The Second and Third chapter packs for Game of Thrones Second edition have followed each other so closely, that by the time I’d had a chance to see most of the cards in action, the next pack was already here. Nonetheless, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on what pack 2, The Road to Winterfell, offers for the different factions.
There were two cards for Baratheon in this pack, and event and an ally. The event is a 1-cost loyal which allows you to interrupt a Military challenge where you are defending, and terminate it without a winner or loser – as a downside, you are then barred from declaring military challenges for the rest of the phase, but if you’re going first aggressively, then this offers some good protection for the challenge that bounces back at you, and in Fealty there’s a chance to drop this in for free which adds a good element of surprise.
The Royal Entourage is a very efficient character – 3 strength and 2 icons for only 2 cost, but comes with a forced reaction that kneels it when you lose an intrigue challenge, so you need to be very careful about putting this in a deck where you can’t defend those successfully (unless you’re confident of always going first).
Greyjoy was given another boat in this expansion, a Raiding Longship. The Longship can be used to prevent any character without attachments from contributing its strength to a challenge, provided you are the first player. This effect is great: the obvious comparison is with The Kraken’s Grasp, an event which does the same thing, without the “no attachments” restriction, but only on characters with 5 Strength or lower. The boat is repeatable, which seems to justify the 2-cost to set-up, and boosts the strength of your Drowned Men. Whilst it lacks the surprise of the event, the fact that it is sat there can make you opponent choose to go first when they’d really rather not – something which can definitely be built around and exploited to great potential.
The other Greyjoy card was The Reader, a re-print of an old champ card, which plugs some nice holes for Greyjoy. A 4-strength character with an Intrigue icon, he is comparatively easy to get into play as a 5-cost Lord, but where he really shines is with his effect, which allows you to react to winning an unopposed challenge by either drawing a card, or discarding the top 3 of your opponent’s deck. I don’t think that Mill is a viable build yet for Greyjoy, but the card-draw is nice, and the flexibility bodes well for the future.
For Lannister, Road to Winterfell was all about playing to their strengths. The Brothel Madame was a 3-cost, 2-strength intrigue character, who would be entirely unremarkable, were it not for her ability, which requires a player to pay you a gold at the start of the challenges phase if they want to initiate military challenges against you. Combined with Supporting the Faith, this can prevent them from making military challenges at all, and even if your opponent does pay up, it still has the potential of preventing them from playing a vital card in order to save that money.
As well as denying gold to your opponent, Lannister also gained their own Loyal plot in this pack, Wardens of the West, which offers the opportunity to pay 2 gold to force your opponent to discard cards from their hand after you win an intrigue challenge. With Tyrion in play, this effect pays for itself, and if you have Casterly Rock, you could take 6 cards off of them in a turn, ideal if you’re about to wipe the board with something like Varys.
I’m going to be talking in a bit more detail about Martell’s headline card elsewhere, so I won’t repeat myself too much here. Suffice it to say that Nymeria has potential to be devastating in the right situation.
The other Martell card this time round, In Doran’s Name, is an event, and like most things Martell, it’s a bit of a slow-burner. In many respects, it’s not the most exciting card out there, but it does offer the potential for some extra gold at the right moment, which can be put to good effect in the right combination.
Particularly when the card-pool is this small, whenever a new card comes out for a faction I’m playing, I tend to chuck at least one in the deck, to see how it goes. With this pack, Night’s Watch reminded me why this is a terrible idea. Brandon’s Gift was a unique location, costing 2, which allows you to reduce the cost of the next Watchman you marshal, after you marshal a Builder. With only 1 Builder character in existence at this point, a best case-scenario sees you saving one gold over the entire game, at the cost of a card. Put this away and leave it until there are some more builders available.
By contrast, the Unsworn Apprentice is a character who can do some sterling work for the Watch. At 3 cost for 2 strength, he’s not powerful, but you can take an action to give him an icon of your choice, which means that he fills whichever hole you need: great for a Wall Deck desperately trying not to let unopposed challenges through. As an added bonus, his effect is until end of phase, not challenge, so if you ready him up with Castle Back, he can attack for you as well.
Last time out, I got caught in a bit of a rant against Lady, a card which I have belatedly come to accept is actually rather good. It’s with a little bit of trepidation then, that I offer my opinion on the seemingly useless Winterfell Castle. Admittedly, the Castle has a potentially powerful effect: it can give +2 strength to 2 characters during a military or power challenge. However, the 3-cost of the location itself, together with the fact that both the characters have to be Stark AND unique, seems a bit too much. Maybe there will be a build for this later, but now I can’t see it.
Potentially more interesting in this pack for Stark, is Winterfell’s Kennel-Master. A measly 2-cost, 1-strength character with a power icon, he allows a Direwolf, or a character with an attached Direwolf, to jump into a challenge where you already have a participating Stark character. There’s a bit of set-up required still, but it means (for example) that if you have Ned with Lady attached, he can now help defend against intrigue challenges, or even when stealth-ed.
This first cycle of cards are taking us through the first book in the song of Ice and Fire (sort-of), and House Targaryen appear to have reached Vaes Dothrak, and the moment of reckoning for young Viserys Targaryen. Crown of Gold is not cheap at 4-gold for a loyal attachment, but it is so brilliant thematically, that it seems well worth-it. Limit one per deck (you can’t have multiple versions of the same crown knocking around), this card gives a character -4 strength, killing it if it reaches zero – even for characters too big to 1-shot with this, it probably brings them in range of other burn effects, or simply stops them from participating in a challenge when Dany is ready. As a final brilliant thematic touch, the ‘crowned’ character gains the “King” trait (which will actually start to mean something early in the next cycle…)
Given how great this card is, it probably stands to reason that the next one should be a bit underwhelming, and Targaryen rounded out this pack with Rakharo, a rather expensive Bloodrider whose numbers just don’t seem to add-up. Once we have another Bloodrider, there will be the potential to give him Intimidate, but for now, he’s probably staying in the box.
For Tyrell, the theme of this pack was Ladies and Knights. There are definitely some good cards here, but I think they fully come together as the potential for a deck archetype once the next pack lands, so I’m going to leave talking about them until then.
Aside from all the in-house stuff, this pack also took things in new directions with the neutral cards. Political Disaster offers some location-control, Trading with the Pentoshi offers you megabucks at the price of giving your opponent 3 gold, and if you can find the cash for a 5-cost non-lord, then Syrio Forel can give Stealth (and a Military Icon) to a character of your choice, which is still very valuable in the current card-pool.
At this early stage in the game’s life, every expansion has the potential to change any number of decks significantly, so it was always likely that this pack would be significant. That said, I’m still impressed with the direction things are being taken in – there are certainly a few cards here which need more support to be useful, but overall, I was impressed.