On the Tourney Ground

Preview Jousts and Melees in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game


"There were forty riders in the melee. The Lannisters have many friends. Amidst all that chaos, with horses screaming and bones breaking and Thoros of Myr waving that absurd firesword of his, who could name it murder if some chance blow felled His Grace?”
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

The great tournaments of Westeros are unparalleled in their spectacle. Hundreds gather to watch the great warriors and lords compete in the jousts and the melee. The flower of chivalry is on display as knights clash on the tourney ground and courtiers applaud from the stands. But the noise and confusion of a tournament is also an ideal place for the most nefarious schemes and deadly intrigues. Alliances are made and broken in moments and your one-time ally may become a bitter foe. You’ll need all your wits to escape unscathed, whether you play the joust or the melee in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition!

Last week, we explored characters and the challenges that bring you closer to victory. Today, we turn our attention to the two unique game modes of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game: the honorable combat of the joust or the fury and backstabbing of the melee!

Two Types of Contest

In A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, there are two unique game modes for you to enjoy. You can play a head-to-head game against a single opponent in a joust, or you can test your fortune in a free-wheeling melee with three to six players!

The joust and the melee offer very different experiences. In a joust, you have only a single opponent to concentrate your attacks upon: it’s a deeply strategic battle of wits between two players: there are no opportunities for deals or alliances, only a fight to the end. Each player is trying to outmaneuver his opponent by any means necessary, and every card on the table can have crucial repercussions for the entire game. Every edge is crucial, and any advantage is worth fighting for. Competitive players tend to prefer jousts, since there are no other players to interfere with your actions.

The melee game, on the other hand, offers dozens of opportunities for treachery and backstabbing as you manipulate the other players to your advantage. A melee game is a much more social experience than a joust. Every player talks to the others, trying to shift the balance of power in his favor. Deals can be made and broken in a moment, as every player looks for opportunities to make his move and claim the Iron Throne. To create even more tension between the players, the melee game also introduces six powerful title cards, as we’ll see below!

Join the Small Council

During a melee game, after all players have chosen and revealed their plot cards, they take turns claiming titles. In a four-player melee, the first player randomly discards one of the six title cards facedown, then secretly selects a title card and passes the remaining title cards to his left. After all players in turn have selected their title cards, the titles are revealed. These title cards correspond to positions on the king’s small council, and each position comes with its own unique ability.  

  • The Crown Regent stands apart from the rest of the small council, unaffected by their petty alliances and betrayals. If you are the Crown Regent, you have the power to redirect any one challenge during the round, forcing the attacker to choose a new target. In addition, you add two STR to your total when determining which player wins a bonus power during the dominance phase.
  • More than the power to redirect challenges, you may crave more gold to pay for new characters, locations, attachments, and events. The Master of Coin title adds two gold to your plot card’s gold value, allowing you to play more characters or surprise your opponent with powerful events. 

  • Alternatively, you may need cards more than you need additional gold. As the Master of Laws , you draw one additional card during the draw phase, expanding your options for playing new characters and controlling the game. What’s more, the Master of Laws title also increases your plot card’s reserve value by one, letting you keep one additional card in your hand as you move into the next round.
  • You may choose to bring your military power down on your rivals as the Master of Ships . The Master of Ships counts one additional STR during all of his contested military challenges. In addition, this title card raises your claim by one during military challenges that you make against a rival, inviting you to quickly destroy the forces that your opponent has constructed. 

  • The Master of Whispers adds one STR to his intrigue challenges. Furthermore, when you win an intrigue challenge against a single opponent as the Master of Whispers, you have the chance to resolve your claim against any number of opponents of your choice, stripping the hands of all who displease you.
  • If you play as the Hand of the King , you add one STR to your power challenges. What’s more, you may initiate an additional power challenge against a new opponent during the challenges phase, giving you yet another opportunity to steal power and bring yourself closer to victory.

In addition to their abilities, the members of the small council are caught in a web of alliance and enmity. Each of the titles except the Crown Regent supports another title and rivals two others. If your title supports another player’s title, you cannot make challenges against him, although he is under no such compunction and may challenge you whenever he pleases. If your title rivals another player’s title, you gain a bonus power the first time that you win a challenge against that player each round.

In the diagram above, green arrows show support and red arrows show rivalries.

Any selection of titles can create tense situations. For example, four players may select the Crown Regent, Master of Ships, Hand of the King, and Master of Laws titles. The Hand of the King supports the Master of Laws, the Master of Ships rivals the Hand of the King and the Master of Laws, and the Master of Laws rivals the Master of Ships. And that’s just scratching the surface, before the Crown Regent interferes by redirecting a challenge and temporary alliances are made and broken.

Enter the Lists

The tournament is about to begin. You can challenge another knight in the joust or enter the frenetic battles of the melee, but no matter where you fight, you’ll need the loyal members of your faction and all of your cunning to survive. Take up your weapons and enter the lists in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition, and join us next week as we begin our series of faction previews in the North with House Stark!

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