Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Pre-Review: A Game of Thrones LCG
There is a group of people at my work who have been playing games after work on Fridays. I think it all started when I brought in Bang! one day, and since then I have also had success with Carcasonne, Settlers and Battlestar Galactica. Now four of us have put together $15 each to buy the "A Game of Thrones" living card game.
I've always thought that the workplace provides a great environment for getting into a CCG. The reason is that by only playing with participating workmates, you can easily control the available cardpool and this keep costs low. Well an LCG is a little different but I assume the same general principals apply - there is no need to buy all the little expansions when no-one else is either. New cards will come through trading, and buying the occasional expansion to be shared amongst the plaayers.
A Game of Thrones (AGoT) is based on the epic, violent and raunchy fiction of George RR Martin. If you haven't read the books you have probably watched the HBO series. I have only seen the first two episodes, which were great btw, but I read the books 10 years ago and really enjoyed them. The story just keeps getting more and more convoluted.
Fantasy Flight are producing a bunch of these LCGs now, including Warhammer Invasion, Call of Cthulu, Lord of the Rings, and coming up... Star Wars! The idea is that instead of buying CCG boosters by the box until your games room is full of cards you never use that cost a fortune, you spend less money to get complete playsets of the cards, and know in advance what you are getting. Note that you spend a LOT less money, $80 will get me a playset of nearly all the cards I would ever need. I adore this model - if only AEG would get on board and do an LCG for Legend of the Five Rings.
So about the game... well so far I have only played a few faltering rounds at lunch as we learnt the rules, so I'm in no position to properly review it. But I'll go through the basic components and turn sequence to give you a rough idea of the gameplay. Expect a thorough review... well, sometime this year. Maybe.
The box comes with four playable houses; Baratheon, Stark, Lannister and Targaeryn. Each player gets a 45 card main deck and a 7 card plot deck. Competitive main decks are 60 cards minimum but the deck supplied is great value, with lots of powerful cards. Plot decks are always 7 cards, though a few of the cards provided are only useful in multiplayer games (they are still playable 2 player though).
The main decks are constructed from 4 types of cards. Characters should apparently make up 50% of your deck. They are the key to the game as they participate in challenges to hurt your opponents and earn you power. Locations are cards that are harder for your opponent to effect and give their own bonuses, often reducing card costs or adding to your gold pool. Attachments are cards that attach to a character or sometimes location and enhance it. Finally Events are one-time effects that are used when they say and then discarded.
Also included are gold coin tokens and little power tokens that are used to score. Gold tokens provide the resources to bring cards in to play, like mana in magic. Earning 15 power tokens wins you the game. The tokens are good quality and printed on 3mm cardboard.
Finally you get a board which goes in the middle as a place to keep your gold coins and power tokens, which is completely optional. You also get these 6 cute chesslike pieces that each represent a different special role you can take in the multi-player rules. They look awesome but aren't a very important part of the game.
You start off with some gold with which you can buy some starting characters. Then the game goes through a series of phases, within which each player participates in turn. This repeats until one player ends the turn with 15 or more power, in which case they win the game.
The Plot phase consists of each player choosing one of their seven plot cards, which are then simultaneously revealed. In addition to any special rules on the card, Plot cards determine the spending gold, play order and damage caused by challenges for each player. This is a unique mechanism that seems to have a lot of depth. I can imagine the choosing the right plot cards might take a lot of iterations. The plot cards that you get in the starting decks are OK, but some are multi-player only and many have no real synergy with the associated deck.
The Draw phase is when you draw two cards. There that was easy.
Players can bring their Characters, Locations and Attachments into play during the Marshalling phase. The player with the highest initiative plot card goes first, then play proceeds clockwise. Most of these cards have a gold cost.
In the Challenge phase players finally get to beat on each other. Challenges consist of groups of characters comparing their total strength with modifiers in order to damage the targeted opponent. There are three very different types of challenge, but really they vary only in who can participate and the type of damage dealt. Successful Military challenges result in the defender having to kill off some of their characters. Losers of an Intrigue challenge must discard a number of cards. A player pulling off a Power challenge gets to appropriate power tokens from the loser.
The Dominance phase lets the player with the most strongest standing (untapped) characters earn a point of power - there are of course cards that can then enhance this gain. This is followed by the Stand phase, where kneeling (tapped) cards stand up ready for another round. Finally the poor players are hit with the Taxation phase, and loose all the gold coins remaining in their gold pool. Nope, gold doesn't hang around from turn to turn so no use hoarding it.
And that is it! So far its taken us ages to play, but that is to be expected. Hopefully the next games will speed up and I can get a taste for how everything meshes together. I'll keep you posted.
Posted by Plague Marine