Choose Your Title, Part 1

Will Lentz on Melee Archetypes in A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

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Will Lentz is a long-time player of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, starting back in the Dawn Age of 2002, shortly after the launch of the collectible card game. Since then, he’s been an avid player of the joust format and constant proponent of the melee format. Over that time he’s written quite a lot about the game, co-founded the first A Game of Thrones: The Card Game podcast, claimed multiple top cut finishes, and earned the moniker of “championship-level player.” These days, you can find Will at www.whitebookpodcast.com, where new podcasts are launched each Friday, alongside regularly submitted articles, winning deck list archives, and event listings throughout the week.

Will Lentz on Melee Player Archetypes

There’s a longstanding tradition in the card gaming community for players to be divided into different personality archetypes to illustrate their different approaches to the game. For instance, where one player might only want the most effective cards, another player may put much more importance on the theme of the game. In the early days of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, these player types were defined as Jaime, Shagga, and Ned. Newer players may be unfamiliar with these names, so they loosely break down in the following manner: Jaime is the dedicated and efficient player focused on winning, Shagga is more entertained by newness and synergies, while Ned is focused on recreating the most evocative flavor of the novels. These archetypes are great tools for discussion among the designers and community, but they also only address half of the game—the joust format.

A full half of the diverse gameplay of the A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is found in the melee game: an engaging multiplayer format that truly evokes the treacherous, unpredictable flavor of George R.R. Martin’s novels. So, in order to more fully represent the diverse possibilities of the A Game of Thrones community, I’d like to present a set of archetypal player personalities for the melee format.

Cersei

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” 
   –Cersei Lannister, A Game of Thrones

Much like her persona in the novels, the Cersei player type is in many ways a mirror of the Jaime joust archetype. In the novels, Queen Cersei Lannister has the cunning that’s so common to members of her family, but while her schemes frequently succeed in the short term, she fails to plan far enough ahead and often suffers unintended consequences. She moves quickly to gain power, but often doesn’t know what to do once she has it.

In the game, these traits express themselves in a tendency toward ruthlessly efficient power rush decks and open, visible threats. Cersei players may favor a character like Balon Greyjoy (Core Set, 68), who grabs power fast and poses a real question to other players, forcing them to answer him or race against him. Just because cards like Balon are an obvious threat isn’t to say that Cersei players aren’t interested in surprise power-gain cards like Lady Sansa's Rose (The Road to Winterfell, 24). What matters is the sheer power and speed of the cards. Of course, in order to fuel this play style, Cersei players are likely to play plots such as Trading with the Pentoshi (The Road to Winterfell, 39); desperate for more gold and uncaring of any benefit they may give to other players. 

The melee format also gives players new ways to interact with each other through the format-specific Title cards. Carefully choosing from the available titles is an important aspect of melee strategy, and Cersei players commonly tend toward certain titles whenever possible. The Hand of the King title gives an extra opportunity to make power challenges, which can accelerate a Cersei player towards the fifteen power needed to win. Once in the lead, however, a Cersei player may use Crown Regent in hopes of deflecting an incoming challenge and holding their lead long enough to close the game. 

Always beware when engaging with a Cersei player, as they are unlikely to form deals or alliances with other players. They would much rather push for their own goals than share any ties to another player. If they do offer a deal, stay wary, because they won’t hesitate to betray you for a win. In general, they also stay out of most table talk, instead choosing to focus their efforts against the weakest player at the table, confident in their ability to accrue power faster than the other players.

“Cersei is as gentle as King Maegor, as selfless as Aegon the Unworthy, as wise as Mad Aerys. She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honor, for love.”
   
–Tyrion Lannister, A Dance with Dragons

Brienne

 “I have to try to save her… or die in the attempt.” 
   
–Brienne of Tarth, A Feast for Crows

In the novels, Brienne of Tarth is a powerful woman who bucks many of the social norms of Westeros to become a powerful warrior. Along with her great strength and skill at arms, Brienne shows heights of loyalty and honor displayed by few other characters. This led her first to protect Renly Baratheon and later search for Sansa Stark, but much like Eddard Stark, her personal honor can cause complications with less scrupulous players of the game of thrones. 

The traits of a Brienne player tend to foster a defensive nature in melee gameplay, as well as being the most likely player type to favor a certain flavor or theme. Brienne players will often use cards like The Watcher on the Walls (No Middle Ground, 66) and Eddard Stark (Core Set, 144), offering a strong defense to dissuade other players from attacking them. On the plot front, Brienne players may favor cards like A Feast for Crows (Core Set, 2), which lets them use their defensive strength to convince the other players to send their challenges elsewhere. Then, the Brienne player can claim dominance with the extra strength that wasn’t committed to challenges.

Interestingly, the Brienne player also leans toward the Crown Regent title, but with different motivations than a Cersei player. Brienne players attempt to influence the state of the game through a defensive show of strength, hoping to deter incoming challenges without having to actively use resources to fend them off. The threat of activating the Crown Regent’s challenge redirection can frequently alter the decisions other players make without even actually using the Crown Regent’s power. 

If you’re considering making deals or alliances with other players at the table, Brienne players are your best choice of ally. Their unflagging sense of honor means that they will almost always stick to both the letter and the spirit of the agreement, even when breaking such bonds may be the better tactical play. Brienne players do typically engage in table talk, but again, it is more defensive in nature as they attempt to persuade people not to act against them or to honor existing deals rather than interfering with other players. A Brienne player can be particularly vengeful if another player reneges on a deal, however.

“He said that all his other knights wanted things of him, castles or honors or riches, but all that Brienne wanted was to die for him.” 
   
–Loras Tyrell, A Storm of Swords

Check back next week for the second part of Choose Your Title, in which Will Lentz will discuss the final two melee archetypes!

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