On Great Black Wings

Enjoy the Rookery Variant at an A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Great Hall Event

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A raven came to the castle in late afternoon, flapping down on great black wings to the rookery. Dark wings, dark words, she thought.
     –George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

Sometimes it takes a keen eye to notice the subtle changes that may later have profound effects upon the course of history. Other times, the changes are quite apparent. And if you're a fan of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, you're probably marking the past weeks' developments as a significant change—and an obvious one—that should steer the game and its Organized Play program toward years of continued health.

After all, the recent release of the new FAQ (pdf, 1.8 MB) and several restrictions that strengthen the game's core interactions. Rather than diminishing the value of your deep thinking or your layered plots, this commitment to the game's battles, intrigues, and politics reinforces the need for strategies that can adapt and weather a storm.

But the FAQ isn't the only rules document being released. Rules are now online for a Rookery variant (pdf, 3.1 MB) that encourages a new style of game play—one that introduces a "Rookery" of twelve cards that you can bring to your game and swap with the cards in your plot and draw decks. These exchanges are made after you see your opponent's faction and agenda, but before you draw your opening hand, and the result is a format with all-new possibilities for subterfuge, control, and manipulation!

This Rookery variant will also benefit from the introduction of a new Organized Play special event, supported by the Great Hall Kit!

Read on to learn what lead developer Danny Schaefer has to say about the Rookery format and to learn more about the Great Hall event.

Lead Developer Danny Schaefer on the Rookery Variant

One of the great things about A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is the number of different decks that it permits, and the wide variety of strategies among those decks. Playing with or against a defensive Night’s Watch deck, for instance, is a very different experience from playing a Lannister ambush deck, and both are different from playing a Targaryen burn deck. The presence of so many distinct strategies is a big part of what keeps the game interesting—you constantly have to adapt and adjust your game plan, based on what your opponent is doing.

However, all this strategic diversity increases the likelihood that you'll find games between decks that can’t interact with each other in meaningful ways. Because the game permits so many possible angles of attack, it’s difficult for players to prepare for all of them. This leads to a rock-paper-scissors situation, in which each deck will have some very favorable matchups (and some very unfavorable matchups) depending on how the deck was built and which strategies it was designed to counter. Having some measure of variance among matchups is a good thing—if every matchup were fifty-fifty, deck selection would become largely irrelevant—but when this dynamic is too pronounced, it can lead to games where neither player has much room to make interesting plays.

The Rookery variant addresses this issue by providing players with a bit more deckbuilding flexibility. Often, players are aware of a particular strategy and the cards necessary to defeat it, but they are unable to fit those cards into their deck. When playing with this new variant, those situational cards can be included in the twelve-card Rookery, ready to be brought in for the matchups in which they shine without diluting the deck in other matchups. Of course, having limited deck slots is an important source of tension in deckbuilding, which is why the Rookery is limited to only two plots and ten cards for your draw deck. Choosing the cards for your plot deck, your draw deck, and your Rookery should still be difficult, but you should be able to find room for a few more cards to fight a meaningful battle against problematic matchups.


Against the right decks, Political Disaster can deliver a crippling blow.
Against decks with fewer locations, you're better off with almost any other plot.

The Rookery also adds a new layer of skill to each game. Choosing the right combination of cards to swap with your Rookery can be tricky, especially when all you know of your opponent’s deck is its faction and agenda. With sufficient knowledge of the metagame, however, you can make an educated guess about the contents of your opponent’s deck and adjust your card choices accordingly. On the other hand, savvy players can subvert expectations by playing an unusual version of a deck with a popular faction and agenda combination. For instance, if Night’s Watch Fealty usually denotes a defensive deck built around The Wall, a crafty player could instead play an aggressive, character-based Night’s Watch Fealty deck, leading their opponents to make suboptimal Rookery decisions. In this way, the Rookery variant rewards creative deckbuilding.

The choices permitted by the Rookery variant add an interesting new dimension to the game at the tournament level, and I’m excited to see the results of the Great Hall event and other tournaments played with the variant! I’m also looking forward to hearing what players have to say about it—and taking that feedback into account as we decide how to use the Rookery going forward.

The Great Hall Event

In order to celebrate the addition of the Rookery variant to A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Organized Play, we're adding the Great Hall event to the 2018 Organized Play calendar.

The Great Hall will run after the Regional Championships have begun and will come with prizes to support up to thirty-two players. In addition to permitting players to access the cards from their Rookeries, the Great Hall event will introduce additional deckbuilding requirements focused around four of the game's eight factions—Baratheon, Greyjoy, Martell, and Tyrell.

At a Great Hall tournament, your deck must represent one of the four featured factions in one of two ways:

  • You may bring a deck for one of the four featured factions (Baratheon, Greyjoy, Martell, or Tyrell) and cannot play a banner from the other three featured factions.

OR

  • You may play one of the four non-featured factions (Lannister, Night's Watch, Stark, or Targaryen) and must play a banner from one of the four featured factions.

These deckbuilding restrictions are central to the event's identity and tie directly into the available prizes, which are distributed to the Top 32 participants, the winner, and the top players for each of the four featured factions.

Participation

The Top 32 participants in the Great Hall event each receive three copies of an alternate art version of Great Hall (Guarding the Realm, 38), depicting a warmer and more crowded chamber.

The art by Cassandre Bolan is not without its irony, however, as we see Sansa Stark gazing admiringly upon the young Prince Joffrey—well before either became inextricably entangled in the wars, politics, and tragedies of Westeros.

Top 4 in Faction

The Great Hall event rewards House loyalty—awarding double-sided, alternate-art House/Banner cards to the Top 4 players from each of the featured factions.

Whether you represent the House directly through the tournament or simply serve it as a bannerman, you aren't just fighting with knights and spies to claim the Iron Throne. You're competing for prominence and influence against the other members and supporters of your chosen faction.

Fortunately, this secondary conflict isn't so deadly as the larger game of thrones: even if you don't win, you can enjoy a long and healthy life with your new double-sided House/Banner cards simply for being one of the top four players in your faction.

Top 2 in Faction

The two highest-placing fighters and schemers from each of the four featured factions will both claim a full set of fifteen generic tokens. Styled according to the House the players supported, these tokens are perfect for tracking your accumulation of power or other game effects.

Winner

Finally, with his or her victories, each Great Hall tournament champion claims a seat alongside four of the most recognizable figures in the Seven Kingdoms!

The winner's custom playmat features a collage of Asha Greyjoy, Margaery Tyrell, Oberyn Martell, and Melisandre that brings these characters to life with some of the game's best and most evocative artwork.

Ripen Your Schemes

"Schemes are like fruit, they require a certain ripening."
     –Tyrion Lannister, A Feast for Crows

Fans of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game have long enjoyed the extra measure of control provided by their plot decks and the choices they make each round as they reveal their plots.

Plots add a whole layer of intrigue to the game's broader challenges, intrigues, and power struggles. They allow you to shape a game over multiple rounds. They allow you to lead your opponents into devious traps. And the Rookery variant adds another, similar layer to your games.

Will you fill your Rookery with events, new characters, different versions of your most important characters, extra locations, key plots, or attachments to ambush into the middle of a combat? Will you use your Rookery to combat the cards you expect to face—or to play against your opponents in ways that subvert expectations?

How you use your Rookery is up to you, and the Great Hall event presents an excellent chance to take full advantage of this new variant. In the coming months, you'll want to keep your eyes open for more updates about the Great Hall event. But for now, you can simply explore all the opportunities this new variant has to offer, by playing games with the Rookery variant starting today!

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