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Card "Infusion," or "Why some aspects of the LCG model just don't work for me anymore"

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#1 ktom



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:35 PM

So, people who know me also know that I haven't had a deck idea I've actually been happy with in over a year.

I'm pretty sure it is less about the cards that are available and more about the lack of motivation. I will admit that I have never been the best deckbuilder in the world, and that part of the game has never been my favorite, but I at least had ideas, insights, or even just stupid stuff I wanted to try to make work (like the decks I built around Alayne Stone or 5KE-King's Landing - things that mean nothing to people who weren't around for the CCG days; sorry). Now, I sit down in front of my cards and…nothing. 

I was trying to think about why that might be. Sure, I've been very distracted with non-AGoT stuff for the last 2 years, but that never stopped me before. I've come up with a few possible reasons:

  1. Honestly, there are too many cards in the card pool for me. It seems like paradox, but limits can inspire creativity. I am not a proponent of rotation from the availability standpoint that seems to come up every 5-6 months (i.e., "people with Clash of Arms cards have an unfair advantage"), but I am starting to become a proponent of rotation from a "meta-game clutter" standpoint.
  2. Somewhat related, the meta changes so slowly that I hardly realize it is changing. 20 new cards every month encourages relentless tweaking of old deck ideas and strategies, not development of new ones. As a result, half the time I feel like I'm playing the same old stuff in a new package, whether I am or not. 
  3. The "20-card a month" process also means that new mechanics make a gradual appearance. As a result, I think they usually end up supporting old stuff instead of really standing on their own. By the time CP6 of a cycle comes out, and all the pieces are in place, the "meta-mind" has locked into thinking of them in a particular way, instead of really trying to see what they can do with it. 

Obviously, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. 

The point is, the environment feels stagnant to me. Even the new stuff (Joust/Melee in Champions, all the new plots and encouragement of cross-House play in BtNS) feels old. To tell the gods-honest truth, the game bores me more often than not these days.

So I had a thought to address a problem that maybe no one else but me is having:

Card "Infusion" - We already know that the entire CP cycle is developed at the same time. We also know that the 6 CPs of the cycle are released 1-per-month, the others sitting in FFG's warehouse (or wherever) waiting their turn. Well, what if all 6 were released together, then 6-months later, all 6 for the next cycle were released together? That way, new mechanics would enter the meta complete and whole, making it more likely that they will shake up the meta completely and encourage people to really explore them and see what they can do - but people are still dealing with fixed packs of cards. You get the "meta shake-up" effect of a CCG expansion release, combined with the ease-of-access that has made the LCG model so successful.


Anyway, just throwing out the idea. Any thoughts?


#2 dcdennis



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 02:20 PM

 Not even giving me a chance to troll here because i can find no fault with this post.

#3 Danigral



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 02:42 PM

How is what you propose different than the model that CoC has switched to, of having deluxe 165 card expansions every 3 months? I like that idea because it would give the meta time to settle and explore in between. But already people on the CoC boards are complaining that 3 months may be too long of a stretch to keep excitement up.

#4 ktom



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 03:24 PM

AGoT DC Meta said:

How is this different than the model that CoC has switched to, of having deluxe 165 card expansions every 3 months? Already people there are complaining that 3 months may be too long of a stretch to keep excitement up.
Careful. That "165 card expansions every 3 months" might be misleading to people who don't realize that it's 55 card, 3 copies each, every 3 months. It may be a 165 card expansion, but you are only adding 55 cards to the environment every 3 months.

But even if the quantity is roughly the same, the quality is different. 120 cards every 6 months is going to end up being different from 55 cards every 3 months simply because of the design cycle. Designing two separate 55 card sets is going to have a different result - and a different impact on the metagame - than when you design a single 120 card set. You get more depth and interaction simply because you have more room to put it in.

But ultimately, I don't know about CoC. It's a different game and a different community. All I know is that 20 cards a month has proven itself to be "not enough" to keep excitement up for me (and a good chunk of my meta, too, unless I have completely misread my friends).

I also know that, in the CCG days when we were getting 140ish cards every 4-6 months, the excitement level was generally much higher.

#5 dcdennis



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 03:38 PM

 Hmmmmmm, I wonder how Penfold feels about this…


#6 Danigral



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 03:56 PM

 Is it the distribution or the cards themselves, though?

IDK, it may just be that everyone is busy tweaking their deck to worry about creating completely different builds. I for one am tired of tweaking and am starting to look at creating something "fresh".

#7 ktom



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 04:39 PM

AGoT DC Meta said:

 Is it the distribution or the cards themselves, though?


IDK, it may just be that everyone is busy tweaking their deck to worry about creating completely different builds. I for one am tired of tweaking and am starting to look at creating something "fresh".

Well, that's exactly the theory I'm working with here:


  • The distribution encourages tweaking, not "fresh" builds (seems like people have been tweaking for years, even when they do build "fresh")
  • Tweaking encourages people to evaluate new cards in old contexts
  • As such, the contexts change very slowly, if at all
  • The result is that a lot of cards seem like less than they are because their true power is revealed in contexts that people are not exploring/discovering

So, the "infusion" theory of distribution would allow the people who want to tweak the ability to tweak, but would also give the people who are tired of tweaking a better basis, and incentive, for a shift in the contexts - which adds more excitement to the game overall, imho.

#8 Ratatoskr



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Posted 19 October 2012 - 07:21 PM

Well, personally I wouldn't have a problem with the distribution model you're suggesting at all. Whether it'd appeal to FFG from a business standpoint is another matter. I have my doubts there.

I have to say I totally disagree with your overall point, though. What you dislike, I like, actually.

It's been a very common criticism ever since I joined the game that the CP cycles focus on the "new and shiny" and don't do enough to support existing builds, and I gotta say that viewpoint always made a lot of sense to me. The latest two cycles amended that somewhat, and now criticism that we haven't got enough new and shiny toys is coming up (and not just from you). Well, I for one love it how the way the game changes is more evolutionary than revolutionary. I love it how disregarded and half-forgotten cards, mechanics and deck types become viable again. I infinitely prefer this to a situation where you can safely write off certain cards or whole builds once and for all. Just look at the new Kingdom locations for example, and how a totally forgotten card like Zealous Collector suddenly becomes interesting again. I'm loving that. The alternative would be a meta that automatically jumps at the mechanic/deck type du jour, which totally dominates the game for six months, until the new stuff comes out and it all starts anew. A bit like the situation was during the KL, DotN, BWB and SoO cycles.

#9 WWDrakey



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:14 AM

I sort of know the feeling that Ktom is talking about… I find myself periodically deconstructing and then completely reconstructing the same decks something like every 6 months… only to end up with something that's 95% same as the one I had before that. But what I'm not sure about is whether this is caused by the slower trickle of cards versus a larger infusion, or just that new themes haven't really been added into the game for the last few cycles, at least not with large enough support. 

What do I mean? I mean the advertised themes of Joust, Melee, Learned (without Maesters), Character Agendas… for something that have been the theme in a CP cycle, they've all only gotten a few cards to support them so far, here and there randomly scattered. Even the tribal themes in BwB, while recieving a hefty cardpool, were not give enough real support to make them viable enough on their own, at least not when the cycle was originally published. Admittedly, some of those tribal themes are slowly coming into their own, as support for them has been continuing… but over a year is a long time to own and wait to get any real mileage out of cards. Yeah, still waiting for Baratheon to receive a second character with printed Joust to use with Storm's End Tourney Grounds… and how long has Zealous Collector been in the cardpool, 4 years? About time it could actually be played. :P

Maybe some of these problems (with tribal deckbuilds being low in power level etc.) are linked to the issues with Agenda balance. I could see a case being made there. The only two 'new' CP themes that have really managed to hit the game were the Brotherood and Maesters, and both of those had an Agenda of their own. Then again, the Maesters also got a huge amount of support in their cycle, so much so, that we're still only discovering powerful effects with them (like plot manipulation via Citadel Custom). 

I guess what I'm mainly saying is that one reason for feeling that a larger infusion is needed to make things feel fresher, is the way that the 'new' things have been so diluted. It's hard to maintain a feeling of enthusiasm for something new, if it takes you years to actually get to use it. Or if the trumped up new theme (Character Agendas) is just a very sad little girl (Shireen) that doesn't amount to much by herself and doesn't get any other support.

Like Ratatoskr said, it's about balancing the shiny and the support for existing themes… but the reason we're having to trickle new cards for old themes, is that they were released without enough support to make any impact in the first place. If themes were strong enough to stand on their own when published/made, all we would need would be a single card here or there to give them some new toys. Right now, what we have is a huge amount of themes on life support, waiting for somebody to save them… and while the doctors are operating on the old ones, new patients are allowed to go critical.

All that said, I have a positive feeling about Naval… time will tell. =)


#10 dcdennis



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:50 AM

 What do people mean by tribal?

#11 darknoj



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 01:35 AM

"What do people mean by tribal?"


Stuff like; Clansmen, Ironborn , Tully, etc….

#12 -Istaril



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 03:24 AM

 I've been a proponent of card-pool limtation (I last brought it up here) for several reasons, including meta-clutter, but I'd also add that I wouldn't particularly object to larger infusions of cards at greater intervals. I think it would have some of the effect you're hoping for. 

The issue here is primarily one of perception - which doesn't mean it shouldn't be addressed. The same people claiming there's more deck variety than ever before in the competitive scene and that every house has a viable build are also complaining about the game getting stale… and while I never played in the CCG to compare, I think the problem is two-fold.

The first is that any deck that isn't "T1" immediately gets discarded by competitive players. Clannsmen, Mill, Brotherhood - they have enough cards to work, to play, and be fun - but are just short of reaching those "T1" thresholds. If they were to achieve that coveted status, something else would fall off the list - there's always going to be a small set of "most" competitive decks, and I think that's unavoidable.

The second is, as you identified, the perception of the card pool. The current distribution model, rotation, and restricted list all favour a gradual evolution of deck-lists, adapting to minor changes in the card pool. Players get a little excited every time a new chapter pack comes out, or a new FAQ changes some small aspect of the game, but adapt their existing deck types in small ways and watch their decks "Evolve". Some people (eg. Ratatoskr) clearly like this, so let's be careful with any wide-spread assumptions that it is a bad thing.

How could it be changed? Rotations, infusions of cards, larger and more dynamic restricted lists, deck building restrictions, cards with deck-building restrictions built in (eg. Bear Island-style) that force you to re-examine your card-pool in its entirety rather than just take a quick glance at how your current deck needs to change. The trouble with these is that not everyone agrees that "Evolutionary" deck strategy is bad thing, and that many of these techniques come with downsides - more record keeping,  frustration when your cherished deck really has to be abandoned, a more intimidating barrier of information not-on-the-card for beginners, larger gaps in between release of new cards to maintain player interest/attention.

#13 Shikaku



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 05:09 AM

Having just returned to the game, my perspective comes with a grain of salt.

That being said, one of the reasons I didn't come back sooner was because the card pool is so large. Getting my hands on everything is not exactly a one stop shopping experience at my local brick and mortar. As it has been pointed out there are certain CPs that have sold out and are completely unavailable.
However, the frequency product does come out, and for the price point, it was worth making the switch from a traditional CCG product.

During the mid-cycle of their rotation, Company A puts out 4 expansions a year + a direct to player set you have to buy from them. If you want to get a playset of all relevant cards and a decent shot at the majority of “rare” cards, you have to buy a box of boosters and each of the starters (usually three different ones) for each expansion. That’s roughly $150 per expansion (if you buy your product through an online distributor and not a brick and mortar, it would be close to double that if you paid MSRP at the brick and mortar). Then the Direct to Player set from Company A costs $120 (after shipping).

At the end of the year you paid close to $750 to get roughly 800 different cards

With AGoT you pay $180 to get about 240 different cards over the course of the same time frame. One top of that, each house is only really seeing maybe 40 new cards to add to their decks over the course of a year.

Obviously, the extra 560 cards in the pool will have a much bigger impact on Company A’s game. But you are shelling out a lot more money for that impact.
Under the current model, the meta of AGoT will continue to be sluggish unless design/development makes bold direction changes to the way cards interact, and can implement that in a way the results in an immediate impact.

Some of that can be done in what cards are chosen for each individual chapter pack.
For example, right now every house gets something in every CP, so every month there is, perhaps, a minor tweak here and there with a players deck. If the CP was house specific, the impact of the 20 (or so) cards would be much greater; but the wait to get another “infusion” of new cards would be longer per house.

In other words, you get a more spiky flow as opposed to a smooth trickle. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Two distinct themes/archetypes (call them what you will) can be played with over the course of 5 months as you wait for your turn to come around again.. though that is still a bit long.

Another option is to increase the release time to bi-weekly. Instead of 12 installments you get 24 per year.

That doubles the cost, but increases the card pool. Combined with the previous option of releasing house based CPs players would only have to wait a few months before they got their next influx of cards to play with.

Jan – Stark & Greyjoy
Feb – Baratheon & Martell
Mar – Lannister & Targaryen

They still have to put the unaligned/generic/non-house specific cards in each of the CPs so you still have to buy them if you want to get that stuff.

A third option is to take a hard look at what they want to do with each house and how they can design them to have multiple archetypes within them.

Company A has many different factions, each of those factions has 4 distinct archetypes. 1 or 2 of those are heavily (but not fully) supported up front in their cycle rotation and as the cycle progresses towards its end, the other archetypes catch up and by the end of it you have a vibrant and dynamic environment.

The problem with this is two-fold. One, they have a rotation cycle and AGoT does not. Two they are releasing cards at a rate 4 times the speed AGoT does so they can actually support each faction having 4 archetypes to begin with.

However, the second of those issues could be resolved by following the previous options of increasing the production/release of CPs and making them house specific. Each house could get 4 CPs per year which could support up to 4 archetypes (though I wouldn’t push it past 3 based on the small number of cards released per CP).

The question then becomes does rotation make sense, and it is a question that every single game eventually has to address or it dies.

If you don’t rotate the available card pool you may develop problems attracting new players. As older product dries up, and becomes unavailable, players get frustrated that some of their peers have access to stuff they don’t (especially if the company doesn’t reprint those cards).

You could also, eventually, run into an issue of too many options for competitive players.

Most competitive players are min-maxers, they will always look for the most efficient way to achieve their victory condition. If new cards coming out are not competitive in that aspect then the new cards may as well be coasters, for all the competitive players care.

But not everyone is a competitive player, so there has to be something thematic in the new cards to satisfy those players (we are getting back to Ned, Jaime, and who was that last guy?)

From what others are describing in the posts above, it sounds like: with only 120 cards in each Chapter, which are then divided down into a fraction of which any one house could play, the odds that enough of them are making a competitive play impact are slim.

Perhaps I am not gauging the situation correctly, but that’s the impression I am getting.

I haven’t been back long enough to know if it’s a design/development issue where they are ultra conservative with the cards they create; or if they just need to do a better job distributing the ones they do.

But I do know that there are likely many factors that go into why they are doing things the way they are. Is it possible they could implement any or all of the options I laid out? Sure. But there may be valid, if not strong, reasons why they can’t or shouldn’t.

Either way, Ktom did the right thing by starting this post.

He made his frustration known, gave the community an opportunity to weigh in on the topic and send a message to FFG about what the players, at least here on the forums, are experiencing and would like to see.

That always has been the first step in seeing changes to this game.

For me, I am not interested in dropping $750 a year to play a game a few times a week. I can handle $180/year, I could even handle $360/year, but I think that would be the most at this point based on what you get for that $$.

#14 dcdennis



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 05:47 AM

 can i get a tldr for that last post? my add is raging full blast today.

#15 Rogue Cypher

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:45 PM

I feel 6 months is too far in-between for a group of players to "settle" and figure out what each cycle of CPs can actually do. They can probably figure that out within 2-3 months. Maybe even less depending on how often they actually play together.


Personally, I think rather than every Cycle introducing a supposed new game mechanic which always feels like it's only half complete by the end of it then sporadically getting more support over the next 2-3 Cycles we should do a blend of two ideas, one of which being your model:


Every 6 months is a whole new 6 CP Cycle. 120 brand new cards based around an existing theme/mechanic or to introduce a new one of either. Every 3rd month in-between the release of a 6 CP Cycle we would get a new 60 (66 if you want to introduce a single new Plot Card tuned for each House's use) card Expansion that builds upon that previous Cycle's theme/mechanic for every House. This way we're being given two fresh new Cycles a year enhancing a previously existing or creating a whole new theme/mechanic and then an Expansion a few months after one's release to really hammer home each House's strengths based on feedback from the community or just how FFG wants it.


Instead of using Expansions to increase a single House's pool of cards from now on, I think using Expansions to increase the power or really back-up a theme/mechanic's use will fully flesh them out. Rather than getting a whole Cycle that barely scratches the surface of something then immediately side-steps and starts development of new ones before ever finalizing the previous one.


That's one thing that always annoyed me. Nothing FFG introduces lately feels "complete" by the time they throw us something completely new to worry about.

#16 Sokhar



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 02:44 PM

I actually rather like the monthly release schedule for cards, even if it results in the "slow trickle" expansion. Its something to be excited about every month, and keeps the payments to keep up small. Not that 90 dollars every 6 months would be bad either, but I think its easier for some people that came to this game because it's a more managable model, to not really have to save up for their card fix. Also kinda encourages impulse buying.

I do agree that themes are going under-developed, and it can take a while to really establish new archetypes and such within the game. I sorta like where Rogue Cypher was going with his post. I'd like to see them get back to releasing deluxe expansions. Each previous one was nice to establishing a theme or two for each house and giving a nice card base to work with. Now that each house has had a deluxe, I'd say you could go in one of a couple different directions. One might be Cypher's proposal of further building on a given cycle's themes even as they move on to develop another cycle. Another would be to revisit each of the houses and further flesh out their already-established themes.

The final option (and one I think I'd like the most) would be to make extremely focused expansions that would breathe new life into abandoned concepts. Something like a "Beyond the Wall" (I know the name has been used, something else would work just as wel) deluxe expansion that was 55 cards expanding upon just Wildlings and the Night's Watch. Or if you wanted to be REALLY hyper-focused, then one set for just Wildings, one for Night's Watch. And work through each theme that needs expansion as such. Focused on just one or two core mechanics, 55 cards should be enough to give a shot in the arm to these sub-themes. You also could do something like a House Tyrell deluxe expansion, which I would imagine as working something like an agenda that allows you to play printed House Tyrell trait cards without OOH cost--allowing Tyrell to be run out of a couple different houses or even neutral house, without actually introducing them as a fully-fledged 7th house. Similar treatment could then be given to the Arryns, Freys, etc., whom all play a significant role in the novels (and had a presence in the CCG era) but are conspicuously absent in the LCG.


TL;DR:  Get back to deluxe expansions that focus on a core concept (perhaps more specific than just "House X") to provide the larger card infusions in addition to the current monthly release schedule.

#17 Amuk



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Posted 21 October 2012 - 04:43 AM

Sokhar said:

TL;DR:  Get back to deluxe expansions that focus on a core concept (perhaps more specific than just "House X") to provide the larger card infusions in addition to the current monthly release schedule.

Agreed. It feels like we're overdue for a new expansion and there's plenty of design space available for new ones. Every House has theirs now, so expansions that explore some of this space outside the House X model would be most welcome. There's a lot of room, for instance, in the "Neutral" cards for expansions to work with. Likewise, the second tier Houses already introduced (and so often mentioned in these discussions) could provide some great deckbuilding opportunities if they were given some attention.

The Lanni box came out at the end of last year. I was rather hoping to see a new one announced around GenCon. I am one of those who really likes the trickle/evolution nature of the release cycle but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see the meta shaken up a couple of times a year by the kind of big boost an expansion can provide. The CP cycle structure just doesn't put enough new cards in the pool to give us shiny new toys and expand support for existing themes very well.




"Life is a tragedy for those who feel & a comedy for those who think." - Jean de la Bruyère

#18 Twn2dn



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Posted 21 October 2012 - 03:55 PM

 Ktom, I have similar feelings about joust, but I feel there is a lot of unexplored deck building variety with melee.

I like your suggestion of a larger, less frequent release, but I'm not completely sure about the frequency.

#19 alpha5099



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Posted 21 October 2012 - 05:05 PM

I certainly wouldn't be opposed to something like ktom has suggested here, or if AGOT adopted the expansions-only approach COC now has. Obviously as they're already halfway through announcing the next cycle, we would definitely be several months away from anything like this actually being implemented. This naval cycle should be done around late spring, early summer, so next summer or even next fall would be the soonest if FFG decided to forego more chapter pack cycles.

I do have to wonder if there would be much economic incentive for FFG to make the change, though. AGOT, from what I can tell, is the most successful of the LCGs (though perhaps Netrunner or Star Wars could give this a run for its money), and thus chapter packs probably sell fairly well. COC, on the other hand, seems to have a much smaller player base, making their asylum packs less profitable. Perhaps COC is a testrun to see if the expansion-only approach is the best way to go for the LCGs; if it bombs, it won't hurt FFG as much as with a bigger game. Given that they now have six LCGs on their hands, the expansion-only approach might be more efficient, and could potentially be adopted by every game. I know they're already putting out data packs for Netrunner, and the assumption has been that Star Wars will have its own force packs, but perhaps that too will stay with expansions.

#20 thorondor



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Posted 21 October 2012 - 08:15 PM

remembering the old CCG days i immediately felt the same as ktom. it was always a great day when a new set with lots of cards was released. meeting with other players, opening together displays of boosters, discussing card after card, many "wows" and new strategies already start to get shape in ones mind, and finally play a draft tourney - i really miss it ;-)

of course there is excitement each time a new CP is released, but its small excitement. and nothing you are really looking forward cause it became so used to (except here in europe, where sometimes you have to wait 3 months for a new CP …).

but then, looking at past cycles of cards and imagining the impact these might have had on the game and building decks, if they had been released as a big box, i daresay: no. a good cycle is a good cycle. a cycle that defines deck building will always do so (like Time of Ravens, Secrets of Oldtwon). maybe in a different timely manner and the perception by players may also be a different one (which isnt unimportant).


anyway: what about a hybrid of both systems? for example having CPs each month starting with october (till march). then play the regional season with a clearly defined card pool. then one big expansion in august (release GenCon), and having a clearly defined card pool for Worlds.

during summer/early autemn there are too many things going on anyway, so it would also be a little bit of relief for FFG and their partners (and here in europe we wont have to wait 3 months for a new CP …).


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