Rahul Sinha
United States
Dist of Columbia
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SYNOPSIS: Early alliances come to a head with the Greyjoys pinning down the Lannisters, allowing the Baratheons to sweep into Dorne for the win.

EVALUATION/RATING: We quite enjoyed the game, though it does seem hampered at 4 players by the paucity of opposition in the South. It's hard to tell what would have happened if Lannister had been a reasonable check on Baratheon, but generally it seems that the neutral garrisons (due to a lack of attrition on the part of the player's forces) delay the conquest of these areas (until after an army is strong enough to contest them), but do not significantly slow expansion once that conquest begins. Still, the incredible power of the influence tracks allows concrete coalitioning beyond the always-fraught tactical cooperation.

SETTING UP: We watched a video on Youtube to familiarise ourselves with the rules (http://youtu.be/20085bVFeMA). Setting up the game didn't take very long at all, especially as we had kept the various nations' power tokens, etc, separate when we were punching them out.

Initial Diplomacy:
The Southern Allaince: The Baratheons and the Lannisters quickly came to an agreement over the disposition of everything south of the Neck. The Lannisters would occupy the Riverlands, the Vale, the Searoad Marches, and Crackclaw Point. The Baratheons would receive the Reach, and the Stormlands. Kings' Landing, being neutral and heavily defended, was left unspecified, a flashpoint that would probably have doomed the alliance were it not for House Greyjoy. Dorne was assumed to be too much work to clear of the neutral garrisons, which proved not to be the case.

The Northern Alliance: The Starks and House Greyjoy came to a similar accommodation, with The North beyond Moat Cailin, the Moat itself, and the Vale going to the Starks, (with the Green Fork providing a natural border) and the rest of the Neck, the Riverlands, the Westerlands, and the Reach going to House Greyjoy.

These were largely speculative assignations, that obviously were incompatible between alliances, but they served to prevent any real military conflict within the pairs of allied powers through the end of round 4.

Secondary Agreements:
While not nearly as sweeping, the Lannisters and House Greyjoy agreed not to cross an armistice line running from the border between Ironman's Bay and the Golden Sound east along the Seagard/Riverrun boundary, along the north of the Mountains of the Moon, and into the Narrow Sea. After a surprise opening move by the Baratheons moving a fleet into the Narrow Sea, the Starks agreed not to contest those waters in exchange for a commitment from Dragonstone that the fleet would not carry any troops, support any rivals in the North or the Vale, and that House Baratheon would not contest Stark movements north of Crackclaw point by any means (including land forces). As those lands had been ceded to House Lannister in the earlier arrangement, House Baratheon eagerly agreed.

No one expected these secondary deals to last, but were surprised that the western arrangement collapsed in the first turn itself.

As the game began, Baratheon enters the Narrow Sea with one ship, securing both a buffer zone and the earlier mentioned agreement with the Starks. The Lannisters occupy Riverrun and the Searoad Marches, and the Starks occupy Moat Cailin. Grey drops a footman in Seagard, and then storms Riverrun with his knight, supported by a two-ship fleet, and using much higher value house cards than others had expected to see played so soon. Lannister nervously executes their second march from Stoney Sept to Harrenhal, relying on their early turn order to ensure a garrison there next turn. Stark expands into the vast emptiness of teh North, Baratheon does not cross Shipbreaker Bay with their main host, but sends the Kingswood garrison into the Reach, and musters troops in Dragonstone.

The second turn sees Baratheon land two knights and a footman at Storm's End and take the Tyrell castle with the old Kingswood garrison, Lannister but is very much off-balance, consolidates his forces and doesn't dare leave Harrenhal, but musters in Lannisport, Greyjoy (a little stunned at the destruction of the Lannister knight in Riverrun, a game mechanic he was unaware of) expands to Flint's Finger and enters the Sunset Sea, and Stark stays in Moat Cailin, while completing his conquest of the North.

Turn 3 opens with a general Muster, and the players begin to hit supply constraints. Lannister takes Crackclaw Point and marches into Riverrun, only to be barely thrown back by Greyjoy's tiebreaking power via the Fiefdom track. Stark sinks the Baratheon ship in the Narrow Sea, but claims this is only for transport purposes to the Vale, which they proceed to enter with several groups of troops. The Eyrie falls. Greyjoy reinforces Riverrun, and talks about attacking Lannister in the Searoad Marches, but Baratheon threatens to attack afterwards with the now-reinforced western column currently at Highgarden should any troops make landfall. Greyjoy backs down, and takes Greywater Watch instead. Baratheon sends the new Reach levies into Blackwater (his by the initial agreement with Lannister), and—feeling little pressure from Lannister—sends their main Host into the easternmost pass from the Stormlands towards Dorne. Finally, having seen Greyjoy throw away their last march orders, Baratheon has the western column marches into Oldtown.

As Turn 4 dawns, Baratheon is at five castles, Greyjoy and Stark at four, and Lannister at three. Some concern stirs about House Baratheon's thusfar unopposed expansion, and the size of their main Host, which comprised three knights at the end of turn 3, relative to the neutral garrisons in Dorne. A general muster is drawn, and supply problems become acute.

Baratheon marches back from Oldtown to Highgarden with the western column, drops additional troops into the Kingswood, and occupies Yronwood with the main Host (though is increasingly concerned about the distances separating the Host from House Baratheon's more exposed positions.

House Lannister launches a second assault on Riverrun, using ships in the Golden Sound, and the forces of Lannisport, Stoney Sept, and Harrenhal. Greyjoy is evicted, and 2 of 3 Knights in the garrison are destroyed; the shattered remnant pulls back to Seagard. Stark reinforces the Eyrie, and sends more ships into the Narrow Sea. Greyjoy, chastened after the fall of their prize conquest, combines a large number of troops in the Searoad Marches.

The entry of Baratheon in Yronwood is barely noticed, but when Greyjoy goes reduce their castle count, the need to increment Baratheon to six causes a realignment. Stark, which had been restive in the Northern alliance having consumed all possible expansion paths other than into Lannister territory, organises both Greyjoy and Lannister to push Baratheon back away from the victory condition.

A force comparison between the Greyjoy troops in the Searoad Marches and the Baratheon western column reveals an almost exact balance (when supports are factored in). With the main Host able to take Starfall and end the game, the other three powers bemoan the lack of a rebid of the influence tracks.

Turn 5 is drawn, and lo, the rebid card is flipped over. The other three powers rig the bid, and House Baratheon is shut out—though not without spending every single power token on bids.

Greyjoy marches into Highgarden, the Baratheons falling back to Oldtown. The Kingswood garrison sails through Shipbreaker Bay and takes Crackclaw Point from the Lannisters in a surprise move, and for a brief moment Baratheon remains at six. Then, in an even more unforseen response, House Stark takes Crackclaw Point from the Baratheons, shipping out from the Eyrie. Baratheon is back down to five. The main Host takes Starfall, but without a power token to spend, Baratheon relinquishes control of Yronwood. Baratheon starts agitating against Stark, pointing out that they are tied at five castles, and that Stark has a clear path to Baratheon's un- or barely-defended heartland.

Turn six opens and Greyjoy accepts a promise from Baratheon to leave Highgarden in Ironbound hands, and so removes half the garrison to shore up the defences in the Neck, and prevent opportunistic conquests by Starck as they use other forces to storm Moat Cailin, which falls easily. Baratheon marches back into Yronwood (and leaves the requisite power token behind in Starfall, and then betrays Greyjoy and reconquers Highgarden. The game ends instantly, as the other players rage against Greyjoy for their gullibility and foolishness.
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Lord Seraphim
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I am not shocked that Baratheon won as 4 players is horrendously unbalanced towards that house. If Lannister doesn't take one for the team and check Baratheon immediately, Baratheon will almost always win because no other House can reasonably oppose his journey south. Such a move by Lannister almost always results in his loss, however.

I've been experimenting with closing off different southern areas rather than putting down neutral forces as per suggestions on this board. Replacing Greyjoy with Tyrell or Martell has also been suggested to give Baratheon more southern pressure.
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