Starks and Lannisters – S04 Review – ASOIAF: TMG

A Song of Ice and Fire: The Miniatures Game Season 4 has been out for a few weeks 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 begin our review of S.04 and how much it will impact the game for the next 6 months.

We start off with the two that started this whole journey: Starks and Lannisters.

Ned Stark – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints


In S.03 Starks were starting to show their age with them falling behind in standing when matched up to the rest of the Factions. Whilst the update to the Commanders was needed in the previous update, what has really been letting the Faction down has been the Units. Without a good update to what they offer most of the Units are left behind by the player to keep up with the higher quality Units freshly released by other Factions.

In S.04, things are about to change, a plethora of Units have been reworked and updated with very little changes to balance out the Faction. The days of worrying about the Northerners are not over, for winter is coming.

Greatjon Umber – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

House Umber – Everything!

Greatjon Umber – Greatjon Commander has seen a slight change from the rework of the Overrun Order. You can now perform a March or a Charge action instead of Surging Forth. There are situations where this can be helpful, and the best players will make sure to think ahead with positioning to get the most out of this addition to the rule. The potential in this Order is high but you could play games where you get nothing out of it, on the other hand the games that you do get some value from the Order will see it be a crucial part of the game.

There is some criticism that there is no pivot before the March action resulting in your Unit being out of position, making the change to the Order redundant. Implementing this would be very strong, that would result in the player base spamming the rule as best they can just like with other Orders in the game’s history. It is a high reward Order and when used could define the whole game. I have never experienced a game where after Overrun is used, the game is undecided.

CMON doesn’t go into detail as to why they changed Overrun, however it does align with some other changes in the Update. The developers have been changing niche Units to fit a wider list of designs rather than something specific. If it doesn’t get used often, then let’s change that. Overrun wasn’t used often as it is harder to pull off, and whilst it doesn’t need a change since the reward is very substantial, the developers have reworked it to add more value throughout the game.

A better design here might have been to follow in the footsteps of the Targaryen Base Deck Tactics Card Unstoppable Advance, where the Surge Forth has an additional +3 Movement. This would be used a lot more rather than maintain the Order’s situational usage. At the same time, it is not as egregious as a full March, but it still helps get the Unit into a potential engagement where they want to be.

Umber Champion – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Greataxes – Greataxes have had a much-needed rework that essentially just updates their design into the current era of the game. They are now firmly back to being one of the best Units in the game to cut through armour where the opponent can only pass saves on 6s. They also gained a way to generate some condition tokens for the Faction with the Weakened Token being generated in similar form to other great weapons from the Baratheon line.

This is a welcomed update that was much needed, however the Unit will not be the new hotness to spam considering their low dice for their attack. Their value is completely dependent on the state of other Factions and what they bring. If the meta is high activation of cheaper weak Units, then the Greataxes will be terrible, but if it is filled with resilient tough to crack Units then they become invaluable. Hopefully we see more of this OG Unit in this season.

Umber Berserkers – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Berserkers – What a glow up the Berserkers have gotten! The changes to this Unit might result in it becoming a huge problem for the game and in some cases it already has. The Berserkers have always gotten better the less ranks they have but now their Attack Dice, Defense Save, and Morale Stat get better the more ranks they lose. On the last rank they become a 3+ 3+ Unit. This on its own is fine and turns them into a tough Unit to shift, but when you start adding some other resilient pieces to the Unit, they become a little bit ridiculous.

A popular choice for the Berserkers is with Maege Mormont Commander. She gives them a combat keyword they sorely need whilst helping them to maintain some effectiveness with re-rolls and highest dice from the get-go. But alongside her comes Here We Stand! To keep the Unit around longer and Support of Bear Island to further enhance this. Whilst there aren’t many ways to buff the combat, there are plenty of ways to continue buffing their defence. I do believe this Unit will become an issue for the game if the Stark player can play their cards right, but whether it is a problem that needs addressing just like GCS it is not quite clear. I look forward to seeing the combos, preferably against other people and not me though.

House Karstark – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

House Karstark – Loyalists and Spearmen

Loyalists – Loyalists were fully reworked from a defensive and precise Unit that was familiar to the Stark style, to another aggressive Unit that works around Condition Tokens and Morale Damage. The developers said,

“Loyalists lacked a focused role in the stark arsenal, especially up against the more generalist use of Stark Sworn Swords. They have been reworked with as an option to allow the Stark army to explore more elements of Vicious as well as Condition token play.”

I do not believe this is a correct understanding of what the Karstark Loyalists were, needed to be, and are now. Starks do not have many ways to cut open heavy armoured Units without investing in highly costly answers for them in the Umber Greataxes or Tully Cavaliers. Precision from the Loyalists allowed them to play this role whilst having an in-built healing mechanic allowing them to remain in the game longer than most Stark Units. Karstarks gained a theme of sticking around longer than the Starks with the defensive Karstark Spearmen added on to this. Both have seen changes in recent updates pushing them away from a defensive role and into the crowded aggressive role for the Faction.

In terms of offering Starks more options to play with Vicious and Token play, this is already an option scope for creativity in a few Units ins the Mormont She-Bears or even the Crannogman Trackers, with the Vicious side of things coming from the Bolton Faction. In most instances, if players want to bring a 5pts Unit for Vicious plays they will be bringing Cutthroats who can also put out tokens. Loyalists are not bad, but they aren’t that much different from what is at the Starks’ disposal, resulting in this change being lacklustre whilst sacrificing a unique playing style of a defensive Stark force.

Karstark Spearmen – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Spearmen – The Karstark Spearmen have gone down a point making them a very viable 5pts Unit for the Starks to bring to the table. A defensive Unit that can withstand some brutal attacks whilst being able to distribute some hurt to the field. Before they lost their super defence abilities, they were a hard nut to crack but resulted in the Unit not really engaging in the game. Now they are engaged with the game and can play an active role but at 6pts they do not work. The change to the points perfectly matches the previous change bringing them to a more reasonable level. Furthermore, they don’t challenge other 5pts Units since these are the defensive picks and the other 5pts Units have their places in the Faction that don’t overlap. A great change to which you will see this Unit plenty more in S.04.

Karstark Spearmen – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Karstark Theme – The Karstark Affiliation and identity is a mess. Umbers are recognisable as being the most aggressive side of Starks turning it up to eleven whilst taking some recoil damage for it. Reeds are your tech pieces, frail but have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Mormonts take the last person standing ideology to the next level wanting to play on the final rank whilst striking back as much as possible. Karstarks are what exactly? Spearmen don’t have anything that aligns with Loyalists and nothing about Rickard Karstark as a Commander unifies this Affiliation together.

Before they were the defensive side of the Faction, one that keeps some aggressiveness of Starks whilst dipping their toes into the defence pool or jumping fully into it in the likes of the Spearmen. Tullys also suffer from not being that well defined but still have a thematic place and design in the Faction. If we go down the Vicious route and make Karstarks a Morale damaging Faction, this might be a window of opportunity to return the Bolton’s to northern fold since the Neutral points heavily restrict them. It makes thematic sense to do thai since this is where Karstarks find their loyalty post Red Wedding.

Stark Bowmen – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Personally, Karstarks should not be Morae/Token themed, or defensive themed, this is just not how they are written. They are intertwined with the Stark family that they literally are just an offshoot of them. Starks focus on justice and honour throughout their history but do not bend to this in a way that sacrifices their decency, but Karstarks do, this is where they should be familiar but then differ. Stark Sworn Swords have Critical Blow whereas Loyalists should keep their Precision, it is a nice way of showing that Starks gain more to their way of approaching things, but Karstarks remain narrow minded and thus those that agree with their ideologies are listed on a narrow column.

Rickard constantly shows the hypocrisy of the Starks, proving that they are not fully aligned with justice and honour, this weakens Robb and ultimately results in his family’s downfall. Taunt and Karstark Retribution showcase this, alongside the Spearmen’s Stand Your Ground ability. You question the foe and weaken them in one way or the other, either by forcing tokens, removing abilities, or doing what you expect them to do like the charge. They are not Vicious warriors who panic their enemies. I would focus them on restricting the opponent by removing abilities or forcing them into confrontations to question their prowess. There are already some building blocks of this present in the Karstark arsenal to develop further.

Mormont She-Bears – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

House Mormont – Maege, Bruisers, and She-Bears

Maege Mormont – Just like Greatjon, Maege Commander has seen a change from a Universal Order in the Battle Scars rework. Battle Scars before the patch relied on getting engaged, then being attacked, then performing an attack just to get one third of the ability. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to gain a benefit that other rules just give away. Thus, the ability was never considered worthwhile and always was left at home. But now you always get some form of effect from the ability with the potential for more as the game goes on. The re-rolls will likely be the choice most of the time, but the Vicious can and will see some play.

Maege has been a useless 1pts Attachment as a Commander for a while now, and this change will make a huge difference for a lot of her Affiliation’s Units but some others in the Faction. As a result of this, Maege has found herself taken a lot more by players in S.04 due to some of her cards and how they interact with some of the new Units from the update. She is a perfect Commander for the new Umber Berserkers and Ravagers, allowing them to remain in the game fully powered up with her card Here We Stand!

Maege has a place in the game now and we are seeing her being played, however, whether this is too much and needs to be toned down remains to be seen. For now, enjoy her newfound power.

Lyanna Mormont – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Bruisers – Bruisers lose Counterstrike and gain Disrupt. A different defensive ability for another defensive ability. CMON states that this was done to turn the Unit into a mobile-disruption unit rather than just another bruiser option available to Starks. I am unsure if this is how the Unit will be played and also why this was the thought process behind them.

Grey Wind’s gimmick is essential, and no one is clambering to utilise him. I do believe this could be better for the Unit to work with some characters in the game such as Rickon and Osha, but a 5+ armour Unit might not be the best location for Rickon to chill out in. Howland Reed NCU can stack a further -1 to Hit so there is potential with him also. To be honest this feels like a nothing updates as I don’t believe it will have a massive impact. Will need to wait and see what happens.

Mormont She-Bears – Painted by Jonathan Paul Pfund – Instagram: wavecolors.tabletopart Website:

She-Bears – A small change to the She-Bears to fix their dice value to represent that of 6pts Units. Again, I don’t think this is a massive change and will only be felt by those who have played the She-Bears a lot and plan to play them again now. It is sort of hard to look at She-Bears in the current state of the faction with how good Berserkers are and the token play is shared across multiple other Units. They also aren’t the best bunker for Rickon and Osha anymore with that going to the Bruisers or the cheaper Karstark Spearmen. Could this be the downturn for the She-Bears in prominence?

Stark Outriders – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints


Outriders have always been at the back of most players’ minds. They are an old Unit left behind by the Stark model refresh but have always had capable rules in a decent place for the Faction. Most other cavalry options are so good however, that Outriders tend to be left at home. The change from Sudden Retreat to Tactical Reposition is going to give them more play with the rest of the Faction as a support piece that swings round to finish off Units or soften them for a better Unit. But the unique style of being incredibly hard to pin down and manoeuvrable gave them an interesting place in the Faction and for some Commanders like Robb Stark.

In S.03 Crannogman Trackers lost their retreat, and in S.04 Outriders lost it. Robb loved these Units not just because of his own rule set but thematically a very mobile army fit so well. Taking away some of these elements will harm this interesting style of play just to bring them into a more common place with the rest of the force. Most of S.04 is about sacrificing niche rules design to get a ruleset with more playability. The focus has shifted to purely play rate, if it isn’t being played enough or is being played too much, it needs to change. Whilst I am personally not a fan of this, it is better for the Faction and game.

Stark Outriders – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

NCUs – Rodrik and Howland 

Rodrik Cassel – I loved Rodrik in House Reed or Robb Stark lists. There were so many Orders available to use that bringing Rodrilk was a no-brainer to get some more use out of the army. The change to him now removes his niche place within the Stark roster for one that could be useful anywhere. I have already spoken about how I am not a fan of taking away a niche design that doesn’t need to change to rework the rules so that they are useful in more places.

This update has changed Rodrik to give re-rolls to your melee attacks which can be very useful for those Units stuck in a prolonged engagement, something many of your Units want to be. It is hard however, to overlook other NCUs for Rodrik considering Sansa, Arya, and Catelyn tend to be far more valuable in their impact in the game. If Rodrik didn’t change, there would be a reason to consider him over these three and others, if the list had multiple Orders you may want to utilise more often. Now it is lacklustre. We won’t see more of Rodrik, and possibly may see him less.

Crannogman Trackers – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Howland Reed – Reed has changed quite drastically whilst remaining the same. CMON has correctly recognised that Howland was not being taken due to his points cost being a competitive zone with Eddard being so good, thus they reduced him to 4pts but needed to balance his rules to match his new points bracket. His endless debuff is not one use when he influences an enemy Unit, so if you have an additional action then it is free of the traps Reed has planted.

Howland still maintains his semi-niche rules here, allowing for multiple negative modifiers stacking. But I think he was left this way as it has a lot of play across the board, such as reducing the effectiveness of a cavalry charge or bringing elite Units down in quality. Whilst this works in a lot of places, just like Rodrik, it is hard to weigh up his worth in comparison to the Stark family trinity. I am curious to see if he becomes a staple or whether he will be left behind.

Crannogman Trackers – Painted by Tim Whitney – insta: tim_paints

Sansa – Whilst there have been no changes to Sansa Stark in this update, I do want to mention her due to how much she is being taken. Sansa is able to bring back some of the best Tactics Cards Stark players can bring either once per game when she activates, or she can replace a zone to do it. In a Maege Mormont list, she could bring about an endless cycle of returning Here We Stand! To the game, if you get the right timings on keeping your Unit alive and bringing the card back, you may end up with an unkillable Unit.

It’s not just Maege Mormont where Sansa is most useful, almost every Commander has a significant Tactics Card you want to bring back, especially if it can help turn the tide like some of Eddard Stark’s or Greatjon Umber’s cards. There are plenty of other NCUs that are looking very good for the Stark players, and it might be worth investing in something that can out do them in your force.

Red Cloaks – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris


Lannisters have been on the rise in the last few updates. Heroes Box 3 put the Faction on life support and catapulted the Faction back into relevance with Addam Marband and Kevan Lannister. They have maintained this prowess leading into S.03 which turned out to be a great time for Gregor who joined Kevan in the high-ranking status.

But what goes up, surely must fall. Kevan has been very dominant within his Faction for a while preventing many other Commanders from competing, even Addam Marbrand has dropped off, but Kevan has remained firm. Gregor only joined Kevan with the help of the Adaptive Style Units and if these were to fall then Gregor’s rise to the top will be short lived. But don’t count Lannisters out before you hear them roar.

Maimed Jaime, The Mountain, and Kevan Lannister – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Kevan Lannister

Long live Kevan Lannister. Might of the Iron Throne and Predictable Maneuvers have been changed to limit the power of these two rules. CMON are recognising that free actions need to be balanced carefully and perhaps flashbacks to Othell Yarwyck’s domination has opened their eyes to some of the most potent ranged Units in the game. Whilst Bronn in Lannister Crossbowmen is still a thing, it does not take advantage of Seeing Their Flaws which was a major power here. But alongside that comes the change to Predictable Maneuvers further knocking the multiple free actions design out of the way.

It is a wonder how we keep coming back to a Commander that is good because of multiple free actions and is now getting nerfed.

Kevan is still a decent Commander with Wealth of the Rock being a fantastic card. When you look at Kevan’s abilities and his other cards, you want to put him in a decent melee Unit to take advantage of all these benefits, and remarkably I do think it might be the Honour Guard who can shine with Kevan. There are other Units that can benefit from this and perhaps playtesting is the only way to find out. I hope this is not the end of Kevan Lannister.

KS Gregor Clegane– Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Commanders – Gregor and Joffrey’s Kingsguard

Gregor Clegane – We have spoken about the power of Overrun with Greatjon, but it has also changed for the dominating S.03 Gregor Clegane Commander. There isn’t too much differing opinion between Factions for the effects of the update with Overrun here, but Lannisters are slightly slower overall than the Starks and most of their Units, so extra ways to get yourself around the board will be useful. However, again I doubt this change will have much of an impact on the game.

Joffrey and his Kingsguard – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

The Kingsguard – The Kingsguard join their Commander in a glow up from an update. Now sporting the powerful Order Resilience, they can withstand more heat to make up for their eight wounds profile. Joffrey has been getting better and better as time goes on and now his Unit can join him on that endeavour. With Kevan being downgraded and Gregor not as prominent without his Adaptive Style Units, Lannisters need to look to the rest of their Faction once again for a leader, and they are spoilt for choice.

Tyrion, Tywin, Sparrow, there are many that could rival Joffrey for the spotlight, but I do believe that due to this change Joffrey may become one of the best Commanders for Lannisters to use.

Joffrey and Jaime Lannister – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Lannisport City Watch

Poor poor Lannister City Watch. In directly boosted and then nerfed by the big brother of Golden Company Swordsmen’s reputation. I want to believe the Unit is better now than before the meddling, the Sundering and Critical Blow is better value than just extra hits as keywords are invaluable. I can see a lot of players looking for an Attachment to better them like Qyburn for +1 to Hit and Vicious or one of the Kingsguard.

Do they do enough to be picked instead of other Units? No, there are better Units for any role this Unit could do such as Mountain’s Men for the attack, or Guardsmen for defence. I will however mention that they are stunning models which is a big factor when players decide what they play. If it looks cool, chances are people will play them anyways, and it is not as if the Unit is pointless, it can do the job and be versatile in what is needed and when.

They are likely to spend more time gathering dust on the shelf, but unlike other Units in the game, they will hit the table every now and again, perhaps there is a secret combo that we haven’t noticed.

Varys, Petyr, and Pycelle – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

NCUs – Pycelle, Qyburn, and Tommen

Pycelle – The changes to Pycelle are to revert the buff granted to him from the S.03 update. The developers believed that Pycelle was not taken enough resulting in him being allowed to choose from Vulnerable or Weakened Tokens when claiming a zone. However, the community was quick to point out that he was taken quite often at almost 75% pick rate according to ASOIAF-Stats. Thus, CMON recognised their mistake and reverted the change.

CMON didn’t leave it at that. Since they now had the knowledge of the pick rate for this NCU, they decided to limit his ability to three times per game like Roose Bolton and his Panic Tokens. We should praise this moment since CMON could have reverted the change and done nothing about the large play rate of a character. Instead, they decided to address some internal balancing within the Faction whilst keeping Pycelle at a reasonable level to be taken, just not as often, which will diversify lists. Although I do not think it is the Pycelle change alone that will diversify lists, but rather a change to another NCU.

Qyburn – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Qyburn – Qyburn’s design to be the opposite of Varys but still quite similar was a brilliant creative decision. However, in practice it comes down to the effects that decide if he should be taken. The developers have made the right choice to rework him completely since his effects are not worthwhile and would not out match The Spider. I also believe that he should have a name change. His Master of Whispers form is in white robes, with a gold sash, something perfect for masking who he really is on the council. To those that see him, he is a high standing lord. This model resembles the torturer, experimenting on people. Save the name of both the model and rules for another Qyburn, make this the mad scientist.

Qyburn is not the opposite of Varys; he locks horns with Pycelle. So, a better design for his rules would be a counterpart to Pycelle, which the developers have successfully done by making him a condition token generator like the Grand Maester. It works a little differently and may even be better in some cases, but the Vulnerable tokens will be just as valuable as Weakened tokens. So now you pick your poison. Do you bring Pycelle for defensive, or Qyburn for offence?

Tommen Baratheon – Painted by Ben Phillips – Instagram: your_average_painter_guy – Features on Insta: ste.norris

Tommen – The last Lannister NCU that was changed was Tommen with Cersei. I long for the day we get a Tommen riding his training pony from the joust scene, but that would be ridiculous. Tommen has never been a huge standout for Lannister players, but he had his uses in specific lists. I like the design of being just a different version of Cersei since he is just puppeted from behind the scenes. The new rules have him mainly interact with the Tactics Board with pulling cards to either neutralise an NCU or to Bribe combat Units until the support of an NCU.

I personally believe this is worse rules wise, but I might understand why. Fealty of the Crown is a fantastic card for a Faction that can force Morale Tests with a significant number of negatives included. Gaining a steady source of healing is not something often found in the Lannister repertoire, but Tommen gave access to it a lot more creating a unique list. I now see him being played when you need to shut down specific NCUs which gives him more play, but way more predictability. In a sea of great NCUs for Lannisters, I can only see Tommen struggling to swim.

Tywin Lannister – Painted by Jonathan Paul Pfund – Instagram: wavecolors.tabletopart Website:

Final Thoughts

Starks and Lannisters. It has been a journey but for the most part both Factions are in a good place. Many people are excited to play various lists and try out new combinations with very few things being a problem, it is refreshing to not notice a sweeping issue with them. Furthermore, this means future updates are not at the top of the list for what we are looking forward to but new releases that will further enhance the list building and playstyle of the Factions. It is a very good time to be a ASOIAF: TMG player.

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