Bannermen, it’s Brett Lanpher here! For those who do not know me, I am from Indianapolis, Indiana, and appear on many podcasts for this game, including Small Council Radio, Three Sails Gaming, and On the Table Gaming. I have played competitively since the game was released and have won several convention titles, as well as the US Nationals champion in 2021. I engage with the community a lot and genuinely care to grow the game and help everyone out.
Today, let’s talk about a topic that is frequently discus sed, debated, and quite often misunderstood. I have worked side by side with the developers of ASOIAF to write this article, so without further ado, let’s target the rule “Targeting” and have a deep discussion about it.
Targeting is defined on page 5 of the Rulebook, but what does it actually mean?
The rulebook states that a “Target” is the chosen recipient of an ability or an effect (such as an Order or Tactics Card). In this article, we will break down some consistently discussed targeting debates and we will explain just why they do or not Target.
Let’s begin the process of understanding targeting by listing a series of questions for you to follow. Think of this as a guideline or a diagnostics checklist.
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then you have an instance of Targeting. We will take a closer look at each bullet point. The image below serves as a guide for things that will be referenced in the article.
If an Ability or Effect ever specifically says that it Targets a unit, they are Targeted. This seems rather redundant, but it is relevant. Let’s take a look at an instance where a unit is Targeted because that verbiage is used.
The Order “Hold the Line!” specifically says to Target one unit engaged with this unit. Since the Order automatically Targets the unit with the Order (more on that below); we know that there are at least 2 Targets here. Furthermore, since it is possible that multiple units are engaged with the unit controlling “Hold the Line!”; we know that a choice is present and it would therefore Target the recipient of the Effect. You will find numerous Effects throughout the game that will specifically tell you to Target a unit. This is the simplest example of Targeting.
The next bullet point to cover is a relatively simple instance of Targeting - Orders. Page 22 of the Rulebook state s that the unit with the Order is always a target of the Order. It goes on to say that other Targets may be present as well.
Let’s take a look at the Order “Martial Training”. When this unit is performing a Melee Attack, before rolling attack dice: this attack may reroll any attack dice and the Defender becomes Vulnerable. This is easy, right? The Attacker is Targeted and the Defender is Targeted. This would be an incorrect answer.
We can see here that the Attacker is indeed a Target for the Order because of page 22, but since there is no chosen recipient here (the Defender simply becomes Vulnerable and this isn’t a choice); there is no other Target. We cannot specifically list every example like this, but it will always be important to note whether there is indeed a choice. If an Effect just happens, there is no Targeting.
Tactics Cards are an integral part of the game and you will certainly have interactions with them. We now know for certain that units chosen or units specifically “Targeted” by the use of the word are Targets, but who else is Targeted by a Tactics Card? Again, we have to take this case by case, but let’s look into the Rulebook. Page 21 of the Rulebook breaks down when cards are Triggered and how to play them. We have a section that is important to note: The unit Triggering the Tactics Card (if any) is the Target of that Tactics Card, but note that its Effect might list additional Targets as well. From this information we can look at the specific Trigger of a card to see who is a Target. Let’s look at the Tactics Card “Final Strike”.
“After an Enemy completes a Melee Attack” is the Trigger. We now know that the enemy making the attack is Targeted, but are there any other Targets? The Defender is mentioned, but the Defender is simply ment ioned as a means by which to determine damage. The Defender is never actually Targeted by this card. Let’s take a look at another card with a similar Trigger just to reiterate this point. “Baratheon Conviction” states “when a Friendly Unit passes a Morale Test”... (the Friendly Unit is a Target) that unit restores 2 Wounds. If you control Crowns Zone, all Enemies they are engaged with suffer 1 Panic Test. This is another example of an Effect that simply does not have a choice. Since there is no choice, those Enemy Units are never Targeted.
There are multiple Abilities and Effects throughout the game that offer a variety of choices for possible recipients. These will need to be evaluated case by case, but the likelihood for Targeting is relatively high in these inst ances. Let’s take a closer look at one of these Abilities. “Backing of the Iron Bank” is an Ability belonging to Tycho Nestoris. “Once per game, at the start of any Turn, you may restore 5 Wounds (total) across any number of Combat Units”. This is an instance where Targeting isn’t listed and this is not an Order or a Tactics Card. Does it Target? Absolutely. You have the choice to restore Wounds to any Combat Unit. This means any Unit you heal with this Ability is a Target. It is important to note that if a n Ability or Effect would cancel any portion of this Ability, the entire Ability is canceled.
We now understand Targeting a little bit more, but let’s keep pushing forward. If a Tactics Card will target the unit mentioned in the Trigger, do Orders do the same? That answer is “yes”. Any Order that lists a Unit in the Trigger of that Effect is targeting the Unit within that Trigger. Let’s take a look at the Order “Hidden Traps”. “When an Unengaged Enemy in Long Range performs any Action, before resolving that Action...” is the Trigger for this Order. The Order always Targets the unit with the Order. The Trigger Targets an Enemy Unit. We therefore have 2 Targets for this Effect.
Let’s talk about some instances that simply do not Target. Page 8 of the Rule book states that unless specifically noted otherwise, all Abilities are always active on a unit and are not optional. This means that attack Abilities like “Lance” will not Target any unit. That Ability is considered active and not optional (there could be instances where you want that Ability not to be active but you have no choice). Similarly, we have Effects like “Uncontrolled Rage” that are always active. There could be instances where you don’t want to take the Morale Test and potentially Charge, but you cannot make that choice. Since the Ability is active and there is no choice; it does not Target the Enemy or the unit with the Ability.
Non-Combat Units (NCUs)
Next, we will take a look at NCUs (Non Combat Units) and how they interact with Targeting. It is important to not e that any time you Influence a unit (Friendly or Enemy), you are Targeting that unit at that time. NCUs can be a little bit tricky so we will take a look at a few examples for clarity. The High Sparrow - Father of the Faithful has the Ability “Fealty to the Seven” - while influencing an Enemy, each time that Enemy suffers Wounds from failing Panic Tests, Target 1 Friendly Unit in Long Range. They restore that many Wounds, up to 3. Within this Ability, we see that a Combat Unit is Targeted when the card is attached.
Additionally, there are separate instances of Targeting each time the Trigger is met. Please note that Effects that would cancel this Ability will indeed cancel any healing Effect, but the opportunity to cancel the placement of the Influence has already passed.
Eddard Stark, Warden of the North functions a bit differently. Both portions of his Ability have the same Trigger and function slightly differently, but we will look at the first half. Each time a Friendly Unit is performing a Panic Test, after rolling dice, you may remove 1 Order Token from Eddard. If you do, that unit may re-roll any dice for this test. Like other Abilities, Eddard’s Ability is considered always active and has no choice for a Target because it is active every single time a Friendly Unit makes a Panic Test. By the time you remove the token to resolve the Effect, there is no longer a choice of recipient because the Effect just happens every single time.
Finally, we will cover attached Tactics Cards. This one will be debatably the most difficult to understand. The ONLY time the attachment of a Tactics Card Targets a unit is when the initial Trigger window is met and that card is played. After this, despi te there being instances of Targeting within the Effects of the Tactics Card, that Tactics Card no longer Targets anything.
Let’s take a look at “For The Watch” from Jon Snow. While attached, each time this unit is Targeted by the Hors zone, you may replace that zone’s Effect with: this unit performs 1 Charge Action. So we clearly have an instance of Targeting, the issue is - the unit is Targeted by the Tactics Zone and not Targeted by the card itself.
There are ways to cancel or manipulate what happens when a unit is Targeted by a Tactics Zone, but keep in mind the Tactics Card is no longer Targeting the unit. There are similar Effects in the game where a unit is Targeted by a Zone on the Tactics Board and not by an Ability or Effect so it is important to note when this applies.
I really hope this article helps clear up Targeting for you and alleviates some of the confusion associated with it. I know for certain it was an area I struggled with until I had some help understanding it. Stay tuned for more tactical articles in this space to help you “Hone” your playing skills and get you “Ready” for more games. I hope to see each and every one of you on the tabletop soon!