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A Game of Thrones 2nd Edition Speculation: House Greyjoy

A Game of Thrones Second Edition Istaril Speculation

In the first of an eight-part, eight-author series speculating on and examining our hopes for each house faction in Game of Thrones 2.0, Istaril brings us his take on the House of the Kraken.

Note that the content of these articles are entirely speculation and wishes from players who consider themselves fans of each faction in question. Please do not take any predictions as fact. At the same time, if any of these guesses are correct, we demand all the credit.

[Minor spoilers through to A Feast for Crows]

I am the Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke, King of Salt and Rock, Son of the Sea Wind, and no man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price. I will take my crown, as Urron Redhand did five thousand years ago. – Balon Greyjoy, A Clash of Kings

House Colours: Should be black and gold. Since black is at a high premium (Targaryen, Baratheon & Night’s Watch) I expect either an iron grey, or its traditional blue.
What we know so far: 1 piece of card art entitled “The Great Kraken”.
Posted Image

House Greyjoy wasn't included in the initial CCG release (although they were the first faction to be subsequently introduced), nor did they make it into the Core set of the LCG™. The adaptation of Greyjoy’s themes into a core environment, then, is a brand new challenge for the developers! Since iconic characters like Eddard are bound to make an appearance, it would make the most sense to tie the core set to the ‘opening acts’ of the books and rely primarily on material from A Game of Thrones. If that's the case, it would leave Greyjoy pretty barren; only Theon makes any appearance. Casting our nets back to the Greyjoy rebellion for characters just doesn’t seem likely, especially if there’s an aim to appeal to the fans of the HBO™ show.

So whom should we expect? Theon, obviously, and probably both Asha and Balon – especially with his warship, Great Kraken, already practically confirmed. With three of four surviving immediate family members, Alannys Harlaw might round out the complement. Personally, I’d like to see Euron, the most enigmatic Greyjoy, save his appearance for a later date. His return in the books shook things up (well, at least shook one particular bridge) and I’d love to see a nod to it by having Euron appear later than the core, bringing with him an alternate direction for the faction.

Since we’re not tied to the first book, there’s a lot more room to choose how to embody each of these characters. Theon, of course, should be Theon as we first meet him; an archer, skilled, cocky but soft - an ironborn in name only. In contrast, the other uniques could embody aspects from any of their appearances. As such, it’s less the characters than the overall theme of the faction that I’ll explore.

The Old Way

Before we leap into what to mechanics to expect from Greyjoy in 2.0, let’s identify some of key mechanics, and how those tie into the theme in their current incarnation. Note that certain underlying themes, like the support of warships, military strength and aggression touch on almost all of these mechanics.
  • The unopposed challenge, representing the idea of surprise raids in general, and more specifically, the conquest of the North while Robb had his back turned. With both the means to generate unopposed challenges (frequently warship based [Scouting Vessel]) and abilities that profited from it [Rise of the Kraken], this was probably the most thematic and consistent Greyjoy element. That same hit-and-run/naval superiority theme has also been reinforced both with a strong focus on warship locations and with the naval icon theme, allowing them to surprise their opponent and hit them while they’re weak.
  • Raiding. This has had two incarnations. The first, which the designers actually call "raiding", is better known as “Mill”. This is the idea of discarding cards from your opponent’s deck, presumably representing a destruction of their opponent’s carefully prepared stores. Because of mechanical difficulties with raiding as a theme, to date this has never really paid off except as a means to trigger or activate certain other abilities [Corpse Lake]. The second take on the raiding theme seems to be the choke mechanics [Burned and Pillaged], which, by more directly impacting your opponent’s resources, feel much more satisfyingly like pillaging.
  • The Drowned God. A religion unique to the Ironborn, its harsh precepts go hand in hand with The Old Way. The Ironborn pay more than lip service to their god – as evidenced by the tremendous respect afforded to Aeron Damphair, Tarle Thrice-Drowned and Drowned Men in general. It's central to both the Aeron and Victarion point-of-view chapters. This theme has also been interpreted in two distinct fashions: Holy Crests and saves/avoidance of death. This latter connection appears to be a contrived representation of the creed What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.” Risen from the Sea even gives the character that little +1 STR. Cute.
Another recurring theme is that of STR pumps, typically from warships [Longship Iron Victory]. This is probably a literal-minded means of embodying the idea that the house's strength is in their fleet, but I don't think it's a core component of the Greyjoy experience. There should always be a feeling of naval support, but I've felt the STR pumps themselves to be only one of many ways to exhibit this. Finally, Greyjoy appears to have a cancellation sub-theme [Seasick], although it’s never been clear to me what this was meant to represent. In the CCG, each house had some cancellation (each for different ability types), but in the LCG™ Greyjoy’s cancel seem to have risen to prominence. While it complements both save and choke mechanics nicely, I can give it no less tenuous a thematic link than “Greyjoy doesn’t like to play by other people’s plans” – Balon’s refusal to take part in Robb’s rebellion, for instance. It's more likely that people just carried over Magic™ biases, expecting a 'blue' faction to have cancels.

A faction's theme isn't only defined by its strengths, but also by its shortcomings. Greyjoy has consistently had several of these: few natural resources (Draw), little to no reliance on subtleties or spies (weak intrigue), and a history of kneeling to kings (vulnerability to soft control), especially of the kind with big dragons named Balerion (burn bypasses their saves).

The Rise of the Kraken

Greyjoy is the most thematically consistent House in AGOT1.0. They’ve been well represented by bleak art, proud warships, hard lands, and aggressive characters. Not only has the theme been reinforced through mechanics at every opportunity, Greyjoy is almost unique in that its traditional weaknesses have remained despite the growing cardpool. Look carefully at how well the themes (if not the cards) introduced in the Kings of the Sea set have held up - five of my seven example cards are from that box! Of all the factions in 2.0, I expect Greyjoy to remain the most faithful to its current incarnation.

It will be impossible to fit all their existing themes into a maximum of 25 cards, so we shouldn’t see them all at once. Since I expect the character emphasis to be on Theon's immediate family, this decreases the need to to represent the Drowned God side of things. As one of the easiest mechanics to tie to warships and the most reminiscent of Greyjoy’s actions in the show, I predict the emphasis will be placed squarely on the unopposed challenges. Ideally we’d have warships that help generate unopposed challenges and characters that benefit from participating in them.

One of the great benefits of focussing on unopposed challenges is that it's a good learning experience for new players. It serves to highlight why you might want to defend challenges – even when you can’t win them. The slow trickle of power from doing so isn’t as visceral as Greyjoy pouncing on you for letting them slip through your defenses…

The secondary theme I’d most like to see explored is that of raiding for resources. We all know House Greyjoy Does not Sow – so let's see them Reap. This could be represented in any number of ways: the return of choke, a means of generating resources by winning unopposed challenges, or maybe even just reducing your opponent's reserve values. I think it’s important to encourage the Greyjoy player to think about resources differently than other factions. There’s not much arable land in the Iron Islands!

Finally, while I'd like to see cancel and "mill" abandoned entirely, there are several other themes I'd hope to see explored down the line. First among them is a less ham-fisted interpretation of the Drowned God’s creed. The Drowned Men should feature prominently, but without the Holy Crest, they’ll need a new way to keep them identifiable – perhaps, as the political manipulators and kingmakers, they could be Greyjoy’s only intrigue presence? Or maybe generate additional challenges if you lose as an attacker, to represent Greyjoy’s repeated rebellions, and the idea of trying to “rise again, harder and stronger”? That would fit nicely with Balon’s “He who kneels may rise again, blade in hand” philosophy.

In the end, keep in mind that all of this is just my speculation. In the (overused) words of Martin: words are wind. Wind, though, might fill our sails! Where do your words lead the the Iron Fleet in 2.0?

Istaril learned to play Thrones while living on a cold and rocky island, 20 km from an iron ore mine. He has no idea why House Greyjoy appeals to him…

Expect another author's take on another faction in the near future. When FFG™ officially releases more information about the House Greyjoy faction, we'll have another look.

  • Bomb, Alando, emptyrepublic and 15 others like this


I wet myself even before reading this. Thank you for your afford!

Great writing. I really like the idea of Greyjoy raiding reducing the reserve value of the opponent. Thanks for making the effort!

To echo the above, this is excellent. Almost enough to make me want to play Greyjoy in 1st Ed.

Can't wait for the rest of the series.

This is a great article.  I really love that it's short and sweet.  It actually makes me want to speculate on one of the other factions myself using your above article as a template.

I think James might still be look for a contributor or two - you should definitely talk to him if you're interested!


I'd also love to hear other people's take on Greyjoy here in the comments - anything I over/under emphasized, and whackier ideas about how to implement Greyjoy themes! I know there were a lot of interesting comments back in this thread, including a recurring suggestion that they get some form of Ambush.

Well, one thing that is very abundant in 1.0 that I failed to see above is how many effects Greyjoy has that involves locations.


They have a bunch of location control, protection, stealing(from in-play and from discard piles), and use their locations to do a lot of their dirty work. 


So, it makes me wonder how much of that will translate over to the 2nd edition.  I imagine it won't be limited to Warships, however they are their pride and (Grey)joy and should again be a major focus on their faction.


Considering raiding is about pillaging and conquering locations, I imagine they will be the dominant faction in location control again with perhaps another faction or two having some minor location control.  Maybe even some neutral cards so every faction has a little access to it.  Just that Greyjoy will have more than the others.


I actually think Greyjoy's specialty should not be location control against income producing cards because their access is immediately limited to what they can reach by sea.  Therefore, I do not think choke should be their forte. Most of the income producing cards represent roads or locations leading to other locations that represent trade routes and whatnot.  So, perhaps their location control should be limited to non-income producing cards or non-limited cards(since a significant percentage of them are income producers).


I actually could see something like this work because it would require sacking or raiding a non-income location first unless the road was accessible by the sea:


Response:  After you win a [unopposed?] challenge [insert a reasonable condition here], discard a non-income producing location.  Then, you may discard an additional non-Warship location that shares a trait with the location you just discarded.


My view of the above effect is that it might simulate a moving raiding party that goes from one location to another in the sense of locations being in proximity to each other.  The non-income producing location clause is there because the typical income cards are trade routes or roads that connect locations together and I anticipate that Greyjoy will not start raiding at a road from the shore.  (Unless they create some specific income producing cards that are at a shore)


In the above case, let's say that we have Street of Steel and Street of Sisters in play.  These locations both share the King's Landing trait.  Now, a raiding party that is pillaging Street of Steel should easily be able to move on to pillage Street of Sisters next because it is in the proximity of Street of Steel.


I added the non-Warship portion because Warships are not necessarily in proximity to each other.


Perhaps such an effect may end up being a little bit too much.  If so, then the effect could a little weaker with this change:


Response:  After you win a [unopposed?] challenge [insert a reasonable condition here], discard a non-income producing location.  Then, you may kneel a non-Warship location that shares a trait with the location you just discarded.


This would instead represent the pillaging of a location and it's impact on a location in proximity of the pillaged location.  For example, if the Greyjoy player used the above effect to discard the Gates of Winterfell, then it's immediate impact would be to disable Winterfell Castle because they both share the Winterfell trait.


I don't know how my post went from hashing out Greyjoy's potential 2nd edition theme to a card idea, but sometimes it's hard to resist when I have a card idea that is Nedly and would seem like something that is viable, if not too strong.

So, after I get through the article, I have to say: Great article. 

I like the ideas mentioned, especially the raiding and losing as attacker aspect.


Some thoughts I would add:

I would love to see some kind of card advantage for Greyjoy. But not just plain drawing or revealing cards, but maybe something we already have seen in 1.0: opponents discard pile recursion. Andrik the Unsmiling, Ten Towers and Ten Tower Longship already presented some abilities which are a bit random but I would like to be explored more. Raid them, take their stuff and beat them with it!

(Also, Cersei becoming a Saltwife would be cool ;D ) 

    • Itachi likes this

Shouldn't the title of the article be "A Game of Thrones 2nd Edition Faction Speculation: House Greyjoy" instead of "Preview"?  It's a bit misleading . . . .

    • JCWamma and migelpig like this

Shouldn't the title of the article be "A Game of Thrones 2nd Edition Faction Speculation: House Greyjoy" instead of "Preview"?


This just came up in the skype group as well, and I agree. I'll pester James to change the series name! In the meantime, I've edited away all instances of the word preview.

Mar 11 2015 04:45 PM

Being pedantic here, but instead of speculation do "theories". The authors are coming into this with some degree of knowledge and speculation implies otherwise.

Yeah, when I saw the word preview I immediatly went to the FFG site to look for more news.

Dissapointment was my reward.


So although I was negative at first I really liked this article.


I also think UO and Warships will remain a theme of Greyjoy. I do hope that Lannister, Tyrell or Baratheon eventually get some Warship locations since they also have some prominent fleets.


For me the inclusion of cancel in Greyjoy was a way to show the resilience of the Ironborn so I wouldn't mind if they kept some form of it.

Digging that theoretical location discarding event, Bomb. Using the traits to tie them together as being within travel distance is a big thematic win.

Digging that theoretical location discarding event, Bomb. Using the traits to tie them together as being within travel distance is a big thematic win.




I also like that it may add to some deck building and in-game decision making depending on the meta. 


"Well, I'm against Greyjoy, I should play this Westeros location instead of this King's Landing location this turn."

    • Kennon2nd likes this

Great article - look forward to the others. My only personal Greyjoy speculation/hope/expectation/demand is they print Dragonbinder as an attachment (they said they wanted to make attachments better!) so mayhaps something like this:


Kill a character you control to attach this card to a dragon (ignore all no attachment text on dragons). You now control that dragon.


(then throw in some more Old Nanish trait manipulation for each house to get things really bumpin)

Great article - look forward to the others. My only personal Greyjoy speculation/hope/expectation/demand is they print Dragonbinder as an attachment (they said they wanted to make attachments better!) so mayhaps something like this:


Kill a character you control to attach this card to a dragon (ignore all no attachment text on dragons). You now control that dragon.


(then throw in some more Old Nanish trait manipulation for each house to get things really bumpin)


that is an example of something i do NOT want. Trait manipulation is dumb in Game of Thrones because makes Zero sense. 

    • oddjob likes this

that is an example of something i do NOT want. Trait manipulation is dumb in Game of Thrones because makes Zero sense. 


To each their own! One of my favorite combos in the game is Old Nan and Ygritte with Harrenhal out and a weenie or two to make sure everything goes smoothly.


PS - as for the Nedliness of it making sense, I just tell myself a "trait" is just what is spoken of regarding that character, not an inherent characteristic that cannot be changed. So if Old Nan tells Bran that XXX was actually a Night's Watch character or perhaps a Refugee, then so it goes! That is what is said of regarding that character. My attempt at explaining it anyway :)

    • Kennon2nd likes this
Mar 12 2015 08:03 AM

From my understanding crests are going away in 2.0 so the roll of traits can't be diminished. Maybe FFG needs to maintain a "gentlemen's agreement" on the level they rely on trait manipulation for interesting effects. That or there needs to be more counters from other card effects, perhaps a plot that says "Lord characters cannot gain or lose traits."

By starting fresh and using rotation, they have an opportunity to design cards with construction and destruction in mind with trait manipulation.  Meaning, let's say Ally is a negative trait carried over from 1st edition.  Knowing this, they can regulate which cards can add the Ally trait and which cards can hurt an Ally character.  If they line up rotation correctly, they could rotate out the Ally hate before adding the Ally gain card to the card pool and re-evaluate from there.


I am a fan of constructive trait manipulation where gaining the trait is part of your decks focus so you can spread positive effects around to more characters for generating combos.  I am less a fan of destructive trait manipulation outside of removing a trait where you can apply a trait to an opponents character so that you can enforce a negative effect on them.  Mostly to obtain very easy removal or "take control of" effects.


I think that my above opinions aren't shared by too many other players, however I do think that one thing most of us can agree on is that I really hope they eliminate the distinction between "printed trait" and just "trait" when it comes to card effects.  I feel like the distinction was reverse engineered in the 1st edition, like many other rules, and all it added was confusion. 


In the end, I'm all for trait manipulation as long as it is carefully designed so that it doesn't lead to abuse and too much destruction.  With rotation being used to influence card design, I think it there is a lot of opportunity to work around it depending on the power level some effects have with that trait.  I'm not too concerned about their design goals in 2nd edition because I truly believe a lot of lessons were learned from the 1st edition.

    • scantrell24 and JCWamma like this

I pretty much agree with Bomb on the trait manipulation front. "Knighted: Attached to a character you control. Attached character gains the knight trait and +1 STR" works fine for me. That's constructive trait manipulation, thematically fine, and you can instantly grasp what's going on. You can use it to make more thematic decks, more consistent theme. 

Calling people dragons then blowing the Horn of Dragons... naming things ravens so you can shuffle them back into decks with your carrion birds, or having a maester *insist* that Eddard is a refugee so he can be dissensioned... less so. Heck, copper-linking an event so you can claim it was a raven so Sam can draw... It's not mechanically dull by any means, but I find it's both powerful and a break from the theme.

    • scantrell24 likes this
Ooh, I hope we can keep Naval Escort, the greatest card ever designed :)
    • brunopontes likes this