Battle for the Throne

Preview Characters and Challenges in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

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“‘The Blackfish deserves a nobler death, and I’m the man to give it to him.’ Strongboar thumped his fist on the table. ‘I will challenge him to single combat. Mace or axe or longsword, makes no matter. The old man will be my meat.’”
  
–George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows

The leaders of the Great Houses struggle for dominance in every arena, both on the bloody fields of war and in the tangled intrigues of court. Throughout the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, men and women like Stannis Baratheon, Robb Stark, Cersei Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen struggle to claim the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms. Yet none of these leaders work alone. Each House is composed of dozens of people: skillful knights, lowly servants, mighty lords, learned maesters.

In A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition, you command characters both high and low in your struggle to gain power and bring victory to your faction. Our last preview examined the plot cards that you use to further your schemes in Westeros. Today, we’ll explore the characters you lead and the challenges you must make to defeat your foes and reign supreme!

Commanding Your House

In A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, your deck features a number of characters belonging to your chosen faction, alongside locations, attachments, and events. During the marshaling phase, each player collects income from his plot and uses the gold to play new characters, locations, and attachments. After all players marshaled cards, you face your opponent on the field of battle in the challenges phase!

Each of the characters that you command has unique abilities and strengths, from the lowliest chambermaid to the greatest lord on the king’s Small Council. Your characters allow you to challenge your opponent and defend against his challenges, but there are three different types of challenges and not every character can compete in every type. Some characters are unable to bear the weapons necessary for a military challenge, others lack the delicacy for intrigue challenges, while still others are simply not important enough to participate in power challenges. Every character features a number of challenge icons that determine which challenges the character can participate in.

For example, Eddard Stark (Core Set, 144) is a lord of one of Westeros’s Great Houses: House Stark. He also commands formidable military forces as the Warden of the North. Because of this, he bears the military and power challenge icons. However, Eddard lacks the subtlety to successfully engage in the intrigues of court, so he does not have an intrigue challenge icon. Eddard Stark may be much stronger than a hireling spy, but the spy can easily slip past Eddard during an intrigue challenge.

A Challenge Most Deadly

In order to make a challenge, you simply kneel (rotate by 90º) any number of characters that share the appropriate challenge icon. Then, your opponent has the chance to kneel any of his characters that possess the appropriate challenge icon as defenders. Once attackers and defenders have been declared, you compare the total strength (STR) of the attackers against the defenders. If your total STR is equal to or greater than the defender’s, you win the challenge and your opponent suffers the consequences! If the defender’s STR is higher, your attack is rebuffed and the challenge ends without further effect.

Each challenge allows you to punish your opponent in a different way:

The first type of challenge is a military challenge – an opportunity for open combat between warriors or armies. If you win a military challenge against an opponent, your opponent must kill a number of characters equal to the claim on your revealed plot. Once a character is killed, he’ll most likely stay dead – dead characters are placed in your dead pile, separate from your discard pile. If a unique character  is in your dead pile, you cannot play another copy of that character. 

The second type of challenge is the intrigue challenge, which represents your stealthy actions and dastardly schemes as you undermine your enemies' plans. If you successfully make an intrigue challenge against an opponent, you randomly discard a number of cards equal to your claim from your opponent’s hand. By discarding cards from your opponent’s hand, intrigue challenges diminish your opponent’s options and potentially stop his plans before they even begin. 

The final challenge type in the game is the power challenge. Power challenges stand for political machinations and maneuvering for position at court, as well as influencing the opinions of the smallfolk. If you win a power challenge against an opponent, you move a number of power tokens equal to your claim from his faction card to your own faction card, pushing your opponent further away from the Iron Throne while bringing you closer to your ultimate goal.

You are only allowed to make one challenge of each type during your turn. While it may seem wise to throw as many characters as you can into each challenge, it’s important to have characters left to defend against your opponents. As an added incentive to hold back some of your resources, you may win an additional power during the dominance phase. After all challenges have been completed, both players tally the STR of their standing characters and their unspent gold. Whichever player has the highest total wins dominance and claims a power token from the supply. 

After the dominance phase, you and your opponent stand all cards that you control, readying them for use in the next round. Finally, you must return all unspent gold to the bank and if your hand size exceeds your plot’s reserve, you must discard until you meet your reserve. Then a new round begins as the players choose new plots!

On the Field of Battle

As an example of the challenges phase, suppose two players have just begun the challenges phase. Jake is playing as House Lannister, while Melody commands the forces of House Stark. 

Each player has three characters in play. Jake has Cersei Lannister (Core Set, 84), The Tickler (Core Set, 88), and Tywin Lannister (Core Set, 90). Melody has Catelyn Stark (Core Set, 143), Robb Stark (Core Set, 146), and a Vanguard of the North (Core Set, 151). 

Jake begins his challenges phase by initiating an intrigue challenge and kneeling Cersei Lannister. He could also have declared The Ticker and/or Tywin Lannister, because both of them bear intrigue icons, but he wants to save them for later challenges. Melody now has the chance to declare defenders against Cersei’s insidious intrigue. Her only character with an intrigue icon is Catelyn Stark, but if Melody defended with Catelyn, her total STR would only match Jake’s total STR. Because the attacker wins ties in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Melody decides to declare no defenders. When no defenders are declared against a challenge, the attacker receives a bonus power token from the reserve as an “unopposed bonus.” Jake claims a power token for the unopposed bonus and discards two random cards from Melody’s hand – one because his plot card has a natural claim of one, and a second card because Cersei Lannister’s ability raises his claim when attacking in an intrigue challenge.

Jake now has the opportunity to initiate either a military challenge or a power challenge. He decides to make a military challenge by kneeling The Tickler. In response, Melody defends with the Vanguard of the North. Melody counts four STR to Jake’s two STR, and she wins the challenge. Because the defender won the challenge, no characters are killed. 

Jake can still initiate a power challenge with Tywin Lannister if he wishes, but he wants to hold Tywin in reserve to defend against Melody’s challenges. Jake decides that he has no more challenges to make, and Melody now has the chance to bring retribution against the treacherous Lannisters!

Make Your Challenges

Whether you’re leading a rebellion with House Greyjoy or engaging in dark intrigues with House Lannister, the characters you command and the challenges you make are the key to attaining the Iron Throne. 

Prepare to conquer Westeros in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Editionand join us next week as we enter the tourney ground and explore the differences between a two-player joust and a multiplayer melee!

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