Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to play several games against several different opponents both at home and at GenCon. So, I thought that putting together a brief post about my tactical observations might interest some of those players that maybe are losing and are not sure why.
At this point, so early in the game’s life, just call these….4 things I think that I think regarding Starter Box tactics:
1. Avoid No Man’s Land – One mistake that both I make when I lose and that others seem to make when they lose to me, is having a unit (or worse yet, more than one unit) in the dreaded “no mans” land. A good rule of thumb is that if all of your units aren’t “doing work” of some sort…claiming an objective, engaging an enemy, or making an enemy unit waste time…by the end of round 3, you are probably losing the match, whether it’s obvious or not.
To illustrate the point, I will give an example of one of my (many) mistakes from GenCon. In the Thursday beginners tournament, I was playing the Game of Thrones scenario as Lannisters and was trying to avoid putting myself at a disadvantage by moving through some spiked terrain. My plan was to zig zag around the terrain and attempt to flank a Stark Sword unit across from me. My opponent marched on their first activation, and then seeing me maneuver mostly sideways on my second, marched again, securing an objective. I successfully evaded the terrain as planned, but never did anything until the very last activation in the game, after I had already all but lost. With typically only six activations per game, taking 4 of them to position is simply wasting way too many resources to avoid 1d3+1 wounds. That unit, a 6 point unit, might as well died during deployment. Charging through spikes was bad, but not charging through spikes left my dudes in “no mans land” for the entire relevant part of the game. Bad.
You only have so many resources. If you aren’t doing anything with them, the opponent is winning. It is FAR better to make a bad engagement than it is to avoid an engagement at all because at least in a bad engagement, you are forcing your opponent to deal, one way or another, with your badness.
2. Use Tactics Cards. There are 20 tactics cards in your deck. There are six rounds. That means you can use 3 tactics cards per round and still have some to spare. Unless you have some form of a wombo combo list that requires a very specific combination (which probably means it will be a bad list), you should generally use your tactics cards when the triggers are met. That +2 to a panic roll might not seem like its going to change the outcome of the game too much, but neither does NOT using the card. Similarly, if you have tactics cards that might, in some games, be great, but are not likely to be usable in the next 2 rounds, discard them and get something that helps you now.
Case in point, in my first day, I used about 7-8 tactics cards in 3 matches. On the last day, I used 30+ over 3 matches. My final opponent on the last day seemingly used his cards every time that a trigger was met. Those cards are resources. Don’t feel bad about using them and certainly don’t try to save them until the “perfect moment.” Use ’em and move on.
Taking a moment to reflect on the first two items in this list. I went 0-3 in my first three games on day one of GenCon. I went back to the hotel replayed the games in my head and thought two things:
- I am going to use 10 tactics cards a game, even if I don’t think its the best situtaion to use any one of them.
- I want every one of my units either on an objective or engaged by round 3.
I didn’t change anything else at all…and ended up going 5-1 the rest of the tournament. So, if you are having trouble getting into the flow, I’d start there. You may not be having the same issues that I did, or maybe I was just lucky/unlucky, but its a place to start.
Now, on to two faction specific things that I think I think:
3. Cersei is a Bitch; Deal with It. Few things are more demoralizing than losing 1 (41.5% chance) or 2 (8.2% chance) of your Outriders on the first activation of the game. One of those few things is losing an entire unit of Outriders before they get across the table. When you are first player on Starks vs Cersei, ESPECIALLY ON FEAST OF CROWS, just take the Crown with your first activation. Lannisters have worse morale to begin with, so its almost as effective as against them as when Cersei does it and it negates a large part of Cersei’s early game advantage. After all, putting negative 2 Morale doesn’t do anything if the unit isn’t forced to make a Morale check.
I was Stark on my first Feast of Crows match and didn’t take the Crown once. Reflecting after I lost the match, I immediately realized it was a huge mistake, she easily put 4-5 VPs into the game that would have not of otherwise been there. While Feast of Crows is the obvious example, the same holds true for all other game modes. My general thinking (as of now) is that if I am First Player to start the game vs a Cersei Lannister list, I am taking Crown from Cersei on the first activation of the 1st and 3rd rounds. If I am the Second Player, I’m taking Crown from Cersei on my 2nd round. If for some reason the Lannister player doesn’t activate Cersei first on his early turns, I consider that a mistake and will scoop it up in a heartbeat.
4. Play Well vs Zerkers. I originally titled this “Don’t Charge Unengaged Zerkers” but I don’t like absolutes. Still….don’t charge unengaged zerkers.
I know that 5 up defensive save looks juicy, but Zerkers aren’t squishy vs Lannisters. Why? Because they have a 4 up Morale, so you are really only doing damage on the attack part of your attack, which is not great for Lannisters. Charging Zerkers as Lannisters takes some setup. Specifically, (1) the Attack space of the tactics board needs to be occupied, (2) Caitlyn should already be activated (hint: not influencing said Zerkers), and (3) have a supporting unit to flank them.
In addition to being smart when thinking about charging them, there are some other things to keep in mind about Zerkers.
They are fast. So, they can usually get across the table quickly, which you can use to your advantage. Set up so they have a 10-12 inch charge and bait them into trying to make it. Even if they make the roll, they will charge you and you can take the attack space/flank with a nearby unit, only get one use out of Caitlyn’s influence, etc. Make them make long charges or, better yet, use a tactics spot for a free maneuver to charge. Remember, infantry units are going to have a hard time keeping up with the Berzerkers across the battlefield. You can sometimes catch the Zerkers woefully out of range of any support if you force them to make a long charge or use a free tactics maneuver.
Finally, deploy smart. Most players will want to march right out of the gate to get across the field ASAP. Try to deploy a unit of Guards directly in front of the Zerkers and march them first…keeping some Halberdiers or Mountains Men moving across the field slightly (and inch or so) behind (or something else hard hitting) to that unit’s flank. This works especially well if you didn’t have the points to take Guard Captain with that unit because the Guard Captain wont help you much anyway, so its a good use of that semi gimpy unit. If you set up that way, the Zerkers will have to really think about how they want to engage and, more importantly, spend resources to kill you.
In summary, these are 4 things that I noticed in my early games that “fixing” seemed to really impact my win loss ratio. Your mileage may vary. Let me know your thoughts as well!