The most anticipated Heroes box in the entire A Song Of Ice And Fire Miniatures Game has finally arrived for those lucky few, and CMON have revealed some of the rules with the rest being shown off by those who have purchased the new models. Does Neutral Heroes 3 really live up to the hype? Or does it fall short of what the game and players deserve?
Sandor Clegane – Fugitive Bodyguard
This version of Sandor Clegane is the one that deserts the Lannisters after refusing Tyrion’s command to return to the fiery battlefield from the Wildfire. With his name being Fugitive bodyguard in this iteration, it is likely this is posting his encounter with the Brotherhood Without Banners where Sandor had to fight a trial by combat against Beric Dondarion. He won the fight and kidnapped Arya Stark to sell to one of her family members. During this time, he protected his prize and taught her a thing or two about how to survive in a savage world.
Rules and Points
Sandor comes with the Threaten Order for 2 Points. It is also the old version of Threaten that is triggered when the Unit Activates whereas the new version triggers at the start of a friendly turn. Any force that needs extra Weakened Tokens are the most likely places you will find Sandor such as a Vargo or Tywin List.
This Attachment is dead on arrival. A fan favourite character that people have been wanting as a Neutral for years is worthless and outdated before release. The quality control of CMON is consistently appalling and that is before you even look at the Attachment’s balance in the game. Martells have a 1pts Spearmen Captain that brings a better version of Threaten and can be taken multiple times. Vargo and Tywin will bring all other ways of generating Weaken Tokens before considering Sandor. This is worthless.
A day one FAQ is needed to correct both the Order and the Points otherwise it is straight to the shelves for this model. Very disappointing to see the quality CMON now considers acceptable for the game.
Fixing the Rules
First off, fix the Threaten Order to be up to date with the rest of the game. It is shameful to release something with old versions of rules almost 4 months after changing them to something better. Following this, we need something that best represents Snador’s skill as a fighter since he is one of the most skilled in the story. This can be a simple addition of Expert Duellist but that is an obvious boring choice that sets a precedent that if someone is good in combat, they must have Expert Duellist.
There is a line at the Battle of the Blackwater which speaks about how the Hound will defile the soldiers’ bodies if they come back with a clean sword. Let’s represent this renowned one-liner with a new unique rule, Brutal Sadism. This rule is on Sour Alyn in the Bolton Faction and can give a Unit Critical Blow, Sundering, or a Panic Token, but if they don’t destroy a rank the Unit suffers two wounds. This can represent the skill of the Hound, his intimidating reputation, and his lack of compassion for his own forces.
Arya Stark – Fugitive Princess
As mentioned in Sandor’s blurb, this is a version of Arya Stark post Brotherhood Without Banners. She has travelled with Yoren, she has survived attacks from Amory Lorch, she has lived through Harrenhal, made deals with a Faceless Man, and escaped the Brotherhood. Sandor is now protecting Arya and plans to sell her to a relative, but at the same time is teaching her a few lessons of the world. She trains with Needle and kills the first person on her list towards the end of her time with Sandor.
Rules and Points
Arya comes with a brand-new rule called Names On The List and is 1pts. A lot of people were predicting that Arya would be restricted with Sandor Clegane ignoring Attachment limits, but this is not the case. Her rule generates an Order Token every time a Unit in Long Range loses a rank. Then before Arya’s Unit performs a Melee Attack on a Unit, you may remove one Order Token, and after the Attack is complete you may destroy 1 Attachment from the Defender.
There is a lot of power with removing Attachments from the game with some quite effortlessly as just activating an ability. It also affects cavalry Attachments which means it does three wounds to that Unit when she does this ability. CMON nerfed Expert Duellist as the game saw a lot of the ability being played to delete Attachments reducing the worth of bringing them. They want people to bring Attachments, so they nerfed the rule. Now, just like with Varys and other rules, they have gone back on what they have decided to bring this power into the game again for almost everyone, and for 1pts! How is this worth half as much as a Weaken Token?!
Again, this card needs a FAQ for cavalry Attachments and the damage done to a Unit. It also needs a balance check with the points value, perhaps even a restriction to Sandor so that it would cost 3pts in total to bring them.
There is a lot of potential with this Unit that might be swing or miss depending on what you are facing, but it brings up the same issue we currently have with Golden Company Swordsmen, Varys, and Petyr. Why bring anything else in the game when you can spend 12pts on GCS, a Neutral NCU, and Arya, knowing that there is nothing else in your faction that can truly compete with them? CMON are killing their game by making the competitive scene so bland.
On the other hand, it is not even themed correctly. She is not a formidable assassin that can cut down any character instantly. If this was a rule relating to her three kills with Jaqen I would understand more, but it is just her list. If this was Arya post assassin training with the Faceless Men, it would be more themed. It’s just weird and out of place.
If there are no day one updates, you will see Arya in a lot of lists especially since she fits nicely with what a lot of people are already taking.
Fixing the Rules
I do not believe Arya’s current rule represents her current state in the story. She has not become a master assassin to carry out the killings on her list, however we could change this into something that best represents her deal with Jaqen H’ghar.
Like Rickon, I would put a Victory Point on Arya to represent her value to so many at this time and place her with Sandor Clegane whenever she is brought into a list. At the beginning of the game, Arya marks a Unit with an Order Token, and if Sandor/Arya’s Unit kills this Unit they gain an additional Victory Point. This is to show Arya choose targets that were going to reveal who she was or get her in trouble, and thus taking them out kept her in the game.
Elusive Escape would be an ability I would add to Arya to best represent her slipping through the fingers of the Lannisters at King’s Landing, Amory Lorch in the attack against the Night’s Watch recruits, Boltons at Harrenhal, the Brotherhood Without Banners, and then later the Hound. Together this would make up a pretty strong duo that you may need to adjust some of the rules down or increase the points up to 4pts to begin with.
Rorge – The Mad Dog of Saltpans
Rorge is one of three known criminals imprisoned in the black cells and then is taken for the Wall in Yoren’s band alongside Jaqen H’ghar, and Biter. Yoren considers him so dangerous that he keeps him chained in a wagon. Arya saves Rorge’s life, along with Biter and Jaqen H’ghar, by giving them an axe to break free as the area burns around their wagon. The three join the Lorch’s raiding party for a time and remain in the garrison holding Harrenhal after Tywin Lannister departs the castle. He has a run-in with Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth before going on to raid the Riverlands under the guise of The Hound.
Rules and Points
Rorge comes with the Elusive Escape ability and the Incite Order. He costs 2pts and unlocks Biter to go into another Unit. Rorge is a character you could make a few Attachments out of. One as a generic Attachment to represent his beginning with Flea Bottom, then Yoren, then Harrenhal. The Second would be a Commander for Neutrals as the raid leader of some of the Brave Companions at Saltpans. So, with this version being called Mad Dog of Saltpans, I have lost all hope we will see any other versions of Rorge.
Rorge will likely feature in Bloody Mummer lists as the Weaken Token has synergy with Vargo and Incite has synergy with one of his cards. At 2pts he is a bit pricey for what he does, and Biter doesn’t add much to the worth of the character. Rorge and Biter are likely to be overlooked everytime just like many other Attachments in the game. When was the last time you saw Neutral Brienne? This will be how often you see Rorge and in addition Biter.
It is a shame that this couldn’t have been a second Commander for the box considering the wealth of material CMON have to work with. It is also a shame that the rules are things we have seen before that don’t amount to much. There are so many characters with interesting new rules that have a line or two in the books, whereas those with a wealth of written material are reduced to boring unimaginative rules.
Does Rorge incite people into an Attack? Is he so elusive in a fight? These just don’t make any sense when you could give him Horrific Visage for his horrific damage to his face, or something that represents his thick and powerful description. This feels like someone spent very little time on the character and used them as filler.
Fixing the Rules
There should be a Commander version of Rorge that represents him leading half of the Brave Companions after their split at Harrenhal. The Attachment version should keep Incite since he did own a fighting ring for dogs and bears, whilst he encourages his forces to become outlaws. But Elusive Escape makes no sense, and I would want to replace this with something that matches his powerful frame and at least some skill in fighting. Since Brienne goaded Rorge into fighting, and earlier in the story Arya’s actions riled up Rorge, I think Uncontrolled Rage partnered with maybe +1 Wound would fit the bill.
Biter – Rorge’s Mad Dog
Rorge ran a dog and bear fighting pit in Flea Bottom. He found Biter as an orphan and raised him ferally to fight dogs in the pit. Biter is enormous and bald, with soft, doughy flesh. His tongue had been cut and he does not speak, except to hiss. His teeth have been filed into points. Biter even overpowered Brienne by biting off some of her face and eating it. He is a vicious horrifying character who is known to mangle those he encounters.
Rules and Points
Biter can only be taken in a force with Rorge and costs 1pts. He brings the Gang-Up ability. He is essentially a 3pts Raid Leader from the Free Folk but worse due to taking up a slot and not being free. Gang-Up is an interesting rule for sure but it takes an awful lot to set it up to a point where it is almost not worth taking anyways. I am shocked that this character that is the most savagely written, that managed to overpower Brienne, almost killing her, is given Gang-Up.
There is zero value in Biter. For the same points you can bring Daario for Critical Blow and Precision, or Bronn for all his bonuses off the Crown Zone. Literally anything is better than Biter. No one will spend three points and two Unit slots for Attachments to bring him. The rules design is such low effort and very misaligned with who he is that it doesn’t even feel like Biter. I am very disappointed.
Fixing the Rules
Biter rushes into fighting Brienne in a messy duel once she kills Rorge. A Rogue’s Protector ability would make perfect sense here. Following this I would give him Intimidating Presence rather than Vicious so he can be used in more Neutral Units since most Boltons already have the keyword ability. I would also remove the restriction to Rorge since it is unnecessary, but you are already inclined to bring him due to one of your abilities.
Jokin – Archer Captain
There is very little known about Jokin other than he commands the company’s archers and becomes joint leader of the Stormcrows with the Widower after Daario is taken hostage by Yunkai. He is present at Barristan Selmy’s war councils as the city is under siege from the various factions who are against Daenerys.
Rules and Points
Jokin is 1pts and provides his Unit with Precision to both Melee and Ranged Attacks. He also comes with the Widower’s Protector ability. Precision is a mixed bag, if you roll the sixes, it can be really good, but also it is dependent on your target as low armour Units are likely to take the wounds anyways. But it is nice to see him fit perfectly into a ranged Unit of Stormcrow Archers as there hasn’t been a good lore choice for them.
Stormcrow lists or not, Jokin with Widower can be an interesting defensive and aggressive play due to the threat of bouncing free actions off one another. If you bring this in an army full of Sentinel or Protector abilities, like Renly Baratheons for example, then you can pile on your opponent quite easily.
There is a lot of power here and it comes from free actions again. Seeing this used in Night’s Watch or Targrayens to get more free actions is filling me with dread as it is one of the reasons why they are so oppressive but now anyone could have these. CMON a few patches ago said they wanted to reduce the lethality of the game and didn’t address the various free or snowball actions in the game. Now with every release they are ramping this up even further, undoing what they have done, and fuelling a game based on throwing dice rather than on strategy.
Fixing the Rules
I don’t believe the Attachment Jokin or even Widower need to be fixed, they are fine, but can snowball against the most inexperienced. The right player will set-up a situation that you don’t want to interact with, something Night’s Watch players often do with Veterans or Targaryens with Unsullied Officers. For thematic sake though, I would have liked more focus on commanding archers since this is all that is written about him. Tactical Reposition seems like an obvious pick but Swift Reposition, or Swift Retreat would be worthwhile for the bows of the force.
Widower – Second in Command
We know a little bit more about the Widower than we do Jokin with even a description. The Widower is a scarred and sour axeman, he wears an iron halfhelm sprouted by a fan of black feather. He becomes joint leader of the Stormcrows with the Widower after Daario is taken hostage by Yunkai. However, the Widower should have been the Commander of the duo not Jokin. The Widower and other commanders of Daenerys Targaryen’s armies meet with Ser Barristan before the start of the battle where he reminds them of the battle plans. The Stormcrows are to ride towards Yunkai’s trebuchets and destroy them. Should Barristan fall, the Widower has the command after him.
Rules and Points
Widower is 1pts and provides his Unit with Sundering to Melee Attacks. He also comes with the Jokin’s Protector ability. Sundering is a fantastic keyword and may be one of the best with how instant you see use out of it. Having him join any Unit would increase their effectiveness no matter what. I am unsure why this was chosen for his rule, but there isn’t much to pull from.
As mentioned previously, whether Stormcrow lists or not, Jokin with Widower can be an interesting defensive and aggressive play due to the threat of bouncing free actions off one another. I envision Widower in Stormcrow Mercs and Jokin in Stormcrow Archers for example. In Stormcrows this isn’t that powerful and brings Neutrals up into a more competitive space, but outside of this it becomes a huge problem with some forces. There are so many places they can go we could be seeing Jokin and the Widower in this form or Commander form in several places.
Shae – Hidden in Court
Shae is an incredibly important character for understanding Tyrion but has such a unique place in the Story. She is only a minor character who cast a big shadow upon the story for one of the principle casts, but outside this she went from nothing to being on a path of great power if Tyrion or later Tywin would allow it. Shae has a lot of potential through her manipulation which can switch on a dime, or even be caught out quite easily.
Rules and Points
Shae is 4pts and starts with three Order Tokens. Each time she claims a Tactics Zone, after resolving the zones effect, she loses a Token. If she has no Tokens at the end of a Round, then she is destroyed. When she claims a zone, she can either heal a wound, generate a Weaken Token, or gain two Order Tokens. This is a bit wordy for trying to force the player to only use her four or five times in a game. It screams 3pts NCU to me, but CMON will never do this as they like to remove aspects to the game that are too strong then balance them.
The theme of Shae is perfect. She is a minor version of Margery and Pycelle in rules, which shows she can manipulate the political game but is not nearly as good as the other players. At the same time, she cannot overextend her influence otherwise she will be caught out and destroyed, so she must take actions to protect herself or remain out of the game.
Shae is okay, she can be useful, and I like the balance of her being able to do what others can, but everyone has access to it. Martells have no healing unless they access NCUs, and Shae isn’t a bad choice here. She is very useful in a Vargo list and even more so in a Tywin list. I think this is the first character in the box with good rules and you can tell she has had worthwhile time spent on her by the development team.
Commander – Jokin with Widower – Stormcrow Captains
I am not going to go into their lore as I already have done. But I will mention again that it makes no sense that Jokin should be the Commander, especially since he was not chosen to lead the entire Targaryen force upon Barristan Selmy’s death. So why is the Second in Command reduced to a footnote whilst the Archer general is brought up?
Rules and Points
Jokin Commander comes with the Overwatch Order, something that is found on the House Reed Crannogman Warden and can make a free Attack action on a Unit that ends a March or Maneuver within Long Range of this Unit. In a Jokin Commander list you can have a different version of the Widower for free, which swaps out Jokin’s Protector for Jokin’s Vassal, and picks up the Hold The Line Order. Together these characters can make use of the dice generating Tactics Card of Brothers in Arms, the Morale manipulation of Stalwart Mercenaries, and the swift moving Diversion Tactics.
In terms of theme here, there isn’t much to go off for the characters as they don’t do much. We know they are ordered to take down Yunkai trebuchets in the sally forth during the Battle of Meereen. Perhaps what the Stormcrows get up to in general were used as inspiration like protecting a baggage train but none of that aligns here. So creative licence has been used to create a bunch of strategies these Commanders use.
Get ready to see Jokin everywhere. The Brothers In Arms Tactics Card is so terrifyingly good that the potential it can do on so many dominant Units in this game are brutal. I specifically shiver at the thought of Ranger Hunters with this card and others have been discussing the various ranged Units and the notorious Scorpion. A lot of people are losing their minds and rightfully so, this should not have passed the quality control of CMON as there is a possibility, they have created a new Othell.
On top of that, auto-passing Morale tests is pretty powerful as Neutral players understand with Worth The Risk. It instantly reduces the capabilities of Stannis Baratheon forces, the Bolton Faction, and various other specific Morale focused rules in the game. Diversion Tactics used in the right moment can set you up for a formidable attack from your hard-hitting Units. Just an all-round fantastically powerful Commander. I don’t know how to fix this Commander from the very powerful state that they are in without entirely rewriting the rules for them.
This Neutral box is both awful and game breaking. There are rules that make no sense thematically. There are continuity errors in core values of the game and in just basic rules. There is a power imbalance that will decide what people of all Factions will bring. It feels like some of the confusing changes made in the most recent update for Neutrals that saw CMON take a step back from a good direction damaging the game state.
This box shows to the audience of the game that the developers lack passion in creativity through little to no research into the material they are building the game on. It shows the lack of understanding of what the game state is, as if they don’t play the game at all, or don’t listen to their audience that have been very vocal about the issues. It also shows the lack of integrity in their own words and decisions of the past since they are not upheld here.
I encourage and beg the developers to look at how they are damaging their own game by destroying the player experience. Flavour of design has been tossed out the window and has turned the game into the faction who can buff the best Neutral Units the most. If you have no passion, effort, or investment into how the game plays then either hire someone that will correct you or who will do a better job. Or pass the IP on. It is obvious from this new release that the developers are just checking a tick box rather than creating something they love.
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