Free Folk and Night’s Watch – S04 Review – ASOIAF: TMG

A Song of Ice and Fire: The Miniatures Game Season 4 has been out for a while now, and people have flooded to the game to try out the new changes. After letting things settle and the initial reactions digest, we will continue our review of S.04 and how much it has and will impact the game for the next 6 months. This time around it is the Free Folk and Night’s Watch we will be reviewing.

Tormund Giantsbane – ASOIAF Tactics – Painter by BigChild Creatives

Free Folk 

Commanders – Tormund Giantsbane, Mance Rayder, Mag the Mighty, and Varamyr Sixskins 

Tormund Giantsbane – Overrun Change 

Tormund is an interesting commander that is not taken so often due to the power of Varamyr’s high Activations and Styr’s passive damage. The Overrun change is a nice update but won’t change too much of Tormund for the future of Free Folk due to the internal balance. However, there is a neat trick you can do with Tormund and Harma’s Bannerman, where you use Regroup and Reform to swap Harma with her Bannerman to have Overrun and Enhanced Movement together. This combination can be very potent or at the very least super fun to pull off. Only the Martells with the Darkstar Retinue and their attachment can do this in game. Whilst a nice change, not much to talk about here.

Mag the Mighty – ASOIAF Tactics – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Mag the Mighty – Overrun Tactics Card Change 

Mag the Mighty has a lot of different Tactics Cards to use for his monster-focused army. Whenever facing the king of the giants, I tend to see the opponent cycle through their deck a lot without utilising their cards. This change could be a big deal for the giants, since most of the time people try to avoid them to a point that some Units are taken out of the game due to positioning. If the Mag player can position their monsters well, then this card will be critical for getting back into position. However, we will discover later on that the monster lists have had a nerf that may result in them being less played, with or without this card change.

Mance Rayder – ASOIAF Tactics – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Mance Rayder – Removed The King Is Dead!

Mance Rayder suffered from an overwhelming nerf bat due to his dominance, but he has a place in the Faction in some fun lists. The initial design of him was needed at the time but now the ability The King Is Dead was too much. Negative abilities given to you just for showing up are rarely balanced to a point that the player doesn’t feel bad about it, and in fact I think the only place it feels okay is with Rickon Stark due to all the benefits you get for bringing him. This is a good tweak for the leader of the Free Folk; however, I do not believe the developers are done tuning Mance especially since he was also hit indirectly by the Kevan nerf to Predictable Maneuvers, which is not worse than it was, just more predictable, as ironic as that is.

Frozen Shore Bear Riders – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Varamyr Sixskins – Points Increase from 0 to 2pts. 

Varamyr Sixskins is the best choice for high Activation Free Folk lists which still have a place in Season 4 even with the threat of Pass Tokens that was added in the last update. Most Factions will be able to match the Activation count in crucial moments because of these tokens, and thus if you are going high Activations with Free Folk, it is all or nothing. The 2pts doesn’t do too much to the Varamyr lists other than reduce the number of points you have to spend on Attachments, almost forcing you into 1pts Attachments, and funnily enough there is a very strong 1pts Attachment in this update. I am more than sure Free Folk players can work around the change to a point where it won’t matter too much.

Mammoth – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Attachments – Skinchangers, and The Great Walrus

 The Great Walrus – Changes to Battle Scars

Most changes in the Free Folk roster are from Universal Rules that make a bigger impact in other places. The same can be said for Battle Scars with The Great Walrus, however there are some places the new and improved Commander can go that are worth talking about. Personally, I would use him with the Cave Dweller Savages for the same reasons that you would use Maege Mormont in Umber Berserkers. Having access to the highest attack dice from the get-go or Vicious for the extra damage increases the efficiency of the unit without dancing on the edge of death. Thenn Warriors would also benefit greatly from this rule since they are forcing charges and have Hold The Line to take advantage of. A good change, but it won’t do much to bring people to the Frozen Shore lists.

Free Folk Raiders – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Skinchangers – Points decrease from 2pts to 1pts. 

Skinchangers went from never being played to being an auto-include in every army. This is due to getting access to Stalwart for free in Raider Units since they reduce attachments by a point, or for 1pts in other places. That is a steal. It wasn’t too long ago that Mance dominated for so many reasons, but one of them was that he patched up the terrible Morale of the forces. Yet you still saw Stalwart characters brought along in Borroq and Tormund even though they were 2pts. Summoning the Bear with the Skinchanger rule allows the Free Folk player to adhere to the popular playstyle of chip damage as well. The developers should have removed Stalwart when decreasing the points.

Thenn Warriors – ASOIAF Tactics – Painted by BigChild Creatives

Units – Spearwives, FS Hunters, FS Bear Riders, and Borroq’s Boar

Borroq’s Boar – Points Decrease from 2pts to 0pts. 

“Design Note: Borroq was seeing much more play with players electing to leave his boar at home.” – CMON Developers

Last update, the developers changed Pycelle. saying that he was underplayed and needed a boost even though he was picked in Lannister lists 75% of the time according to ASOIAF-Stats. They then admitted the mistake in this update and changed it appropriately. I do believe that the developers have again misunderstood the reason why the Boar was not being played here: Pass Tokens.

If you are playing against an opponent with a similar Activation list, then you don’t want to give them an advantage just by bringing the Boar. If the opponent has the same or one less Activation than you, then the Activations are the same technically since the Boar goes at the same time as Borroq, thus the opponent gets Pass Tokens and is in the better position. Thus, people will leave the Boar at home as it is not important in this instance especially for 2pts. Lists such as high Activation Varamyr would love a free Boar though, and in this update counters the points change to Varamyr since if you were using the Boar before nothing has shifted.

The developers have missed this point with the game as it stands right now and should probably address this when it comes to the next update. I would recommend rethinking how the Boar works rather than tweaking points cost. I would recommend possibly using it like the Skinchanger Bear or the Stark Direwolves.

Free Folk Raiders and Raid Leader – Painted by Ste Norris – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Frozen Shore Hunters – Melee, and Range Attack Dice Tweaked, Changes to Harpoon Effect.

This is an interesting change but not too sure it will see play until Free Folk players have experimented with it to see whether it can be of use. The Attack Dice change is probably the most useful part of the update for this Unit, allowing you to lose a rank but still operate at the same effectiveness, making them a prime target for Regroup and Reform too. The Harpoon effect of debuffing the movement can pair well with the Yigritte Influence, but you will need to be within Short Range to shoot anyways, so you might just force the charge onto your own Unit. There is a niche combination here, but I don’t know how effective it will be especially when other 5pts Units are pulling so much more weight.

Frozen Shore Bear Riders – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Frozen Shore Bear Riders – Morale improved from 6+ to 5+.

A minor tweak to the Bear Riders. The Unit suffers from being too costly to amount to much in competitive play; however they are an incredibly fun Unit to play with. Morale changes don’t seem like a big deal especially to players who come from other game systems like Warhammer 40k where it rarely matters. But as a Stormcrow player, the changes to Morale result in Units becoming more survivable which for the only 16 Wound Unit in the game, could be quite an important standout. The only issues to this Unit being played is that it counters the playstyle of Free Folk currently of high Activation, followed by delaying whilst chip/passive damage does the work. One day your time will come polar bears, one day.

Free Folk Starter Heroes – Painted by Ste Norris – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Spearwives – Speed Increased, and Melee Attack Dice Value increased.

Spearwives have been a mid-high tier Unit for Free Folk for a while and that really depends on the player’s use of the Unit. With Tormund or Jarl, they can be a nasty Unit to face, and in the current state of the game, even them on their own is pretty useful. It all comes down to what you want to spend your points on with some of the best 5pts in the roster fighting for the slot, but if you want something that will pack a punch you will be selecting the Spearwives.

This is a great moment to discuss internal balance, which isn’t something that needs to be fixed. You want a resilient Unit that has some control, then you bring Thenns, but if you want more punch, you bring Spearwives; if you want a mixture of punch and sustainability, you pick Followers of Bone. These are great changes to make Spearwives relevant alongside some of the better Units in the force.

Jon Snow – ASOIAF Tactics – Painted by BigChild Creatives


NCUs – Jon Snow, Lady Dalla, Mance Rayder, and Craster 

Jon Snow – Changes to Northern Resilience.

Jon Snow now influences Unit’s Morale better than previously. With the rampant Stalwart that the Free Folk player has access to, I am unsure just how impactful Jon’s influence will really be; however doubling down on protecting Morale can result in the Faction becoming very difficult to shift without having to expend a lot of resources to do so. The major issue for Jon Snow is fighting for a place in a list when there are so many good choices to go for. It will come down to both personal preference and also local meta whether Jon sees play.

Lady Val – Painted by Tim Whitney – Insta: tim_paints

Lady Dalla – Points Decreased from 5 to 4 points.

Dalla has some great rules that can be quite impactful on the game; however, not at 5pts. The developers have realised this and adjusted her correctly for internal balance. The best part of her rules is handing out some hits whenever she takes the Coins Zone, which plays into the chip damage archetype of Free Folk very well. The problem though is whether she is better than the other NCUs for the Free Folk since Val and Craster are auto-includes and there are so many fantastic other choices. It really comes down to flavour in this instance.

Mance Rayder – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Mance Rayder – Changes to Skillful Preparations.

Mance NCU allows you to draw more Tactics Cards when you target the Unit; he is influencing with a Tactics Zone, which now also includes when that Unit Activates. I assume this was done due to him being played infrequently, but the reason that he doesn’t see play is due to the Tactics Deck being in a great place in terms of flow. Bringing Mance often sees you running out of cards in the later few turns of the game or even midway through. In any other Faction he would be an auto-include which goes to show his power here, but most people will still overlook him for other NCUs, including his other version, just because his ability is not worth much within Free Folk.

Craster – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Craster – Changes to Refuge and Supplies (Now limited to only Infantry).

This change is warranted but odd in the result. It heavily impacts monster Units within the roster: Before opponents couldn’t soften up the big Units with initial attacks as Craster could easily rectify the damage done, but now it makes the bigger Units more vulnerable to prolonged damage. It is a good thing in some cases since he was an auto-include in almost every single list out there, but it only applies to specific types of list designs and results in no change to others. The popular infantry chip damage Styr lists are still as strong as before with this change, and the Mag the Mighty lists fall off. The developers know there is a problem with pick rate for Craster but haven’t quite found the right solution for him yet.

Savage Giant – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Overall Summary 

This could be a Season where Free Folk dominate again, but not as ruthlessly as previous Seasons and they do have some more competition to deal with. Free Folk has a lot of tools at their disposal and some fantastic ways to disengage from the game in Taunt, passive damage, and Styr’s Tactics Cards. Although it is a unique playstyle of delaying the opponent with speed bumps whilst slowly whittling them down with various effects, it also doesn’t seem overly fun.

Areas that saw great changes to the fun side of the game in the Walrus, Harpoon Husbands, Dalla, and even Overrun, are overshadowed by the glaring internal balance issues pre- and post-update. Skinchangers will dominate, the NCU suite is off the charts, and there’s no point running any other Commander other than Styr.

The Faction is seeing a huge rise on ASOIAF-Stats in terms of performance and pick rate and are also taking podium places or top spot at multiple large events post update. They are certainly a Faction to look out for and prepare to face as they are only going to become more popular.

Night’s Watch – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Night’s Watch

Base Tactics Deck

The Base Tactics Deck needed to change for Night’s Watch, and whilst I feel the pain of the NW players, this is better for the game by removing constant buffs from Tactics Cards. We can discuss our opinions on what the Night’s Watch should or shouldn’t be all day long, but it was not a fun experience to go up against.

I do want to make a note of how it is being handled by slowly changing the cards and over time tweaking them rather than unloading huge changes in one go. Games Workshop normally does way too much in nerfing or buffing something when they address issues and this has both negatives and positives, and recently this really damaged all Chaos Space Marine players, not just the lists that were doing good. This gradual change and rework is slow, but it protects the game and the players’ enjoyment more so than other styles of updating.

Those that say the Tactics Deck is bad are right in some respects but are wrong in others. Most people focus on the Attachment part of the cards that can be lost through failing a Panic Test. I understand that losing this sucks, but should you have the effect on the entire game? The mindset needs to change from expecting to have constant buffs to a one-off buff like all the other Factions in the game.

Some of the effects are lacklustre, but I do think there are more to come in changes for the Night’s Watch Deck just like the Greyjoys got this update after their rework in the previous. All I can advise is test things out, and be patient, because winter is coming.

The Sword In The Darkness.

+1 Rank for Attack Dice in Melee as an Attachment or Vulnerable and Panic Tokens before an attack in Melee. Personally, I do believe the Tokens is the better choice between these two, and only in dire situations or later in the game will the extra rank come into play. Might be worth thinking about when bringing a Watch Captain, as Relentless plus Boldness and Courage could work well with an additional rank effect negating the damage done before a Relentless Attack.

The Fire That Burns Against The Cold.

Re-roll a Morale Test or attach to lose a Wound to remove a token. This was a Card that players rarely used as it was rarely worth it. In the new world of Night’s Watch, the Morale re-roll is incredibly valuable in making sure you don’t lose some of the precious Tactics Cards already attached to Units. I can’t see many people going out of their way to protect a Unit from token play outside of the obvious Taunt showing up everywhere. It is a very useful card, but the attached benefit is unlikely to be favoured.

The Shield Of The Realms Of Men.

Re-roll defence saves or attach to block a hit. Both effects are quite strong, although you are now less likely to get the most out of the blocking of hits even though it is the better option. It would be wise to put it on a high Morale Unit; otherwise, I would recommend taking the re-rolls. Donal Noye has shown how strong re-rolling defence saves can be, and if you have a strong defensive Unit the value from this card could be colossal. At the end of the day, it does come down to personal preference here and opponent when picking the benefit of this card.

The Watcher On The Wall.

A Pivot and then 2” Shift or attach for +1 Movement and re-roll Charges. A tough one to decide on but most of the time I can see players picking the attached version for better mobility and guaranteeing your Unit into combat. The Pivot plus Shift is an interesting effect that shouldn’t be dropped as there are countless times you are stuck not being able to react to your opponent due to line-of-sight restrictions, such as an outflanked Unit or one that has deliberately moved out of the way for safety. It is a useful tool to have in your hand and most players will want to keep it as long as possible.

The Light That Brings The Dawn.

Re-roll misses on a Melee Attack or attach for +1 Morale Test rolls. This one is weak in value due to re-rolls not being that uncommon in the Night’s Watch deck, but the attach effect can benefit a Unit greatly if it already has other cards on them. To attach cards the trigger is when the Unit Activates, so it is something you want late game when you already have cards on. If players draw this early on, then they are dumping the card at first chance unless they want to show the opponent which Unit they plan to buff up with cards. Perhaps changing the re-rolls to something that would be helpful early on can then allow this to play differently depending on when you draw it in game.

Take The Black.

Take the Black has not changed too much from its previous iteration. It still heals when you attack an enemy and can still grab an Attachment if one is available. It is a slightly worse version of Fueled by Slaughter now since the ranks counted must be from the Unit’s Attack and not in general, but rather than it being played when you destroy it Unit it can be played after an Attack giving it more opportunities to be played. I can still see some NW players waiting for an Attachment to steal for the fun aspect of this card.

And Now His Watch Is Ended.

Either a Vulnerable Token and some healing or attach to heal a wound after passing a Morale Test. Biggest change of the whole deck. Before it used to give a free Action when a friendly Unit died, which was really strong; now it is vastly different, and themed more around sustainability. I can see the attached part of the card pairing well with Dauntless in the likes of the Spearmen or Veterans, but the healing effect won’t come into play too much for you to want to keep this in your hand. Far better to go for the constant healing in my opinion.

Night’s Watch – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming


Jeor Mormont – Change to Night Gathers Tactics Card. Jon Snow – Changes to For The Watch! Tactics Card. Ser Denys Mallister – Change to Tempered by Duty Tactics Card.

Most of the changes to these cards are to add the ability to lose the card from failing a Panic Test. They are all fantastic cards for their Commanders, putting out free hits for Jeor, free charges for Jon, and free Tokens for Denys. The triggers for Jon’s card now telegraph the play for free actions to a point where the opponent can now do something about it if possible. Whilst this does suck for NW players, I personally believe it is a good choice to not have free actions suddenly sprung onto the opponent, but I will wait with baited breath on this one since it affects the overall worth of Jon.

CMON have expressed that the mid-season update will address characters in detail which is why there has not been too many changes to the Commanders here. Changing just some of the cards to match that of the Base Deck in style was an obvious thing to do but these might need to be looked over again due to the timings of the triggers as right now the combos that Night’s Watch could do are falling apart.

Night’s Watch Sworn Brothers – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming


Qhorin Halfhand – Changes to Battle Scars.

With Qhorin’s recent changes in the NCU department, there is a possibility he could show up as an Attachment since he is no longer an auto-include. The new Battle Scars is pretty good, and it is coupled here with Go Down Fighting. A lot of the 1pts Attachments have gotten in better in my opinion due to the changes such as Alliser Thorne for Iron Resolve, but with the combat buffs being reduced from the cards it might be worth picking up a few Attachments that can buff this and what better than Qhorin in this situation. A lot of play testing and experimenting with list building is needed to know the true impact.

Night’s Watch Warmachines – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming


Builder Scorpion Crew – Decrease Morale to 5+. Builder Stone Thrower – Decrease Morale to 5+, and Rework Rock Volley. 

We can talk about both Warmachines in the same vein with the Morale changes. The change on the Morale is understandable since the crew should be the ones dealing with the Morale not the Warmachine itself, the only issue that crops up from this is the potential to lose the Unit due to a long-distance Morale test of some kind, the popular example being Lannister Supremacy but also just the Crown Zone in general. Whenever I play against Jorah Mormont, I always try to kill him with Crown zapping since it is quite possible, and then the same is said here due to the low wounds on the model. It would be the same criticism for all other Solos in the game. There should be a rule that reduces the number of wounds you can suffer from a failed test here.

For the Stone Thrower, the attack has changed to lose the Panic test on a miss and gain Vicious. I can understand where the developers were going with this rule by trying to make sure the 8pts sink did something every turn rather than missing and being a waste of points, but it also made no sense to do Panic damage on something that missed you. But there is no need to change this only in terms of flavour, either it almost always hits and does a little damage, or it can often miss but does a lot of damage. Personally, the bigger damage makes sense, and modifying the capabilities of the Stone Thrower should come from a builder list with Othell and Senior Builders.

Coldhands – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Coldhands – Melee Attack Dice Decreased, Morale Decreased to 3+, Changes to Eye of the Crow.

Coldhands last Season was a joke; the buffs he received for his points cost were nuts and he was taken in almost all forces. However, the nerfs Coldhands has gotten don’t change this much if at all. It was not often that Coldhands would die twice in a game, so the limitation here does very little; the Morale change is nice but again it does very little as a 3+ is still very good; and the loss of one attack dice also doesn’t change too much. The biggest effect to Coldhands is the changes to the Tactics Deck limiting the combos you can pull off with him. He is still a great solo that I would take all the time due to what he can do for his points cost. He is certainly less of a problem now, but is still a thorn to the internal balance of the Faction.

Night’s Watch Solos – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Watch Marshal – Changes to Marshal

Not a huge change for the Solo often left behind by the Night’s Watch players; however. the new aura of a pseudo of Iron Resolve is very nice. It is a support for Solo and it has gotten more support effects to a point where I do think people will be bringing him now, but not as their first choice of Solo if they can help it. Ghost is still a great pick and so is Coldhands. If people need the buffs from the Marshal, then we will see him being played.

Night’s Watch Rangers – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming


Craster – Changes to Rest and Refuge.

Craster was never even considered for Night’s Watch before this update; in fact it was hard to remember what he even did, but it had additional effects depending on certain zones he took, and now it removes condition tokens and lets you ignore some terrain keywords. I don’t think Craster is crazy by any means, but he may see some more play in situational encounters. Terrain can be very swingy if it is important or not but if you are able to use it to your favour with Craster then that is a bonus. The true power comes from the token removal and there are a lot of tokens in the game now. Craster will have more play, but the Night’s Watch will not be making frequent visits to his keep.

Night’s Watch Heroes – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Samwell Tarley and Gilly – Points decreased from 5 to 4 points. Complete Gilly Rework. 

Sam and Gilly are probably in the best position they have ever been since release, and sometimes it does take multiple tweaks and reworks to get something right. Sam being 4pts and Gilly being 1pts should have been the packaged deal to begin with. In this new version of themselves they bring a unique style of playing with Activations whilst having some control over your much weakened Tactics Deck. Gilly is a pass token that can mulligan a card for 1pts, I think that is pretty powerful, but it is gated behind Sam which is not bad but a little underwhelming in comparison to other NCUs, which is perfectly fine due to the Gilly combo. I look forward to seeing how this plays out and whether it is worth picking up.

Night’s Watch Veterans – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Qhorin Halfhand – Changes to Sacrifice for the Cause, changes to Halfhand’s Guidance.

A dark shadow has lingered over the game in the last few Seasons from Qhorin Halfhand alone. His influence is incredible; his ability shuts down a Unit from ever being able to do anything for a Round, and then triggers this death with a Tactics Card for a free Action. It was incredibly brutal to go up against and was always worth doing. Finally, this has been nerfed into the ground and he is a much more reasonable NCU for 5pts.

He now only gives an attack dice for his influence and has dropped the movement buff which is a crucial change. This alone would not make him worth 5pts, but the shutdown effect of killing Qhorin only limits attacking and charging whilst handing out a token. Still a strong move when activated but far more reasonable in the game. It was a much-needed change to the balance.

Night’s Watch Heroes – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Yoren – Changes to Recruitment.

Yoren is a very interesting character in that he can bring a whole new Unit into the game just by existing. However, this Unit is not a massive deal being just Conscripts, and he does cost 6pts. The difference in power that Yoren has in comparison to Coldhands or Balon NCU is down to this Unit choice and when you can gain access to it. This change speeds up Yoren’s ability to get the free Unit of Conscripts onto the table and the earliest is Round 3, but for sure in Round 4. If you are lucky, you may get a second Unit out of Yoren, but the value of this Unit is much less. This is a good tweak to the NCU just to make him relevant a bit more for those who do want to play him, however I am unsure on the effectiveness of Yoren in this form. It needs some playtesting to see the potential fully.

Night’s Watch Crossbowmen – Painted by Chris – Insta: hitsandcrits_gaming

Overall Summary

Night’s Watch have had their time in the sun and now it is time for the sun to set on the Watchers on the Wall. This had to be done to allow the game to reach a better, more balanced state otherwise they would forever be a hurdle to climb whilst the NW player would need a little effort to succeed. This was needed and it is only the beginning of their rework, which makes this period the roughest period for them.

There are glaring issues with the stuff not touched and how they interact now but also the Faction blending with combos. But you can see them heading in the right direction to become a better Faction. Out of all forces in the update Night’s Watch will be the one least played due to the damages, but this can now open the door for experimentation with new characters, Units, and even Neutrals that can be affected by the Tactics Cards.

There is still a long road to go for the Night’s Watch to be fixed, but for now the overbearing Faction has been laid to rest.