ASOIAF: Tactics Neutrals Part One – Duncan the Tall and Hedge Knights

CMON is well underway with ASOIAF: Tactics, and the pledge manager is open with Shipping Prices calculated. ASOIAF Tactics spans across multiple eras of George R. R. Martin’s world, whereas previously their game was restricted to the War of the Five Kings. One thing that is lacking from the campaign is an introduction to the characters you may not know, and in this article, I will give you an introduction to the heroes of the short stories.

We have looked at almost all the two-player sets so far; Battle of the Trident Set, King’s Landing Set, and Riverlands. Now we will be looking at the Neutral Boxes that supplement them and can form their own Faction in the game. This article is for the Tales of Dunc and Egg Set which brings some of the prominent characters for the short story trilogy intended to be a large series: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

One thing missing from the campaign is an introduction to the characters you will be playing with. Some have sparked high levels of excitement such as Robert Baratheon since people know who that is, but the Hedge Knight story has little time in the limelight although it is coming to HBO in the next few years for its own series. Until then you can pick up the first three short stories for Ser Duncan the Tall and Aegon V Targaryen.

My aim is to increase the sentiment and engagement of those interested in this set by introducing them to the stories of unknown characters whilst fueling a further passion in a story-driven game. Tactics is more personal than the main game, as you focus on a smaller conflict, a small set of characters, and all their quick decisions. Everything matters in skirmish games, including who each member of your warband is.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Book – A collection of the three short stories of the Dunc and Egg Tales

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Whilst many have speculated, there is no clear reason why George R. R. Martin decided to write the Tales of Dunk and Egg. Whereas some of his other books are to flesh out the history and lore of the world in which ASOIAF takes place in, Dunc and Egg focus on small interactions whilst having the same quality and themes from the other books. However, they do take place in an important time period.

Aegon the Conqueror, Dance of the Dragons, and the War of the Five Kings are big points in the history and thus have books around them explaining events. But the Blackfyre Rebellions are too big a point for Westeros but couldn’t have a focus like the other books due to how differently those conflicts conclude. It isn’t on a grand scale, and is a smaller focused story.

The Tales of Dunk and Egg follows two very important characters that grow up around these conflicts that shape them into the leaders of the Seven Kingdoms towards the end of the events. We get to see the Blackfyre Rebellion but in a different scale to other events without needing new characters introduced every other sentence. It’s a refreshing space for George to write in which is likely why he has done it, almost in a way to take a break from the main stories and rejuvenate himself.

 

Duncan – The Tall, Mounted

Lore – Duncan the Tall is one of the most famous Lord Commanders of the Kingsguard in existence, with a good argument for being the most famous, though this could be Barristan Selmy instead. The books we have going into detail on his story have him nowhere near the position yet but building relationships that will result in him landing in this role.

When we first meet Duncan, he is a squire for a Hedge Knight and ends up taking up his armour, horse, and sword to compete in Tourneys when the Hedge Knight dies. This leads to him meeting Egg and making him his squire. The book is very much the journey the two of them go on throughout their lives, and how small people can cast a very large shadow.

Duncan Mounted – painted by BigChild Creatives

Duncan is unusually tall for his age, hence the title he gains. He grew up in Flea Bottom and dreams of being a Kingsguard ever since his Hedge Knight taught him how to wield a sword. Dunk is strong and quick even at his seven-foot-tall stature, but his best skill is in jousting and swordplay. He is known for being better with a sword than a lance, but even better with an axe or a mace, this is likely due to his strength but also capability with a one-handed weapon rather than a unwieldy lance.

Duncan has a humble personality, and frequently thinks of himself as thick-headed, recalling how Ser Arlan had often said “Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall,” and referred to him as “slow as an aurochs.” However, what he lacks in wit, he makes up for in honour. Throughout the short stories, Duncan challenges the way things are with their oaths and values.

Model Design – Big characters in name and presence deserve to look incredible when they are made in miniature form, however Duncan’s mounted design has restricted itself to match the standing of Duncan during the first few books of his story. I adore that when you look at the model you visually see the story of a wandering knight who is skilled but not wealthy in their position. There is an awesome lesson Duncan learns about showing off or looking like a big deal in the third book which requires Duncan to remain lowkey. A well thought out design here.

Rules Design – I love that there isn’t a universal cavalry rule in the game. It allows a rider’s skill with a mount and the mount itself to have some flavour and uniqueness to it. With Duncan being a tourney knight that jousts for money, he has great command over his mount which is portrayed in the mobility rules on his card. He ignores movement issues whilst engaged and can go into squares that other models cannot, this could result in a strong hit and run mechanic for the character.

The movement manipulation doesn’t end there, Duncan’s Melee Attack Action can utilise an Aftermath ability to allow him to perform a Movement Action instead of Surging Forth. Unlike other cavalry choices in the game, Duncan is swifter and can move on quickly to other targets, whereas something like Robert Baratheon has a longer reach due to his longer movement.

Duncan’s Melee Attack Action is not too bad with a good hit and plenty of dice to deal with most assailants, however he will struggle against harder or well-equipped targets. He can inflict the Routed condition that will work well in pinning an enemy or reduce their capabilities in retaliating.

Overall, the Mounted version of Duncan plays a specific role of a large threat range that is difficult to pin down. However, one wrong move against an opponent that has a higher skill than him like Jaime Lannister or Denys Arryn, and you could see it backfire. If he sticks to Ad-Control, he should be a monster threat for the opponent to think about.

Duncan – The Tall

Model Design – It is hard to tell how tall Duncan is since the model isn’t matched alongside another, but he should be shorter than The Mountain who is close to eight feet tall but about the same height as Brienne. I am glad the designer went to the effort to have Duncan’s own sigil detailed onto the model itself since it is an incredibly unique sigil and was the focus of the first interactions we experience with Duncan. It is a decent model but apart from the shield there isn’t too much to talk about here.

Rules Design – Between the Mounted and Foot variants of Duncan, the Foot version is the best one. You trade the mobility of the Mounted variant for a better combat and defensive ability. The Silver ability for combat that enforces a wound and a Routed condition after a Morale Test is incredibly strong and all players will be spending for that effect often. We can’t see what exactly the defensive ability does, but it gives Duncan multiple Aftermath abilities which could deter opponents from interacting with him giving Duncan more opportunities to utilise the powerful Melee Attack Action.

What makes Duncan Foot strong though, is that he costs two Silver which is cheap for what he does. You could bring single Silver models from the Brotherhood Without Banners, but I am not too sure two of those could amount to the same that Duncan does. I also think he is better than some expensive picks like the three Silver Jaqen H’ghar for example.

Aegon V Targaryen – Egg

Lore – Egg is Aegon V Targaryen, who later becomes the King of Westeros and the fifteenth Targaryen to sit the Iron Throne. But way before that moment, Egg was just a squirt who ended up squirting for a Hedge Knight named Dunk at a tourney which resulted in a Trial of the Seven and the death of Egg’s uncle. Following this he accompanied Duncan to become a knight whilst living a humble life. He did then hatch into the Targaryen name’s sake when he took command of the situation in the third book. Over the course of the three stories, we see big moments that define Egg and set him on the path of becoming one of the best rulers of Westeros.

Aegon V Targaryen “Egg” – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Model Design – The model is expertly designed to represent a disguised Egg who shows no sign of being a Targaryen prince but just a common smallfolk squire for a wandering Hedge Knight. Him attending to his knight’s helmet whilst wearing a ridiculously brilliant straw hat is a chef’s kiss to this. I love this model for its perfection in simplicity.

Rules Design – Aegon will only ever be taken in a pure Neutrals Faction with Duncan due to his abilities revolving around the Hedge Knight and the limitations on Neutrals in other Factions preventing you from bringing them both. Egg’s rules provide free Actions between himself and Duncan. In The Miniatures Game, free Actions are an incredibly strong benefit to which many strong armies have utilised for a long time. Free Actions in Tactics could end up being the same however, the cost of bringing Egg just to do this would take away from having a Champion that could do stuff on their own like Jaqen H’ghar. Could powerful buffs be balanced due to the cost of them?

Aside from this, Egg has some decent stats with an impressive Morale and okay Defence that could be boosted significantly. He also has a great combat attack for essentially a little kid. He puts the Little Birds to shame. I guess for two Silver he needed to have something, especially if Duncan is killed and most of his abilities will do nothing at that point.

Brynden Rivers – Bloodraven

Lore – Brynden Rivers is the bastard son of Aegon IV Targaryen and was legitamised by Aegon IV, which is where the Blackfyre Rebellion comes from. When you are a bastard child in Westeros you cannot fly a family’s sigil and must form your own. For example, Jon Snow inverted the colours of the House Stark sigil for his. Brynden was a white dragon to match his complexion, with red eyes likely tying into his warging ability, and upon a black field which I like to think is the wake of Blackfyre supporters who fell because of his actions.

Whilst you may not know Brynden Rivers in this form you will have seen him a few times within the ASOIAF storyline, which we will discuss further in the next model.

Model Design – The model for Brynden is nothing short of iconic! There are countless details on this model that harken to so many events that are significant to Brynden’s rise to power. He wields the Weirwood Bow which many have theorised is a magical bow that can slay dragons, but he may have used this very bow to slay his kin during the Battle of the Redgrass field which saw multiple Blackfyres slain to arrows said to have been guided by Bloodraven’s sorcery. But shouldn’t the bow look more epic with plenty of accessories? No. So often model designers make bows to look cool rather than function, and throughout the entire range of ASOIAF there hasn’t been a bow that would work until now. Sometimes, less is more.

I love the design of Dark Sister here and like how it is being used better than the Daemon Targaryen model does in their King’s Landing set. But add the cloak and hood to invoke the secrecy that Brynden utilises the most in his time, plus a different Targaryen logo design than what we are used to, and you find yourself with a magnificent model for the game. One of the best in the whole project.

Rules Design – Morrec, Tom Sevenstrings, and Ygritte are the only other named characters with Ranged Attack Actions. Tom has a great statline for the Ranged Attack, but it is limited by Short Range, Morrec has a decent Ranged Attack that is slightly better than the Unnamed counterpart of the Crossbowman, and Ygritte is the only Hero in the game with a Ranged Attack which isn’t too bad, but it works well with her other abilities.

Brynden Rivers is the best named character with a Ranged Attack in the game as far as we know, but this is more to do with the number of buffs you can purchase using Copper and Silver. To balance this, you do need to set Brynden up as the Ranged Attack takes two actions to use which aligns quite nicely with what happens during one of the battles during the Blackfyre Rebellion.

However, the Ranged Attack is not what makes Brynden shine. It is also the fantastic Melee Attack Action due to the ancestral Targaryen Valyrian Steel sword Dark Sister, and his ability to mess with those that claim objectives due to his incredible spy network. He isn’t cheap at three Silver and three Copper, but he looks incredibly worth it in the long run.

He has a bad armour value for you to capitalise on hunting him down, but ultimately it will be Routing him that will prevent him from being a thorn in your side. I would recommend targeting him with your debuff characters to shut him down before trying to tangle with him.

Three Eyed Raven – Painted by Big Child Creatives

Brynden Rivers – Three Eyed Crow

Lore – Whereas Duncan is a very honourable person, Brynden Rivers is not, and it was the attitude of Duncan that raised Aegon V to be an honourable person rather than the cold ruler that Brynden is. When Brynden sacrifices their honour to kill the fourth Blackfyre Rebellion before it even started, he is then sent to The Wall where he ends up becoming the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch before disappearing north of The Wall. He does resurface when he discovers Bran Stark’s ability to warg and begins training him as the Three Eyed Crow. Whilst he is crucial to the story, we have no idea what he is planning with Bran but there have been countless theories if you want to read into it.

Model DesignBrynden is a pale, skeletal man in rotted, black clothing in a weirwood throne of tangled roots. His skin is white, aside from a red blotch on his neck and cheek. Brynden has fine, white hair long enough to reach the earthen floor. He is missing one eye, while the other is red. Weirwood roots surround the man and grow through his body, including his leg and his empty eye socket.

This model is such a shock, and I truly never believed it was possible to make a Three Eyed Crow model and not at all in the scale that we will get here. The way Brynden’s body morphs into the Weirwood roots are uncanny and will be incredible for painters to create something horrifying but talented out of it. This is an insane pick for the game, and I am more shocked and speechless with how out of this world the rules are.

Rules Design – The biggest shock here is the zero cost to take the Three Eyed Crow. The miniature to represent George R. R. Martin was also free but did nothing to affect the outcome of the game. The Three Eyed Crow can produce Healing Balms that can be incredibly useful in protecting the high wound members of your warband. Greatjon Umber, The Mountain, Robert Baratheon, or even Gendry would adore additional Healing Balms. You may lose 1VP on the Raven’s death which is quite possible from just interacting with him, but this is not too significant in the grand scheme of the game.

Whilst not giving him an Attack Action is important to not have him attack enemies looking to remove him, there is nothing mentioned about him not being able to move since he is a tree. Currently there is nothing preventing him from enacting the “March of the Ents” and waddling to a better place for your characters to utilise. Probably just an oversight that will be addressed but a funny one.

I do think Three Eyed Crow needs to gain a points cost otherwise he will be brought in almost every single force since he deploys differently and could be used to create a space that is impassable in some instances. I would recommend giving him a points cost just to make players at least debate about using him.

Hedge Knights

Lore – A Hedge Knight is a wandering knight without a master. Hedge Knights travel the length and breadth of the Seven Kingdoms looking for gainful employment. Hedge Knights are so named because most of their worldly wealth is in their arms and horses and they generally must sleep outdoors, often under a hedge. There are large numbers that band during war such as under the Renly Banner with his large cavalry host, he assembled, or those that joined Robb as he moved South.

Duncan the Tall is likely the most famous Hedge Knight, but others such as Ser Osmund Kettleblack, Ser Illifer the Penniless, and Ser Creighton Longbough, have played a significant role in ASOIAF for some of the characters. Osmund is in the employ of Petyr Baelish with the Kettlebacks playing many sides, whilst the other two are the travelling companions of Brienne of Tarth on her journey to find the Stark children.

Hedge Knights – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Model Design – CMON has released some Hedge Knights in the past for The Miniatures Game, and at the time these models were fantastic mainly for the negative space for sculpted and painters to get creative. However, there is nothing mind blowing about the models. I like them as the blank canvas for creatives, but they don’t tell a story which is missing. However, with this release, we get the new versions of the Hedge Knights that have character and story inbuilt into the model, but not at the expense of replacing the previous ones. So, we get to keep the models for creatives to explore whilst having ones for those who want unique looking Hedge Knights.

Sword Hedge Knight – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Sword – The model armed with the sword gives off a Northern force’s vibe. Out of all the models from this set, the details on this model match the best with the Stark Faction. An obvious detail is the fur cloak the Hedge Knight has that you would expect to see on the Mormont or Umber models. A smaller detail is the chains formed into a cross on the chest which is like the sigil of house Umber. Another detail has the reigns with the flags that match the Tully Cavaliers, a good paint job on this model will have it blend into the Tully forces but stand out enough as something unique. A model with a wealth of hidden detail.

Mace Hedge Knight – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Mace – The model armed with the mace has a lot of details that allows it to fit into almost any Faction. The way the model is adorned is almost pristine or perfect for showing off, I would say that it ties well into the Baratheon Faction especially since it is the most well armoured one of the bunches. But the pauldron on the shoulder has curves matching Tullys, the sunburst on the helmet could be Martell or Karstark, and maces aren’t featured in that many places. This one is the best for fitting anywhere.

 

Flail Hedge Knight – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Flail – The model armed with the flail will be perfect for fitting in with the Bolton aesthetic, it even has the bucket helmet with the eye slit that some of the more recent model designs all have. But what has this model standing out for me is the increase in detail it now has from the previous Hedge Knights, the armour looks better and so does all the cloth. Once painted, it will look incredible in any force.

Spear Hedge Knight – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Spear – Lance cavalry is a menace to the game now with multiple Units featuring in many lists catapulting them into a high standing. Having a Hedge Knight that blends nicely into the Unit is so cool, and I am glad there aren’t too many details that will force it to look out of place in the lance cavalry Factions. However, with the stars all over the model, I will be painting it as a Dondarrion knight since it is begging for it.

Fantastic set of models, you bet I am grabbing multiple boxes of these.

Rules Design – We can’t see too much; however, we can see that the Hedge Knight model is an expensive pick for your soldiers at seven Copper for one. But you can make out a little bit of a rule that seems to suggest that you pay one of something instead of the seven Copper, this is likely one Silver as Gold is reserved for those with a Motivation and could cause something like Petyr Baelish to snowball out of control. These two ways to play ability could allow them to be the easiest to include in any Faction from the Neutral roster which is a great representation of the Hedge Knights in lore.

They have an abysmal Morale Stat along with an okay Armour Save and a chunky three wounds. We can’t see the melee attack but if it is not a powerful ability the Hedge Knights will be dead on arrival since they are far too expensive for what they bring. They do have something that adds dice and a reroll, as well as some movement manipulation so it could be a non-named version of Duncan the Tall. We will need to see the full card before we can judge them, but this might be a unit used in the Miniatures Game more so than Tactics.

Summary

For two exclusive sets for the Gamefound crowd funding, they are a nice addition to the game that will expand the Neutral offering in both games. Duncan the Tall and Egg are two well-loved characters by fans of the books, and they would never have been brought to the table if it wasn’t for Tactics, but we also get Brynden Rivers and the Three Eyed Crow. Incredible models with some uniquely designed rules to portray the characters in a meaningful and fun way. There are some oversights to the rules, but what was shown off is a work in progress and I am sure they already know the issues before us.

The Hedge Knights are impressive in design and the scope for hobbyists to go wild with the models is unfathomable, however their rules are a little less desirable in the current state. However, they are currently fantastic in The Miniatures Game, so it is not like they are completely unusable.

Fantastic pieces that are in development and I cannot wait to see the final result and start painting them.