The city had seemed like one big island from where the Titan stood, but as Yorko rowed them closer she saw that it was many small islands close together, linked by arched stone bridges that spanned innumerable canals. Beyond the harbor she glimpsed streets of grey stone houses, built so close they leaned one upon the other. To Arya’s eyes they were queer-looking, four and five stories tall and very skinny, with sharp-peaked tile roofs like pointed hats. She saw no thatch, and only a few timbered houses of the sort she knew in Westeros. They have no trees , she realized. Braavos is all stone, a grey city in a green sea.
–George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows

Fantasy Flight Games is proud to announce Beyond the Narrow Sea , the next exciting cycle of Chapter Packs for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game !

Featuring new characters, plots, and other cards inspired by the Eastern continent of A Song of Ice and Fire , Beyond the Narrow Sea provides welcome cards and strategies for new players and veterans alike. The cycle is designed to provide new players an excellent second step after the Core Set , and veterans of many battles and intrigues will find power in the cycle’s new twists on agendas and plot decks.

Lead developer Damon Stone offers more insight on how the cycle was designed to both welcome new players and offer new challenges for veterans.

Design Decisions Beyond the Narrow Sea

Early into A Song of Ice and Fire , I fell in love with George R.R. Martin’s fictional world. The first books gave us a lot of information about Westeros and intriguing bits of history about the Seven Kingdoms, but there were only hints about the people and places of the Eastern continent. Many fans didn’t even know its name, and my friends jokingly referred to it as “Easteros.”

With the release of A Dance With Dragons , we were given a mountain of information about Essos (just close enough to “Easteros” to cause a few chuckles) and its city-states and nomadic peoples. I knew the release of the new book and the HBO series would bring new players to the game, and I wanted to create a cycle of cards, drawn mostly from A Dance with Dragons and A Feast for Crows , that would serve as a great introductory companion to the Core Set .

With this in mind, I thought about the most common questions I get about the Core Set : “What are agendas?” “Are the plots interchangeable?” “Can you mix cards from different houses?” Underlying each of these questions is the players’ desire to find and use these cards to their best advantage. So I set about creating cards that give players some really new and interesting ways to fulfill their desires.

Hidden agendas

We address agendas in the rulebook but do not include any in the Core Set , so I wanted to make sure that each house received an agenda in this cycle. Enter characters who can attach to your House card as agendas. This strategy offers both a risk and a reward. The risk is that you do not start with your agenda as you normally do; you must either draw or search for it, and outside of Stark that usually means a dedicated slot in your plot deck. The reward is that your deck becomes more versatile in its match-ups. If you play a Summer deck against a Winter deck, or a Knights of the Realm deck against another Knights of the Realm deck, your agenda can backfire and act as a weapon against you. Additionally, cards like Northern Cavalry Flank ( Scattered Armies , 103) can punish you for running an agenda. A character that you can attach to your House card as an agenda lets you decide whether it’s more advantageous to have an agenda or not.

Determining the benefits the various agendas were to give the houses wasn’t too difficult, but getting the balance right was a much more arduous process. I tried and abandoned a lot of ideas, when I first came up with something that worked and was intimately tied to each house’s unique themes, it was too complicated for a set meant to introduce new players into the gambits, struggles, and battles that run through A Game of Thrones . Instead, I chose a single, simple trigger for the characters to turn into agendas and moderated the power levels just a touch.

A good example that I think will spur some very interesting deck builds is Targaryen’s Griff ( Chasing Dragons , 57). Griff’s pseudo-ambush ability to return to play from your House card shuts off the powerful recursion ability he grants House Targaryen, but your opponent may not necessarily enjoy finding himself facing a three-Strength character with all three icons.

A river runs through it

The Core Set includes a pre-built plot deck for each of its four houses. While the plot decks are great for melee play, they need some adjustment in the joust format, and even in melee changes to the plot deck are one of the first forms of deck customizations new players try. I wanted to give players a fair amount of new choices for their plot decks, and I wanted to create some really innovative plots that would cause even the most experienced of players to re-examine their plots.

One of the ways George R.R. Martin connects us to Essos in A Dance with Dragons is to relate a journey down the river Rhoyne, which divides that continent physically and culturally much as the United States are divided by the Mississippi. I was intrigued by the idea of plot cards that could mimic or rewrite the story of that river journey. It was important that players were not locked into a one-way trip and could begin and end their journey as well as detour off the river. These ideas gave rise to a set of new River trait plots.

While each River plot has a useful ability, none of them–on their own–present the immediate impact of plots like Valar Morghulis ( Core Set , 201). However, their true power comes into play when used in multiples. Each revealed River plot will trigger the “When revealed” ability of the top River plot in your used pile. Used in certain orders, they create increasingly powerful combos.

Thanks, Damon!

Later this week, we’ll continue our look at Beyond the Narrow Sea and all the fantastic new cards and strategies the cycle will bring to A Game of Thrones: The Card Game in the second quarter of 2012!

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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