Rodrigo Canaan
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An in-depth analysis of Tyrell's strategy and late-game objectives

A few months ago I got into a discussion about expected win-rates of the Houses with "competent play" in the wonderful thread A top-down analysis of a balance of power by MasterOfCoin. Recently, my mind wandered to it again, and I wanted to add a few words on that topic.

Quickly, my "few words" devolved in an almost 2000-word essay about Tyrell and I decided to post it separately. If you want to see how this work ties into that discussion, just follow the link above. If not, just keep in mind that my analysis began by trying to answer the second part of the OP's main question: How to stop GJ and Tyrell from winning

As you may or may not know, both MasterOfCoin in his OP and Perrytom in his excelent series (here's Part 1) have been surprised by how little Tyrell wins in forum games as compared to their expectations or their playgroups. Indeed, according to this source, Tyrell wins the least of any house in 2ed PBF games at 10%. While that is not updated with the most recent games, that looks very odd to me as well.

I assume you already know about Tyrell's advantages (Loras, QoT, PT generation), so I will first describe what I see as its weaknesses in genearal, then discuss a few considerations in the conflict against Martell, Baratheon and Lannister in the late game.

The goal is to help counter Tyrell, if they win a lot in your group, or (as looks to be the case in the PBF metagame) help explain why they don't realize the potential some people would expect.

In the end, I close by comparing it to the other Houses regardin what I would expect to be their win-rate in an "ideal" metagame.

Please let me know if you enjoyed it, and your thoughts, questions and disagreements!

General weaknesses:

1)Weak Early Game: Tyrell is one of the weakest, if not the weakest Houses in the early game, and desperately needs a Muster and a Clash of Kings to be on par. In extreme cases, Tyrell could be attacked at WSS or The Reach relatively early. In less extreme cases, Baratheon/Martell should be big favorites to first occupying Blackwater/Prince's Pass and Lannister (assuming peace with GJ) a moderate favorite to SRM.

2)The Reach: The Reach is probably the hardest "important" area in the game to defend against 2 enemy Houses. While defending against 2 is always tough, in many cases it's challenging for the aggressors to set up a supported attack if the defendant raids properly.

As some examples, compare how hard it is (in terms of the effects of IT advantage and the flanking needed) for:
i) Lannister + Stark to threaten Seagard or for Stark + Martell to threaten Shipbreaker Bay to
ii)How easy it is for Baratheon + Lannister OR Martell to threaten The reach.

In the first examples, the onus is on the attackers to find an opening (favorable Westeros Cards or use of the VSB) or to craft one (by doing an extended campain, setting up flanks, baiting cards etc). In the latter case, the onus is on Tyrell to defend.

In general, a successful attack versus The Reach is far easier than against Seagard, Shipbreaker Bay and most others.

3) Hard to hold targets after a successful attack: While it's generally hard to hold to a conquered territory, some houses have it easier than other

For example, see how compararively easy it is for GJ/Baratheon to defend Riverrun/The Reach for multiple turns versus Tyrell holding KL (from Baratheon) or Lannisport (from Greyjoy)

Or how comparatively easy it is for Stark to exaust defenses in a battle of attrition for Crackclaw Point or Flint's Finger (accounting for Stark's superior Swords/Forts and Roose Bolton) versus Tyrell at Starfall (accounting for Doran/Arianne)

As a result, we have a House who:
- Isn't great in the early game and will probably have to fight for the areas it needs to set up some attacks.
- Has one of the most vulnerable castles in The Reach (meaning if it ever gets ahead, it's easy to punish).
- Has trouble holding on to new castles or winning battles of attrition.

The result is that our avenues for victory are either:
a) Set-up a last round combo involving Loras and/or QoT
b) Take advantage of another conflict or make an alliance with a neighbour
c) Have a general overwhelming advantage that would be enough for any house to win.

Option a) is unique to Tyrell and is analyzed bellow. Option b) is also analyzed and while Tyrell is very good at it (due to Loras and QoT), ultimately any house can win with an alliance or weakened neighbor

Option c) won't be discussed, as it relies either on luck or on vastly outplaying your opponents. Neither luck or better skill is the subject of this thread.

Specific Match-Ups

A) Martell

- Has a direct counter to Loras in Arianne
- Has a preemptive counter to Loras in Doran (via removing all stars, depriving you of any possible last march advantage)
- Is just a miserable House to be up against in general due to Doran and Arianne

With that said, if Martell is at war with Baratheon (especially if he uses Doran), Tyrell is in a great position to strike. Ser Garlan can punish Arianne with his 2 Sword icons. QoT can attack Starfall, removing Yronwood support to take Prince's Pass (and raid from there to cripple Martell's attempts at defending), or can attack The Boneway to remove Sea of Dorne support to allow for a decisive naval victory. Even better, since Baratheon has just been Doran'd, he'll probably have a hard time trying to punish you.

B) Baratheon

- Has a preemptive counter to Loras in Patchface
- Is a favorite in my opinion to take and hold The Blackwater
- KL is a very tough target. If you have Blackwater, you can set-up an attack from The Reach by using QoT to remove support. Otherwise you need help from another house
- If Stark or Martell take Shipbreaker Bay, then taking (and keeping) KL is much easier. On the other hand, your ally probably ends with Dragonstone, meaning you need yet another castle to win (and Stark might be able to fight you for Crackclaw)

To wrap up this subtopic, while Tyrell is in a great position to be rewarded from a B x M conflict (especially going after Martell), so is Baratheon in a great position to benefit from a T x M conflict.

As said before, The Reach is already super vulnerable (and somewhat easy for Baratheon to defend) so going against Tyrell after Tyrell has wasted some cards and/or sent some units South isn't too hard.

But Baratheon can also go against Martell. He enjoys the same benefits of Tyrell (in the inverse scenario) of being rid of Doran/Arianne. Plus, what's important to understand is that Baratheon's problems regarding Storm's End are not with taking it (a few SE's can usually do the job) but rather keeping it.

So whatever happens in the Tyrell/Martell conflict, Baratheon's chances improve.:
- If Tyrell lands at Starfall, retaking it becomes a higher priority than retaking Storm's End.
- If they are each raiding each other's sea, then you can support Storm's End yourself from Shipbreaker Bay.
- If Tyrell manages to take ESS, then Martell may need to march from Sea of Dorne. Tyrell himself will likely defend or raid Martell from ESS, again enabling you to support from Shipbreaker. Or you just might be able to take ESS from Tyrell.
- Likewise, if it's Martell who manages to take WSS, then he needs to support from ESS (which might allow you to again support from Shipbreaker or take ESS for yourself).

While Stark can interfere with some of those plans, Baratheon can still benefit almost as well from a T x M conflict as Tyrell can benefit from a M x B.


C) Lannister

Here, there are 2 scenarios: At about round 7~8, Lannister has been crushed by Greyjoy or he's still strong.

I will avoid delving too deep in the scenario where GJ has crushed Lannister. First, the OP of the other thread assumes GJ and Lannister are don't fight for the most part. Second, this discussion basically boils down to who can benefit the most from GJ's aggression, which depends on too many factors, and I don't want to discuss GJ vs Lannister here (althought that's another topic I'm thinking of writing soon. I know it's beating a dead horse, but I genuinelly feel I have some points to add that I haven't seen elsewhere).

If Lannister is strong and not too harrassed by GJ in the early game, I'd say there's a better than 50% chance that Lannister is the one who first feels comfortable taking SRM. Lannister usually has more units in the first 3~4 turns due to first round CP*, and Lannsiter has fewer land areas to cover before he starts having to fight someone for it.

From there (Lannister having SRM), here's what follows:
- It's not trivial to take it from Lannister. QoT helps, but Baratheon interference can go either way, and Martell might raid a possible naval Support (actually GJ may do it too to keep it as a buffer from you)
- Tyrion stops Loras cold.

If Tyrell manages to take SRM, still:
- If you march from SRM, you can't raid Stoney Sept's support unless you also have Blackwatter (and if you do have it, you're in great position anyway)
- With no Blackwater your max Supply is 4. This means you can't make an army of 4 units (2KN+2SE) which may be needed to beat all the units in Stoney Sept + Lannisport + Garrison.
- After all that, you still need to watch out for a GJ counterattack if you're not the last to move

In the end, against a healthy Lannister you're probably not much better than 50-50 to hold SRM at turn 10, and even then success is not certain.

Closing thoughts and House Tiers:

A quick comparison of the expected win % compared to other houses. Obviously this depends on the metagame, due to preemptive leader-bashing of Houses that are perceived as stronger. But in general, I the tierlist should reflect how much effort it takes for other players to stop a given house and how the win % should end up in "most" metagames.

Comparison with Baratheon

I think the House that's most comparable to Tyrell is Baratheon. Both are fairly good at accumulating Power Tokens. Both have plenty of opportunities to benefit from other conflicts. Both are under threat of being ganged up. Both depend on having The Blackwater for many of their attack avenues.

I'd say the difference is mostly that Baratheon is better defensively:
- All his castles are hard to take and even harder to hold as long as Shipbreaker Bay is safe.
- It's very hard to take Shipbreaker Bay (in comparison to The Reach) even in a 2 v 1 scenario. This has been discussed before with a focus on Geography, but I'll add here that Baratheon has Saladhor Saan to fall back on for a bad turn.
- Tyrell doesn't have a dissuasive card like Patchface.

Tyrell on the flipside has better offense. Tyrell can create opportunities out of nowhere with QoT, especially in coordination with an ally. Tyrell can also reap huge rewards with Loras.

I'd say both houses are very balanced compared to each other and could see either one turning up with a higher win % in most metagames. If pressed, I'd probably give Baratheon a slight edge due to better early game and Blackwater.

Regarding Stark:

I can't see either Baratheon or Tyrelll in the same tier as Stark. It just takes a lot of effort from either GJ (with Tyrell's blessing) or Baratheon (with Martell's blessing) to stop Stark. I'll probably write an in-depth analysis of Stark some time.

Regarding GJ and Lannister:
It's hard to compare Tyrell with GJ, since people have a bunch of different stances on GJ vs Lannister. I personally think GJ's good performance is not a fluke, and put them at tier 1 with Stark. But regardless of what you think about GJ vs Lannister, we can probably agree that both B and T should be on a tier above Lannister. Lannistr, even in "peace" is always paranoid of an attack, and has fewer opportunities in general than Tyrell.

Regarding Martell:

That leaves Martell. By comparing them with Tyrell (and, in turn, with Baratheon), it's easy to see it's in a poor position to win the game. While Martell can take the Reach, so can Baratheon, and Baratheon is in a much better position to hold it.

All other targets for Martell require him winning a decisive naval battle, which is very hard for every House.

Funnily, since Martell starts with 4 castles and is very hard to attack, his "average finish" ranking should be one of the highest. But since we're talking about actually winning the game, he's definetly one of the lowest.

Tier 1: Stark, GJ
Tier 2: Baratheon/Tyrell
Tier 3: Martell/Lannister

While I put GJ at tier 1, people who believe his win % is too inflated due to sub-optimal play could put him at tier 2. Depends on your particular school of thought.
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Lars Munstermann
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Fantatstic work!
I have played a dozen times or so the game but we never had a Tyrell victory yet. In most of the cases they are doing well through power generation, but for them it is really hard to expand. Before round 10 you will never be able to hold Kings Landing for a long time. Also Starfall is relatively easy für Martell to reconquer. The Reach is indeed difficult to hold, but with a support order in Highgarden it is not impossible. So I think most Tyrell player are using Oldtown for mustering and distributing troops, while in Highgarden you need to support. Of course Lannister needs to stay out of Searoad Marches, but Tyrell has the advantage of naval mobility there so I think with an army from Oldtown Searoad Marches can be secured. With this setup Tyrell is able to survive, then in round 10 an obvious move is to put your strength to your army in the Reach and try to conquer Kings Landing + Cracklaw point with Loras, leaving you with 5 castles. This is the best case and needs also a foothold in Blackwater in order to use the QoT to eliminate the support order in Blackwater Bay. An other option would of course be to try to conquer Lannisport and Riverrun but I think that's very difficult as well.
A war against (Doran) Martell can also ruin your chances. But I do not see any advantages on the Martell side as well. While Martell may conquer the Reach, they won't be able expand to Highgarden or Oldtown becaus of the naval support. Martell will also have a hard time to hold the Reach because for the Baratheons a Tyrell/Martell war is a dream came true.
So all in all I think a Martell/Tyrell war won't result in a victory for either of them. I think the best option for both of them is an alliance. Tyrell can offer Martell a sweet deal by offering to eliminate the support order in Blackwater Bay with QoT. In return House Martell has to leave Princes Pass. Martells gain from the deal is obvious. Maybe they are able to get Shipbreaker Bay and Dragonstone. Now Tyrell has three options: Because the Martells are busy, go north with your fleet, maybe the Lannisters would even welcome you. Second option: Use the chaos around Kings Landing and claim the city for yourself. Third option: Backstab Martell because parts of their fleet is now away in Shipbreaker Bay.
 
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Björn Grafström
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Blazerunner wrote:


As a result, we have a House who:
- Isn't great in the early game and will probably have to fight for the areas it needs to set up some attacks.
- Has one of the most vulnerable castles in The Reach (meaning if it ever gets ahead, it's easy to punish).
- Has trouble holding on to new castles or winning battles of attrition.

The result is that our avenues for victory are either:
a) Set-up a last round combo involving Loras and/or QoT
b) Take advantage of another conflict or make an alliance with a neighbour
c) Have a general overwhelming advantage that would be enough for any house to win.

Option a) is unique to Tyrell and is analyzed bellow. Option b) is also analyzed and while Tyrell is very good at it (due to Loras and QoT), ultimately any house can win with an alliance or weakened neighbor


I agree with most of this post, and I would only like to add one thing that at least happens in some of my games.

Tyrell might not have the "don't mess with me card" like Martell and in some ways Baratheon but at the same time you don't want a wounded and beaten Tyrell as an enemy in the late game either. If you have in some way betrayed Tyrell or have had a long term war with Tyrell you can easily have your plans for the final turn destroyed by Queen of Thorns. I have lost more than once because Queen of Thorns have removed a crucial support order or even a march order leaving me with no chance to put any plans into motion.

Some might call this a form of king making but if you have had a war or have betrayed someone you must, IMHO, be prepared for them to bring you as much pain and misery that they are able to.



Quote:
Tier 1: Stark, GJ
Tier 2: Baratheon/Tyrell
Tier 3: Martell/Lannister


I agree on this too, when we talk about even skilled players and not counting very weird things I put the houses like this as well.
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Rodrigo Canaan
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bagisbjorn wrote:
Tyrell might not have the "don't mess with me card" like Martell and in some ways Baratheon but at the same time you don't want a wounded and beaten Tyrell as an enemy in the late game either.


True, I hadn't thought about it from that point of view.

I'm a bit surprised that everyone seems to at least agree that Tyrell should be > Martell, and yet Martell consistently wins more than Tyrell both here and in Thronemaster. I'm curious to know if there are other places with results from a large number of games, and if this trend holds.

My suspicion is that we underestimate Martell because it's not flashy, but since it's one of the most stable Houses it's almost always in a position to, with a bit of luck, run away with the game either via Web of Lies or by piling up on its weakest neighbour after they fight someone else.
 
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Björn Grafström
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Well, if you scored points based on position on the victory track I guess Martell would often score high enough to be ranked at least fourth. I just think that if it's all or nothing, win or die then I'd rather take my chances with Tyrell than play the stable Martell (you can almost certainly count on having four victory points as standard, three if you've been betrayed late on and five if you have betrayed someone).
 
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Rodrigo Canaan
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If I was rating average victory track position, I'd probably put them even at third.

What surprises me is that EVERY player I talk to (and me as well) thinks Tyrell should win (first place) more than Martell, and yet the stats (for first place) both here and on the other site show M consistently > T. Go figure
 
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Thank you for keeping the discussion alive! The more I think on my extraordinary score with Tyrell, I come to the conclusion that it has two causes: (1) A weak Lannister due to Greyjoy's aggression (as discussed elsewhere) but also or maybe predominately (2) a defensive Martell.

I have to commit that Tyrell is indeed no favorite for winning the game if Martell starts a war as soon as possible. In order to investigate this limitation of Tyrell's chances, I followed your example and shifted the extensive analysis of Martell's options to a new thread.

But for the moment, let me facing some of your words:
1) IMHO Blackwater is much harder to defend and much more important than the Reach. The result of Baratheon taking the Reach should be QoT leading Lannister to Blackwater and a thankful Lannister who helps the retake the Reach easily. Do not play with the fire, Stannis!

2) (High) winning score of Martell: I have seen Martell winning this game (including myself) but I have not yet seen a game where Martell won due to a coordinated strategy or at least because one of his neighbours was exhausted from a defensive war. It was always like one of the neighbours did not set-up maximum sea defence and/or stupid suicidal attacks (e.g. 2 KN dying because the Viper and not Arianne was defending Starfall) which allowed for an unstoppable land offensive.

3) (Low) winning score of Tyrell: Well, predominately Tyrell just try to win in the mid game by suicidal Loras assaults. As consequence, the troops get smashed in the next round but also Tyrell's diplomatic credit is gone. So many games where I was someone else (beneficiary or well defended target), thinking "WTF is Tyrell doing???"...

So despite our discussion revealed reasons why Tyrell is not able to demonstrate his natural superiority easily, all cited winning statistics are unfortunately based on "irrational" games.
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Timmi T.
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MasterOfCoin wrote:
[...] The more I think on my extraordinary score with Tyrell, I come to the conclusion that it has two causes: (1) A weak Lannister due to Greyjoy's aggression (as discussed elsewhere) but also or maybe predominately (2) a defensive Martell.


I 100% agree.
In my opinion, Tyrell will benefit the most by the useless struggle between Lion and Kraken. More than Stark because he cannot "help-betray" Lannister but has to face Greyjoy openly.

Lannister, in the meantime, will be able to keep Greyjoy busy at least just as long as it (normally) takes Tyrell to gain enough strength to rush North and "help" Lannister. Only to claim the Riverlands for his own in the late game.

Three of my last PBF's had exactely this happening and Tyrell winning. (due to also suboptimal play by Martell and / or Baratheon to be fair)

All this of course can be forgotten, if Martell declares war in Round two and takes the WSS, because there has been neither Mustering nor CoK. But that's just as meaningless as Greyjoy taking Riverrun in Round 1.
 
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