Game Of Thrones LCG - Wolves Of The North Deluxe Expansion Review

Deluxe expansions are my favourite part of an LCG because . . . . well you get more cards frankly, what more do you want? Well in my case I also like that deluxe expansions in Netrunner and Lord of the Rings tend to introduce new deck archetypes and ideas while still building on previous ones. They aren't always fully developed, that tends to come in the next cycle of packs, but you get a clear indication of where the game is heading in future development. And of course, you get lots of new cards. The only annoyance here at first is that this is only for one faction, bare in mind there are 8 in existence. I fear this will take a while to get everyone on an equal level but let's see how Stark has fared here.

To repeat a previous disclaimer, I'm a casual player that enjoys the game and can hold my own in a local store tournament despite having MUCH to learn myself. That's all. Take that for what its worth, but maybe that will allow me to consider combos and ideas that will be fun to use rather than simply dismissing anything that doesn't make a Tier 1 level deck or whatever! So that being said, let's start. You can already check out my Game of Thrones LCG review on my site. If you want to see all the images/text for each card, I recommend you visit thronesdb.com and use their search engine - far easier than me regurgitating it here. In addition I'm also not going to review EVERY card in this set because I'll be here until next week Tuesday writing this. I will therefore focus on what the expansion brings as a whole and highlight some specific cards ranging from the useless to the downright overpowered (IMHO).



Designer: Nate French & Eric Lang
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Age: 14+
Players: 2-4
Time: 60-90 minutes
RRP: £24.99


Winter Is Coming, Actually Did It Ever Leave?


Previously Stark only seemed to have two ways to go - focus on Dire wolf cards, or support Robb Stark, who is just a pain in the butt by himself with his multi-stand ability that's easy to trigger. But in the meta they weren't doing as well as some of the power houses like Lannister and Baratheon. Here those two ideas are strengthened further, particularly in the latter case because many of the new cards focus on sacrifice effects. Dire wolves, fun as they are I don't feel have become strong enough to be their own deck, but one can hope for a "doggy" deck in the long run.

Two new archetypes suggest themselves to be built on later. Firstly the sacrificial nature of Stark characters is taken to a new level with cards that give further benefits when a Stark is sacrificed or killed. It sounds like a cool idea, but not an easy one to make practical in the current meta. Wiping your characters off the table means less attackers and defenders so you had better be certain that you're getting a solid benefit for your sacrifice and I don't just mean the same old tired scenario of "Bran sacrifices himself, Robb is angry, Robb stands army" that we see in 90% of Stark decks.

Secondly there's evidence of the "House Tulley Rush". Some of the characters included like Riverrun Minstrel and the new Catelyn Stark show ways of quickly gaining power outside of challenges. When supported by the new Eddard Stark (who's a hundred times better than the original version) you find that power just ramps up over time. Again the problem is that we don't have many Tulley cards out yet to fully abuse this, however I feel that this is in a stronger position to do well over time and would make a nice welcome change to how a Stark deck normally operates.

Now of course, Stark isn't the only faction to feature here. Each other faction got a couple of new cards and some neutrals to play with, some better than others. I like that they're hinting at a possible Wildling deck archetype in the future, but again we need more cards. I do wish these expansions would focus on maybe two archetypes, make them solid and then just adapt them over time rather than say, here's 5+ archetypes, but they're all no good until a few more packs later, give us money!


The Good. . . 


Eddard Stark: - Well of course we can't not talk about the big man himself. Maybe if he wasn't played by Sean Bean he would have survived longer! The Core version was never that great, but this one is a solid improvement. Being cheaper to play with a higher STR is good enough, but his "dual renown" ability where he effectively grants temporary renown to any other participating character is gravy. Power rush decks will love this card and even though he's not a House Tulley card, he'll still fit in nicely with their rush style of play. Not to mention the artwork is a big improvement!

Fishwhiskers:Greyjoy's new Ironborn takes the Raiding Longship ability, removes that annoying "no attachment" clause and makes it a permanent boon as long the Winter season is in. A powerful ability, however it does require you to be designing your plot deck for Winter specifically to get the full use out if it.

Frozen Solid: - A lot of 1st Edition players have waited for this one to come out again! Location hate is a little on the short side these days outside of Greyjoy (fine with me!) and it's a major blow on a player to have their key location shut down effectively. The Red Keep, Great Kraken, Highgarden and many more come to mind.

The Shadow Tower: - Finally we get to see something nice for The Night's Watch! If you can win that one challenge on the defense which against any Lords of the Crossing deck tends to happen often, you can potentially shut down another opposing challenge, giving you a greater chance of gaining power for The Wall.

The Blackfish: - Bit of a fishy theme going here. A champion card in the 1st Edition, this now sees a comeback granting reasonable stats with a solid card draw ability for military challenges which is what Stark love to do anyway. His other ability is nasty IF you can get it going, but if you've managed to get four power on him, chances are you're already in a state where you can win the game easily. Being loyal does mean you can discount him with Fealty and possibly the new archetype yet to come which I'll mention in just a minute.


The Bad. . . 


King Robb's Host: - Maybe "bad" is a bit harsh, but 8 gold is one hell of a cost for a card that you cannot mitigate other than with Fealty. Lannister get Gregor, but you can discount him with A Noble Cause and they have all the money in the world anyway. Stark are not the richest people on the planet and without an intrigue icon you just know this card is going to get a Tears on it and mess up your game entirely. Now there may still be some hope in the future. The ability is still pretty solid, they are a tough nut to crack when they are out and some of the spoilers ahead hint on an archetype where Loyal characters are stronger and can be discounted. Fingers crossed as that sounds like a good thematic deck to build, but currently this card has come out too soon.

To The Rose Banner!: - How often do you look at one of your high STR characters on the table and think "you know what, I don't need him, I'll grab a ton of gold?" I don't want to sacrifice my good characters, I want them to stick around, so why would I want to find deck space for this. It just seems counter-intuitive to what you need to do to win the game overall and Tyrell already have a decent economy and The Arbor to manage with.

Tithe: - Deck space is constrained enough as it is with the reliance on the general economy package, where is this going to fit in? Maybe a future Wildling deck that uses a ton of neutrals, but otherwise most decks aren't packing a huge amount of neutral characters in anyway, let alone any that they want to kneel just for this card. I can't see this in any current deck.


And The Overpowered! 


Winterfell: - Most people would be turned off by a location that costs 4 gold and to be honest I was the same at first and didn't give this a second look. But my god was I shown that this card is ridiculously powerful! As if boosting the strength of all Stark's wasn't bad enough, this shuts down every single bold text card ability in the game including plots for a whole challenge. You know how irritating it is to have Rise of the Kraken nullified? On its own it can essentially turn 1/3 of the challenges in your favour, but if you're also use Core Catelyn it's just ridiculous being able to shut down 95% of cards in the entire game. 4 gold may seem like a lot, but once it's out, it's a problem that you can't get rid off most of the time.


Tower of the Hand: - There's a trend it seems of locations getting a ton of powerful effects. More targets for Frozen Solid I guess. There's a deck going around called "BAMF!" by Lannister where they keep bouncing bomb characters to play via cheap events before they get discarded from play. It's already pretty powerful as it essentially gets past economy issues. Well intrigue challenges are already a forte of Lannister and the tower allows a player to bounce a bomb character in, return a powerful character from the opponent to their hand and then get their bouncing character back without having to discard them! On top of that, by returning an opponents character to their hand, the intrigue challenge might discard them on the claim. This combo quickly becomes obscene and spoilers ahead are showing even more love for Lannister intrigue. God help us all!



Verdict


Stark were beginning to struggle a little at the start, but this expansion has definitely made them a force to be reckoned with, although not from a standpoint of introducing brand new deck archetypes, more from adding a bit to pre-existing ones and utilising new cards which can be crazy powerful from a personal point of view. Many new cards are being splashed into decks, but it didn't feel that any new archetypes were being shown off well enough. Stark Sacrifice is almost there but still requires some additional help, Dire wolves are not at a point where you can focus entirely on them and the intended House Tulley Rush deck is barely even started.

You don't get much in this box for other factions, just two cards each and for the most part, only one of those cards is worth using. It certainly doesn't make this a cost effective way of boosting your card pool if you've got no interest in Stark.

If you're hoping for something new to be brought to the forefront for deck design, you won't get as much here as you would hope, but in terms of just acquiring some powerful cards to push Stark to the level where it's a match up to be feared, it does what you want it to do. It's a shame that Fantasy Flight Games are only doing one faction at a time though, that's just too slow.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/






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