Welcome back to our coverage of the A Song of Ice and Fire miniatures game. If you missed the first article in our series with an introduction to the game, you can find it here.
A disclaimer before we begin: I have not played this faction competitively; I am currently setting up a Game of Thones community in my area from scratch and have a few dozen games worth of experience. This is not an authoritative document about competitive play though I have thought about competitive play, have most of my games against competitive minded opponents, and am approaching the faction from that perspective. I also want to note that while this is explorative, it is not theorycraft. I have tried out all of these units in play, and am glad to have done so because quite a few synergies aren’t as easy to set up in practice as they are in theory. I am not commenting on the meta or wider competitive balance.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the Lannisters.
House Lannister wins fights through attrition. Their game plan revolves around sapping the enemy’s will and ability to fight – weakening their foes, undermining their plans, countering their plots, and intimidating their soldiers. They are phenomenal at defense, have a number of powerful healing options, and have tactics cards with reliable long-range effects. They also have a number of extremely high quality attachments and the synergies to make them work. The bulk of their power is in reliable and powerful medium and heavy infantry.
What they lack is decisive action. All the political maneuvering in the world can’t stop a unit of spearwives making a long range charge and slamming into a flank, and while Lannister units often excel at engaging enemies in single combat they’re vulnerable to being outnumbered or destroyed by monsters like giants or dragons.
Lannisters are also very vulnerable to being shut down in turn. A lot of their abilities are based off complex synergies and they have relatively few independent operator units. A lot of their effects hinge off control of the Crown in particular and if your opponent has a way to deny it to you then your army can be thrown into disarray. Also, while you can go very deep into the morale game, opponents can go very deep into shutting it down and you should expect to be facing things like an army of 4+ morale saves if your opponent knows you’re coming.
Most of these are actually quite weak. House Lannister’s tactics cards are extremely permissible in when you use them – it’s possible to empty your hand on turn one before the lines even meet – but the price for that is that most of them are very tepid effects. The most you can expect out of the basic Lannister deck is messing up an opponent’s much better card at a critical moment.
Intrigue and Subterfuge: When an enemy NCU activates it loses all abilities until the end of the round; if you control the purse an enemy becomes Weakened. Sometimes this won’t make a difference and sometimes it can explode an entire gameplan. For example, in a Lannister mirror matchup, being able to disable Joffrey on an important turn can lock your opponent out of crown control which switches off the special abilities of the Redcloaks and the entire Kingsguard, which might be your opponent’s entire army.
A Lannister Pays His Debts: Attach to a combat unit; when a friendly unit is destroyed gain Vicious, and with the Crown +1 to hit. Absolutely savage when it’s switched on, with the caveat that Lannister units tend to be really hard to destroy. Still, though, never triggering an on-death effect because your opponent can’t kill you is a pretty good problem to have.
Hear Me Roar: This is a great card for dropping on a morale test. A lot of abilities, such as War Cry, require an opponent to make a morale test to trigger the ability and this can make that test fail and cause a wound along the way.
Bribery: If you draw two of these in your turn one hand it’s the best thing ever as you can halve your opponents combat potential from across the board. On any other turn it ranges from ‘whatever’ to actively useless because it costs a valuable NCU activation and most everything else you can do with that NCU is better than doing this.
Counterplot: A lot of factions have extremely good cards. The Lannisters, by and large, do not, but they do have this. The value of counterplotting a powerful enemy card is not just in them not using the card but in potentially throwing an entire turn that hinged off the use of that card into turmoil. If you’re looking at Lannisters in isolation you might not realize how good this is, but just know that there are cards out there that can make a charge roll an automatic 6 for distance and being able to stop that can be the difference between taking a unit of spearwives into the flank and not having that happen.
Fealty to the Crown: Really good when it works but it’s deeply unreliable. Lannisters have very limited access to the Panicked token, surprisingly, and given their generally morale-focused gameplay your opponent may well be bringing a list that’s designed to fail as few panic checks as possible. I advise spending it as soon as possible even if it only gets a wound or two back.
Subjugation of Power: An enemy performs a morale test with -2 for each crown and purse. On a failure they lose all abilities and can’t be targeted by friendly tactics cards. You can combine this with Hear Me Roar, and often should. This card isn’t as reliable as it may first appear. Firstly, it activates on the enemy’s turn and only lasts for that turn, meaning you can’t switch off defensive abilities. Next, the enemy unit that’s the biggest housewrecker in the game, the thing that you want to use this card on, will likely activate first in a turn before your NCUs have had a chance to get on the board so you can’t rely on the penalties to be in place. Like most Lannister stuff, when it works it’s great, but it comes with a lot of caveats and riders.
The reigning king of Westeros, Joffery in his Commander edition comes with a unique bodyguard retinue – the Kingsguard. The Kingsguard are a monstrously good unit, absolute blenders on the attack and with powerful defenses, including Counterstrike, that will make mincemeat out of poorly trained units. They pay for this by giving up two victory points if they’re destroyed but even so this is a magnificent unit and worth bringing Joffrey for. They’re almost the Lannister equivalent of a monster unit.
Joffrey has no native commander abilities other than the fact that he brings the Kingsguard, but his tactics cards are actually really good and much better than they might appear at first glance. You Will Obey Me is a seriously good attack card, easily adding 3+ wounds to an attack. It’s a great card to use on the Kingsguard themselves because with 2+ to hit they’re unlikely to miss more than one of their hit rolls. Traitors! I will Have Their Heads! is solid if you need just a little extra push to clear an enemy unit, especially if you outnumber that unit. I Am The King is a panic button that can save a critical unit from being wiped out, and is again especially good on the Kingsguard because they care very little about panicked and weakened tokens.
Really, the biggest drawback to Joffrey is that you can’t use him as a NCU and all the Kingsguard are not available as attachments, but it’s easy enough to build around that. Oh, also, he’ll die instantaneously if a dragon even looks at him, so keep him as far away from monster units as possible.
Clegane is a really interesting commander because he brings the raw force that Lannisters otherwise lack. Not only does he turn the unit he leads into a wrecking ball (and is a favourite for killing giants), his tactics cards bring some House Stark style aggression to the ordinarily pretty standoffish Lannister tactics deck and they’re so welcome it’s worth bringing Tyrion Lannister specifically so you can get more of them. Assault Orders is a fantastic way to have the Mountain attack three times in a single turn and Overrun is a card that is absolutely amazing when it goes off because it breaks the activation economy – and potentially lets the Mountain attack again if you happen to have it along with Assault Orders. The Price of Failure is an interesting card in House Lannister – it’s the opposite of the traditional Lannister doctrine of winning over the long run and a lot of the time you just won’t want to use this, but it’s great to have the option to throw the long run to the wind and just win a fight you need to win right now.
One of the most focused commanders in the game, everything about Jamie’s cards and abilities is about making Jamie personally a wrecking ball and hell with the rest of the army. He’s good at it too – with Counterstrike and Disrupt he performs magnificently when outnumbered by low quality infantry. An attacker with a native 4+ hit roll will stab themselves more than Jamie when they attack him, and if you place Jamie in a unit of halberdiers then he’s the ultimate “Come At Me Bro” piece you can field. The problem is that there’s only one of him and so you’ll need to build the rest of your army so that it can handle itself, and he’s not nearly as effective when fighting high quality elite infantry. There’s not much to say about his cards; they’re all just Some Cool Shit that Jamie can do.
The High Sparrow
A really interesting commander, the High Sparrow gives an aura of +1 morale – very relevant because Lannisters are generally poorly motivated – and Incite, which is a really good rule in Lannisters because many of their high quality swordfighting units lose nearly half their attack power as they’re reduced in ranks. His tactics cards are really good, too – with the caveat that they all ask you to make morale checks and don’t work if you fail it. While religious soldiers love making extra morale checks the more of them you have the more thinly you’re spreading the benefits of making those checks. Notably, there are quite a few effects available to the Lannisters that give +1 to hit and Sundering – the benefit granted by the excellent Wrath of the Warrior card – which means that you might have fewer ideal targets to use that card on than you might think. It’s not useful on Halberdiers, Knights, Pyromancers, and Warrior’s Sons which is almost half the Lannister roster.
The Smart Guy, full of Smart Guy plays. Tyrion is what I’d call an Advanced Commander because his effects are all about disrupting your opponent’s plans, and that does not work if you do not understand your opponent’s plans. This means that he’s potentially very good, but also potentially completely ineffective. Counterstrategy, for example, is a great way to charge onto a pike unit and not take damage, but what if your opponent doesn’t bring a pike unit? Tactical Reposition is a great way to set up or to dance back from a charge, but what if the board position is not such that those three inches will be useful? False Agenda is a great way to ensure you get a critical tactics zone like the sword zone, but if you already have it? Intercept Orders can potentially crash the order of operations that your opponent’s entire gameplan that turn hinges on, but they might alternately have a Plan B that works just as well. Cunning Ploy can give a huge mobility boost to a critical unit, setting up for a clutch rear charge or moving a unit out of terrible danger and is the most reliable of his cards, but if you draw it on turn 3-4 when the lines are already locked then it might not make sense to use it at all. Tyrion is fantastic when he works and is the last word in Lannister control play, but you need to know your enemy as well as you know yourself.
Tywin Lannister is the best support and synergy commander at House Lannister’s disposal. His natural home is in a unit of Lannister Halberdiers because with his abilities they become essentially indestructible, throwing out 6+ wounds at an opponent who makes the mistake of charging him. And then, as an un-chargeable center anchor for the battlefield, he can still contribute to the fight – both by throwing out Weakened tokens at distant enemies and by exchanging Tywin’s activation for another’s with Issue Commands. He’s the perfect commander for sitting on an objective racking up bonus points all game. His other two cards, Broken Resolve and Exploit Weakness, are just generally great all round cards that help House Lannister do more of what they already want to do. He synergizes particularly well with Pycelle, Jamie and Vargo Hoat
They’ll reliably land about 2 hits with Precision that’ll go straight through armour, but that’s it. They’re cheap but it’s such a huge step down from the fantastic Lannister Guardsmen in terms of durability and power that the only reason to take them is for a cheap and reliable War Cry effect from the attached Faith Champion. That is a really good reason, though.
Seriously good objective and anvil troops, these basic infantry are the envy of almost every other faction. With their 3+ saves they’ll tarpit for days, and Lannister Supremacy is great for objective juggling – say your opponent snatches an objective from you in Dance with Dragons, this immediately forces a panic check that could give it right back to you. Where the Guardsmen fall down is their awful morale stat and anaemic killing power. They live and die by the panic check, the once they force on others and the ones they make themselves. A unit of Guardsmen holding a flank objective by themselves can be shockingly difficult to chew through but remember that they’re just buying time for the rest of your army to win.
Absolutely gold-plated faction defining soldiers, the Redcloaks are the heart of the Lannister morale game and the reason many opponents will bring a dedicated vs Lannister list. Each time they perform an action – which includes attacks triggered by things like the swords tactics zone – they can force an enemy in long range to make a panic check with potentially a -3 penalty. Three units of Redcloaks in midfield can do six wounds reliably to a unit of 7+ morale troops just by looking at them funny. They’re no slouches on the attack either, with a 3+ attack that isn’t much on its own but is great at taking buffs from a variety of sources and attachments. Mixing Kingsguard into Redcloaks is a natural move because all of their abilities trigger off the Crown zone. Lannister Justice is also a really good defensive ability.
The catch with the Redcloaks is that they’re low initiative units – they generally don’t want to activate until Joffrey (and it will be Joffrey if you’re going hard on these) is on the board. This means that if you’re deep on Redcloaks you’re going to be very predictable at the top of each round which can give your opponent multiple safe back to back activations before you’re ready to start the turn properly. That’s a much bigger drawback than it might seem at first, but not so much that the Redcloaks stop being amazing units.
Believe it or not, these are your dragonslayers. Monsters and cavalry will almost always have fewer ranks than the Mountain’s Men making them really vulnerable to the marauder’s blades. They’re decent at tarpitting low quality infantry, especially if there are a bunch of nearby Redcloaks forcing additional panic checks on their targets. You can’t generally rely on healing effects, though, because it is often quite easy for your opponent to avoid allocating attacks to the unit that can heal itself or will engage with a high morale unit, and in the absence of healing these guys have a very mediocre set of defensive stats.
Genuinely don’t rate these at all. They’ll hit three times on the average volley for a sweet, sweet total of two wounds against most targets on average. No defenses, no tricks, no hope, and they don’t even want to be firing into melee given how mediocre Lannister morale is. Pike and Shot halberd and crossbow squares are possible in this game but have no mistake that these are at their best when proxying for Stormcrow Archers.
Really good minimum-initiative professional soldiers, the Halberdiers are a great add to a list because they can just generally go last, meaning that they’re not a unit you need to worry about when planning your order of operations. They also make a great place to park a variety of commanders and attachments who you’re trying to not have killed. Tywin Lannister loves being in a unit of Halberdiers.
Unlike Crossbowmen, these have some real flex to them. More dice on the attack, ignoring defense entirely for a solid 4-5 wounds per volley (at the cost of one in their own), no loss of efficacy in close combat and Horrific Visage to add even more counterpunch to a unit they’re brawling with, the Pyromancers are worth a serious look – especially if you’re playing against highly armoured factions like House Baratheon. If you’re feeling particularly mean to poor Mr. Sandor Clegane, he’s a great way to give them some self healing which will reliably trigger because of their massive offensive output, which can go a long way to making up for their fragility.
The Warrior’s Sons
In my mind there’s only one way to play these guys: as the bodyguard to Barristan Selmy. With him you’ve got a 3+ morale unit which will restore 2 wounds for every morale check it passes. This combination is straight up immune to low quality opponents – anything that can chip a wound or two off past the shield of faith will have to watch as the Sons just heal back up to full. These guys can fight an endless quantity of Free Folk raiders and never break a sweat or lose an objective.
Gregor Clegane, The Mountain That Rides
If you’re not up against the Free Folk (who will bop him with Wildling Diplomacy) or a dragon (he dies instantly to dragonfire), or things generally that inflict automatic wounds, Clegane is an extremely good add. He’ll inflict about three wounds per turn automatically, Intimidating Presence is great to have on a mobile platform, and just having a cavalry unit in reserve can give you a tonne of flexibility for dealing with opponents sneaking around behind you.
The Knights of Casterly Rock
The Knights of Casterly Rock don’t have a lot of synergy with the rest of House Lannister. They’re best on the charge in a House with no retreat cards and no desire to claim the horse zone. They can win sustained melee engagements better than other lance cavalry due to Lannister Supremacy, but it’s still not where they want to be. They’ve got a punch to them, but they’re not great at killing things. They’re also very expensive and its hard to justify their inclusion but you should always try to anyway. A cavalry unit can just perform a fundamentally different role from the rest of your army in a way that you won’t fully appreciate until you’ve seen it in play. It is particularly hard to flank an enemy with even one unit of cavalry because the free maneuver just gives so much flexibility in responding to sudden threats or incautiously placed units.
More tricky to get use out of than she looks due to how the timing of her effects work. Basically you need her to be the second NCU to activate, after your first NCU has claimed the crown or purse, in order to get two tactics cards into your hand, which due to the timing may happen 4-5 actions deep in a round when your hand may be already depleted, meaning you’re not so much getting additional tactics cards as you are filling your hand with certain mediocre Lannister tactics cards moments before you draw back up to three, some of which may be far superior Commander tactics cards. My experience in many of my games is that you have so many competing priorities in the chaos of battle that organizing two NCU activations can be impractical in extremely the hectic turns 2 and 3.
Pycelle the Grand Maester
Just a solid, wonderful, reliable ability you can take to the bank every time. Absolutely killer with Jamie or Tywin in your list. You’ll never regret having him.
An absolutely faction defining piece for the Lannisters, the reigning King of Westeros provides an indispensable combination of effects that more than justify his demoralization of your own troops. Firstly, if you’re at all investing in Kingsguard attachments or Redcloaks his ability to guarantee control of the Crown zone is mandatory. Secondly, his presence pairs beautifully with a variety of Lannister tactics cards and effects. Finally, if you’re playing the morale game, he can add a significant extra punch to each of those effects – +1 wound on a d3 is +50% damage output, and if he does this to a unit that’s about to take three Redcloak attacks then it’s a serious power blow.
The High Sparrow
This is another excellent piece to take to support Joffrey and Redcloaks doing a morale offensive, able to make all the wounds inflicted by the Redcloak stare turn into healing for your own faction. It’s very powerful when it works, with the caveat that it may not work – as mentioned previously, if you’re fighting a list that has come specifically intending to lock its morale down then you might find that this just never gets the chance to go off to its full effect. Still, the threat of it is powerful enough to force your opponent to build against it specifically.
Deeply reliable and such a huge quality of life enhancement. With him present you likely will go through all 20 tactics cards in your deck over the course of the game, and having an emergency Counterplot up your sleeve can save you the game. He’s especially good in combat-focused Lannister lists because getting through to, say, the Mountain’s excellent tactics cards is a great advantage.
This is a massive cocktail of effects, and it’s absolutely worth its price. One, the timing is extremely permissive – at the start of any turn. Secondly, the effects are very powerful. Drop the hits, the panic test, the weakened and the panicked token on a unit of average soldiers (4+ save, 7+ morale), and you can expect seven casualties. Importantly, these are seven casualties that happen exactly on your own terms and at your own timing, meaning you can polish off a crippled unit on an objective that’s otherwise out of reach moments before it scores for example. But even that’s not the real selling point – the real selling point is turning off all abilities on a unit for an entire turn – and this includes attachment effects. Many lists center around a single elite key unit with multiple synergies and defenses, and if you’re just able to focus it down in a single massive explosion of damage – well, that’s easily worth the two extra points you spend on Tywin.
Arys Oakheart: While controlling the crown, reroll defense dice. Perfect in a unit of Lannister Guardsmen because with rerollable 3+ saves they can hold a flank by themselves.
Assault Veteran: -1 to morale tests, +1 wound on failing morale tests. A great addition to a Redcloak army, stacks with Joffrey’s effect – forcing 3 morale tests at -4 with +2 wounds on failure just by activating your units is real good, especially if the High Sparrow is turning all those wounds into healing.
Boros Blount: Inflicts revenge wounds based on destroyed ranks. I don’t generally rate this, Lannisters tend to hate being on low wounds so want to throw around healing or sturdy defenses to stop them from getting there.
Champion of the Faith: War Cry – pass a morale check to apply Panicked and Vulnerable. Importantly can be done at the start of any friendly turn, not just the unit’s activation. Absolutely mandatory include in a unit of Poor Fellows as he’s one of the very few ways the Lannisters can get access to Panicked tokens.
Guard Captain: +1 Morale, -1 Casualty from failing panicked checks. An entirely reasonable add to a unit of Lannister Guardsmen because morale casualties are by far their biggest threat.
Mandon Moore: When controlling the Crown melee attacks are +1 to hit and Sundering. An absolutely killer effect on a unit of Redcloaks, moving them to 2+ and Sundering making them seriously good at fighting.
Meryn Trant: When controlling the crown, melee attacks cause Panicked and Weakened. I actually like this much less than the Champion of the Faith because the range and timing so massively favours War Cry.
Preston Greenfield: Can replace the Crown with ‘perform a free maneuver or march action’. The additional march is very cute and could mean a lot on a unit of Pyromancers, but the timing and conditionality makes it unreliable and low value.
Sandor Clegane: After an attack, if the defender took wounds recover 1 wound + 1 per destroyed rank, and inflicts Vulnerable on the charge. Sandor is great, but it’s hard for House Lannister particularly to find a place for him because so few of their units want to be charging in and getting victory through direct confrontation. As mentioned previously, taking the guy famous for being afraid of fire and putting him in a unit of Pyromancers is clutch because he can heal them from their self-inflicted casualties
Sentinel Enforcer: Terrain isn’t placed randomly in SOIAF. You can absolutely build a gameplan around putting some stakes down under a midfield objective, running this guy in a unit of halberds up to it, and dragging your opponent through the spikes onto your spears.
Tyrion Lannister: This effect might not seem like much, but damn is it great when it goes off. You can, for example, charge directly onto a wall of spears and turn off Set for Charge, or you can crack the shieldwall of otherwise invincible House Tully Sworn Shields. It doesn’t stop tactics cards from being used against your units, only against enemy units, and it relies on smart play to get Tyrion somewhere he can do his thing but it’s definitely an ability I’ve come to value.
Barristan Selmy: +2 Morale is a big deal – it’s enough to push an already good at morale unit into ‘never fail a check ever’ territory. A unit like, say, the Warrior’s Sons. And then if a unit like, say the Warrior’s Sons regenerates each time it makes a morale check, and gains faith tokens to empower its attack and defense, and then gets the opportunity to make bonus morale checks because the High Sparrow is your commander, then that unit becomes essentially unkillable.
Clegane Butcher: This is neat if sprung on an unprepared opponent, but it means that the Knights of Casterly Rock become a 10 point unit, and they’re just not good enough at cracking morale defense to justify this.
Gregor Clegane: Put this dude in a unit of Stormcrow Mercenaries. It’s a 6 point unit that’ll be the stabbiest thing in House Lannister, inflicting two automatic wounds per action and potentially activating three times in a turn (sword, purse, normal activation). You want him to fail the morale check for the automatic 6 inch charge most of the time too so the stormcrow’s low morale helps rather than hinders. There’s a mounted version of him but it’s extremely Not Worth.
Jamie Lannister: Attachment assassination is a very powerful effect, especially against factions like Free Folk that live and die on their attachments. He’s especially good paired with Tywin because even if this version of him doesn’t come with Disrupt for -1 to hit, Weakened tokens are the next best thing. He’s also a model that works great in Stormcrow Mercenaries.
Jamie, Maimed Captive: Attach to an enemy unit; gives you a VP if you destroy that unit, and if you control the Crown inflicts -1 to hit on that unit. This is a seriously good effect in a Joffrey/Kingsguard list; simple, easy to trigger, and a massive drag on your opponent’s key attack unit.
Turncoat: Once per game, inflict a wound on the unit this is attached to, take a condition, not use orders, or be the target of tactics cards. If you have a point to spare try to get this guy into your list – it’s hard to know what you’ll use him for in the abstract but as soon as you see the enemy’s army you’ll usually see some absolute homewrecker piece that you just want to turn off for a turn.
I Am The State!
This list is likely to come as rank heresy to players of the previous edition who are still stuck in a meta requiring three NCUs but I think it’s the meanest possible Lannister list that’ll absolutely shred any lists that aren’t prepared for it.
- The High Sparrow (Commander)
- Assault Veteran
- Mandon Moore
- Arys Oakheart
- Barristan Selmy
Jamie Lannister Maimed Hostage
This list forsakes the traditional second NCU in exchange for a massive boost in direct combat unit power across the board. Joffrey activates as your first action every turn and claims either the swords if your units are engaged or whatever other option is relevant. Then you can activate the Redcloaks back to back, ending with the Warrior’s Sons and the Guardsmen at the bottom of the round, trusting in their massive durability to take them through the turn. With five high quality fighting units this list can brawl even against a list that’s specifically prepared to deal with Lannister morale games making it a fantastic all rounder. The only weakness in this list is Joffrey himself – if your opponent has access to a tactic or ability that can switch off his automatic control of the Crown then suddenly all of your shit stops working. Things to watch out for include a Lannister mirror matchup or Renley Baratheon if you think Olenna Tyrell is in play. She killed him in the books, she’ll kill him here too.
Lannister All Stars
- Gregor Clegane
- Jamie Lannister
- Tywin Lannister (Commander)
The gang’s all here! This is the Lannisters at their least Lannistery, relying on the absolute avalanche potential of their superstar hero personalities leading discount mercenaries. The idea is to funnel as many resources directly into the Mountain for the bulk of your killing power, while Jamie assassinates key enemy leaders and Tywin supports by holding an objective and using the Issue Commands card – which Tyrion helps him get to – in order to give up his activation and let Clegane do more Clegane things. This is the list to bring if you’re up against things that the Lannisters normally just can’t deal with, like Targaryen dragons or Free Folk giants.
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