You Win or You Die: My Game of Thrones LCG Journey Part 1

Hello ladies and gents, Harrison here with not another Magic: The Gathering article. Over the past few weeks I have been dabbling in playing a new card game, which (as you can probably guess) is the Game of Thrones Living Card Game, produced by Fantasy Flight Games.

For those of you not familiar, an LCG differs from a TCG (such as Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon) by not having booster packs or any sort of randomness in acquiring cards. Instead, all of the cards can be acquired from either Core Sets, Deluxe Expansions or Chapter Packs. Think of it as if you wanted to play MtG, but you could only buy Introductory, Event, and Duel Decks, but the cards in those constructed decks were actually good.

Oh, and it only cost me roughly $350 to acquire three copies (the deck construction limit) of every card in existence in the Second Edition.

I know nothing ... about playing this game.

I know nothing … about playing this game.

The game itself is mechanically very different to what I’m used to, being a MtG player. You take the role of one of the seven Great Houses or the Night’s Watch from the GoT universe, trying to assert your power over the other factions taking part. To win the game, you have to acquire at least 15 power on your side of the table before anyone else does. Power is acquired in a few different ways, from winning power challenges or challenges unopposed, winning dominance each turn, or from card abilities.

Challenges in GoT take the role of combat in other card games. Each turn, you can attack in up to three challenges, one each of Military, Intrigue, and Power. Characters have symbols indicating what they can take part in, with some of the most powerful (Tywin Lannister, for example) being able to take part in all three. When you win each of the challenges, you receive different benefits based on what challenge it was. Military challenges force the defending player to kill one or more characters they control, Intrigue discards cards at random from their hand, and Power takes, well, power from their side of the table and adds it to yours.

I'm sure everything is going to work out fine for him...

I’m sure everything is going to work out fine for him...

The GoT LCG, as is to be expected when you are pulling from such a rich source material, is full of powerful and interesting named characters. From Jon Snow and the Old Bear, all the way to Doran Martell and the Red Viper, they are all present and FFG has done a fantastic job of making the characters unique and flavoursome. However, the game does suffer from the fact that it is very mechanically dense.

Rather than produce resources from a source such as lands, GoT uses a separate deck, known as the Plot deck. At the beginning of each turn, you select and reveal a plot from this deck, which determines how much gold you have to play cards this turn, as well as the turn order and how effective you are in challenges this turn. This adds an additional layer in both play and deck construction, similar to how Yu-Gi-Oh has both a Main deck and a Side deck. While it took me some time to get used to this, the Plot deck does add an interesting level to reading your opponent and the play decisions you make.

Yeah, I'm sure it will all end well for her...

Yeah, I’m sure it will all end well for her…

When I went to actually play the game, as I was used to the clear separation of colours that you see in Magic, it took me a little while to figure out the differences between the different GoT factions. While those differences are there, they are more subtle than those found in MtG, and the same goes for deck archetypes.

House Baratheon and the Night’s Watch are defensive, with the Stags winning dominance and kneeling opposing characters, and the Watch just outright making winning challenges against them almost impossible. Houses Greyjoy and Lannister are the most aggressive houses, attacking with stealth and having the best unique characters and disruption, respectively. The Starks and the Targaryens are jack-of-all-trades, as far as my limited experience has shown. And finally House Tyrell plays a game similar to Bogles decks in MtG, playing a single high-impact character and powering them up, and the Martell’s are the best at losing (and gaining advantage by doing so).

I'm sure everything will ... You get the idea.

I’m sure everything will … Look you get the idea.


House Baratheon (and House Lannister, to a lesser extent) has been the house that has most captured my interest. One of the core game mechanics in GoT is that of dominance. At the end of each turn, each player counts the total amount of Strength (which is the number inside the shield) of standing characters they control, and adds to that the amount of gold they have remaining, and the player with the highest total receives one power. House Baratheon, however, has the ability to gain even more advantage from winning dominance, with cards such as The Red Keep and Gendry giving you additional bonuses for dominating each turn. That, combined with the defensive nature of the House Baratheon cards appealed to me, as I am a player that loves commanding the flow of the game. With absolutely no experience playing games against people other than those who I introduced to the game, I took my House Baratheon deck which I built around winning dominance each turn to my local game store, to take part in their LCG League. And how I went there … is the subject of another article. Thank you for reading ladies and gents, and see you on the Wall.



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