Hello fellow AGoT fans! Last time I was around this board it was to propose and test a variant, and it's come around to that time again. I've been spitballing some concepts with friends and have a few to bring to the table for critique. All opinions welcome!
In no particular order and with apologies for presentation:
• Maester Token •
Expert counsel at a timely moment can help a leader plan for what is to come. A Maester Token is available to each player at the start of the game. At any time, a player may turn in their Maester Token to look at the top card of one Westeros Deck.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Some players have raised concerns about successive influence bidding rounds bogging down the game and also being disruptive to planning. While a certain amount of chaos is always warranted, this variant allows players concerned about the possibility to check ahead by at least one turn before making substantial commitments to the influence tracks and also opens up other information-gathering options.
•• Option: Maester Tokens are left above the deck they have been used to check. If Last Days of Summer is drawn from a deck, players with Maester Tokens on that deck regain them. Maester Tokens used to check the Westeros III deck will never return to players.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This subvariant helps mitigate the "wasting" of a Maester Token on Last Days of Summer or Winter Is Coming, without eliminating it entirely. As neither card is present in Westeros III and as that deck contains cards which can radically alter the Planning Phase, it may be advisable to require a "higher commitment" from players who want to look ahead in it.
• Alliances •
Just as important as strategy in a time of war is peacemaking, at least until all other enemies are dealt with. Alliances, based on an idea from another Fantasy Flight game, provide unique benefits to the players who engage in them, as well as (of course) new opportunities for betrayal.
Each player holds a unique Alliance card, which can be given to another player in exchange for their own with mutual consent during the period between the Westeros Phase and Planning Phase. Alliances may be broken at any time except during the resolution of an order by either participant, costing the betrayer 1 Power Token and the betrayed 2 Power Tokens as well as forcing the immediate return of Alliance cards, preventing any further benefits from being received by either party until a new Alliance is formed. An attack from one party against another does not automatically cancel an Alliance, but the attacked party has first priority in dissolving the Alliance should the situation arise. A dissolved Alliance does not affect orders already placed on the board.
Example Alliance cards:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
House Baratheon can raise one of its ally's Power Token bids each turn by 1, to a maximum of House Baratheon's own bid total. If House Baratheon holds the Iron Throne token, it can raise as many of its ally's bids each turn as it chooses.
If House Greyjoy holds the Valyrian Steel Blade, players other than House Greyjoy may not Raid its ally's sea areas or Ports.
House Lannister may reduce its own number of special orders this turn by 1 to give its ally 1 additional special order. No player may exceed 3 special orders per turn in this way. House Lannister can use the Messenger Raven on its ally's orders with the ally's permission and provided the new order placement is legal.
House Martell's ally may ask House Martell, rather than the holder of the Iron Throne token, to decide its position in a tie. In a multi-party tie, House Martell can only choose the placement of its ally, not the other parties.
House Stark's ally may use the better of House Stark's or its own position on the Fiefdoms track to resolve combat ties, except against House Stark. If House Stark holds the Messenger Raven token, it can choose to reveal the Wildlings card to its ally as well when checking it.
House Tyrell may spend 1 Power Token for each space moved to raise its ally to the same position as House Tyrell on the Supply track. This can only be used to increase Supply, not decrease it. This may be done in response to another change in Supply but must take into account any changes to the Tyrell position.
•• Option: Enmity represents existing bad blood between various Houses, above and beyond the natural distrust all contenders for the throne share. Enmity is generated between two Houses whenever an Alliance is broken and can be added by any House between themselves and another at will (possibly useful in negotiations to show commitment to one party). An Alliance cannot be made while Enmity is in the way. Enmity can be broken by spending 2 Power Tokens, an arrangement which the two Houses must sort out themselves. It is entirely possible to convince another House to spend Power to break Enmity, only to immediately turn around and reestablish it.
•• Option: Starting Enmity can be lined up for thematic and positional interest. Recommendations are as follows:
• House Baratheon has Enmity with Greyjoy (rebellion) and Lannister (succession).
• House Greyjoy has Enmity with Baratheon and Stark (rebellion, treachery)
• House Lannister has Enmity with Baratheon, Martell (crimes against family members) and Stark (innate distrust on both sides)
• House Martell has Enmity with Lannister and Tyrell (long history of animosity)
• House Stark has Enmity with Greyjoy and Lannister
• House Tyrell has Enmity with Martell
• Marriage/Allied Victory •
You don't make formal alliances with people you trust, which is why it's important to appeal to self-interest in the deepest of negotiations. Via Marriage, two Houses can set aside their mutual distrust in the common cause of having bigger fish to fry.
Marriage may only be established between two Houses between the Westeros Phase and the Planning Phase; it may be dissolved at any time except during the resolution of an order. The two participating Houses exchange their Marriage tokens and can not enter Marriage with any other House unless the token is returned and the Marriage dissolved.
Married Houses are fully committed to Allied Victory, which requires that the two Houses secure 11 Castles between them rather than 7. They cannot attack one another, nor move any forces into areas occupied by their partner's troops. They can cross into areas controlled but not occupied, in which case the area is considered to be controlled by the House whose forces occupy the area until they are withdrawn. If Marriage is dissolved while occupying forces are present in an area with another House's Power Token, it is immediately removed.
Should the Marriage be dissolved, the House dissolving the Marriage may immediately remove 1 of its former partner's Footmen from anywhere on the board (as mingled forces disentangle, perhaps bloodily). After this decision is made, the other House in the Marriage may then remove 1 of its former partner's Footmen or Ships or demote 1 Knight to a Footman.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
A recurring theme in variants time and time again, I took a simpler tack on this one that does not exchange House Cards. From a design standpoint, my largest concern was the natural tendency of a player who is materially ahead to break the marriage and immediately turn on the ex-spouse for a quick and dirty victory. While betrayal is part of the spice of Game of Thrones, there needed to be some form of disincentive to doing so without proper planning. The result is that betrayal is damaging to the betrayed but potentially even moreso to the betrayer, who has to anticipate the positional compromise that breaking a marriage will yield. In the case of a marriage of spiteconvenience (the classic Robert & Cersei arrangement), there may even be brinkmanship as each participant secretly hopes the other will be the first to dissolve the union and incur the larger positional cost.
• Resources •
The wealth of the Seven Kingdoms is turned to mustering armies in times of war. While money provides a means of rapidly accruing levies, stronger forces require a number of different resources to procure in numbers.
The castles of Westeros are central seats to which resources naturally gather and can be administrated with ease. Each castle is represented by a Resource Card indicating which of the four Resource types of Westeros can be tapped by the House holding the region. Each House begins the game with the Resource Cards for the castle regions they hold. Further Resource Cards can be acquired in two ways: firstly, by selecting one of your castles whose Resource Card you do not currently hold and drawing the corresponding card; secondly, by conquering other castles, allowing you to seize their Resources if available.
Resource Cards are redeemed between the Westeros Phase and the Planning Phase in one of three ways:
• 1 Gold and 1 of any other Resource for 1 Mustering Point.
• 3 different Resources for 2 Mustering Points.
• Any 4 Resource Cards for 2 Mustering Points.
Redeemed Resource Cards are discarded and must be regained one at a time; this can be done by re-conquering the castle (if neutral) or by selecting, at the start of each Westeros Phase, one of your castles whose Resource Card you do not currently hold and drawing it.
The Resources of Westeros (and the castles which hold them) are as follows:
• Food (represents cultivated crop land, domesticated animals, and other agricultural products such as fruit and wines)
Harrenhal, Highgarden, the Reach, Sunspear, Winterfell
• Gold (represents precious metals, wealth, commerce and luxuries generally)
King's Landing, Lannisport, Oldtown, White Harbor
• Ore (represents minerals and base metals as well as other yields from hard lands)
The Eyrie, Flint's Finger, Pyke, Starfall
• Wood (represents renewable resources of the wilds and trade in same, including lumber, fish, game and pelts)
Crackclaw Point, Riverrun, Seagard, Storm's End, Yronwood
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This variant is intended to provide a bit more early-game consistency and shapes early aggression around a secure source of mustering points. Outside of the early game it should be more difficult to secure added mustering via Resources more than once or twice and it paints obvious targets on the board for various Houses to prioritize.
The resource allocation is intended to prompt certain behaviors without forcing them; House Lannister has a relatively secure 1-point option by going for Harrenhal, while House Greyjoy needs to look to Lannisport, Highgarden or Winterfell to secure a preferential 3-for-2 trade as opposed to the 4-for-2 scenario its starting area presents. House Stark has one muster point available immediately but must consider whether to spend it or pursue a third Resource, which must come from somewhere other than Moat Cailin (which produces no resources). House Baratheon has several options available via the diverse resources of the Eyrie, Harrenhal, King's Landing and either Storm's End or Crackclaw Point, but starts out with nothing from Dragonstone. House Martell is guaranteed a secure 3-for-2 via its starting position but must thereafter protect Yronwood and Starfall heavily to ensure that a greedy Tyrell doesn't come looking for the same benefit. House Tyrell is ensured a single early mustering point in the early game via Oldtown but has to contest Riverrun, Yronwood, Starfall or Storm's End to secure a 3-for-2 exchange.
Will it work? I don't know, but I'm curious what people think!