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New Players - Balancing and/or Variants for 4-Player Games?

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#1 dulcamara



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Posted 15 April 2013 - 12:53 PM

Recently bought the 2nd Edition - while I've set up the board and walked myself through a few turns, have yet to play. I'm looking at the first couple playthroughs being 4-player excursions, with maybe more folks for later games. A mix of veteran strategy gamers along with more casual players, but we're pretty laid back about it all - not much min/maxing and not overly competitive, just looking for a little devious backstabbing/alliance grand strategy fun.

Unfortunately, reading through here it sounds like the 4-player version is extremely unbalanced against the Lannister player and in favor of the Baratheon. I'm wondering if it's even worth trying the default 4-player setup - since I've got some more casual players lined up it'd be nice to have a fun balanced experience from the start, lest they lose interest quickly.

If the standard isn't recommended, are there any *playtested* & balanced variants? I've heard some sub in Tyrell for Greyjoy, but I'd guess there are some other tweaks needed to make this work. I'm not interested in theoretical variants, only ones that have been played thru multiple times and resulted in actually more satisfying games.

Also, do the 5 and 6 player versions play a bit better as-written?

Thanks in advance guys. As usual for FFG the production and design values for this are great and the mechanics seem fun - too bad they apparently didn't address the balance issues from the 1st edition, but still really looking forward to a game!

#2 MarthWMaster



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Posted 15 April 2013 - 06:28 PM

This past weekend's Days of Ice and Fire event saw the release of a Print-On-Demand expansion called "A Feast for Crows" that is played with exactly four players, and rearranges the Houses' starting board position, replaces House Greyjoy with the newly-introduced House Arryn, and also shortens the time required to play the game by changing the victory condition. Having had several opportunities to try out the expansion during the weekend, I will say that as far as I'm concerned, "A Feast for Crows" is the definitive way to play four-player games from now on.

#3 dypaca



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Posted 16 April 2013 - 02:54 AM

Unfortunately this weekend was not the release unless you know someone at the event, but a preview of an expansion that will likely be released in the next six months.

For the meantime, I think the main thing you want to do to balance the four player game is give about 4 to 8 castle areas impassable garrisons.  You can do this with the suggested houses and just block most of the south.  Another suggestion I've liked but haven't played is to use Lannister, Baratheon, Tyrel, and Martell, then block of Pyke, the top two sea areas, and all the land north of Seagard.

#4 dulcamara



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Posted 16 April 2013 - 12:53 PM

Ah, good to know a balanced 4-player expansion is on its way. Unfortunately, doesn't do me much good if it's months out - again, was hoping to catch the game on with a few new players in the next couple weeks.

dypaca, far as your suggestion to block off "4-8" castles - I get this would inhibit Baratheon expansion. But does it help the Lannister's position (caught between Greyjoys & Baratheon)? And 4-8 is quite a range, would you recommend lower or higher on that scale?


I'm kinda thinking of running the default houses, but making these changes:

1. Blocking off maybe 4-5 southern castles to limit Baratheon expansion.

2. Possibly give neutral forces a draw from the Tides of Battle cards, to give a little more uncertainty (and potential for casualties) to the above.

3. 5 strength neutral force on Riverrun. To reproduce the novel's situation of a Tully-held fortress and to make it difficult for the Greyjoys to grab early (maybe leading to more pressure on the Starks also).

4. Possibly give Lannister an extra footman on Lannisport.

The last two are from this post's suggestions to give the Lannisters a fighting chance: http://www.fantasyfl...=614261&efpag=0

The first two are to address Baratheon easily dominating the South.

These to my understanding are the main quibbles with the 4-player game. What do you folks think? Possibly workable? Too radical of changes?

#5 dypaca



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Posted 16 April 2013 - 03:36 PM

It all depends on how tight a game you want.  If your players are not very aggressive, you might go higher, but the low end is probably better.  (In fact, on further thought, anything above 6 is rather excessive).

The Lannister/Greyjoy thing is a whole different issue that stems largely from the very strong housecards that Greyjoy was given in 2nd edition.  I think with more experience players start to adapt to this, but the learning experience can be more fun for Greyjoy than Lannister.  (Basically Greyjoy learns that being too aggressive without getting 7 castles is likely to open the door for someone else to grab the win, but Lannister spends those games feeling picked on).  It's probably one of the best arguments for swapping out Greyjoy or Lannister with Tyrel.

Personally I would avoid changing game rules or trying too hard to reproduce the novels, but whatever your group has fun with.  I'm a big believer in the idea that just about any setup can be balanced if players can evaluate the threats and potential allies, and everyone stays focused on winning.

#6 Smutki



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Posted 28 June 2013 - 12:54 PM

Played the game for the first (and last) time today. Played Lanister, got destroyed by Baratheon & Greyjoy, Baratheon won. NOTHING I could have done to prevent it, NOTHING that can be done in future matches to prevent that scenario to happenb again, since the game does not involve enough random elements to make the keybattles a question of chance. What a waste of money buying this game :-(

#7 Dalamarth



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Posted 29 June 2013 - 08:28 AM

Make deals/alliances. This is not a straight up free for all game in which everyone is equal. The game is ALL about making alliances/betrayels. Lannister has it harder because they're supposed to be the manipulative ones. Learn how to play other houses against eachother.

#8 Anyhouse



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Posted 07 July 2013 - 08:47 AM

I have played a south run game a few times before cutting off the north and using Tyrell and Martell. It is more balanced but takes longer because it is almost impossible to take over 7 strongholds. It is mostly back and forth. One person takes over an area , another takes it back and so on. Lannisters really have the advantage in this  scenario because of the 2 barrell areas right next to them. But there is no where to hide behind netruel tokens.So, Baratheon can't easliy claim the south. Also, there are more battles and you really have to think about every move since you are right next to aleast two other houses.


We have also tried switching Tyrell or Martell for Greyjoys(taking pike off the board) which resulted in a Tyrell or Martell victory because Lannister took the surrounding Greyjoy castles and left Martell or Tyrell  to take the neutrel areas. With only needed one or two castles from another player it was an easy victory. Baratheon was busy building up his forces and defending against the Starks. Martell had a few more battles being next too Baratheon but as Tyrell there were few battles between other players. All depending on you're play style.


We play with 2 competitive people (my brother and I), an over thinker (who i tend to persuade) and a under thinker.

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