I've found this thread really interesting so far. I recently started playing AGoT around christmas time last year (2012). I enjoyed the books and some freinds i was staying with also enjoyed them so i bought a core set and had a few games. Then i found that I enjoyed the game system, out of the box is seemed pretty fun and I had a sense of connection with the characters and so forth.
SO i bought a couple of the house boxes and built some decks and played htem against each other and we were having a decent time.
Fast forward a couple of months and whilst attending Cancon (in AUS) i went over to the AGoT players and had a couple of games. After getting destroyed several times over to rapant control mechanics we started talknig about the price and how much it costs to really get into the game and all that. Given the way the cards are spaced out and everyhting, i was concerned that it would end up being very expensive to play on a competative basis.
I couldn't beleive it when i was casually told that the buy in was ~1,000 as if it were no matter. Simply put whether you're rich or poor a thousand dollars is considerable money and not something that you want to be told is the entrance for a given game - even if it is 'relatively cheap to sustain thereafter'.
I have to say i enjy the game and love the setting, but there are a few things which i find really disconcerting about the whole thing, and after discussing it with the freinds i started the game with we mostly feel the same.
The entry price is really prohibitive, especially the idea that three core sets are needed.
The card bloat is phenominal. The cyclic nature of magic was used earlier in this discussion as a negative, whereas i feel for any game to thrive in a competative setting there needs to be resets and redress to the state of the game on a reasonable time scale. My favourite game L5R, did this really successfully, and overall it helped the game survive.
Almost every game i've played has ended up is some kind of ridiculous control choke that is extremely unfun, and seems to be endemic of the game as a whole. The control options are severe and easy to use and they seem (from my limited experience) to outperform rush (generally the counterpoint to control) without trying. Readily available board resets are also to blame here.
The restricted list and banned list are great tools, however, competatively speaking they are band aids when a face lift (reset) is probably more appropriate.
Magic might have simple and elegant mechanics that can be confused as boring, its also doesn't (to mk knowledge - since i stopped in 5th), have to diferentiate between 'draw' and 'reveal into hand', as a method of lawyering its way around its own rules.
I Like the Barratheons, but apparently they suck at control - ergo they are bottom tier, as with L5r i approached this game with a sense of faction loyalty - so where is the fun in knowing that your faction is on the bottom and likely to stay there outside of jumping through hoops?
I went through card DB, and put together a deck i thought would be interesting (if not competative - see above), and then checked all the packs i'd need. I got pretty sick very fast of seeing that there were ones and two's of the cards i wanted in any given pack. Sure it's great if you've bene playing from day dog, but the ability to buy singles would be really sweet compared to paying $20 AU for a pack and only needing one or two cards out of it.
It's almost funny because there is a similar arguement going on regarding table top wargaming at present. That Warmachine is starting to outsrip warhammer because the entry price (all else equal) is so much more attractive.
Anything that wants to survive needs fuel, and players ar ethe LCG's fuel.
Anyway, i don't really want to ruffle anyones feathers, and this game is great, that doesn't mean it is without it's issues. Cost and card bloat are the two major barriers to this game and coincdentally if you fix the latter the first takes care of itself.
I really appreciate this post. This is pretty much what I'm getting at with this game. It's not a lack of quality. The game has quality (though the pre-FAQ card pool was a bit unbalanced). It's this exact issue your discussing I'm trying to highlight. The game has a MASSIVE barrier of entry. It's at least $120 to even begin to have fun at tournaments. A core set deck will get roasted at a tournament right now. I do not know if the same is true for a $15 deck in Magic, but suffice to say it cost a lot less money to try it out as well.
The core premise of this thread is that AGoT is affordable, yet affordability is a subjective term. Ferraris are affordable to Bill Gates. Dinner isn't affordable to a homeless guy. So we need to establish affordability, or at least look at games that could susbtitute for AGoT and look at the barrier of entry for them.
Let's set a premise that AGoT has these qualities:
Customization, Luck, Skill, Socialization
What games have similar qualities?
WoW - Customization (skill builds), Luck (loot drops), Skill, Socialization, Twitch Gaming
The cost to enter WoW is the cost of all of its expansions currently. The core game and the first 2 expansions cost $20. The Cataclysm expansion costs $20. Mists of Pandaria costs $40. That amounts to $80 for WoW. That is currently less than 3 core sets. The only major differences are online vs real-life socialization and that WoW has twitch gaming and AGoT does not. There is also no back-log of packs you would ever have to buy. You just need to pay the subscription fee for future time. Additionally, you get a discount if you buy a bunch of months of game time at once.
Netrunner - Customization, Luck, Skill, Socialization
Currently, most would argue that 2 core sets is all you need. You could even get away with 1 core set and waiting for the faction pack of your preferred faction. The back log of packs you would need to buy is also lower than AGoT. So entry fee amounts to $40 - $120 depending on your preference with a massive edge in cost to catch up (though WoW obviously has none).
Magic - Customization, Luck, Skill, Socialization
The titan of the industry and the one with nearly the lowest entry fee ($15). The backlog fee is difficult to measure in this one. You can generally buy singles of the cards you want (something that really can't be done in AGoT), so it is very variable. The cost to be a top tier player is incredibly greater than AGoT (assuming that they restrict enough cards that you don't have to spend $1000s on chapter packs containing the best cards).
League of Legends - Skill, Socialization, Twitch Gaming, Luck (minor), Customization (medium)
This is the titan of Free-to-Play right now (and yes it is literally free to play, you can't buy power in this game). It's luck is more based on match-making than anything. It's customization is similar to WoW in that you can choose what class and skill tree you want. It's mostly a skill game. It also has internet socialization and twitch gaming. It is not a perfect substitute for AGoT, but it is free. You really can't beat free. Why play AGoT if my friends and I could get together and play this game all day for free?
Starcraft - Skill, Socialization (minor), Twitch Gaming, Customization
The game that pretty much created e-sports. If you want a contest of pure skill mixed with twitch gaming, this is your game. It has internet socialization, though it is very minor. The fact is, this game costs $50 to play and is probably one of the deepest experiences you could have as a competitive gamer. If you had never playred Starcraft or AGoT and were inclined to play both, I think you'd be hard pressed to not give Starcraft a try before AGoT. This doesn't even touch on the fact that Starcraft has an INCREDIBLE single player experience. The online competitive play is FREE!!! NO subscription fee. NO chapter packs. You just need the internet. If you don't have that, you can't even read this.
As you can see here, though the games may be across a couple genres, there is one obvious consistency. AGoT has the highest cost of entry of them all to be able to play at a remotely competitive level. This leads to my next question. What is an acceptable cost of entry for AGoT.
How many core sets should a player be required to buy? I would say zero to one (they should either not want the cards or get triplicate of the good ones). The core set is a relic of this game's reset and no longer serves any real purpose as is. Why are players being forced to buy both an expansion and a core set? How many expansions should a player be required to buy? 1 (their primary faction). How much backlog should a player be required to buy? I would say none. That would be very difficult currently and this is where you see the problem with AGoT. Players need to buy a significant number of older chapter packs to be able to start playing competitively.
I feel that AGoT's barrier of entry should be around $50. I would not object to FFG dropping the cost of their old product and upping the cost of entry to $80 or $100 if it was a worthwhile $100 (they got all the very old, very good cards). Basically, sell a core set at cost that's actually worth buying and then let them buy the expansion of their choice and be able to enter a tournament and have fun. Having fun meaning having a positive play experience and leaving feeling like they learned a lot (and not like they just got annihilated). Then every player has the option of cherry picking what they want (at the additional cost of whatever the packs cost) from the last cycle or 2. Reduce the cost of entry, and the game should see a lot more interest. The subject matter is already intriguing, it's just not worth paying the cost of entry right now.