“There was something here, some truth buried in these brittle yellow pages, if only he could see it. But what? The tome was over a century old. Scarcely a man now alive had yet been born when Malleon had compiled his dusty lists of weddings, births, and deaths.”
–George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
In advance of the 2013 A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Regional Championships Tournament Season, the game’s developers have closely examined and addressed the most important issues among player questions, the metagame, and the card pool. Accordingly, the documents introduce a number of important changes, all intended to improve the tournament environment for veterans and newcomers alike.
Design team members Nate French and Damon Stone offer an overview of the new changes and insight into their decisions below.
Nate French and Damon Stone on the A Game of Thrones FAQ and Tourney Rules
Hello, A Game of Thrones players!
With this year’s regional season fast approaching, it is once again time to update the official FAQ and Tournament Rules.
This time around, the new FAQ content is mostly house-keeping, clearing up a number of confusing situations and correcting card text errors. Among other things, we have corrected the misspelling on Maester Cressen’s title, clarified the status of the cards in “The Hold” for the Black Sails agenda, and established a formal distinction between icon-granted “gold bonuses” and “gold penalties.”
The updates to the restricted list represent a more impactful change to the metagame. There has been much recent discussion about the increasing size of the cardpool, and how this size is impacting the metagame, and we at FFG are not deaf to these concerns. On one level, the breadth of the cardpool has made it difficult for a new player to buy in, forcing him to track down so many “power cards” in order to field competitive decks. On another level, the larger the cardpool becomes, the more “inertia” it picks up, and as dominant decktypes stabilize, new content makes less and less of a splash in the larger metagame. While we continue to explore long-term solutions to these issues, we have decided, for the immediate health of the metagame, to introduce a more liberal usage of the game’s restricted list, and we have added a number of “staple” and “crutch” cards to the list in an effort to encourage players to think about the game and the metagame in new ways. As these clusters of power cards are broken up, the space for new cards and decks and ideas to move into the competitive environment is cleared, just as potentially exciting new cards like Black Sails and House of Dreams are being considered for their first regional season.
Finally, we come to the Tournament Rules document, which contains a significant piece of new content – the Code of Conduct – that deserves an introduction all to itself.
The Code of Conduct: An Introduction
When two or more players sit down to play a game with one another, there are a number of social assumptions being made. One group of gamers may have an implicit assumption that “everyone is equal and competing to win” while another group may make the assumption that “everyone should take it easy on the six year-old.” One group may play under the assumption that “everyone respects the other competitors, and therefore tries their best to compete under both the letter and spirit of the rules,” while another group may throw the idea of respect out the window and play under the assumption that “anything goes as long as you don’t get caught.”
In private gaming groups, participants come to their own mutual understanding of why they are playing and how they will play any given game. They essentially create their own implicit code of behavior.
In public gaming, a number of these basic courtesies, social practices, and ethical beliefs that make it possible to sit down and enjoy a game with another human being are sometimes questioned or even challenged as the level of competition intensifies. When results become more important, to some players, than the means to those results, the social fabric that holds a gaming community together can begin to erode, and the integrity of fair play and legitimate competition is lost.
Cersei Lannister is an engaging villain, but her behavior wouldn’t be welcome
at an A Game of Thrones: The Card Game tournament.
To combat the development of such a situation within the A Game of Thrones community, we have created a more explicit tournament rules document, and we are taking this opportunity to acknowledge that FFG does not desire and will not tolerate the behavior of cheating, or the presence of cheaters, at sanctioned organized play events. The A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Code of Conduct has been added to the tournament rules for the purposes of reducing and eliminating the practice of cheating and unethical behavior at A Game of Thrones: The Card Game events. FFG identifies the intentional breaching of the rules laid out in the Code of Conduct as cheating, and we will not tolerate such behavior at our tournaments.
What Does This Mean?
After reviewing the Code of Conduct, there may be a number of questions about specific instances of behavior. To be clear: it is not our goal to change the way you play and enjoy the game if you are playing it straight and not trying to gain an unfair advantage over other competitors through unethical behavior. We’re not out to “bust” players over innocent mistakes, or create a “witch-hunt” mentality at our events.
Instead, we hope to more clearly describe the behaviors that are considered as cheating, to deter players from considering such an approach, and, in the rare case where a player is not deterred, to meet the behavior with an appropriate response.
When confronted with behavior that could be construed as cheating, we will consider not only the behavior in question, but also any relevant information we may have regarding context, intent, motive, and significant history with the individual or group in question. We will not take a light approach to such considerations, and it is highly unlikely that you are in any danger of being penalized for cheating unless you actually are trying to get away with something or are attempting to challenge the rules to prove a point. With that in mind, when we are confronted with behavior that we have defined and do consider against the letter and/or spirit of the rules and Code of Conduct, we will take the measures necessary to protect and maintain the integrity of the game’s player community.
Every situation needs to be considered in context, but clear instances of cheating should not be left unpunished.
There may be a perception that some of the rules against various forms of cheating are difficult, or maybe even impossible, for judges to enforce. This perception would not be wrong. But just because a rule is difficult to enforce does not mean that the rule should not exist in the first place.
Let’s look at an example. If a player really wanted to, he could likely get away with removing a card from his deck and playing the entire tournament with fifty-nine cards. There is a small chance an opponent may pile shuffle his deck when it is offered to cut, counting the cards as he did so, but most players do a quick half-cut and give the deck back. So a player could in all likelihood “get away” with this type of cheating, gaining a small competitive edge, and even if he was caught, barring any prior history, he could likely make a claim such as “I misplaced a card” or “one of my opponents must have scooped it up” and get away with, at worst, the forfeiture of the game and a proverbial slap on the wrist.
But most players do not engage in this type (or other types) of opportunistic cheating, despite the fact that angles and opportunities abound. Why is that?
Ultimately, the responsibility of honoring the Code of Conduct – whether that code is implicit, as in a group of friends, or explicit, as in the attached document – falls upon an individual decision, and an assessment of one’s own character. Playing by the rules is a matter of respecting one’s opponents, but it is also a matter of self respect and personal integrity. For one, most people don’t want to be known as cheaters. For another, cheating taints its own results: a victory achieved by cheating feels a little more hollow, and if you cheat and still lose, the sting of defeat is a bit more profound.
In the instance where a player lacks the integrity to police his own behavior, however, there is a chance that a judge will notice and realize what is going on. When and if this does occur, that judge has both the authority and the ethical imperative to act. The threat of this action serves as a final deterrent for unethical players to consider when weighing the “benefits” of cheating against their potential risks; any necessary execution of this action will serve, over time, to remove the undesirable presence of cheaters from our organized play environment.
Like Ser Barristan Selmy, most players feel victories are better when won with honor.
It is our hope that the presence of this documentation is enough to deter would be cheaters from engaging in behavior that is disrespectful to themselves, their fellow competitors, and the A Game of Thrones community at large. In the event that it is not enough of a deterrent, we must remain, like House Flint of Widow’s Watch, “Ever Vigilant.”
–Nate French and Damon Stone, A Game of Thrones Developers
As you explore the new strategies opening up with the Chapter Packs from the A Song of the Sea cycle, don’t forget to download the FAQ and tournament rules to catch up with the game’s latest rulings and restricted list. Both the FAQ and tournament rules are available on the game’s support page.