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Choose Your Title – Melee Archetypes

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There’s a longstanding tradition in the card gaming community for players to be divided into different personality archetypes to illustrate their different approaches to the game. For instance, where one player might only want the most effective cards, another player may put much more importance on the theme of the game. In the early days ofA Game of Thrones: The Card Game, these player types were defined as Jaime, Shagga, and Ned. Newer players may be unfamiliar with these names, so they loosely break down in the following manner: Jaime is the dedicated and efficient player focused on winning, Shagga is more entertained by newness and synergies, while Ned is focused on recreating the most evocative flavor of the novels. These archetypes are great tools for discussion among the designers and community, but they also only address half of the game—the joust format.

A full half of the diverse gameplay of the A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is found in the melee game: an engaging multiplayer format that truly evokes the treacherous, unpredictable flavor of George R.R. Martin’s novels. So, in order to more fully represent the diverse possibilities of the A Game of Thrones community, I’d like to present a set of archetypal player personalities for the melee format.

Cersei

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” 
–Cersei Lannister, A Game of Thrones

Much like her persona in the novels, the Cersei player type is in many ways a mirror of the Jaime joust archetype. In the novels, Queen Cersei Lannister has the cunning that’s so common to members of her family, but while her schemes frequently succeed in the short term, she fails to plan far enough ahead and often suffers unintended consequences. She moves quickly to gain power, but often doesn’t know what to do once she has it.

In the game, these traits express themselves in a tendency toward ruthlessly efficient power rush decks and open, visible threats. Cersei players may favor a character like Balon Greyjoy (Core Set, 68), who grabs power fast and poses a real question to other players, forcing them to answer him or race against him. Just because cards like Balon are an obvious threat isn’t to say that Cersei players aren’t interested in surprise power-gain cards like Lady Sansa’s Rose (The Road to Winterfell, 24). What matters is the sheer power and speed of the cards. Of course, in order to fuel this play style, Cersei players are likely to play plots such as Trading with the Pentoshi (The Road to Winterfell, 39); desperate for more gold and uncaring of any benefit they may give to other players.

The melee format also gives players new ways to interact with each other through the format-specific Title cards. Carefully choosing from the available titles is an important aspect of melee strategy, and Cersei players commonly tend toward certain titles whenever possible. The Hand of the King title gives an extra opportunity to make power challenges, which can accelerate a Cersei player towards the fifteen power needed to win. Once in the lead, however, a Cersei player may use Crown Regent in hopes of deflecting an incoming challenge and holding their lead long enough to close the game. 

Always beware when engaging with a Cersei player, as they are unlikely to form deals or alliances with other players. They would much rather push for their own goals than share any ties to another player. If they do offer a deal, stay wary, because they won’t hesitate to betray you for a win. In general, they also stay out of most table talk, instead choosing to focus their efforts against the weakest player at the table, confident in their ability to accrue power faster than the other players.

“Cersei is as gentle as King Maegor, as selfless as Aegon the Unworthy, as wise as Mad Aerys. She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honor, for love.”
–Tyrion Lannister, A Dance with Dragons

Brienne

 “I have to try to save her… or die in the attempt.”
–Brienne of Tarth, A Feast for Crows

In the novels, Brienne of Tarth is a powerful woman who bucks many of the social norms of Westeros to become a powerful warrior. Along with her great strength and skill at arms, Brienne shows heights of loyalty and honor displayed by few other characters. This led her first to protect Renly Baratheon and later search for Sansa Stark, but much like Eddard Stark, her personal honor can cause complications with less scrupulous players of the game of thrones. 

The traits of a Brienne player tend to foster a defensive nature in melee gameplay, as well as being the most likely player type to favor a certain flavor or theme. Brienne players will often use cards like The Watcher on the Walls (No Middle Ground, 66) and Eddard Stark (Core Set, 144), offering a strong defense to dissuade other players from attacking them. On the plot front, Brienne players may favor cards like A Feast for Crows (Core Set, 2), which lets them use their defensive strength to convince the other players to send their challenges elsewhere. Then, the Brienne player can claim dominance with the extra strength that wasn’t committed to challenges.

Interestingly, the Brienne player also leans toward the Crown Regent title, but with different motivations than a Cersei player. Brienne players attempt to influence the state of the game through a defensive show of strength, hoping to deter incoming challenges without having to actively use resources to fend them off. The threat of activating the Crown Regent’s challenge redirection can frequently alter the decisions other players make without even actually using the Crown Regent’s power. 

If you’re considering making deals or alliances with other players at the table, Brienne players are your best choice of ally. Their unflagging sense of honor means that they will almost always stick to both the letter and the spirit of the agreement, even when breaking such bonds may be the better tactical play. Brienne players do typically engage in table talk, but again, it is more defensive in nature as they attempt to persuade people not to act against them or to honor existing deals rather than interfering with other players. A Brienne player can be particularly vengeful if another player reneges on a deal, however.

“He said that all his other knights wanted things of him, castles or honors or riches, but all that Brienne wanted was to die for him.”
–Loras Tyrell, A Storm of Swords

The Queen of Thorns

“All men are fools, if truth be told, but the ones in motley are more amusing than the ones with crowns.”
–Olenna Redwyne, A Storm of Swords

Lady Olenna Redwyne is best known in Westeros as the Queen of Thorns, a nickname earned by her biting wit and sharp tongue. She’s the matriarch of House Tyrell and the architect behind many alliances and political maneuvers. She is a shrewd manipulator, and though she appears feeble, it’s heavily hinted in the novels that much of her appearance is an act designed to make others underestimate her.

In gameplay, Queen of Thorns players tend to lean toward cards with a more subtle influence on the game. They tend not to push for overly threatening power-gain cards like Balon Greyjoy (Core Set, 68). Instead, Queen of Thorns players often opt for a card like Joffrey Baratheon (Core Set, 86) to pick up a few power tokens without looking nearly as powerful. They may also tend toward cards like Fiery Followers (Core Set, 54), which allow them to be flexible in challenges while also generating power through dominance. On the plot front, these players may use a plot likeWildfire Assault (Core Set, 26), which can even the playing field without knocking any one player too far behind.

When choosing titles, a Queen of Thorns player is generally cognizant of the strength that increased options gives them. To that end, they often choose titles like Master of Coin and Master of Laws that gain an immediate resource advantage. Having more vital resources at their disposal helps the Queen of Thorns player answer threatening situations and control the tempo of the entire game. 

The social aspect of the melee game is where Queen of Thorns players take the most delight and truly excel. Here, they know that they are not only playing their own deck—they’re also playing their opponents around the table. Look for Queen of Thorns players to eagerly ask for and seek out deals with other players, all while attempting to spin such deals so that they sound especially sweet to their opponent. This type of player is likely to keep these agreements, but they are never above betrayal if their own interests are best served elsewhere. One last, interesting aspect of this archetype is that they are the most likely to spread their challenges and effects around the board—always wary of hurting one player so much that the game turns into a power-grabbing race of beating down a weakened player.

“The old woman is not boring, though, I’ll grant her that. A fearsome old harridan, and not near as frail as she pretends.”
–Tyrion Lannister, A Storm of Swords

Chella, Daughter of Cheyk

“Why should we trust your word?… Lowland lords have lied to the clans before.”
Chella, Daughter of Cheyk, A Game of Thrones

There are few warriors among the clans of the Vale as feared as Chella, chief of the Black Ears clan. She is a small, dark, hard woman with the blunt love of battle exhibited by nearly all clansmen. Chella is known for collecting the ears of her enemies but leaving them alive to bear their grudges and scars into battle another day. Though she travels with Tyrion to King’s Landing, her main motivation is to collect the weapons promised to the clans so she can wreak havoc at home in the Mountains of the Moon.

When choosing the cards to include in their deck, Chella players often lean toward cards that cause maximum carnage at a multiplayer table. They commonly favor cards like Varys (Core Set, 29), even if it doesn’t leave them in a superior position—they only care that they have reset the game and destroyed the other players’ work. Chella players also like to use plots such as Marched to the Wall (Core Set, 15), uncaring that the effect won’t target each player equally and may drastically weaken another player’s position. This type of player also enjoys Naval Superiority(Core Set, 17), gleefully hoping to penalize at least one opponent, even if they can’t predict which opponent that will be.

On the title front, Chella players consistently lean toward cards that have the maximum impact against the other players. They love using Master of Whispers by attacking the weakest player and inflicting claim on the entire table. They also enjoy the Master of Ships title for the opportunity to deal extra damage on their rivals, even if they have no control over who those people might be. 

Chella players are the least likely to play the social game of melee, not because they are unskilled, but because they simply don’t care about it. When they sit down at a melee table, they’ve established a different metric for their enjoyment of the game. Other archetypes play to win the game in their own particular way, while Chella players try to cause as much chaos as possible. Whatever you do, you can never trust a Chella player—your trust is only another tool that they can use to upset everybody’s plans.

“M’lord Varys complimented Chella on her ears and said she must have killed many men to have such a fine necklace. And Chella told him only cowards kill the vanquished.” 
–Shae, A Clash of Kings

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Kennon
Will is a longtime fan of sci-fi and fantasy who first discovered the AGOT CCG in the fall of 2002, shortly after reading the first three novels that summer. He was instantly hooked and playing the game has been his competitive outlet every since. He cofounded 2 Champs and a Chump (now The White Book) in 2010 and since took over the show completely. His favorite faction is House Lannister and at heart he's a Shagga player in joust and a Queen of Thorns in melee.

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