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Introduction to A Game of Thrones – The Card Game

Posted by Denny Koch on August 4, 2010

A Game of Thrones – The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games. It is the successor of A Game of Thrones – the Collectible Card Game (CCG) which started in 2002 and was discontinued in 2007 when the distribution format was changed into a Living Card Game format.

The game is based on George R. R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire” story circle, an epic story taking place on the fictitious continent of Westeros where several nobel houses struggle for the Iron Throne. The story is rich with intrigues, battles, espionage, treachery, and of course war. Many hundreds of characters, groups, organizations, sword brotherhoods, and secret societies shape the fate of the medieval world, combined with some low-fantasy aspects, for example dragons and other mysterious creatures.

Author George R. R. Martin is very protective of his universe and therefore the Card Game is true to the story. You can find your favorite houses, characters, and groups and all of them are represented in a very distinctive manner. As a side note, HBO currently produces a mini series based on the books which will be aired in 2011.

A Game of Thrones (“the only game that matters”) is the first book of a series of 7 books. Four are already published (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows), the release of the fifth (A Dance with Dragons) is scheduled for September 2010.

You can play the game without knowing the books and any of the characters, but you will miss a lot of fun and many important aspects of the game if you don’t know who’s who. You should at least read book No. 1, “A Game of Thrones” before starting, this will highly enhance the experience. You should keep in mind that you have to decide on ONE house, and only knowing the houses and their characteristics, their enemies and their affiliations from the books will reveal the true depth of the game to you. By the way, you should also read the books if you don’t intend to play the game… they are highly addictive 😉

What’s the difference between a Living Card Game and a Collectible Card Game?

(Please forgive me if I “steal” some information in this paragraph from my Introduction to Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game. ;))

A Magic Booster, containing 15 random cards

The main game concept is identical: players choose factions and then try to build a powerful deck to “beat” other players’ decks. This genre is known as “Dueling Card Games“. Depending on the game, you have to follow a basic rule set for constructing your deck (a minimum or maximum number of cards, a point or cost system, allowed number of copies in one deck etc.), but apart from this, you are free to build and explore the “ultimate deck“.

In contrast to a traditional Collectible Card Game or Trading Card Game (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Marvel Vs, The Lord of the Rings TCG, Pokemon), the Living Card Game breaks away from the Collectible model.

In a Collectible Card Game, you have to buy booster packs if you want to improve your deck and if you want to find rare and powerful cards. You don’t know the specific contents of a booster pack, though, so it can happen that you have to spend $100 for a very rare card while finding 85 copies of a cheap card. Since most game systems regularly publish new booster packs, you have to spend a huge amount of money if you want to stay up-to-date and if you want to improve your deck and counter other players’ new cards.

This “blind buy” purchase model is the most problematic aspect of Collectible Card Games. The collecting and the thrill of buying new booster packs without knowing what’s inside can be somewhat addictive, so often players are forced to quit the hobby because they cannot keep up the pace and spend too much money in buying useless boosters with multiple copies of cheap cards they already possess. If you want to play competitive, you are forced to invest your money in booster packs or to pay tremendous prices for specific cards sold on eBay.

The Chapter Pack "Ancient Enemies", part of the "A Clash of Arms" sub-collection

A Living Card Game (LCG) offers a new card distribution model. Instead of selling randomized booster packs, cards are sold in fixed add-on packs. The content of such a pack is public knowledge and fixed. In A Game of Thrones – the Card Game, these add-ons are called “Chapter Packs“. They are published monthly and belong to certain “sub-collections” which focus on different aspects of the game. They bring  in more characters and other aspects of the books (locations, groups, weapons, creatures, events). You don’t have to buy all Chapter Packs, if you don’t want to, but you can choose which packs would really improve your favorite faction, your deck focus or your strategy – and which packs are not really helpful for your individual style.

Most players buy all Chapter Packs nevertheless, just to “have them all”, but this doesn’t hurt as much as buying booster packs in the CCG format.

Chapter Packs are very thematic and deal with a major storyline from the books (Nights Watch vs. Wildlings, the events from King’s Landing when Eddard Stark became the King’s Hand up to the Battle of Blackwater, the Brotherhood without Banners…). They also allow for building very thematic decks, for example decks centered around the Night’s Watch, Kingsguard, minor houses, certain traits or characters.

Chapter Packs cost about 7-11 $, depending on the shop where you buy them, and that’s it. You don’t have to hunt a rare card anymore, you simply order the Pack with your favorite cards on amazon or buy it in your local game store. Even if you are a hardcore competitive player who duels on tournaments, you don’t have to buy more than three copies of each Chapter Pack because you aren’t allowed to have more than 3 copies of each card in a single deck anyway. Publisher FFG even listened to their fans – the newer Chapter Packs contain three copies of each card, so there’s absolutely no need to buy more than one copy of each Chapter Pack any more.

Besides from the different distribution model, a LCG still offers the same dynamic customizable game play as a CCG. You can customize and build your perfect deck, but without the blind purchase model. In the end, the LCG model gives you the best of both worlds.

What’s A Game of Thrones – The Card Game?

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