A lot of the discussion lately around A Game of Thrones Second Edition has focused on deck-building. It’s an important component of play and certainly where you should start, but great players get that way by focusing on tactics: what do you do with the cards in your hand (and on the board)? There was a great episode of Beyond the Wall on this topic featuring Dan Strouhal and Dave Stromes of NYC that covered some of these topics (http://www.cardgamedb.com/index.php/podcasts/_/game-of-thrones-beyond-the-wall/season-2-episode-38-r472), but I’ll expand the discussion of each phase. This edition of The White Harbor Times should serve as a guide for new players and a refresher for veterans.
In AGOT 2.0 each player starts the game with a seven-card hand. They can set up eight gold worth of characters, attachments, and locations.When reviewing your set-up hand, how should you decide whether to mulligan? It’s a good idea to know about how many cards your deck can set up on average. That way, you can guess whether or not you are likely to get more cards after mulliganing. Although we don’t currently have a setup simulator like we did in 1.0, you can use tools like thronesdb.com’s “Test” function to draw a large number of 7-card hands and keep track of how many cards you were able to set up. Obviously you can’t draw thousands of hands like a simulator can, but it should give you a rough idea of your deck’s average set up.
What should you look for in a set-up hand? Ideally, your hand should include some economy. A set-up of four characters, while it does let you redraw four cards, is not ideal because you’ll have trouble playing your biggest characters with all but a few plots. You’ll want to set up as many cards as possible most of the time, because the redraw up to seven allows you to dig further into your deck. Finally, does your hand contain any of your centerpiece cards? Balon Greyjoy or Melisandre make a big impact on the game when they hit the board early; if you have a middling hand without one of your important cards, you may want to try again.
When setting up your cards, look out for set-ups that result in only one character as this can lead your opponent to play Marched to the Wall. Similarly, a set up of a Roseroad, Chamber of the Painted Table, Iron Throne, and The Red Keep seems good at first, as you have draw and power gain, but depending on what characters your opponent sets up, you may never be able to catch up.
There are two things you need to do in the plot phase: 1) decide what you will flip and 2) predict what your opponent will flip. If you can successfully predict your opponent’s plot, you can use this information to help you choose a plot that will gain you the advantage. With such a small card pool, it’s often reasonably easy to predict an opponent’s plot choice, especially on certain turns. For example, it’s often possible to spot an oncoming Wildfire Assault (assuming your opponent is running it!) by taking into account the number of characters on either side of the board. In that case, you’d want to avoid Calling The Banners (your opponent will win initiative and make Wildfire go off first, limiting your CtB income to only 3 gold—likely not what you were hoping for). Marched to the Wall might be a better choice; you’d win initiative and could either choose Marched to go off first, destining one of your unique characters for the discard rather than the dead pile, or if it benefits you, have Wildfire go off first and watch each board shrink down to two characters.
A quick note on the “double Marched”: You have one character out and your opponent has two: a reducer and Tywin Lannister. Should you flip Marched to the Wall, expecting your opponent to do the same, and resulting in Tywin taking a trip to see the black brothers?
No! Generally speaking, this is a bad idea. You have no way of guaranteeing that your opponent will flip Marched. If they don’t and you do, you will be at a serious disadvantage. A crafty opponent might even try to bait you into it by joking about Marching you. Save your Marched, and you may get to use it on Tywin next turn. A good rule of thumb when predicting plot flips is that any plot you play should improve your situation regardless of what your opponent plays; and if they play what you expected, it will be even better. In the above example, it is definitely not to your advantage to March yourself. The only time I would consider it is when playing against a newer player who might not have considered the double Marched scenario, but even then it could backfire.
Besides being reactive to your opponent, you also need to make your own plan. If you play Wildfire Assault in your deck, you need to have a plan for when to play it. As you marshal out characters, think carefully about Wildfire—will you play it next turn? The turn after that? If you can, it’s best to hold off a turn to allow your opponent to play out more characters; they will have fewer left in hand to recover with. Don’t forget that while you are trying to predict what your opponent is doing, they’re doing the same thing! If it’s obvious that you should Wildfire . . . don’t!
A few more things:
· Consider whether you need to win initiative.
· Plan out what you’d like to marshal ahead of time to ensure you have the gold.
· Don’t play all of your income plots early. If you get hit with Varys or Wildfire Assault and need to recover, you’ll need a high-gold plot to do that.
· Don’t screw yourself on reserve! Save A Feast For Crows for later in the game when you have a smaller hand.
What do you think? Got any tips for set up and the plot phase? Let me know in the comments! See you in 2 weeks, when I’ll discuss tactics for the challenges phase!