Enter the world of Westeros with A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition! In this second edition of our longest-running Living Card Game (LCG), you command iconic characters from A Song of Ice and Fire in treacherous battles for the Iron Throne. Every turn, you hatch a new plot, then attack your foes in three types of deadly challenges. Whether you play a head-to-head joust or a multiplayer melee, your struggles span the field of battle, cunning intrigues, and political machinations. Call your banners and battle for the Iron Throne!
This is the first part of a series of reviews of the Chapter Packs and Deluxe Expansions available for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (2nd Edition), starting right at the beginning of the Westeros Cycle with Taking the Black. But before getting stuck into the cards themselves, there are just a couple of things I want to mention.
First, in order to give newer players a sense of the growth and development of the card pool over time, as I move from one expansion review to the next, I will mostly be attempting to evaluate each card in terms of its impact on the game at the time of its release. However, I will occasionally look forward and make references to cards released at later points, and sometimes refer to the "current" card pool (which, at the time of writing this review of Taking the Black, consists in 18 Chapter Packs and four Deluxe Expansions).
The second thing I want to mention is that throughout this series of reviews, I’ll be referring to statistics derived from ThronesDB, which contains a searchable list of player-submitted decks. I will freely admit that the statistics I’m using could be somewhat skewed by cases where a single player has submitted multiple versions of exactly the same, or very similar, decks.
However, I still think these stats are pretty useful for the purposes of gaining a rough indication of the overall popularity and playability of individual cards. (The stats I refer to in this review of Taking the Black were produced on 7th November 2017 and were based on filtered searches of a total of 8,726 player-submitted decks. When I refer to stats “over the last 6 months”, I am restricting the search to 1,327 decks submitted between 7th May and 7th November 2017.)
First, to step into the ring, wearing the black trunks and weighing in at four cost and three STR, it’s Will. He brings the total number of Rangers in Night’s Watch up to five and is the only Ranger to possess both military and intrigue icons (a fact which remains true even up to the latest release, House of Thorns). He has both the Stealth and Insight keywords, which is a powerful combination and nicely augments the single instances of Stealth and Insight featured on NW characters in the Core Set (on Ghost and Samwell Tarly respectively).
The only downside is his negative ability, which has the potential to be a real burden if you can’t prevent it from being triggered. Overall, though, Will is a decent addition to NW at this early stage of the game’s development. He features in a respectable 4.6% of all decks posted on ThronesDB. Over the last six months, the figure drops to just 0.8%, but this is presumably due to the recent prominence of Builder decks. Hopefully, Ranger decks will become more of a thing as the card pool continues to grow.
The second NW card is a one cost event, The Watch Has Need. The main problem with this card’s ability is that NW simply doesn’t have enough Rangers, Builders or Stewards at this early stage of the card pool. Including Core Set characters plus Will, NW has access to five Rangers, four Stewards, and just one Builder. These are low numbers compared to the current pool, which features 15 Rangers, 14 Stewards, and 10 Builders.
Interestingly, though, ThronesDB does not show an increased use of The Watch Has Need over time. The event features in 2.2% of all decks, but only 1.9% of decks over the last six months. I’m not sure why this is, but if I had to speculate (from a mainly casual player’s perspective), I’d point to the “swarmy” nature of NW as a faction. With a few exceptions, NW doesn’t really care exactly which characters hit the board, as long as a board presence is maintained. So why take up deck slots with an event that tutors for characters with specific traits?