To the contrary. In the games I've played, Greyjoys win about 1/3 of the time. Though, I admit, it is most probably because their aggressive play style makes them more attractive for the experienced players of the group to enroll (given you didn't select houses at random).
Your strengths are:
- Arguably the strongest cards of all houses
- You start with the Valyrian Blade
- You start with two ships
- The Lanisters don't have good counters
- Your capitol is almost untouchable
- You run out of power tokens faster than others
- You don't have a ★ action
Let me expand:
Arguably the strongest cards of all houses
- Victarion (3) is ~ win a navy battle
- Balon (2) is ~ win a battle
- Theon (2) is actually a (3) and 1 sword when defending a castle. That brings a lot of utility to an otherwise offensive deck. You will often use this when an enemy tries to take back theritory or when push comes to shove after you had a terrible early game for one reason or another.
- Lots of (1) cards just have 1 sword or 1 fortification icon. Dagmar (1) has both! Asha (1) has +2, +1 if you are not being supported in this combat. This is pretty nice, especially when you go deeper into enemy grounds and run out of other cards. If you win by a hair's breadth (which you might actually pull off early game as you have the Valyrian Blade), your opponent goes from crippled to completely irrelevant. If you lose - at least your units don't die, unless you face an overkill.
- Aeron (0) is simply amazing. To balance his ability, they had to make it cost 2 power tokens. Which is also one of the reasons why lack of power tokens is your greatest weakness (especially early game). The general use case is - this and a future battle have big ramifications depending on which cards both of you chose. Your opponent has to make the guess, while you get to pick the better option after the fact. Also, it's a hard counter to Lanister's Tyrion (1), which is an otherwise outstanding low level card.
- Admittedly, Euron (4) is probably the weakest (4) card in the game. But a (4) is still a (4). It's better to have your very strong card just not be incredibly strong than to have a lower end card that is honestly a garbage filler.
You start with the Valyrian Blade
This is one of the things that at the same time enables and forces you to be agressive early on.
It enables you by effectively giving you a +1 in all battles and +2 in one battle per turn. Incredibly advantageous when the troop count is low as your armies are often tied.
Forces you because while your cards might look imba while holding the Valyrian Blade, things are not that black and white if you don't. The most likely reason to loose it is during bidding. The further turns progress, the greater the chance bidding has occurred and the greater the discrepancy in power tokens grows (most probably not in your favour).
That said, in the event that very early (1st or 2nd turn) bidding takes place, don't panic. It might be beneficial. Other houses don't find the Valyrian Blade that useful. Everyone wants to bid on the Raven track. In my experience, bidding 3 on the Valyrian Blade and 2 one the Raven leaves you still owning the Blade and winning or tying 4th place on the Raven. Getting a ★ command is just perfect for you as it gives you that much more offensive power and its absence is your other big early game disadvantage. That said, you wont be able to use Aeron (0) and following biddings completely screw you over.
The Lanisters don't have good counters
Not entirely true. It's more that you have convincing lead the first battles and then they have the strength to punish you after you lost your more valuable cards/they get more power token advantage. They can almost nullify you if you make blunders.
- Tywin (4) can be used in initial defense as well as when pushing back due to the fact that he increases the power token difference. Counters are your (4) and (3) cards (this includes Theon (2) when his effect applies). Balon (2) is a hard counter. Aeron (0) as well, assuming you have the power tokens to pay. That means a total of 3-5 of your cards...
- Ser Gregor (3) (three swords) is usually used in the follow up push back. If Lanister manages to pull him early on and wins, you either made a huge gambit or a huge blunder. Both cases - you are heavily screwed. Good news - the same counters as with Tywin (4) apply (even more so).
- The Hound (2) (two fortification) is often used as the buy time and don't suffer loses in the initial push. Ideally, you would want to trade this off for one of your (1) cards, but unless you are feeling lucky, it's likely he will trade it off for one of your stronger ones.
- Jaime (2) (one sword) is the average run of the mill (2) card. If you can trade it for a (1), you are in a good shape.
- Ser Kevan (1) is tricky. His effect doubles the strength of footmen when attacking. Theon (2) is a hard counter. If it is the case that he attacks with just one footmen or for any other reason the Valyrian Blade advantage is sufficient, trading a (1) for this leaves you in a good spot as well.
- Tyrion (1) is an amazing card. However, in Greyjoy - Lanister conflicts, its power is greatly reduced. Firstly because Aeron (0) a hard counter (Tyrion (1)'s effect is played first), secondly due to the Valyrian Blade, any of your cards is likely to be sufficient. That said, Tyrion (1) is still a main axis around which most of the mindgame/overmindgame/gambling/bluffing/tides of the push - pull conflict are resolved.
- Cersei (0) is discard garbage. If Lanister somehow manages to use it against you early on, you made a huge blunder.
Your capitol is almost untouchable
In order for someone to be able to attack Pike, he first needs a ship in Ironman's Bay. This is almost impossible as you have great navy due to (1) your cards, (2) the Valyrian Blade, (3) starting with two ships.
That said, lets look at Greyjoy's strategy.
In GoT in general, each player has two neighbours. Most of the time he should truce with one and fight with the other. The reason you would choose to get Starks as an ally:
- There is greater distance between you. Therefore (1) backstabbing is harder, (2) it's harder for you to blitzkrieg.
- Starks are the only house that have enough space in a 6p game to do their own thing for the first many turns, thus the incentive for backstabbing is lower.
- We already established that your deck kind of counters Lanister's. While Stark's doesn't directly counter yours, it has great defensive cards that let him fight on his own ground without loses almost indefinitely, thus nullifying your blitzkrieg capabilities.
In my experience, most of the times Starks will agree to be your ally. In that case, you have to agree to give them Moat Calin and territories between the river and The Narrow Sea. From observations - the more experienced the Stark player, the earlier he will backstab you (especially if you get favourable victories with the Lanisters). Newer players tend do capture neutral zones well into the middle (or even later stages) of the game.
That said, in the rare event that Starks don't want to place nice, a few things to keep in mind:
- Your cards, combined with the Valyrian Blade are still insanely powerful.
- Don't extend in Northern ground. As already stated, Starks can keep a fight going for a long time. It's unlikely you will get that much value and you will open yourself for other houses attacks.
- Instead - contain them. The points of interest are Sunset Sea and Moat Calin. Having a ship in Sunset Sea constantly threatens an attack in Bay of Ice. If you get a ship in Bay of Ice, not only do you completely shutdown attacks coming from one side, but you also threaten Winterfell. Moat Calin is pretty important and will likely go back and forth. Baratheon's claims on The Narrow Sea is a huge factor.
- Things to do as you are not attacking Lanisters: Claim the neutral ground that you would have offered Starks. Help Lanister with Tyrell. While that might not seem advantageous, it pays off. Getting ships in The Sunset Sea (which Lanister has to allow you for you to fend off the Starks) and in The West Summer Sea provides you a ton of mobility and options. This gives you (1) great opportunities to backstab the Lanisters (2) makes you a huge pain in the **s for the Tyrell (3) even gets you access to Martel for quick grabs when the possibility arises as you can be sure they wont be able to seek vengeance due to sheer distance.
- The number one thing to do when allied with Lanisters - plan when to backstab the Lanisters ☺. Pyke, Flint's Finger, Seaguard, Riverrun and Lannisport gives you a total of 5 points. With ship support from Ironman's Bay/Sunset Sea/The Golden Sound, they are almost untakeable. You just have to stay strong as the game progresses, occasionally going back and forth to Moat Calin/Harrenhal when the time is right. If you have a ship in Bay of Ice or The West Summer Sea, the possibilities are endless. Note that this is a general strategy, no matter if you are in alliance with the Lanisters or the Starks.
Just to attest to the amazing military power of Greyjoy, let me summarize a game I played just Yesterday:
I was in alliance with the Starks. Due to favourable play of cards, I managed to take The Golden Sound and Lanniport very early on. The remaining Lannister forces were pushed to the middle of the map, unable to take back territory.
Witnessing this massacre, the Starks attacked me immediately at Flint's Finger. In hindsight, I should have seen that coming, but I was not expecting betrayal this early on from an otherwise peaceful house. With my deck running thin due to the previous conflicts with Lannister, I lost sea battles at Sunset Sea and Ironman's Bay, forcing me to retreat my navy to The Golden Sound. His plan was to take Pike with the forces from Flint's Finger and the support of two ships in Ironman's Bay.
He almost succeeded. There was a vote on the Influence Tracks that turned very positive. I retained the Valyrian Blade and got tied with the Starks for the 4th place for the Raven. Seeing that the Starks will have an insurmountable advantage if I get destroyed, the owner of the Iron Throne agreed to resolve the parity in my favour. With me having a ★ and him having none, I had just enough strength to fend of the attack. He knew this so he called it off, but didn't retreat as he was planning to attempt it again with reinforcements next turn.
This was ultimately his demise, as I managed to attack his two ships from The Golden Sound with support from Sunset Sea. He lost his ships as he had nowhere to retreat.
There was significant land fighting going between me and the Stark. I made a blunder and lost almost half of my land army. However, my deck got replenished and I managed to completely push him back with 3 knights and significant fleet. I've taken the Bay of Ice and could easily take Moat Calin.
I could see how the incredible mobility and support of the ships could allow me to fight both the Stark and the Lanister on two fronts having half the land force of any of them. A true testament to Greyjoy's unmatched military prowess. Wait, what...
During this entire time, the Lanister that was broth to the brink of extinction has been growing stronger by almost completely avoiding fighting. With noone wanting to go to the no man's land to finish him off, he was claiming castle after castle and mustering an ever so big army. Baratheon was almost destroyed by Martell. And Tyrell was part of this conflict, exchanging blows back and forth with Martell. The perfect situation to give breathing space for Lanisters to come back.
In fact, the Lanister had 6 castles! But I was not worried. His army was spread all over the map and I knew I could easily take all sea castles one after another. And in fact I have just given the attack orders. However, being first, Lanister attacked King's Landing (which at that time was Tyrell's possession). Tyrell made a very obvious blunder as he had a card strong enough to fend off the attack and knew what Lanister was going to play. Yet he lost.
Had the game not ended prematurely, I would have been in terrific shape. With Starks constantly threatened to lose Winterfell by my ship in Bay of Ice and five castles next to the shore, my only weakness was my low land army count, which wasn't that significant and was going to be turned around with the next mustering.
So with blitzkrieg and early backstabing at the start and fighting on two fronts with half the army of any of my opponents, I was still very likely to win at the end.
Yes, a lot of things could have happened differently. Yes, your opponents could have played better. But note that everyone, even the complete tryhards don't play optimally. GoT, unlike chess or bridge, doesn't have a ton of books, research and people devoting their lives. Being so lengthy and having such complex rules, it only follows that even the more seasoned of players have played a dozen of games tops, often times against less experienced friends.
When you say they are weak, just remember that they are the house able to pay the iron price no matter the odds!
If you got here - congrats! Thank you for your time, I hope you found this educational or at least entertaining to read.
Game of Thrones is not like other board games. While there are plenty of strategy games out there, and plenty of games where people have to be dicks to each other, none walk the line between them as well as Fantasy Flight's classic. Which can make it tough to get your head around. So I'm here to help.
I've been playing the game for years now, and having won it a few times with each House (including those in the expansions), I've found a number of key tips to be useful regardless of who you're playing as, or indeed who you're playing against.
Now, these won't be guarantees that you'll win every time - as much as strategy plays a part, even the best-laid plans in this game can come undone through sheer bad luck - but if you're not winning, you'll be coming damn close.
The houses in the game are not balanced. I mean, technically they might be, but play the game enough times and you see that some have a smoother ride than others. If you're playing with 4 players, the two "southern armies" - Baratheons and Lannisters - have a much easier time of it because they're free to chase the empty garrisons in the bottom of the map. Conversely, in a six-player game, the Tyrells and Martells are more secure, especially if they can keep enemy navies off their coast.
The Starks tend to have a tougher time of it because they're spread across the entire North, making them vulnerable. And the Greyjoys...well, look, if you want a hard time (or a satisfying win), use the Greyjoys. It's brutal starting the game with no star tokens, and their place in the game's "meat grinder", where much of the main battles seem to take place (at least in the north), doesn't help.
In short, I've found the two best houses to be Lannister and Baratheon, if not for their proximity to easy castles in 4-player games, then because I've found their decks to be the most generally useful.
DO NOT BE AN ARSEHOLE
While superficially this is a game about conquest and winning battles, that's not all there is to it, and if you're the guy who lashes out and starts attacking everyone (or even anyone) on the second turn, you'll soon find yourself being attacked in turn, from all sides, and out of the game. Keep your cool, man. Let the game breathe for a few turns, let everyone expand a little, find their feet, show their hand as to which way they're organising their armies and movement, then attack.
You'll find it a lot easier to win this game if you make alliances. No alliance is going to last the entire game - everyone has to make a move to win the game eventually - but for 6-8 turns, if you can divide your enemies amongst your friends, you'll find things a lot easier. Rarely will you ever have the supply to have enough armies to cover all your fronts, so being able to safely leave one open for 2-3 turns is useful, if also risky (see above).
HOLD THOSE CARDS
While there are differences between each house's deck in terms of approach, there's still a general sameness to them: you've got 1-2 amazing cards, some middling ones, some ones with fancy effects and 1-2 booby trap cards that are useless in a fight but will also mess with your opponent.
Needless to say, each one is more useful in a certain set of circumstances. But since you have to play a card each time you fight, and half the time you'll be entering combat on the defensive, you won't always be able to play the card you want exactly how you want it.
If you have to prioritise, keep your strongest cards in reserve. Gregor Clegane, Stannis, etc. That might sound obvious, but often the effects of other cards can be tempting! Don't let them sway you. Like I just said, a lot of your combat may come outside of your own careful planning, and when that happens specific effects might be useless. Brute force, however, is always useful.
The game's designers like to make you think that each position on the influence track is equal. They're not. The Iron Throne can be fun if you're deciding tie-breaks, but its main value - that you go first - is nowhere near as useful as the other two positions (unless the game is nearing it's end and you can win the game before other players take their turn).
Fiefdoms (the sword) give you a big advantage in combat, the game's bread-and-butter. So holding that sword is good if you can swing it.
But save your cash for the King's Court. Not only does it give you useful powers, like being able to see the effects of the next Wildling attack or change orders, but its governance of how many starred tokens you can use can make or break the game. A player able to play three +1 tokens vs someone who can't use any has a huge advantage, every turn.
RAIDS? HAHA, NO
Unless you have a particularly dick move in mind, raid tokens are for cowards and fools. In most situations you can play a raid token, you're usually better off playing something like support or power.
Use power tokens as often as you can spare them. Money talks in this game, as betting on the various influence tracks could decide the fate of the game at any given moment (you'll also need cash to occupy territory you conquer but then move your units off). Unless you know an army is going to be attacking, defending or supporting, play a power token on an occupied space. A good plan sometimes, if you can spare the manpower, is to leave a single footman behind your lines, and each turn just drop a power token on him. It might not sound like much, but the 6-8 in cash you get from him could make all the difference.
Siege towers may tempt you with their offensive strength, but it's a mirage. Unless you're playing a 4-player game and want to clean up the stronger "NPC" garrisons around the map, siege towers are more trouble than they're worth. They're just too vulnerable considering their cost, and the fact you can't use them outside of castle battles (and that they're killed instantly if you lose) mean they're not worth it. Get two knights instead.
NAVIES ARE KILLERS
Don't forget the seas! Navies can be a vital investment for all houses, not just for the fact you can use them to launch massive sneak attacks (stringing together ships across regions to jump halfway across the map) but because their value as support units can make a big difference in combat, especially when so many vital regions on the map are coastal.
MAKE YOUR MOVE
OK. Here's the most useful tip I've got. You have to be very careful with how you make your final move for the win. Let me explain.
Unless time runs out, the game is won when the first player reaches 7 castles. Given there's normally 4-6 people playing, though, as soon as one player pulls out ahead and gets to around 4-5, other players will naturally try and peg them back. So if you approach GoT like you would, say, RISK, you'll never get anywhere. Every time you reach out, you'll be knocked back.
Instead, approach GoT like Mario Kart. No, really. This board game, like Nintendo's racer, is built on the idea of rubber-banding. Your armies are limited in size, for example, so you can never stretch out and conquer everything; you've always got vulnerable areas on the map, which is how players are so easily knocked back a spot or two on the victory track.
In Mario Kart, the best way to win is by staying back. Hover around 2-4 place for most of the game, under the radar, then when whoever is out front is knocked out with the finish line in sight, surge and make your move. You do the exact same thing in Game of Thrones.
I've won most of my games by making a single, fell swoop in the game's final turn. I'd spend 2-3 turns getting my armies in place, getting my token order worked out in my head, then when the time came, launching a blitz, one that could seize 2-3 castles in a single turn and end the game before my opponents had a chance to recover. Like this.
It's a risky move, I know, as leaving things so late can result in your plans being disrupted by someone else's plans. So if you're lucky enough to get a bidding war just before this, make sure you get the Iron Throne. If you can't, well, if you followed all the other advice above, hopefully you'll be in good enough shape to deal with a few spanners in the works if someone tries to take you out before you've had a chance to take them out.
That's about it! Like I said up top, these aren't a guarantee of victory every time - lady luck and jerk friends can never truly be accounted for - but if you've been struggling to get over the hump and move to top of the pile in one of these games, hopefully this will help.
NOTE: If you're someone I actually play with, please disregard all the above tips and continue playing as you have been. Thanks.