Monday, 29 August 2016

How To Win At The Game Of Thrones Board Game: Part 4- Lannister and Baratheon

In this article we continue our look at the specifics of playing as each house. If you missed any of the previous articles, they can be found below:


Lannister:

Thematically enough, Lannister are undoubtedly the most controversial house on the board. A lot of people feel that, due to the strength of Greyjoy, Lannister cannot resist them, and will quickly be pushed back (and, as in the previous part, once Lannister lose Riverrun they are on the back foot). Moreover, Lannister are the most central of the houses, with pressure from Baratheon and Tyrell on their doorstep. The Lannister player must therefore predict their opponents' aggression and give them cause to tackle their other neighbours.

Lannister hold a very flexible house card deck, and although it can't quite match the Greyjoy deck it is still a strong basis for combat. A tactical use of Kevan can swing an unexpected combat, and is ideal to use as a counter against Balon, since it adds power unrelated to house card strength. Tyrion is also an exceptionally tactical card. He is best saved until an opponent has used most of their cards, either to force them to play a strong card last (and thus lose it for the next cycle of house cards) or return their last card to their hand, effectively making them lose any house card bonuses. He is also excellent at countering situational cards; for example, sending Victarion back to the Greyjoys during a naval battle.

The other key asset Lannister start with is the messenger raven. Although only guaranteed for the first turn, it is reasonably likely you will hold it for at least a few turns, due to you deciding all “Dark Wings, Dark Words” cards. The other great use of the raven is the potential for riskier plays. Examples include putting consolidate power tokens on Riverrun, and then swapping to a march or defence in reaction to Greyjoy. It also allows safe pick ups of The Blackwater and even Crackclaw point, since you can see what Baratheon and Tyrell are doing and tactically aim for the holes in their defences. This, along with acting second in turn order, should form the basis of the initial Lannister setup.

Firstly, Lannister need to do what they can to mitigate Greyjoy, and the key territory here is the Sunset Sea. Since Greyjoy cannot afford to burn their marches taking it on turn one, Lannister should seek to move their ship there, and then muster two ships into the Golden Sound from Lannisport. This sets up the Golden Sound supporting Riverrun and Lannisport whilst Sunset Sea continually raids Greyjoy support. Of course, sooner or later Greyjoy will get sick of this and attack with Victarion, but this draws their energies away from the land, as well as creating a strong naval defence for them to fight against.

After setting up in anticipation of Greyjoy, Lannister need to consider their game plan, as Riverrun and Harrenhal are the only straightforward castles. The strength of taking the Sunset Sea means Lannister have a claim on Flint's Finger, which is a strong claim if the support from Ironman's Bay is raided. A Stark-Lannister alliance can be used to take down Seaguard, but even more effective is a march on Stark after taking it, as they likely move away from their support and won't have an order placed. As discussed in the Greyjoy strategy; it is likely that a strong Lannister means a weak Greyjoy, and vice versa, so if you succeed in the above setup it could spell the beginning of the end for Greyjoy.

Greyjoy should also watch out for rickety bridges.

In terms of the south and the east, Lannister have a very mixed bag. On the one hand, they are likely to hit 6 barrels fairly reliably, and can pick up a lot of printed crowns as well, with Stoney Sept being a key focal point for both support and consolidate orders, depending on the situation. On the other hand, the next castles are a long way off. Once Baratheon have their navy set up Crackclaw Point becomes very hard to take, since Baratheon can support from both Shipbreaker and Blackwater bays. A more effective strategy is to set up an army in the Blackwater and Harrenhal as if moving to take Crackclaw Point, and then taking a stab at King's Landing, since it gets less naval support and is more likely to be under pressure.

Moving south does not give Lannister many more options, short of an out and out offensive against Tyrell. This is not as unreasonable as it might seem, depending on where Tyrell puts it's energies. Again, the best hope Lannister has is catching a Tyrell player off-guard; holding the Searoad Marches with a solitary footman is seen as a peaceful but secure position for Lannister, but also opens up a chain march (march into a friendly area with another march in) of a much larger army from elsewhere into Highgarden. This also opens up the Reach as an option.

As is probably clear by now, Lannister's biggest weakness is their board positioning, as they can end up in combat with almost every other house. As such, it is vital that Lannister expand slowly but surely; they should focus on constantly mustering from Lannisport and Riverrun, and taking advantage of their easy access to barrels. By doing this a careful Lannister player can secure the centre ground and wait for the right opening from other players. Whilst their board positioning is a problem, it can be turned to your advantage, as you have access to most of the board, meaning you can wait until a player leaves an area undefended and then march on it. Although certainly a challenge in a 6 player game, a Lannister win is definitely possible.

Suggested openings:

The Golden Sound: March 0 into the Sunset Sea
Stoney Sept: March +1 into Riverrun
Lannisport: *Consolidate Power (muster two boats into the Golden Sound)

or

The Golden Sound: March 0 into the Sunset Sea
Lannisport: March +1, knight into Riverrun, footman into Stoney Sept
Stoney Sept: March -1, one footman into Harrenhal, one into the Blackwater


Baratheon:

If Lannister have a slight disadvantage overall it is probably fair to say that Baratheon have a slight advantage. The biggest aspect of this is the sheer number of options Baratheon have; they can focus on holding the centre ground and go against Lannister and Tyrell; they can go south and attack Dorne; or head north and take the Vale and the Stark lands. Moreover, they have an excellent naval position, as having a strong navy in Blackwater Bay not only gives strong unraidable support to King's Landing and Crackclaw Point but also provides support to ships in Shipbreaker Bay. This means it is effectively impossible to take due to the strength of the Salladhor Saan house card.

(In Shatner voice) "SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!"

Another big advantage Baratheon has is very strong access to power tokens. After taking King's Landing on turn one they can effectively farm five power tokens each turn, which helps them get a massive lead. Also, since they will likely hold King's Landing and The Kingswood at the end of turn one they can collect four tokens each time there is a “Game of Thrones” card effect. This easy early access to power tokens feeds into another advantage Baratheon have; the Iron Throne. Whilst it may be tempting to deliberately lose it at the first Clash of Kings to power up Stannis, Baratheon should aim to have it as long as possible, as being able to break ties combined with lots of power tokens means you can very easily end up on very strong positions on the influence tracks.

The Baratheon house cards are functional but not great. Salador Saan is, as mentioned already, a superb naval deterrent that means Martell and Stark are basically incapable of marching into Baratheon waters. Stannis and Renly have very situational effects which are nice if you can get them but most of the time they are effectively blank cards. Ser Davos is a strong card, as there is never a reason not to use him after Stannis and effectively have a second 3 strength card. Brienne and Melisandre are both average, but Patchface is probably the best 0 strength in the game. There is no counter players can make against him, and he is one of the few cards who is great in both a “definite win” and “definite loss” situation. He is best used early to remove cards that are likely to give you issues (The Red Viper, Ser Gregor, Eddard, Roose Bolton) and take the edge off opponents' house cards.

In terms of overall strategy, Baratheon have lots of choices, and can attack with relative impunity due to their strong defensive position. Priority number one should be setting up 3 ships in Blackwater Bay and 1 in Shipbreaker bay. The Blackwater ships can continually support as above, making Crackclaw Point and King's Landing almost impossible to take. The Shipbreaker ship can be used either as a second supporting unit or to raid Martell or Stark. Once this is set up Baratheon should look to take either Storm's End or the Eyrie. Which one should be based on the situation; if Stark are not focusing on the Vale then a march, either by sea or land, is definitely a safe bet. Martell should take Storm's End but may get embroiled with Tyrell, which can make it an easy castle to take. If not Salador can be used to take out any support from the Sea of Dorne and push Martell back. If Baratheon manage to take Storm's End they should focus on building up a supporting army in the Kingswood, as this can bolster Storm's End and King's Landing whilst also helping to take the Reach.

Another option is an attack on Lannister against Harrenhal. Good times to do this are after a failed attack on Crackclaw Point or when Lannister is focusing on defending Riverrun. If things go in your favour Baratheon may even be able to pick up Riverrun, particularly if it has just changed hands between Greyjoy and Lannister. This should ideally be as a 7th castle, since Baratheon are unlikely to be able to hold it.

Generally Baratheon don't have any major weaknesses due to their flexibility. The lack of readily available barrels can quickly become a problem, which is one reason why moving into either the Vale or the Blackwater should be a priority. Hitting a resupply before doing this can be very damaging to Baratheon, as Tyrell and Lannister are likely to be sitting on 4-6 barrels with little effort. Otherwise Baratheon do not have to take many big risks to be a forerunner for the win.

Suggested openings:

Shipbreaker Bay: March -1 one ship into Blackwater Bay
Kingswood: Support +1
Dragonstone: March 0, knight into Kingswood, footman into King's Landing

or

Shipbreaker Bay: March -1 one ship into Blackwater Bay East Summer Sea
Dragonstone: March 0, knight into Kingswood, footman into Crackclaw Point
Kingswood: March +1, knight into Storm's End, footman into The Reach (unless held by Tyrell)


In the next part we move down to the south of Westeros and discuss houses Tyrell and Martell, and have a look at what is probably the most dangerous house card in the game.




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