News for May 2012
A Safer Place to Serve
A Preview of Valar Dohaeris for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
A Game of Thrones LCG | Published 17 May 2012

The yard was quiet and empty. A lone sentry stood high on the battlements of the inner wall, his cloak pulled tight around him against the cold. He looked bored and miserable as he huddled there alone, but Jon would have traded places with him in an instant.
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

The characters of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game can’t be said to live calm and secure lives. Between the game’s numerous Intrigue and Military challenges, Deadly rivals, targeted kill effects, and plots like Valar Morghulis (Core Set, 201) and Marched to the Wall (Lords of Winter, 49), characters rarely find themselves more than a razor’s breadth, or a single misstep, from the dead or discard piles.

As the game of thrones plays out between the Great Houses of Westeros, characters must constantly stare death in the face. They can choose to live recklessly, aiming for as much power and glory on the battlefield as possible in a short period of time, or they can choose to live cautiously, staying behind the battle lines and doing their best to play the game through forged letters and broken promises. Despite their skill of arms and all the precautions they may take, there are few promises for characters in A Game of Thrones.

Better Engineering

In A Song of Ice and Fire, while the Lords and Ladies of the Great Houses rise to power, fall, and die, the great keeps in which they live persist. Harrenhal faced dragon flame and persisted, scarred but eternal. Likewise, Winterfell tasted the flames of the Ironborn but persisted. Perhaps it’s because these great stone keeps survive so much in George R.R. Martin’s stories, or perhaps it’s because it takes characters to win the challenges at the heart of the game of thrones, but players of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game frequently regard locations as more permanent than characters.

It’s true that fewer effects can discard or destroy locations than can kill or remove characters, but locations remain vulnerable to a great number of effects like those of The Price of War (Kings of the Sea, 38), Condemned by the Council (A Time of Trials, 38), and the Newly-Made Lord (Tourney for the Hand, 16).

Until now.

House Stark wins some security for its locations with a new card from Valar Dohaeris. Stark’s Castle Battlements (Valar Dohaeris, 23) attach to a location you control and render it immune to non-plot card effects.

The extra stability your locations receive from Castle Battlements can help to justify the powerful, but pricey, effects of locations such as Harrenhal (On Dangerous Grounds, 42), Winterfell (Lords of Winter, 23), and Winterfell Castle (Core Set, 25). However, it’s not always the expensive location you need to defend. Sometimes, locations more central to your strategy present them as targets and merit the reinforcement. In the right decks, Riverrun (Lords of Winter, 24), The Dreadfort (Dreadfort Betrayal, 105), and Widow’s Watch (Gates of the Citadel, 2) all deserve protection.

Of course, Castle Battlements can protect more than just your Stark locations. During last November’s European Championships at Castle Stahleck, one of the top melee decks ran House Stark to gain the power surge of a dominance phase won by Baratheon’s The Iron Throne (A Sword in the Darkness, 46) on the turn it played The Minstrel’s Muse (Return of the Others, 120), then repeated the phase with Den of the Wolf (A Change of Seasons, 58). It’s a powerful combination, but now that players have seen it, they can work to strip the pieces before they can come together. Castle Battlements, though, can bolster the integrity of your Den of the Wolf or protect The Iron Throne or simply help you collect the three influence you need.

The Enemy Outside the Gates

But wait, there’s more!

Not only do the Castle Battlements help safeguard your locations from harm. They help you win challenges. Or more precisely, they help you avoid losing them. Stark are well-suited to bunkering up and playing defense, but they don’t have as many characters with Stealth and Deadly as some of the other Houses, leaving them vulnerable during challenges. Stark players facing a character like Bronn’s Hireling (Lions of the Rock, 17) would frequently have to decide whether to lose an Intrigue challenge and suffer the claim, or defend and lose a character to Deadly. Now, because the Castle Battlements strip Stealth and Deadly from all non-unique characters, House Stark can force its opponents to send their best characters forward or to send enough strength to win a challenge made on even footing.

Of course, nothing’s ever on even footing in the end, and that’s why it’s better to be standing on the Castle Battlements, surveying the enemy from above, than finding yourself in the middle of a melee spilling into the castle courtyard or waged outside the castle walls.

Look for Castle Battlements and the other great cards from Valar Dohaeris to serve your decks when this second Chapter Pack from Beyond the Narrow Sea arrives next month. Until then, keep checking back for additional previews.

Based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, playable by 2-4 players, brings the beloved heroes, villains, locations, and events of the world of Westeros to life through innovative game mechanics and the highly strategic game play. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Chapter Pack expansions to the core game.

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