There are a lot of estates, fiefdoms and provinces in the Seven Kingdoms, and even a few independent forces that shift the struggle for power.
In the first edition of Game of Thrones: The Card Game, there are only six main houses: Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Targaryen, Martell and Greyjoy. But as you may know, the Westeros continent is also called the Seven Kingdoms. Some say that this number seven is a reference to the Faith of the Seven, the main religion on the continent, with its seven gods and the seven virtues they embody: The Father for Justice, The Mother for Mercy, The Maiden for Innocence, The Crone for Wisdom, The Warrior for Strength, The Smith for Craftmanship and The Stranger for Death. But some less bigoted people look in books for historical reference and point out that before the conquest of Westeros by the Targaryen dynasty, there were seven kingdoms. These kingdoms are indeed history, but nothing more than that as after the conquest the cards were reshuffled, and the kingdoms we know in the current age of the Game of Thrones world are not the same. So at the end of the day, which one is the seventh? There is not one answer to that question, but several, and that is once again an opportunity for even more variety in that amazing card game. So let’s take a look at some of these outsiders that manage to play their cards well in the Game of Thrones.
First Edition Deck – House Arryn
If you have a good memory, you probably remember that it all started with the death of Lord Jon Arryn. Well, all is a bit of an exaggeration, but the series indeed has for starting point the sudden death of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King Robert Baratheon, and a good friend of the king and of Eddard Stark. That’s how Eddard Stark, Ned for the close ones, got appointed Hand of the King and thus involved into the shenanigans of the Iron Throne. But let’s focus on House Arryn, this powerful but reserved faction. Entrenched in the region called The Vale, behind a mountain range, and even more intouchable in their famous fortress The Eyrie, House Arryn is the most cautious of all the main houses of Westeros. They dare not to get involved in the war for the Iron Throne until very late in the series, and maybe would never have without the intervention of Petyr Baelish, known under the name of Littlefinger, and Sansa Stark.
This caution is very well reflected in the cards that have the House Arryn trait. In the first edition of the card game, there is no official Arryn house card, so playing as them is done using a Neutral House faction card. However, there are a lot of cards that combine well together to provide interesting mechanics for House Arryn, as you will see in the deck presented below.
“As High As Honor” – words of House Arryn
Perched in its fortress of The Eyrie in the heart of the Arryn Vale, House Arryn stays away from the tumult of the wars ravaging Westeros, waiting for the right moment to seize an occasion to and assert its rights. This defensive deck features powerful characters that are easy to play thanks to the Aloof and Apart agenda and The Bloody Gate.
You will of course want to get those precious characters quickly, for example with the Naming the Heir plot, but also keep them alive at all costs with The Eyrie and Favored by the Warrior.
The many Castle plots of the deck will activate effects on your characters, to remove power from enemy characters with Bronze Yohn Royce, or allow Lothor Brune to attack and defend easily, but especially to accumulate power on Robert Arryn.
Lyn Corbray will strengthen your characters while Vale Informant will gain strength as the game goes on. If you can play him early game, Littlefinger will be a very profitable investment.
Mord and The Moon Door will help to remove from play lesser enemy characters, thus preventing your opponent from developing his strategy too much.
To reinforce your defensive strategy, you have the As High As Honor plot, but also Jalabhar Xho. He is the most tricky card of the deck, as you will need to ensure you don’t lose dominance by 4 or more. And if you happen to lose a military challenge, sacrifice the High Septon to gain 2 power.
In case of extreme necessity, Sky Cell will disable the most dangerous opponent characters, and after a few turns you will easily play Knights Declarant. Don’t hesitate to kill remaining dangerous characters with Die by the Sword, and seize victory in the most honorable way.
First Edition Deck – The Brotherhood Without Banners
“That’s what we are: ghosts. Waiting for you in the dark. You can’t see us, but we see you. No matter whose cloak you wear: Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, you prey on the weak, the Brotherhood Without Banners will hunt you down.” – Beric Dondarrion
Some men have no mercy. Under the guise of the serving the will of noble lords of the Seven Kingdoms, they don’t hesitate to exploit the weakest. In the terrible War of the Five Kings, the people are probably those that pay the highest price. Their able-bodied men, enlisted to fight a war they don’t even understand. Their women and children, starving to death when the soldiers requisition food without even a thank you. And it doesn’t stop there. But there are also some men, be they knights or not, who understand and hold sacred the fact that a kingdom is first and foremost made of its people. This is the motto of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Led by the noble and tireless Beric Dondarrion and his friend the red priest Thoros of Myr, they survive into the wilds thanks to their cunning, and relentlessly harass those who dare to threaten the innocent.
With your The Brotherhood Without Banners agenda, your powerful Brotherhood characters are the key to this deck as they will bear all your power points.
Above all, Béric Dondarrion is the unkillable character that will win your challenges, and you will need to give him the Flaming Sword to get double Renown.
Save him from death with Thoros of Myr, which shouldn’t even be necessary, and make him unstoppable with Gossip and Lies. Stand Thoros again with The Inn of the Kneeling Man, which is very useful to use his ability again.
Lady Stoneheart is another character that will never stop fighting, but you might want to prevent her from being killed, as she has Renown. Use Thoros, but also Stoic Resolve for example.
Your other characters, if slain, will be able to come back in your hand thanks to the Brave Companions, and you will be able to transfer their power using Whispers from the Hill. Or just save them and get a duplicate with Favored by the Warrior.
Lem Lemoncloak will become another unstoppable character if you manage to fill the table, while The Mad Huntman will provide Stealth twice per challenges phase and Lady of the Leaves will disable a dangerous character ability.
To hinder your opponent’s strategy, use Ghost of High Heart to discard his most valuable cards, and prevent big non-unique characters from playing with Herding the Masses.
If Thoros of Myr is killed, bring him back into play with Many Powers Long Asleep. You might also want to play Narrow Escape if for some reason you suffered a terrible blow.
Strike the killing blow with a plot such as Men of Honor. With Renown on almost all your characters, and effects such as Anguy the Archer, your opponent will suffer rightful punishment sooner than he expected.
Second Edition Deck – House Tyrell of Highgarden
“I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met? At a certain age, it’s hard to recall. But the truly vile do stand out through the years.” – Lady Olenna Tyrell to Cersei Lannister
House Tyrell is undoubtedly a powerful house in the Seven Kingdoms. This can be attested by their long history as Wardens of the South and Lords Paramount of the Mander. Their territories are both vast and of great value, both geographically and strategically. Their immense agricultural estates are the granary of the Seven Kingdoms and make them a choice ally in times of war, giving them a not inconsiderable place on the strategic chessboard. It goes without saying that successive Tyrell Lords have taken advantage of this strategic asset, and the motto of the House of Tyrell, “Growing Strong”, reflects this.
However, in the first edition of Game of Thrones: The Card Game, the House of Tyrell is not considered a major faction, and does not have a house card. This mistake was made up for in the second edition, in which House Tyrell finally reaches the position of main faction, alongside the Night’s Watch. In addition to this, this house has many tactical options allowing it to deploy a wide variety of game play. Whether it be its many Renown characters, to race towards victory, or its other powerful characters combined with strength-enhancing effects, to attack or defend effectively, the Tyrells are fearsome and feared for their adaptability. They have the guts to showcase the resilience needed to survive a wipe, and can also be swift to counter a fast opponent.
This Tyrell deck is a perfect example of how House Tyrell can play their cards right in the Game of Thrones. It comes with The Wars To Come agenda, which allows you to use 10 plot cards instead of 7 for more adaptability, in addition to perfectly fitting their theme.
That number of plots will require finesse to feel how the game is evolving and play the best plot depending on the situation. The most simple although efficient plots are Time of Plenty to help starting again after a reset, and Wardens of the South.
To get the most of Renly Baratheon, you will want to play The King in the North or Your King Commands It. This is especially useful against Martell or Night’s Watch decks who don’t have King/Queen characters.
The strategy of this deck being to be resilient enough to get through one or even two resets, you have the Close Call plot and Margaery Tyrell to help getting back into play your important characters.
An excellent combination to slow down your opponent is the Breaking Ties plot used with Flea Bottom. This is even more efficient if Oldtown Informer is in play, allowing you to draw better cards while sending two non-loyal cards back to their owner’s hand.
Mace Tyrell can also use the above combination to gain power. You should be able to pay the gold given the high income plots of the deck and locations such as The Arbor and The Hightower.
To win challenges, you have the powerful Randyll Tarly whose strength should be increased to have him attack again. This can be achieved using Ser Garlan Tyrell or the amazing Growing Strong event.
If your opponent doesn’t have a strategy based on resetting the table, your numerous characters with Renown, such as The Knight of Flowers or Brienne of Tarth, will guarantee an easy victory. If need be, you might want to do a soft reset at the right moment using Varys, ideally after placing duplicates on your important characters.