Counting Coppers: The Economy of Westeros
“Littlefinger’s gold is made from thin air, with a snap from his fingers”
The dreaded resource system, the backbone of any card game and usually the most maligned and criticized part of it. Many card games have been banished forever to the dead game table at Gen Con due to an “unfun” or overly punishing resource mechanic.
Designing a resource system is a slippery slope, make it too punishing and people will lose games to “Mana Screw” or “Mana Flood” drawing too much or too little of the resource causing you to fall behind on board presence. On the other hand, making your resource system too lenient removes a large portion of the strategic thinking behind the game and boils down to who can drop their giant characters first.
The resource system is the very first thing I look at when I’m introduced to a new card game because it is usually my main indicator on how enjoyable the game will be. So when I was shown Game of Thrones Plot/Gold economy system I was very intrigued. A game that allows you to effectively choose how much gold you get at the beginning of your turn combined with separate cards that add to the main pool was very unique to me and balancing this against your deck adds an entire new layer to the deckbuilding process. In a game filled with rich lore, exciting characters, Valyrian Steel swords and Dire Wolves who wants to focus on such a boring part of the game like economy? But, this is hands down the most important part of the game in my opinion.
Plotting your plots
Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.
When I played other card games and I was building a deck andcame to a tough decision between including one copy or another as the last slots I would instead include a blank card instead of either. During my play testing sessions with my friends, whenever I would draw that blank card I would then choose one of the two cards I was considering and substitute it for the blank card making a note on a pad of paper during my games. At the end of the evening I would consult those notes and see how many times I chose one card over the other helping me make the final choice.
This can be a valuable tool to help you smooth your curve in Game of Thrones, after you build your main deck forget about your plots and play some test games with your friend. Every turn take a look at every plot in the game and choose one and record it. After a few of these games you will start to see a pattern of what plots you choose and this will allow you properly design a plot deck to compliment your strategy. If you find yourself struggling to play cards from your hand using the entirety of the games plots as your disposal you may want to slim down on some of the higher costed cards in your deck or look into adding some more gold generating cards.
Now Plots are not just blank gold generators, they do a wealth of other things including affecting your hand size, which player goes first as well as tons of unique and interesting effects that can help you win your joust. Sometimes you will want to play a Plot for other reasons than gold but playing a plot with a fantastic effect but little gold value can backfire if you don’t have the right board presence down to keep up the pace with your opponent. Luckily, Game of Thrones solves this issue with other sources of income in the form of locations and gold generating characters.
Location! Location! Location!
Ah, and what a castle it is. Cavernous halls and ruined towers, ghosts and draughts, ruinous to heat, impossible to garrison … and there’s that small matter of a curse.
A main source of income that most people will play come in the form of locations such as the The Kingsroad and The Roseroad. The Roseroad gives you minimal downsides for plus one to your gold pool every turn for the low price of free! The Kingsroad allows you to sacrifice the card to gain a massive three gold discount on the next character you play that turn for one gold. The only restriction is that they contain the Limited Keyword, meaning only one of them can be played per turn, this seems reasonable enough to me. Now with this first set and its limited card pool I can’t see both of these cards not being played in every deck. So the question remains how many locations should I play?
Of course this varies depending on the deck you are trying to make but I recommend 10-15 locations per deck as an average. You want to have them in the early game to establish your economy but you don’t want to continuously draw them later when you require characters and events to finish the game. Each faction with the exception of The Night’s Watch have access to a zero cost location that kneels itself to reduce the cost of the next card of that faction you play this turn. Including them with locations such as The Rosewood and a properly played plot can allow you to play your hand with ease all the while wreaking havoc on your opponent with plot abilities.
The final piece of this economic equation comes in the form of characters that either produce gold or reduce the cost of other characters. These may be the most valuable of economic generators but they are also the most vulnerable.
Small folk big value
“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are.”
Look at the common people, they only have one measly Strength, one Icon and no cool abilities or keywords. These little guys don’t seem like much but just like Smallfolk they represent, like the series, the backbone that allows the lords and ladies to engage in their schemes and plots. Each one of these characters allows you to reduce the cost of your next faction character by one and these characters are not limited. By the use of their abilities you can play everyone you have in your hand by kneeling the one you just played! These characters are paramount to your end game and getting them out as soon as possible can be the difference between winning and losing. These characters have the added bonus of being able to attack in Power challenges and they can also be killed off by Military claim saving your more important characters to fight again another day. Being characters they are more vulnerable to removal then locations so make sure you have some Military icons available to protect them or you will find yourself without the support of the farmers, cobblers and merchants you relied on to live your life of luxury.
Lastly we have events and characters that blatantly generate gold for your faction. While these cards are rare and generally limited to certain factions, you should consider playing them if you have access.
Lannisters and the Tyrells excel in gold generation so if you are building with the Lion or the Rose you may want to consider some of these economists in your deck. Not only is Tywin Lannister a huge bodied lord he helps your economy by giving you plus two gold a turn that also makes him bigger for every coin you have; what synergy! Tyrion Lannister is a little sneakier with his economy gains; He gives you two gold every time an intrigue challenge is initiated. This may not seem useful since you cannot normally marshal characters during the challenge phase but this effect allows you to play events that may route your opponent in combat. He also works wonderfully with the main Lannister mechanic Ambush, allowing you play characters during the challenge phase with disastrous effects. On the Tyrell side you have Paxter Redwyne who both gives you +1 gold on your turn as well as a discount to your first event you play this turn. Lady Olenna Tyrell the “Queen of Thorns” bypasses the economy all together and just places Tyrell characters in play when she wins an intrigue challenge.
Last but not least we have Littlefinger, the only neutral character with an economic advantage giving you +1 gold every turn as well as drawing you two cards when you marshal him. Littlefinger’s effect along with continued economic effects makes him one of the most powerful cards in the game and deserving a slot in most decks we will see.
To most players the economy is an afterthought or an annoyance, something they have to endure to play their favorite characters and do battle on the field of Westeros but to the player that takes on the role of Littlefinger and can rub two golden dragons together to breed a third will find himself in a position of power more often than an opponent with a hand of giant lords and no gold to play them with. Because in the Game of Thrones it’s not normally the strongest person who wins it’s the one who plans in advance for everything.
I hope you enjoyed this article and of course please comment below with any thoughts or suggestions and as always please subscribe to get updates on all the latest Game of Thrones LCG news and information.