Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Eleven players attended the 2012 Regionals for A Game of Thrones held in Ballarat - it could have been a couple more, but work commitments kept two potential players away. As a result, we had eight people from Ballarat and three from Melbourne attending the tournament.
The tournament used the Melee format, and was run in three rounds with a final of the top three players.
I have been playing a lot of games other than A Game of Thrones recently. Whilst most of the other Ballarat players have been spending Thursday night playing their decks, I've been investigating other games, particularly 1989: Dawn of Freedom, Twilight Struggle and Nightfall. A couple of games of AGoT here and there, but nothing major. Thus, the Greyjoy deck I played would have been a fine casual melee deck, but it was nowhere near the speed that it needed to be.
What was at the required speed was the deck played by Justin Shearer, who won the tournament (and then won the regional tournament down in Melbourne). This was a Stark Siege of Winterfell deck which won every match in the second turn. It's certain that we Ballarat players didn't see it coming...
Justin's report on both tournaments can be found on his blog at the Team Covenant page. His deck list is something to see; certainly he had some good draws in the games, but that's something that a well-constructed deck will give you more often than not.
I played against Justin in the first round, which saw us being crushed by his "Gorilla Love" deck. It was quite fascinating to see it in action. The deck used multiple cards to create additional Epic challenge phases after dominance, and then take a lot of power through the Siege of Winterfell from those challenges.
I led the first game with The King's Law as there were three beginning characters in Shadows - and my Distinguished Boatswains didn't like characters there. All of the characters came out of Shadows in a hurry, but, unfortunately, Justin kept flitting Syrio Forel in and out of Shadow and my Boatswain remained at 2 power.
Syrio is indeed an interesting card; Stealth, Military icon and the ability to appear and disappear. I wouldn't be surprised to see him turning up just a bit more in decks around here. (Most of the players here probably don't have the Epic event cards, though). Syrio gets a lot better with the Epic battle rounds, as he can disappear into shadows after winning the challenge, then reappear (and standing ready) for the next challenge.
So, the game ran with Justin amassing a fair bit of power in the first turn, then he let rip in the second turn with enough battles to bury us all. I'd amassed enough power to end up in third place: about three. Hmm: I hadn't expected quite this speed.
In the second round I ended up on the 3-player table with Garth and Jesse. Garth was playing a Targaryan dragon deck, and this game went slightly longer: three turns! My draw was fairly horrible, and it was not helped by the dragons coming by overhead. I almost lost dreadfully with Garth stealing my power and Jesse having two power to my one... but I managed to stretch the game into the third turn, where I was able to win initiative, go first, and make sure Garth finished the game before Jesse had a chance to gain any more power, while getting just a few points for myself.
The third round saw me pitted against a Baratheon deck played by Andrew (one of the Melbourne players), Dave W's Stark deck, and once again Garth's Targaryan Dragon deck. This game was distinguised by Valar Morghulis appearing in consecutive turns which basically wrecked Andrew's game: he did well to recover some position each time. My Greyjoy priests (led by Aeron Damphair) were doing the best they had this game: recovering well from the destruction, and I was all ready in the third turn to actually gain a lot of power.
It didn't happen that way. I won initiative and gave Andrew first player status. (We managed to misplay the ordering of the plot card revealed text here: it's meant to be chosen by the first player, rather than clockwise from first player which is how we played... Andrew could have recovered a priest). However, it didn't matter, because Garth used the combination of a Maester and Dragon Lore to bring Balarion the Black out for no cost.
Andrew and I had all our cards tapped out, and only Dave was able to muster defenders. Andrew couldn't be attacked by Garth, but I could be - and with Dany in play, Balerion the Black attacked enough times to give Garth the victory.
At this point, I had to go and organise the evening's D&D games, so I didn't get to see much of the final, which was between Justin, Garth and John (playing a Martell Sandsnake deck I hadn't played against).
The first turn saw Justin play three Epic battle cards, and (astonishingly) not winning that very turn! It lasted until the second turn, and Justin took the match easily, with Garth in second place and John coming third.
The final standings had me at eighth of eleven players, which might even be generous towards my deck! Certainly, it didn't have the raw power of Justin's effort, nor the "I win" play of Garth's Dragons.
The deck I played was as follows:
Greyjoy's Kraken Priests
House Card: Greyjoy
Fury of the Kraken
The King's Law
Many Powers Long Asleep
The Power of Faith
Rise of the Kraken
Aeron Damphair (KotS) x3
Asha Greyjoy (WLL) x2
Carrion Bird x2
Distinguished Boatswain x2
Euron Crow's Eye (tGM)
Euron Crow's Eye (KotS)
Island Mercenaries x2
Orell the Eagle
The Knight x2
Maester Wendamyr x2
Priest of the Drowned God x2
Tarle the Thrice-Drowned
Theon Greyjoy (WLL)
Victarion Greyjoy x2
Warrior's Sons x2
The Iron Cliffs
Iron Island Fiefdoms x3
The Iron Mines x2
Longship Iron Victory
Scouting Vessel x3
Street of Steel
Street of Sisters
Fishing Net x2
Milk of the Poppy
Tourney Lance x2
Ahead of the Tide x2
Assertion of Might x3
Risen from the Sea x2
Although the deck has some nice elements (and I once got out Orell the Eagle and equipped a Tourney Lance, so no-one could oppose him), there are several flaws in its construction, not least a lack of non-unique priests for Aeron to summon. I removed a few just before the event to put in some cheap characters. Even so, some of the cards - like Island Mercenaries - are potentially powerful but very difficult to deploy. Gold can be a real problem for this deck.
Characters who can stand or don't kneel to attack are great; the deck wanted another copy of The Power of Faith. One of my weaker ideas was to remove the second copy to include The King's Law.
Basically, it needs better focus. I like the deck as a casual deck, but it lacks some "oomph" for proper use in a Melee Regional.
The day was enjoyable, if mainly for the time spent chatting to Justin. The actual games were - in my opinion - a bit too short and non-interactive. In a melee game, you need better countering options than the one-player shutdowns that are mostly available: it seemed very easy to steamroller over with any potential checks to a player's position causing the player using them to disadvantage himself or herself - and thus leaving the other players in a better position.
FFG have shown signs of improving the melee play in AGoT; let's see if the results of the latest set of tournaments cause them to reconsider the structure and speed of the game at all.