Coming in hot on Monday morning (only a weekend late from the expected Friday 11th Feb landing time), the ASOIAF Miniatures game v2021 SO-1 has landed with a round of buffs, nerfs, small but relevant core rules changes and scenario reworks.
In total, only about five percent of the game has changed, but that’s still a lot. Many more units have been buffed than nerfed, and the nerfs have been focused heavily on models and units that dominated play not just in terms of results but also ubiquity of use. There is a clear design thrust here not just to dial in tighter balance (although it does do that) but also to break up a static and calcified meta and force some change – to introduce novelty and new challenges and opportunities into list building.
In both respects, things are looking good. While there will be definite pain points for players who landed on clear favourite units in the 2021 update (looking at you, Redcloaks and Spearwives), the overall thrust of the update should be to give players a lot of opportunity to experiment with new builds, with the freedom to do so thanks to some fairly judicious pruning of the power units and commanders that were dominating the group consciousness at the competitive level.
CORE RULES AND SCENARIO CHANGES
Note: Previously there was a rule saying that NCUs could no longer activate without claiming a zone; an overnight update to the FAQ deleted this.
Units can no longer pass their activation by declaring no action when engaged with an enemy – they must attack or retreat (and cannot ‘dummy’ retreat by declaring the action but not performing it).
Commanders no longer score additional points for controlling objectives in scenarios. In Clash of Kings, the bonus 2 points for killing an enemy commander is replaced by +1 point (for 2pts total) if you kill their commander with your commander.
Any scenario that included a respawning unit mechanic has had that mechanic removed. This includes Clash of Kings and Here We Stand. Thank god.
The forced activation for combat units is a pretty real buff to House Lannister – no longer can you just decide not to trigger Lannister Supremacy if you’re locked in with Guardsmen or Tywin – at minimum you’ve got to retreat an inch which will get you subsequently charged and can work to slow-push a unit of an objective over multiple turns.
The change to commander scoring is the much bigger deal across the board. The obvious implication is a loss of value for backfield commanders like Tywin who are content feeding their activations into Issue Commands while racking up points, but just as relevant is the ability to build your commander into glass cannon units like Pyromancers or Dothraki Veterans and not feel like you’re giving the game away.
Essentially, what this does is reduce the impact of the commander in the game by a lot. This means players will be much more free to make idiosyncratic or off-meta choices.
There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m super on board with all the scenario changes; scenarios with respawning units were prone to serious imbalance when and the change to commander scoring will really help with the slightly boring dynamic of playing as non-interactive with your commanders as possible in many scenarios. It also has the effect of making games last on average at least a turn longer thanks to fewer points being scored, which doesn’t affect all factions or commanders equally.
The NCU change is one where they don’t quite stick the landing. What’s clear is that the developers want to unshake the competitive consensus that 3 NCUs is optimal for all lists (an objective I am thoroughly on board with!). But this doesn’t really accomplish that, per se. It makes those games a little bit torturous, yes, but doesn’t impact relative power, because the awkward passes to prevent activation lockout in a 3v3 matchup will hurt both players equally (or at least with equal likelihood).
What we might see however is a subtle trend of lists designed to abuse opponents who stick zealously to 3 NCUs in both lists. A number of commanders and NCUs have abilities that become more powerful with this change, most notably Gilly in Night’s Watch and Tristifer Botley in Greyjoys, both of whom let you play 2 NCU (or two-ish in the case of Gilly) but force extremely awkward passed activations with your opponents on key turns, letting you dominate all your choice zones on the tactics board if your opponent wants avoid losing an activation on a critical turn. That will be an especially interesting space to watch.
Overall I feel these are good for the game.
My thoughts on the changes to commander points tie into the concept of thinking of the game beyond list construction. With the change from flexible to set objective locations with the 2021 update and the removal of NCU commanders, 2021.1 commanders were being relegated to babysitting objectives with the goal of merely surviving/twiddling their thumbs. This was severely limiting the effective choice of commander pool/commander units and limiting their influence on the wider game. The decoupling of commander units from directly scoring objective points will lead to greater tactical flexibility in their application to the table.
Finally, the respawn change is also one I am in favour of. From a balance perspective it’s a buff to lists that have in-built mechanics for returning units to the field. And from an organisational perspective it will allow for greater homogeneity in game time length, facilitating the planning and running of tournaments with a wider pool of reasonable mission choices. (Coincidentally, this means factions that can return units won’t run into the potential problem of having redundant mechanics in specific game modes).
FACTION CHANGES – NEUTRALS
Bloody Mummers change from 4+ to hit to 3+ to hit
House Bolton Cutthroats change from 4+ to hit to 3+ to hit.
Bloody Mummer Zorse Riders points cost reduced to 6.
Tycho Nestoris NCU points cost increased to 5.
Reek attachment points cost reduced to 0.
This is a buff to neutrals, and a buff to neutrals is a buff to House Lannister. In particular I think the Bloody Mummers are an absolute hit unit for House Lannister and got there with Tywin and Pycelle even before the buff. Their presence in the wider meta is a soft push away from low quality infantry too – anything with a 5+ to hit will get absolutely thrashed by Mummers.
Zorses still don’t feel like they get there but I’ll need to test them. Losing all abilities is potentially a lot of abilities.
Good changes across the board here with an upswing to all of the lesser-used neutral units and a sharp nerf to the game’s most ubiquitous NCU. The sheer game-saving nature of Backing of the Iron Bank is intact, but a 5pt NCU needs to work like rent is due, and it’s hard to say whether Tycho clears that bar. Especially with some of the other notable NCU and unit cost increases, we should see him at least a little bit less now.
A unit notable for its absence is Flayed Men, the game’s previously most common heavy cavalry unit, but changes to heavy cavalry for every faction unit at least give them some competition now, so I suspect we’ll see them less often even if the total number of one-shot-kills from cavalry charges is going to go up, not down.
Seems like generally small quality of life changes across the board, Reek moving back to 0 points is a call I personally like and opens up Ramsay as an option significantly more, as both an attachment and commander. The change to Tycho is more a reflection of his value as a panic button, and while I’m not a huge fan of point changes to “fix” a design, this feels like a place where it might be appropriate. Speaking of, the change of Zorse riders (and most light cav) to 6 points is one I am a fan of as opposed to increasing their capabilities as it highlights their difference to heavy shock cavalry. Finally, Cutthroats and mummers going to 3s to hit is pretty spicy, it will be interesting to see if the meta shifts back to glass cannons a little more.
FACTION CHANGES – STARK
Stark Sworn Swords and Eddard’s Honour Guard lose ‘Stark’s Fury’ order but gain Crit Blow at all ranks, +1 to hit when one or more destroyed ranks, and rerolls to hit when two destroyed ranks.
Outriders change from 7pts to 6pts
Crannogmen Trappers and Meera Reed ‘Hidden Traps’ order changed to inflict an additional +1 hit, or no hits but impose -1 move on the enemy. It no longer causes disorderly charges on a 2.
House Tully Cavaliers lances change from ‘+1 hit per remaining rank’ to ‘+2 attack dice per remaining rank’.
Greatjohn Umber Attachment To the Last! changed to not be an order, now be useable twice per game, and no longer make the unit panicked and vulnerable.
House Umber Greataxes Executioner’s Fury changed to instead grant scaling sundering as they lose ranks (up to a maximum of -3 to enemy defence dice rolls at one rank).
Sansa Stark NCU gains the ability to draw a card back from the discard once per game for free, in addition to her usual ability.
Arya Stark NCU gains an additional use of her once per game ability to move or retreat an infantry unit on an opponent’s turn.
Eddard Stark NCU points cost increases to 6.
Tactics Deck changes:
- Winter’s Might and Northern Ferocity to remove the self-damage and instead grant increased benefits when at one rank remaining or controlling the swords.
- Greatjohn Umber Commander’s Berserker Tactics card now lets the player take up to 3 wounds and deal that many wounds +1 to the enemy.
House Stark’s internal balance was all over the place and this works a lot to bring everyone up to the same level. So while this is very clearly a buff to the House I don’t think it’s as impactful as it might seem at first look – all the stuff that got buffed was stuff that was never being taken under any circumstances. The changes to Winter’s Might and Northern Ferocity are the things that push the faction’s top performance the most and do so in a fantastic way. It gives every unit the chance to make the kind of heroic comeback previously only really berserkers had access to.
I will note that even at 6 points, Stark Outriders don’t feel worth it. The Zorse riders might not be amazing but they still beat these guys every time.
What a rework. Starks are on my radar as a faction I want to play now, with a deep roster of playable units and a fortunate end to their previous deeply questionable mechanical theme of killing their own units. Now, Starks get stronger as the situation gets more dire, but at least it isn’t getting dire because they’re murdering their own troops for marginal advantage.
Real standouts and a great core unit are the Sworn Swords, who function well independently or with any number of attachments. I want to try them with Mormont Veterans and Catelyn as a real backbone at a very attractive price. And that lance change – phwoar.
The NCUs are a bit less coherent, with Sansa graduating from ‘useless’ to ‘useable but thoroughly dependent on good card draw’ and Arya being probably pretty nice actually in some lists now that she doesn’t suffer the single use ability problem of ‘better save the potion for after the final boss’. Eddard going to six points stings but makes sense; he’s still an incredible NCU and at the cost now clears the canopy a bit for cheaper options to see some sun.
The rework of the Stark signature mechanics from taking damage for some pretty RNG heavy buffs to one where the faction is focused on gaining additional capabilities as it takes damage instead, is a welcome one. To call out specifics, the old cards/mechanics were almost always a trap. Trading the potential for two wounds with the guarantee of taking two wounds or one wound yourself, in a game where the basic infantry unit has 12 wounds, often put Starks too close to a catastrophic failure point to be a good mechanic. The change to emphasizing benefits as units take damage means that a Stark player can now make the strategic (list building) and tactical choices that allow them to maximize their potential as opposed to suffering the whims of chance. Stark’s access to highest attack dice mechanics allows a depth of play here that was pretty sketchy previously.
For the NCUs, the change to six point Eddard will hurt. But, in most lists that aim to maximize him, that probably means a small capability loss elsewhere and means he is less overshadowing of other options in other lists. Time will tell if this was a step too far or not.
The Sansa change I really like – she allows for a lot greater control of your deck and plays into the more structured, less RNG approach mentioned above. Having a plan for what to use her single game ability on will be critical and in some lists her continuous rolling card draw will be very effective. I’m particularly interested in seeing if repeated access to assault orders adds more value to Robb Starks Hit and Run card.
Arya’s change is a really welcome surprise, and one I think will offer a lot of flexibility to Stark players once they practice with her. The ability to make maneuvers or retreats in the opponent’s turn has the potential to be very rewarding, though it will likely take practice to really master. Combining her with Robbs Shift Order will be something I am very interested in trying.
Outrider changes are roughly in line with Zorse changes, and provided expectations are limited to reasonable for a six point unit, Outriders should do well in Stark lists again. Tully Cavaliers finally will act like the hammer blow unit they used to. The lance changes in general will put the fear of heavy cav back into units and that is as it should be.
I love the Hidden Traps change and cannot wait to explore the capability of this rule to really limit an opponent’s mobility. Combined with appropriate terrain choices and other mechanics, it may be viable to completely shutdown an opponent’s ability to move around the table and grants players with access to traps a significant tool in the control kit.
Great Axes are a bit more grindy and meta shifts will tell whether the Sundering (++) rule results in them being seen more often on the table.
Greatjon Umber changes are in line with the to the last change, but the berzerker tactics is truly nasty and when combined with other heavy hitting Stark attacks significantly opens up the potential for one shotting. Losing 3 wounds to wipe an opponent’s unit is often well worth it.
FACTION CHANGES – NIGHT’S WATCH
Ranger Trackers change from 7pts to 6pts
Othell Yarwick offensive cards are now played when a unit attacks and no longer attach, instead providing only a temporary buff.
Conscripts points cost increases to 5.
Jeor Mormont NCU ability to replace a zone with attaching a card from your deck directly to a unit becomes once per game.
Builder Crossbows Ready! Aim! Release! now uses lowest attack dice value (i.e. 4 dice rather than 6).
Watch Captains attachment Relentless order changed to only allow maneuver or melee attack.
Qhorin Halfhand attachment loses To The Last, gains Battle Scars
Jon Snow Commander For the Watch! card now only allows charges off the horse (rather than horse and swords).
And Now His Watch Is Ended.
I got the full Othel Yarwick experience once and that was once too many. Burn in hell old man. Every part of his gimmick has been systematically pulled out and stepped on. I’m not particularly worried about the future of Night’s Watch, though – it was a very strong faction to begin with and the only things here that will hurt it in non-Yarwick builds are the increase to Conscript prices and the nerf to Mormont. Those do hurt – anything that messes with a faction’s cheapest units will always have an outsized impact.
The Night’s Watch changes are some of the best in terms of systematic dismantling of the 2021 meta’s most rusted-on problem lists. Conscripts going to 5pts alone helps break up the Night’s Watch stock list meta, and Othell getting thoroughly bodied is both necessary and overdue. Jeor’s change is also a big one; it wasn’t common to get lots of uses from his now-once per game ability, but usually at least two uses was common in my Night’s Watch games and that reduction in safe, reliable consistency for getting cards in play is massive.
We do however see one of the most notable nerf-dodges of the update, with Ranger Hunters going completely unchanged. This was a unit crying out for at least a slight tweak in either staying power or offensive output, but which has emerged unscathed.
Overall, despite the nerfs, a lot of the underlying power of Night’s Watch outside the leafblower gunline potential is intact. Their core mechanic of playing cards to units for permanent benefits remains a very strong force multiplier to already great units and plenty of games against the Watch will still end with one or two units buffed to the gills outmuscling everything on the table. They’re unlikely to reliably top the charts consistently, but they’re still very good.
A final note should also be made to how ruthlessly Gilly the Wildling Girl can be played now against opposing 3 NCU lists. So long as she remains unactivated, she forces the opponent’s second NCU to pass their action every round you go first, thanks to the threat that she might swoop in to claim an unclaimed zone and lock them out of an activation. This is unlikely to disrupt the 3 NCU meta by itself, but it’s a very interesting piece of tech for Night’s Watch players that want to explore it.
In general the changes pull back a lot of the more obscene aspects of the NW capabilities without drastically changing how they work. NW will still be an army of elites, but the more egregious aspects and infamous builds will now have weaknesses that smart players can exploit or play around. Callout to Othell Yarwick, Relentless and Ready Aim Release changes now allowing you some measure of counterplay into them.
FACTION CHANGES – LANNISTER
Redcloaks melee attack reduced to 4+ to hit.
Lannister Crossbows ranged attacks increased to 3+ to hit and defence dice improved to 4+.
Mountain’s Men Marauder’s Blades changes from ‘when engaging an enemy with fewer ranks’ to ‘when engaging an enemy with the same or fewer ranks’.
Knights of Casterly Rock lances change from ‘+1 hit per remaining rank’ to ‘+2 attack dice per remaining rank’.
Poor Fellows morale reduced to 6+ and zealous resurgence only ever restores 2 wounds.
Joffrey NCU increases in cost to 5pts, no longer inflicts panic on friendy units when claiming zones other than the crown.
Guard Captain attachments lose Iron Resolve and gain Hold the Line, an order that inflicts 2 hits + 1 hit per remaining rank in their unit to an enemy engaged with them when they activate.
Borous Blount attachment Vengeance of the Crown damage increased by +1.
Excellent changes to House Lannister, I am wildly enthusiastic about this.
See, Redcloaks had a serious problem in that they were too synergistic. There was a certain amount of stuff that just fed into them perfectly and so it was incredibly obvious when you started writing a Redcloak list how the list was going to end up. Now Redcloaks are Lannister Guardsmen with worse saves, better morale, and a weaker long range version of Lannister Supremacy for a point premium. You can’t rely on the Redcloaks to get anywhere near the same amount done in close combat, meaning that you have to start looking at the rest of the Lannister infantry range for actual frontline units. The Redcloaks now feel much more like a support piece able to throw targeted Panic checks than ¾ of your army.
That said, I think the real competition in the Lannister infantry space is now ‘6 point medium infantry’ vs ‘Lannister Guardsmen with a Guard Captain’. Guardsmen with a Captain are very good right now – Hold the Line is a fantastic order for 1 point, and having one more than doubles the average offensive output of a unit of Guardsmen in prolonged combat (3 hits to 8 hits on full ranks!). Charging a unit of Guard Captain Guardsmen is now taking your life in your hands – if you fail to rank them on the charge you’re gonna get got.
The Knights of Casterly Rock are also standouts as a valid alternative to Flayed Men at this point. Complete sidegrade either way but I like the Knights because right now my thinking involves lots of Lannister Supremacy and having one unit that conspicuously lacks it neatly telegraphs for your opponent where the attacks should go.
Crossbowmen are OK now, I’d take them over Stormcrows, but I still wouldn’t take them in House Lannister. House Lannister really doesn’t want to be shooting into melee; you’ll fail every morale check and hurt yourself as badly as your enemy. That said, the real pain point here is Poor Fellows going from ‘cheap tarpit’ to just ‘cheap’.
Another chisel judiciously taken to a calcified list meta. Poor Fellows, Redcloaks and Joffrey all taking a sharp but significant rap forces Lannister players to re-examine their list choices, and the combination of new releases and buffs to old units steps in to fill the void.
I do absolutely expect to still see Redcloaks, including Redcloak spam lists, and the Faith Militant lists are still viable as well – but neither are truly optimal in the way they were before. The 6pt unit slot in Lannisters is now fiercely contested, between Lannisport City Watch, Redcloaks, your ranged unit of choice, newly buffed Mountains men, and even neutral choices.
Lannisters are worth mentioning as a faction that will absolutely stick to their 3 NCU guns, and very reasonably. They have a lot of reasons to do so outside of whether or not three NCUs is the most powerful choice; lots of good NCUs, a native desire to hold the Crown, and a zone-replace effect in their core tactics decks. However, they’ve got no ‘bully’ pieces of their own against NCUs and commanders that utilise the new NCU rules, so might find themselves in the firing list if those lines of play become common.
Boros Blount still sucks.
These changes leave the faction still as primarily a morale focused one, but have widened the breadth of options available to Lannister players through minor tweaks to units like Mountains Men and Lannisport Watch. As with Cavaliers, the KoCR change also provides Lannisters with some serious, non-morale focused punch. Ultimately Lannisters are still in a good place, but are no longer pigeon holed into a single compelling build. They now have other options they can lean on when facing lists specifically designed to turn Panic tests into an advantage (such as Starks leaning on multiple units with high morale and Stubborn Tenacity).
FACTION CHANGES – TARGARYEN
Unsullied Swordsmen cost reduced to 7pts.
Drogo’s Bloodriders lose Fuelled By Slaughter.
Dragons changed from dealing d3+3 wounds to d3 wounds +1 wound per enemy rank.
Mother of Dragons special commander card now completely removed. She no longer has to take three dragons but also no longer gets any discounts on dragons.
Unsullied Officer attachment Relentless order changed to only allow maneuver or melee attack.
Jorah Mormont the Andal attachment no longer needs to be in a unit with Dany and can be placed anywhere.
Haggo attachment loses To the Last!, gains Fuelled By Slaughter.
Unsullied Swordsmen going to 7 is fire. That opens up the Targaryen infantry game immensely; running swordsmen over pikes gives you the ability to really spike your damage and overwhelm an enemy based around healing. Pikes just lose fights against things like Rose Knights in a way that Swordsmen don’t.
The Bloodriders losing Fuelled by Slaughter is really interesting because it means that they’re not nearly the selling point for Drogo they were before. Without Fuelled By Slaughter making them effectively invincible, the weakness of the Bloodriders – their difficulty disentangling themselves from a brawl – is much more obvious. Drogo, as an Expert Duellist, is at his best when bouncing around between multiple different fights, and I think Veterans are now the much better delivery mechanism for that.
Jorah Mormont being free to go into other units is a disappointing failson move perfectly in keeping with Jorah’s character. On the one hand it’s a 50% increase in the number of House Targaryen infantry attachments and options are nice, on the other hand he skornergies with both Unsullied Pikes (Stand Your Ground is irrelevant because they can reposition with Set for Charge) and Unsullied Swords (they reroll natively). Good work, idiot.
Mother of Dragons is sharing the podium with Othell for the prize of most nerfed commander, and thank god. Huge portions of the game are now more viable to play purely because they’re not quite as likely to get instantly deleted by an overwhelming flurry of dragonfire.
Make no mistake, the nerf to her is significant and she won’t exist in the form we knew her. Expect her to fall back to two dragons as the standard, relying on a much cheaper infantry or cavalry unit to make up the difference. The upside – and it is definitely an upside – is that all the people who bought into the game with the MOD box because dragons are fucking cool can actually play their damn army without having to worry about their friends getting mad at them.
Also worth mentioning while discussing Targaryans is how much of a boon the change to commander scoring is for Khal Drogo. The Great Khal is no longer racing against a scoring clock to wipe out the enemy and is free to play the game in the way he’s strongest. Even with the change to Bloodriders (ably compensated for by the fact that there are no less than two other incredible elite cavalry units Drogo handily sits in), Drogo has my money as becoming one of the dominant commanders of the new meta.
Steps have been taken to limit the impact of the outliers here, namely Mother of Dragons and Dragons in general. Combined with the buff to Lance Cavalry, Dragon players will have to be more careful in how they use their tools, and hopefully MoD will not dominate the faction and game quite as much without the points discount. The rest of the changes are more quality of life, though the change to Bloodriders losing Fueled by Slaughter does seem slightly out of place.
FACTION CHANGES – FREE FOLK
Spearwives lose Coordinated Assault, gain Furious Charge.
Savage Giants gain Vicious.
War Mammoths completely reworked. Trample is gone; they are now a pure melee unit with crit blow and sundering who make enemies panicked before rolling attack dice. They also only ever take a maximum of 2 wounds from a failed panic check, and deal d3 wounds to any enemy engaged with when destroyed.
Thenn Warriors lose ‘Unyielding’, gain new ‘Hold the Line’, an order that inflicts 2 hits + 1 hit per remaining rank in their unit to an enemy engaged with them when they activate.
Trappers ‘Hidden Traps’ order changed to inflict +1 hit, or no hits but impose -1 move on the enemy. It no longer causes disorderly charges on a 2.
Savage Giants gain Vicious.
Chosen of Styr attachments lose Stand Your Ground, Gain Go Down Fighting, are now the worst attachment in the game.
The Weeper Attachment cost reduces to 1pt.
Walrus Clan Chieftain attachment gains Iron Resolve (in addition to Resilience).
Tactics Deck changes:
- Styr’s Final Strike to now functions even if the unit is destroyed, but now always hits the attacker
Nerfing spearwives is a buff to every other unit in the game as far as I’m concerned.
Free Folk walk away from the 2022 update with potentially the most significant suite of changes both external and internal of any faction.
Let’s touch on the external stuff first: Dragons no longer reliably one-shot Giants. Night’s Watch no longer reliably one-shots entire Free Folk lists. Major downside, though, is that most games will last a turn longer now without commander scoring which hurts Free Folk and our inability to sustain attrition more than any other faction.
This last bit is made worse by the sharp reduction in one-shot potential due to the mostly reasonable nerfing of Spearwives, who are still pretty ok but aren’t the snap-pick first model in a list any more. In particular the almost total removal of their broad play with Coordination Tactics means they’re now merely a good unit on their own merits rather than an incredible cornerstone unit, and that change has wide-ranging effects.
On the upside: literally everything else is upside. The changes to mammoths and giants might be enough for them to see play, the new Thenn are excellent (I’ve had three games with them already), the new trappers are great, the cheaper Weeper is a great attachment in multiple units, and Walrus Clan Chieftains have been upgraded from ‘a good meme’ to ‘no really, a good meme’.
Overall, I’m excited. This is very nearly a whole new faction to explore. I may even need to buy Mammoths.
Spearwives are the elephant in the room. Losing coordinated assault will shift the faction focus slightly away from setting up cross-pollination one shots and more towards co-ordinated strikes from a diverse range of units. They are still a good unit and for 5 pts offer a lot of bang for their buck.
The other (literal) elephant in the room is the mammoth, now acting more as a battering ram or line breaker than a pseudo cavalry role. It would be a significant change to the FF list if they didn’t now have access to Frozen Shore Chariots and Bear Riders. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether or not the new mammoths step on the toes of existing units, but for FF lists that are focused less on swapping abilities between units and more on running a horde it’s a good new tool I think.
On that note, Giants are still Giants, just a little less ability to ignore them in combat.
The other FF changes are mostly geared at increasing the resilience of the list (with the update to the Walrus Chieftain), with changes that on the whole mean FF armies have more capacity to stick around and bog the opponent down and this probably ties in with the changes to Spearwives being an indication that CMON wants them to be a combined arms list. Oh and Trappers will work well with fast/control armies.
FACTION CHANGES – BARATHEON
Champions of the Stag gain ‘if this unit began the turn engaged with the defender, before rolling attack dice, the defender becomes vulnerable’, and morale increases to 5+.
R’hllor Queen’s Men To the Last! changed to not be an order, now be useable twice per game, and no longer make the unit panicked and vulnerable, and morale increases to 5+
King’s Men To the Last! changed to mirror Queen’s Men, lose native sundering but King’s Blade changed to no longer be an order and now always triggers and allows Ours is the Fury to be played for that attack (effectively giving back sundering if you want, and/or other bonuses every attack based on zones controlled).
Selyse and Shireen NCU cost increases to 6pts but is no longer destroyed when using Necessary Sacrifices to save another unit.
Melisandre NCU cost decreases to 5pts.
Axell Florent NCU ability changes to not be zone-dependent and instead cause failed panic checks to weaken enemies, and increased panic damage on enemies when engaged by a R’hllor unit.
Red Priestess Attachment changed to suffer up to two wounds but not take a panic check, and inflict one panic or vulnerable per wound suffered.
Master Warden Attachment lose Stand Your Ground and gain Hold the Line, an order that inflicts 2 hits + 1 hit per remaining rank in their unit to an enemy engaged with them when they activate.
Thorn Watch reduced in cost to 6pts.
R’hllor Lightbringers reduced in cost to 6pts.
Tactics Deck changes:
- Final Strike to now functions even if the unit is destroyed, but now always hits the attacker
- Baratheon Justice renamed ‘Baratheon Conviction’ and now always restores wounds, causes a panic check on all engaged enemies if you control the crown, and inflicts a condition token on all engaged enemies if you control the letters
- Baratheon Conviction renamed ‘Baratheon Justice’ and completely reworked. Now triggers after an enemy completes an attack (of any sort) and makes the attacker panicked and vulnerable, as well as weakened if you control the crowns.
I continuously find House Baratheon impossible to talk about or reasonably analyze. However, I’m not particularly thrilled by Melisandre getting cheaper, having played against the Melisandre jank list recently. It’s the cannon rush of SOIAF and I’ll just need to be serious about packing a morale defense list for the next six months. But with the loss of Poor Fellow morale and Guard Captains… hmm.
As much as I concur with Thanqol’s take that the Melisandre artillery has gotten cheaper, I don’t think it’s gotten better – the change to Axell shaves off the top end of damage, which for my money pushes Mel a little more of to support and chip damage role, a hopefully welcome change to her current niche at the center of a list trying to obliterate a unit before the lines meet and then desperately ride that advantage to victory in spite of the massive points sink they spent on NCUs that can only perform one gimmick. Taking just Mel for 5pts in your list with Stannis the One True King is a very reasonable core of a list without needing to overcommit to the bit quite as much – although that is still an option, and cheaper Mel and lightbringers means we’ll still see it some.
As for the rest of Baratheons – buffs! Buffs everywhere. Literally every change (bar one) is a power spike to units that needed it – even Selyse and Shireen going up in cost is tolerable thanks to them no longer dying to save a unit. Stannis’ side is more heavily changed but that’s mostly a function of Renly still waiting on Highgarden reinforcements to arrive, but the NCU changes are a sharp boost to Courtnay Penrose NCU and Thornwatch might actually be playable now at their reduced cost.
And for both sides, the changes to the tactics deck alone represents sweet, sweet functionality in a way that the deck before lacked. The deck is less frustratingly conditional on passing morale checks with 6+ units, less locked behind tactics zones, and overall just works far more effectively than before. I love it.
The only miss here is the Red Priestess, who both lost her synergy with Faith Units and is also just crap on her own terms. “What if a unit had warcry only instead of making a morale check, we killed ourselves?”. Hard pass for me on almost all units, but maybe in Lightbringers you can afford some chip self-damage.
Alongside Starks, Baratheons got one of the most generally positive faction reworks, which suggests CMON is paying attention to where effort is required. On the whole the changes enhance what the faction was already doing, with slight cost decreases and changes to mechanics available in other factions. The deck has changed again, and we’ll see if it holds up in time – but it seems reasonable.
The biggest change to Baratheons may be the change to the Master Warden. Hold the Line is an awesome rule for a 3+ save army focused on attrition. Special shoutout also goes to Champions of the Stag. They got buffed, and really are the games premier grinding melee cavalry, as befits their lack of lance attacks. They should should probably be used as a mobile reserve instead of a tip-of-the-spear shock cavalry role. Still, these guys will hit like trucks and continue to round after round.
Ultimately, Baratheons still feel like a faction that is waiting on half their units (the Renly ones) due to the baked-in loyalty limitations. Competitively, players that leverage the 2 list format to really maximize the loyalty system will do the best on the whole.
FACTION CHANGES – GREYJOY
Victarion attachment Relentless order changed to only allow maneuver or melee attack.
Baelor Blacktyde commander To the Last! changed to not be an order, now be useable twice per game, and no longer make the unit panicked and vulnerable.
I’m mid way through painting and researching House Greyjoy and I think they’re in an amazing place right now. They’re an attachment box and a war machine/cav choice away from being a complete faction and I’m starting to plan my faction focus article on them.
Rob’s Take: Unsurprisingly, the game’s newest faction has changed the least. These are just small clean-ups to match other things in the game. Victarion won’t ever go in bowmen any more, but otherwise Greyjoys are far more affected by the release of their most recent wave of units (such as Baelor) than these small changes.
Really, the 2022 update for Greyjoys is all about the changes to everyone else. The nerfs to top dogs are huge for them, no longer having to worry about how to handle Mother of Dragons, Othell, or even just the annoyingly persistent threat of Free Folk one-shot kills before What Is Dead is safely in hand.
Worth noting as a standout is the NCU rules changes with Tristifer Botley. At a very reasonable 4pts, he now opens up a list option for bullying 3-NCU lists by reducing the tactics board to only four spaces on a key turn (usually closing off swords the first turn the opponent goes first with a viable sword play). This might even be strong enough to displace the other, very good Greyjoy NCUs.
Yeah cool, they are in line with other mechanical changes I guess.
On a more serious note, the wider changes to the game and meta probably help them with less top end predators out there and leaving them with room to leverage some of their more interesting mechanics on the table.
Wrapping Things Up
That wraps up our review of the new FAQ – there’s a ton to cover here and some massive shake-ups to the meta. Stay tuned in future weeks as we revisit some of our faction write-ups and continue our analysis. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.