For the Watch, Part 1

The Night’s Watch in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

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“I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
  
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

From the blazing sands of Dorne to the icy lands beyond the Wall, the game of thrones is played by the great lords and ladies of Westeros. No Great House is immune to these power struggles, and every faction has a unique approach to victory in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. Today, we’ve invited guest writer Joe Habes to give us a closer look at his faction of choice: the Night’s Watch!

Joe Habes on Plots for The Night’s Watch

Hello and welcome! For some reason, Fantasy Flight Games asked to have me on as a guest writer and, rather than ask questions, I just decided to go with it. And what should I write about when given such a large stage? My faction of choice, of course: the Night’s Watch.

I’ve decided to write a short series of articles about the plots that do the most to help the Night’s Watch, especially the defensive deck that uses The Wall (Core Set, 137) and Maester Aemon (Core Set, 125) to win. If you know who I am, you know this is my primary deck and I’ve probably played it with at least 90% of the available plots at one time or another. I’m going to describe the plots I use most often and how they help the Night’s Watch propel themselves to victory! This will probably take a couple articles, so today, I’ll just start with two core plots that no Night’s Watch player should leave home without.

For the Watch!

Let’s start with the plot that requires the most unpacking: For the Watch! (No Middle Ground, 67). The Night’s Watch got this plot in the middle of the Westeros cycle and it received relatively average reviews from the community. Some compared it to a weak Filthy Accusations (Core Set, 11), suggesting that you can play around it by declaring a “chump challenge”—essentially saying you just need to kneel a weak character in order to deal with this plot. Others compared For the Watch! to a lackluster Calm Over Westeros (Core Set, 8). 

Before I talk about why those initial reviews are utterly incorrect, let me clarify something very quickly: For the Watch! states that you (as the Night’s Watch player) cannot lose the first challenge. That doesn’t mean you automatically win the challenge. Likewise, just because your opponent can’t win their first challenge, that doesn’t mean they automatically lose the challenge. If your STR in the challenge is lower than theirs (such as if you declare no defenders), the challenge fizzles with no winner or loser. To actually win the challenge, you must defend with higher STR than your opponent. 

With that in mind, what those initial reviews often missed was that this plot dramatically reduces the number of challenges you must defend in order to trigger The Wall. For instance, imagine a game in which you only have Arry (Across the Seven Kingdoms, 6) and a Ranging Party (Core Set, 132) as defenders. If your opponent can make all three challenges, you would normally have to pick which challenge would go unopposed. With For the Watch! in play, you don’t even need to oppose their first challenge, allowing you to save your defenders for other challenges. 

Or, if your opponent can only declare two challenges, such as a Greyjoy deck that doesn’t have an intrigue icon on the board, you only have to defend against one challenge! Both of these scenarios happen commonly enough to make the plot worthwhile, especially now that the Night’s Watch has Craven (Called to Arms, 26), which can negate your opponent's biggest character or shut down their only character with a certain icon.

 Even after considering the points above, we still don’t have a full view of this plot’s impact. For instance, this card complements several other existing cards, such as The Sword in the Darkness (Core Set, 140), The Shadow Tower (Wolves of the North, 34) and Thoren Smallwood (For Family Honor, 45). All three of these cards give you a benefit for winning challenges on defense, so if you have one or more of these cards ready when you flip For the Watch!, you force your opponent to make an impossible choice: 

  1. They can declare a weak character on their first challenge, which lets you defend the challenge and win, triggering your most powerful effects.
     
  2. They can declare a challenge with the intent of “winning” the challenge, kneeling out a good portion of their board, just to prevent you from triggering your cards. In this case, you can leave your characters standing, and For the Watch! means that they’ve knelt their characters for nothing. 

In one of my recent articles, I discussed several situations where the Night’s Watch can put their opponent in lose-lose situations. The first option can lead to some very negative effects, but the second option could leave them incapable of winning any challenges if they commit too many attackers. They also have to account for things like Halder (No Middle Ground, 65), Castle Black (Core Set, 136) and The Wall’s passive STR boost, all of which offer places for your opponent to make mistakes.

Finally (and I promise you’ll be surprised how often this happens) there’s a relatively good chance that your opponent will completely forget about this card’s effect. I’ve played in tournaments where my opponent makes a big power challenge with three renown characters, only for me to point at my plot and declare no defenders. For whatever reason, especially in a long tournament near the end of the day, passive effects are easily forgotten. When your opponent has just spent thirty seconds counting out your STR and remembering your STR-pumping effects, they often go straight into their top priority challenge, leaving them in a very bad situation.

Here to Serve

Phew! That last plot that took a whole lot of explanation. I’ll end Part 1 of this plot discussion with a plot that’s a little more straightforward. As any player of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game will tell you, there are a lot of targeted kill effects in the game. Just a few of the most common ones include Mirri Maz Duur (Calm Over Westeros, 93), Tyene Sand (True Steel, 115), Ser Gregor Clegane (The King’s Peace, 49), and the always popular Tears of Lys (Core Set, 44) and Put to the Sword (Core Set, 41). On top of that, the infamous Valar Morghulis (There Is My Claim, 80) is making a return in the next Chapter Pack. With so many grisly ways to kill your characters, your opponent can make defending The Wall a nightmare if they diminish your board too easily. 

That’s where Here to Serve (Taking the Black, 20) comes in. By grabbing Maester Aemon at the start of any round, you can protect your Night’s Watch characters from the most dangerous kill effects. Even in the absence of targeted kill, Maester Aemon can prevent or mitigate military claim, taking the bite out of the military challenge. There’s a certain level of security you feel when Maester Aemon is on the board, so being able to find him at will is incredibly important to maintaining the stability of any deck that’s trying to defend The Wall.

With these two plots you have the essentials to playing a Night’s Watch defense deck. In the second part of this series, I’ll discuss how to fill out your plot deck to emphasize your strengths and cover your weaknesses. Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you join us next time for Part 2!

Joe Habes started playing A Game of Thrones: The Card Game when the second edition launched at Gen Con Indy in August 2015. He writes articles about the game for the Wardens of the Midwest, posts games he has played on his YouTube Channel, and co-hosts a podcast called Wardens of the Midwest, which can be found on the website above. You may know him as Joe From Cincinnati, the name that he writes and posts under on various websites, including CardGameDB.

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