Visions in the Flames: Control in 2021

Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” - Lord Varys

Methods of controlling your opponent are important in any game, but they hold a special place among the political plots of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the tabletop is no exception.

Michael Shinall here, and today we are continuing our dive into the upcoming 2021 changes with a focus on the control elements of the game.

Before we get too deeply into things, just what do we mean by control? Well, basically everything that falls under the category of “preventing your opponent from doing something they want to do”. Such things as Tactics card denial, Ability loss, and general negatives/penalties applied to units.

Moving into 2021, this was one element that is getting specific focus in its application and availability. Specifically, control elements should usually fall under one of two categories: Faction-based, which would mean that the concept is built into the core-identity of a faction (Lannisters, looking at you), or, more commonly, Commander-based. One of the central aspects of the game is that your chosen Commander can radically change how even the same grouping of units plays when compared to another. Their play-styles should further reflect this. As such, when elements of control appear outside of a faction build around them, they should be limited to individual Commanders and not widely accessible.

In the current game there are two stand-out units that break this fundamental: Lord Varys and Walder Frey.

Being Neutral, these two NCUs allowed for any army to field a level of control and denial that should typically be reserved for a much more dedicated choice, eg. Your Faction or your Commander. The fact that these two could be included most anywhere meant that any list could inject hard-denial into its battleplan, and its very apparent that players really like being able to deny things from their opponent. Varys allowed denial of the Tactics Board and Walder meanwhile did the same to Combat Units. Being able to have such safe “answers” to things you didn’t like was not an aspect we felt was good for the overall health of the game. Both these elements created situations where, instead of devising clever use of the tools at your army’s disposal, the answer simply became “Varys or Walder it”.

Ok, so just make them more expensive, so people have to pay for it.” - This also wasn’t really a direction we wanted to take here, as it doesn’t actually address the problem we had to begin with: Allowing generic denial and control elements to be available to anyone and everyone. So in these cases, rather than re-work their points values, we decided to just re-work both their designs entirely:

Now, in the case of Varys, he still creates a level of control... Just in a different way than he did before. Rather than outright denying your opponent options, Varys insures that, should your opponent take an Action you wanted, you’re going to get a little piece of that pie as well. While other NCU options are more focused in their effects, Varys in more generic in his benefits, but assures that they come in at a constant stream-eg. You’re always going to get value from him, but if you play him correctly then you can really capitalize on that value if your opponent isn’t careful in their actions.

Meanwhile, with Walder, he now functions as sort of an “inevitable doom” lurking over your opponent-you know he’s coming... Eventually. Opponents can plan around him and have counterplay, but eventually he’s going to get his due. Of course, as powerful as this effect is, it has a big drawback built in due to stifling your own activation order, so while the Lord of the Crossing indeed carries an immensely powerful effect... It’s also one that’s going to take it’s time arriving, so a savvy opponent can work around that fact to further their own plans.

Of course, these two aside, other control elements have been evaluated as well, but as we said, they remain in individual Factions, Units, and Attachments. Overall, thisaspect of the game moving into 2021 was focused on removing specific things (hard denial) from being available to everyone and centralizing it so it was a conscious decision to include and build around, rather than just “I can take it, so I will.”

But that is a topic for another day and another article!

Until then, loyal bannermen.

Visions in the Flames: Control in 2021

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