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The Grand Melee - Revisiting Title Relationships in Second Edition

Melee The Grand Melee emptyrepublic

The Grand Melee is a semi-regular article series focusing on the dynamics of melee format for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game - Second Edition

Welcome again everyone, emptyrepublic here with the first ‘The Grand Melee’ of second edition!

Long term readers who follow CardGameDB might recall an article from about two years ago: The Grand Melee - Three's a Crowd, Five's a Riot. In that article I discussed the odd dynamics of melee outside the standard ‘4-player’ format. Specifically the peculiarity of the 3-player format and what I described as ‘the oppression of the third player’. In short, I outlined one of the key problems of 3-player games where one player can likely be the subject to twice the number of challenges than the other two due to the support/oppose mechanics.

What’s Different in Second Edition

So are things any better in second edition? Well, once again let’s review the core rules around melee to start off our analysis. Like in first edition there are six titles available. The first big difference is the relationships between titles.

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The title relationships in Game of Thrones: The Card Game - Second Edition

In second edition the circle that forms the core of the Small Council now comprises five titles. The Crown Regent exists as before but no longer is opposed by the Master of Whispers and has no particular relationship with any of the other titles. The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard no longer exists and is replaced with the Master of Ships who now sits in the circle. The five titles in the circle relate to each other as you can see in the image above. Each of those titles supports one other title but instead of opposing just one title they now oppose two.

The other major difference in second edition is the selection method of titles. In all melee games titles are selected secretly and only revealed after everyone has selected. Additionally, in 3 player games two of the titles are “burned” before selection, and in 4-5 player games one title is “burned”. No titles are “burned” in 6 player. This is a major shift in multiplayer dynamics. Player order remains relevant to get the choice titles, however positioning becomes far less automatic and tactical as the decision making process for title selection involve much less information.

A few more points. For the purpose of this article the title powers aren’t relevant except for the Crown Regent. In second edition the redirect power now overrides the support arrangement of the Small Council. This means that if the Master of Ships and Master of Whispers titles are selected and the Crown Regent redirects a challenge initiated by the Master of Ships then the Master of Whispers can be targeted by the Master of Ships for that redirected challenge only. It’s also worth noting that the support mechanism of first edition is now gone. No longer can a supporting player step in to defend a challenge for the player they are supporting. Lastly, you get power for winning a challenge against each of your rivals.

Are we still oppressing the third player?

So are 3-player dynamics in second edition just as skewed as in first edition? In short, I don’t think so. The updated ability of the Crown Regent ensures the ability isn’t useless in a 3-player scenario as it sometimes was in first edition. So even if one player is supporting another the Crown Regent can at least one time force the player who is in a supporting role to attack the player that they are supporting. This provides some relief from the outset.

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A possible 3-player scenario.

Also, given that two titles are burned before selection in a 3-player game and that selection process is secret there are far fewer shenanigans that can occur. Since two titles are burned at random in 3-player that means there are 15 possible arrangements that titles could be available up in any given round so the likelihood that same set of titles repeat round to round are approximately %6.67. Interestingly, the total number of permutations of available titles and who picks what works out similarly as first edition (assuming an even number of rounds). The big difference is that in second edition each round the titles reset (instead of every other in first edition) so the variance round over round resets. What does this mean? In my opinion it’s far more difficult to be tactical with title selection in second edition than in first.

Intuitively, most people figured this out so I’m not really giving out a lot of new information, however in my view the secrecy of selection is not as a big of a deal as the fact that titles are randomly eliminated from the selection pool. Sufficiently savvy players early in the turn order can pick to optimize their board position versus players later in the turn order so secrecy is indeed a factor, but given that there is variance in available titles (even for the first player) there is no longer certainty in what title you might want and can get.

So the lack of certainty in my view is what relieves the third player from the “oppressed” position the most.

The New Oddity of Four Player

What’s interesting in second edition is that in 4-player games there will always be at least one player supporting another. This was not the case in first edition. Now that only one title (instead of two as in first edition) sits outside the relationship circle it’s no longer possible for all the players to have equal opportunity to attack the other players. One player will enjoy a small “protection advantage” since, by process of elimination, the arrangement of the titles requires it. Does this mean anything? Not really. This was a regular scenario in first edition by virtue that Master of Laws and Master of Coin were very popular selections (thus one player having a protection advantage) and in my view balance of play was often fine in that scenario.

Furthermore, following on from my argument in the 3-player scenario, even though only one title is being burned there is still a degree of variance (thus uncertainty) introduced into the decision making process.

Your Thoughts?

Have you been playing much melee in second edition? Is it better or worse than first edition? Share your thoughts below!
  • Bomb, scantrell24, JCWamma and 6 others like this


Feb 06 2016 10:47 AM
Good article! In our group we primarily play melee, and as of now only I have actually got the game, so I try to maintain 6 decks that are as good and fun, yet still properly balanced, as possible. What we have found, is that second edition melee is much more fun and balanced than first edition. Especially, as you point out, in a 3 player game. The burning and secrecy of title selections means that there is a hole new level of tactics and decisions to the game. On the not-quite-as-positive note, a couple of the factions are currently not quite there in terms of melee playability. Namely Stark (lacks serious tempo) and Night's Watch (too slow and predictible power gain). Greyjoy is super strong, Tyrell, Baratheon and Lannister is really solid, and Targaryen is good with the right cards.
    • emptyrepublic and avogadro like this
Feb 06 2016 02:25 PM

Agree that Stark and Night's Watch are weakest. Greyjoy are probably the most dangerous. Other vary depending on the other houses in play.