions are always changing. There is, of course, also the option of a Skirmish game that allows for less-prescriptive games. The system is fairly straightforward, with one side needing to secure objectives and such, and the gameplay tends to be uncluttered, allowing you to focus more on strategy than rules.

Each game round has four phases: rally, order, marshalling, and regroup. Rallying the troops is basically refreshing all of those units that have acted already in your last turn. Ordering the troops is where you dish out the orders for the coming battle; Marshalling is where those orders happen, such as movement and combat; and finally Regroup is the cleanup step where you check for victory and the like.

Battles of Westeros

The army you choose will give you a choice of Commanders you can play, as shown above. Commanders have some powerful in-game mechanics, and always come with a group of bodyguard units. Jaime Lannister comes with Lannisport Guard, for example, so he will take up one slot in the Guard’s grouping when deployed. His abilities, however, will usually affect the whole army, and not just the army unit he’s with. For example, Commanders have a one-use “commit” ability that is quite powerful, but can only be used once in the game before the card is flipped over. Jaime’s commit ability affects all of the units adjacent to him whenever he captures an enemy Commander, while his regular ability only affects the unit he’s in.

In addition, Commanders come with a suite of Leadership cards that are added to your deck at the start of the game. These Leadership cards form something of the meat of the game. Usually, a card will have one ability that will require you to spend tokens to use them (Jaime Lannister has three such tokens to spend per turn, denoted in the bottom-right of his card). These cards are used during the Order phase to give your army direction for the coming turn. The Commander’s Leadership cards, however, have multiple choices on them, providing for greater tactical flexibility over the course of the game.

Battles of Westeros

The combat system is notable for using 8-sided dice (a precursor to X-Wing). Each unit is colour-coded, from the most basic infantry troops (green), to the middle-guys (blue), and finally the elite units (red). There are more green symbols on these dice than red, naturally, and in order to roll a successful hit against a unit, the dice need to match that unit’s colour. Additionally, green units roll 2 dice, while red units roll 4 dice, so while it is possible to defeat an elite unit with your chumps, it can be a slog. However, it is also possible to roll a Valor symbol, which is a bit like a wild card and will cause a hit no matter what colour of unit you’re attacking. Of course, the very chumpiest of infantry have a further restriction that denies them this ability, but it does mean you have more of a chance than you might think.

The dice also have the potential to cause Morale hits, which force the unit to retreat one hex. this can be important as some units can Counterattack if they survive the first round of melee combat. When hits are resolved, one model from the unit is removed for each hit, so you can potentially wipe out a unit, which causes a Morale loss for the army overall. If your House’s morale gets too low, your army will flee the battlefield immediately. Importantly, Commanders are not removed as casualties in this way, but instead have a “capture rating”, denoting the number of hits that must be done to them in a single round of combat once all other models in the Commander’s unit have been removed as casualties. Captured Commanders are removed from the board, and their abilities can no longer be used.

Battles of Westeros is a really fun and engaging game, and will appeal especially to fans of the books looking to get something deep out of a board game. It does use a lot of elements of the traditional war game, of course, such as morale and line of sight, and games tend to take around 2 hours to get through, so it will likely appeal to pretty dedicated folks! I had a lot of fun playing this game back in the day, though as other games have taken over my game nights in recent years, its long set-up and play times meant that BoW became relegated to the point where I eventually sold it all last year. Which was a shame, as it’s a really great game.

The game has been kinda languishing in FFG’s inventory for a while, however, with no new expansions since 2012’s House Baratheon box. While they have launched the LCG in a second edition, I think Cool Mini Or Not’s upcoming miniatures game will likely mean that Battles of Westeros has seen its time in the sun…

It’s the GAMA Trade Show 2017!

Hey everybody!
Well, it’s been an exciting week for games, as the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas showed off some really cool, really interesting things that have got me wanting to play more games! I’ve been trying to digest these things all week, so let’s take a look at some highlights!

First of all, it’s the return of Necromunda – it’s Shadow War: Armageddon! The internet seems to have been baying for the return of Necromunda ever since Games Workshop announced they would be producing specialist games back in the day, and while this clearly isn’t it, it’s probably the next best thing, I would think? I mean, Blood Bowl came back as Blood Bowl, and while Warhammer Quest did get the Age of Sigmar thing for Silver Tower, it still has the name. To produce a squad-based game like this and call it anything other than Necromunda just says that the original game isn’t going to be coming back any time soon. Though in the anniversary year of 40k, who knows if they’ll produce some kind of memorial edition?

At any rate, I think this is really cool, and I’m excited to get myself a copy! The fact that you can use other squads is obviously tailored for selling more miniatures, but I like the fact that you can customise your game experience right from the off, so that’s a big plus in my book!

GW were also showing off some of the new Kharadron Overlords at the show, which is a nice touch and they do look pretty great!

The biggest thing to come from the show is said to have been this new A Song of Ice and Fire tabletop miniatures game from Cool Mini Or Not. I enjoyed Battles of Westeros back in the day, and the Game of Thrones LCG is one of my favourites, but I don’t really think I’m going to take the plunge. I’ve noticed, in fact, that I’m leaning away from Westeros as time has gone on, mainly I think I’m just losing interest in the whole thing. I’ve talked about the books on this blog before, of course, and while the first three were really great, tightly-constructed yet deeply complex plots, the story seems to have gotten unwieldy for the sake of it. I’ve always preferred the books to the show anyway, but it seems that these things have become caricatures of themselves, as they seek to out-do expectations by being over the top and whatnot. A game on the subject, therefore, holds little appeal…

But what else has been going on in Vegas?

There are some interesting bits here at the Flying Frog booth, notably the looks at the Mission Packs for Shadows of Brimstone! I’m still a little bummed that I haven’t had anything beyond the base games delivered yet, but seeing those packs has gotten me once more interested in the game, and excited to see all of the rest of the content coming out for it all!

There are only two other games that have sparked my attention in this montage here (from the excellent Rodney Smith of Watch It Played – if you haven’t already, please go check out his youtube channel, it’s amazing) are Rise of Tribes and Meduris: Call of the Gods.

Meduris reminds me a lot like Stone Age, one of the resource-management games that feel like Settlers of Catan without being as rage-inducing. Rise of Tribes looks to have a similar feel, though I like the fact that it has a dice mechanic that determines your actions for the round, that sounds really nice and strategic… Meduris is out in the world now of course, while Rise of Tribes is going onto kickstarter in June, apparently, which is giving me some pause… I’m not the biggest fan of these things, after all, so we’ll have to see how this turns out!

Runewars Miniatures Game

Fantasy Flight also had a heavy showing of the Runewars miniatures game, which they seem to be pushing really quite heavily at the moment. While they still have some pretty big licences, such as Star Wars and Lovecraft, it strikes me that they’re really pushing this game out there to fill the gap left from parting with Games Workshop last month. The game is expected in April, but I have to say, the more I’m seeing of it, the less I’m thinking it’s going to be something I want. There are certainly some interesting things going on in this game, for sure, but I don’t think it will be worth making such a huge investment up front for something that only looks mildly interesting. Might have to wait for my local store to run a demo…

So yeah, that’s GAMA 2017, folks!

A Song of Ice and Fire

Hey everybody!
Following Tuesday’s game blog, I wanted to take some time here to explore the epic setting of that game, and look at the series of novels from George RR Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. This is by no means intended as an exhaustive account, or a detailed review, but more my various ramblings on the books that have been released to date.

A Song of Ice and Fire

I first came upon these books in the winter of 2011, after a few weeks of my friend Tony singing their praises. I bought the first four in paperback (amounting to five books, due to book three being split in half) and, after a fairly tough start, began to really enjoy them. I stopped reading at the conclusion to book three that Christmas, and it took some time to get going with book four in the new year – indeed, I’ve never seemed to reacquire the interest I had for the first three parts, something I largely attribute to the fact that books four and five are just too sprawling and, well, dull by comparison.

Let’s take a look into some more depth, though.

A Game of Thrones introduces us to the cast, predominantly centred on Westeros. Through the opening chapters we learn that the Targaryen family had ruled the land for centuries, having united the seven warring kingdoms in the near-mythic past, but had recently been ousted in a rebellion led by Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. Robert found himself as king, while Eddard had returned to his ancestral holdings of Winterfell in the north. The Targaryens had largely been killed, but two children had escaped across the sea to the east, where they began to plot their return to power.

Over the course of the novel, we see Daenarys Targaryen mature into a woman who is willing to take control of her own destiny, and while most of her earlier scenes had left me almost cringing with the misogynist brutality heaped upon her, I found myself cheering her on almost above all the rest. In Westeros, plots and schemes are uncovered as we see Cersei Lannister implicated in the death of her husband Robert, and when Eddard – newly appointed as the King’s Hand – begins to sniff around for the truth, he is summarily executed. Cersei has her son Joffrey Baratheon crowned, intending to be the power behind the throne.

There are all manner of schemes and plot twists in the novel that really captivate the reader, and the sense of history is really palpable. This is not just some fantasy story set in a pseudo-middle ages, with knights and ladies, kings and castles. This is a land where things have happened, people have done things, and the ramifications of these events are being felt in various ways for years after the fact. It’s easy to see the heroes and the villains at first glance, but the more you read, the more these lines become blurred.

A Clash of Kings explores more of the land and the people, and deepens the intrigue surrounding the Iron Throne as Robert’s brothers, Stannis and Renly, each lay a claim to the throne over Joffrey. In addition, Eddard’s son Robb is proclaimed as King in the North, and the irascible Balon Greyjoy takes his cue from this to declare his fiefdom of the Iron Islands a separate kingdom. The ensuing War of the Five Kings is prosecuted as much on land as it is in the Small Council, and the intrigue deepens.

As much as A Game of Thrones saw the world in turmoil, A Clash of Kings sees things really go to hell. The two younger Stark children begin exciting storylines of their own, as we follow Bran in his mystical journey with the Reed children. The fortunes of their mother Catelyn aren’t much better, when she is implicated in the murder of Renly Baratheon. With Sansa as an effective hostage in King’s Landing, and Arya wandering the riverlands posing as a boy, it seems the Stark fortunes rest solely on Robb, off prosecuting the war against the Lannisters. With Winterfell unguarded, Theon Greyjoy captures the castle to try to impress his father, but falls to the Stark bannermen of House Bolton. The book ends with the massive Battle of Blackwater Bay, a huge set-piece battle that involves most of the major players. At the other end of the kingdom, a massive force of wildlings comes together to march on The Wall, while in the east, Daenarys continues her quest to amass forces to assist in regaining the throne of Westeros.

The book is sprawling, don’t get me wrong – that precis does absolutely no justice to it whatsoever. However, it’s still very much contained, and despite its length, remains readable.

A Storm of Swords, split in two for publication in paperback, is a still more massive undertaking than its predecessor. The War of the Five Kings is brought to a conclusion when all but Stannis are killed in one way or another. Balon Greyjoy falls to his death from a bridge, while Robb is murdered at the infamous Red Wedding of his uncle Edmure Tully, in revenge for a perceived slight on House Frey for Robb marrying Jayne Westerling. Joffrey is then poisoned at his own wedding feast to Margaery Tyrell, his uncle Tyrion implicated in the death. Tyrion escapes with the help of his brother Jaime, and flees east after killing his father Tywin. Roose Bolton has been made the lord of the north to replace Robb Stark, and Stannis travels north to The Wall at the urging of his priestess-adviser Melisandre. There, the pack of wildlings is discovered to be fleeing from some horrible menace known simply as The Others. The book ends with the dead Catelyn Stark reanimated as Lady Stoneheart, leading the Brotherhood Without Banners on retaliatory strikes against the Lannisters and Freys in the Riverlands.

The bodycount on this one is immense. The Red Wedding aside, the closing chapters of the novel feel almost like the author was attempting to bring about closure through death on many of the characters, and definitely feels like drawing a line under the events of the opening trilogy.

A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons take place following these events, following the fates of the characters who are now scattered to the winds. We get to meet the Martells of Dorne, my personal favourites in the series thus far, largely because of the sense of history that comes with them. The Martell family had historically been closely tied to the Targaryens, and as such we learn more about the rebellion. I also really enjoy the exoticism of Dorne – while the free cities of Essos are undoubtedly exotic, they feel more like Morocco to Dorne’s Spain – it’s exotic without being too foreign, somehow (I’m in the UK, remember, so that analogy probably won’t transfer well outside these shores!)

These two books are, however, long. While the series had been long up to this point, these books really feel like they’re being dragged out, and I think that’s in part due to the fact that they are split geographically, with the events of A Feast for Crows following a select few of the point-of-view characters, while A Dance With Dragons runs concurrently for about two thirds, and deals with the remaining narrators. While we had a good mix in the earlier novels, here it is watered down to leave the sense of time slowing down. It’s also inevitable, given that any book at the halfway point will need to breathe, as the reader has been presented with the strands of intrigue, and now needs the ending set up.

I also feel that one of George RR Martin’s greatest strengths is also his greatest weakness here. The man is very good at capturing the essence of a scene, and making us shiver with the snow beyond the wall or bake in the heat of Mereen. As such, particularly with A Dance With Dragons, the book feels cold somehow, and there’s only so much of that that I can take in one sitting. As a result, I really struggled with these later books. While it’s also true that unnecessary details bog the plot down, with a narrative of this calibre, it’s inevitable that we’re going to be a bit lost as we begin to move in for the finale.

I haven’t really mentioned much on the subject of the brutality of the series, but I suppose it’s worth a mention. The story is pretty grim, and there are scores of gruesome murders, capped of course with the deeply disturbing Red Wedding, which sees, among other things, Robb and his direwolf killed, the wolf’s head sewn onto his body and his crown nailed to it. Sometimes I was left pretty aghast at these things, because they do tend to feel too unnecessary after a while. Yes, we get it, the Red Wedding was an atrocity, we don’t need to know how every single guest was killed in the greatest of detail. There is, of course, also a lot of sex in these books, and often the two go hand in hand. Do we need such a level of sexual violence? I’m not so sure. Martin has been dubbed “the American Tolkien”, which I’m sure was meant to impress upon us the epic sweep of the story, because that’s really where the comparisons end. It’s difficult to classify A Song of Ice and Fire as fantasy when more often than not it comes across as a kind of historical fiction – it just so happens there is a supernatural element coming through with the Others and the limited mentions of quasi-magic. Oh, and the dragons.

In the main, Martin’s novels tend to gritty realism than high fantasy, and I often get the impression that the violence and the sex is meant to legitimise these books somehow, almost as if to say it’s not a tale of dragons and swashbuckling if there’s a scene of incestuous rape included as well. Sure, the middle ages were a brutal time, but my argument against such gratuitous violence has always been, if the world-building is good enough, we’ll be convinced that it’s real without the need for pulverized heads or mutilated genitals. I can never quite take it seriously, in the end, seeing such things as more a desensitizing catalogue of violence than having any real meaning to the story. “Oh, bucket of rats to the stomach, set them on fire and watch them burrow through the torso? Different…” There’s no sense of danger, it’s just another scene of senseless torture in a whole parade of other senseless acts of torture. Meh.

But overall, there is a really great story in there, and it’s well worth discovering. If you’ve only been watching the show, then you’re missing out on a whole lot!

The only game that matters

Hey everybody,
Today’s game day blog is going to be something a bit special – well, it’s special for me, at least, but I hope you enjoy it, as well! With the release of the second edition a couple of weeks ago, I expect this first edition will shortly be consigned to oblivion, so it’s almost a kind of memorial to a once-great card game from Fantasy Flight Games: A Game of Thrones LCG.

A Game of Thrones LCG

Okay, so that opening’s a bit hyperbolic, I know. However, the game really is a great one, and while I haven’t played it for a long time now, it’s still a staunch favourite of mine, with some very happy memories attached to it. Anyway. The game began life in the mists of time (that is, 2002) as a collectible card game in the Magic mould, but was redeveloped in 2008 to be the inaugural living card game alongside Call of Cthulhu. The designers are some of my absolute favourite game designers of all time, Eric Lang (who also did the Star Wars LCG among others) and Nate French (responsible for Lord of the Rings LCG), as well as the company CEO, Christian Petersen.

The game can be played by 2-4 players, in a one-to-one game referred to as Joust, as well as a 4-player multiplayer mode called Melee. Now, I’ve only ever played the former, so will be focusing on that mode of play here, but let’s briefly talk about Melee to start. The game comes with a small board and six plastic miniatures that represent the various roles of the Small Council of Westeros, such as the Master of Whispers and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. At the beginning of each round, the players select a title starting with the first player. These create specific relationships among the players, as they are arrayed on the board in such a way that they support or oppose each other. In game, this creates alliances among players that allow you to redirect challenges to defend your allies, as well as providing bonuses for yourself. These will only last for the round, but add an extra dimension to the game that echoes the scheming and double-dealing of the novel series.

A Game of Thrones LCG

But Joust is where I am most familiar, so let’s get some head-to-head action!

The game is a fairly straightforward attack-style game, where the object is to claim 15 power for your House (represented by the little blue tokens). There are, of course, several small tweaks to the game that make it more interesting than that, and the most notable of these is the inclusion of the plot deck. Alongside your normal deck of cards, you also have a deck of 7 plot cards that provide an ongoing effect for you during the round they are revealed. In addition to a gameplay mechanic, they determine your economy, determine first player through the initiative value, and feature a “claim” value that will become important during the challenge.

A Game of Thrones LCG

Once your plot card is revealed, you draw cards and play cards from your hand (called Marshalling), using the gold you made from your plot card. As you can see in the above assembly of plot cards, the gold value (the coin symbol on the top-left) is fairly low, so you need to make sure you have other cards out that will provide gold as any unspent gold is returned at the end phase – the base game comes with a series of “roads” that will provide money, but each House also has its own methods, particularly, of course, the Lannisters.

After this comes the meat of the game, the challenge. There are three types of challenge – military (red symbol), intrigue (green circle) and power (blue circle), and only the latter will actually win you the game, but you cannot merely pack your deck with power challenge cards and expect victory.

A Game of Thrones LCG

In A Song of Ice and Fire, the story is propelled along by the wealth of compelling characters. As you’d no doubt expect, then, this game is propelled along by the characters we all know and love, or love to hate. I’m a huge Martell fan, which is why I’m predominantly using those cards to illustrate this blog, but throughout the life of this card game, all of our favourites from books 1 through to 5 make at least one appearance here. Each character card usually has at least one of the three challenge icons on the bottom-left of the card, though there are some that have none as they are intended purely as support cards. At its most basic, the challenge has three steps: declare attackers, declare defenders, and resolve.

The attacking player declares what kind of challenge they are performing, and “kneels” (exhaust, or tap) the card to show it as an attacker. The defender then kneels any cards to defend, which must have the corresponding challenge icon. The attacking characters then have their strength value added (the shield icon above the challenge icons), and compared with the combined strength of the defenders. It’s worth pointing out that there are a whole wealth of cards that will boost characters’ strength, as well as some of the multiplayer titles.

If you win as the attacker, you get the claim effect based on the type of challenge: for military challenges, you kill a number of characters equal to the claim number on your plot card; for intrigue challenges the defender must discard a number of cards from hand equal to the claim value, and for power challenges you steal a number of power tokens from the defender equal to the claim number. The claim number is the number in the grey circle icon on the plot card, and is most often 1, but can be both 0 and 2 also. If you lose as the attacker, then nothing happens. However, if you win an unopposed challenge, or reduce the opposing strength to 0, then you gain a bonus power token.

More opportunities to claim power come from characters with the Renown keyword, and also the Dominance phase that follows combat, where the total strength of all standing characters is counted, the winner gaining one power. Some interesting decisions have to be made, therefore – do you use that 1-strength character for an intrigue challenge, knowing your opponent cannot block you, but risk losing Dominance and letting another player pull ahead in power?

Finally, all kneeling characters stand, and any remaining gold is returned to the bank as Taxation. The next round then begins when a new batch of plot cards is revealed, with gameplay continuing until one player has reached a total of 15 power.

A Game of Thrones LCG

There are a wealth of other cards in the game to support your strategy, from locations that provide bonuses (such as the aforementioned “roads”) and attachments that boost characters (or sometimes, House cards) to events with one-time uses and agendas, which are revealed at the beginning of the game and provide additional benefits, sometimes at the expense of your path to victory.

A Game of Thrones LCG is one of my favourite card games, for the breadth of choice that it gives you as a player. I’m not talking just about the sheer amount of cards here, but the choice in how you play the game. I’ve played this a lot with my regular gaming buddy Tony, who is a Stark man through-and-through, where his deck revolves almost entirely around the military challenge and killing me off, relying on Renown to gain the power for victory. Quite early on, I developed a more insidious approach – while I often play Martell because I love them so much, I think this worked best with the Lannisters. Basically a deck with a lot of power and intrigue challenges, with some minor fodder characters to block the military challenges and prevent unopposed bonuses as much as possible. The point is, this game isn’t about just killing your enemy, but with so many little intricacies it’s a completely absorbing game, and can provide hours of entertainment just from flicking through the cards and building your deck.

As I said before, the source material is so character-driven that the character cards are the real meat of this game, however a good deck here will not only contain good characters, but also good, solid support. Iconic locations and attachments, such as The Iron Throne or Ice, can provide the boosts you need to make your strategy the winning one. There’s just so much you can do in the game, so much going on, so much depth… I really love it! Of course, this is part of the reason for moving to a second edition, as the interactions had become so complex. With so many cycles released for the game, the number of new rules had also increased – I’m hoping to make some more blog entries on some of these expansions further down the line, as there are some really great things in there!

Without a doubt, this is a great game. I actually came to it roughly in the middle of its run, so had a fair bit of catching up to do then, but the game had grown to such mammoth proportions that it was decided to end it with The Blue is Calling, the 72nd chapter pack, released in May this year. At the time I was a bit sad to see it go (though my wallet was not!), but with six deluxe expansions and twelve full cycles of chapter packs, this game had definitely become as bloated as the novel series, and the barrier of entry had become too high. Even with rotation introduced to the game, there was still too much product currently viable in the game for the tournament scene to really thrive. So I really don’t blame FFG for that decision. Of course, owning the entire run for the first edition, and enjoying it as much as I do, I have no real intention to get in on the second edition of the game.

That isn’t to say that second edition isn’t worth the look – check out this review on boardgamegeek to see some of the major differences and how they enhance gameplay. It’s a review that nearly had me buying the new edition, in fact! But having so much for the first edition has left me content to play in this version of Westeros for at least the foreseeable future…

A Game of Thrones LCG

New stuff! And not-so new stuff!

Hey everybody!

It’s been a pretty quiet week for me this past week, as I wrestled with the last essay for the degree I’ve been doing for a while now. That being said, it doesn’t look like there’s been an awful lot of game stuff about – so that was a totally misleading title, huh?!

You guys seen this? It was announced a while back, of course, but I’ve been a bit ambivalent about it all, if I’m honest. I mean, I have everything for the first edition of A Game of Thrones LCG, so I’ve been thinking it unlikely I’d want to get a second edition. Looking at all this stuff, it doesn’t really look significantly different enough to warrant buying anew. What do you folks think? Anyone eager to replace their first edition?

Perhaps more interesting in the LCG world are the expansions announced for Call of Cthulhu and Lord of the Rings. First of all, The Thousand Young is looking really intriguing. While previous big box expansions have introduced either a new setting, or buffed one of the eight factions. This one seems to be doing both, as we get Shub-Niggurath cards themed around New Orleans! Fantastic, very much looking forward to getting this, even though I don’t play the faction!

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The Treachery of Rhudaur, the fourth pack in the Angmar Awakened cycle for Lord of the Rings, is looking great, too. As the article says, the cards in this cycle build on the Noldor theme, and those of this fourth pack really contribute to this. So far, I’m really impressed with how this makes the game feel like it has been really well-planned, as the Noldor theme of discarding cards for buffs has already been established three cycles back. The quest is also a good one, more Undead folks and shenanigans among the crumbling ruins of a keep. I seem to remember the quests getting better as the cycle moves on – at any rate, I’m looking forward to this!

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The third exciting thing in the LCG world is the announcement of the next cycle for Warhammer 40k: Conquest! The Planetfall cycle features cards that work off specific planet card icons, which should make for some interesting strategies. I’m quite surprised by this, as it will be featuring Tyranids following their arrival in The Great Devourer, though I’d kinda expected we’d see the Necron deluxe expansion first. Seems like the Necrons will be entering this game significantly behind the other races, unfortunately!

Speaking of Necrons…

Over the course of the weekend I’ve been doing more stuff with Necrons, following last weekend’s success with the Immortals. Lychguards are, of course, my absolute favourite Necron kit – the amazing poses you can get from these guys are just great. I’ve currently got two squads of these chaps – one with warscythes and one with hyperphase swords/dispersion shields. I hadn’t built up any of these guys since late last year, however, so it was nice to get back to these guys, and I’ve spent a few hours on both these and the tomb blades that I’ve had going on for a few weeks now.

Necron Lychguard

I’m trying to remember how I painted these up last time, as I want them to blend in with those I painted up previously. Something I’ve tried to go for with my Necrons is to have a shaded body for the Immortals, but a more shining body for the Lychguard – they are the bodyguards of the lords, after all! So I’ve left the Immortals with a Nuln Oil wash, but these Lychguard have also been “drybrushed” with Necron Compound (of course!) – I use the term loosely, of course, as rather than drybrushing as a highlighting technique, I’ve been using an almost polishing action to try and add that metallic matte finish to them. You can see one of my previous guys on the far right of the above picture, anyway – so far, they do seem to be blending, anyway!

I’ve also built up a fourth tomb blade from spare bits that I’d bought for that kitbash competition a few months back, as well as some other bits I’d managed to scrounge from ebay. Marvellous! So I’ve currently got two with tesla cannons and two with gauss blasters. The most recent addition is that with the golden sensor vane thing in the above shot.

I’m kinda enjoying this increased painting activity, I must say. I’m currently planning to do a Doomsday Ark as a summer project, but I’m also thinking of doing the Night Scythe soon as well. I’ve also got the Triarch Stalker built up and primed since before Christmas, so that’ll need some attention soon… I’m also interested in doing something with my Monolith. Oh, so much plastic!