My balance proposition for Base game/MoD

Share big alternative variants (similar to and expansion), or maybe just talk/discuss small alternations to the official rules for better balance!
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Favorite AGOT House: Arryn

I wrote a very lengthy balance proposition to Jason Walden, the lead designer behind MoD (and contributor to the base game/other expansions). I'm not gonna post the entire stuff here, but I would like to take out the TLDR bits, to spark discussion and hear other opinions on the matter :blush:
Motivation behind this, was primarily the imbalance of Targaryen in MoD, which became apparent after playing the expansion a bit.

SUMMARY AT THE BOTTOM.

My primary goals for AGOT in terms of balance are split into 3:
1) Sea balance in the first two rounds is critical. There is absolutely no reason why the game should allow another house to easily demolish another one in two rounds. (ref. GJ/Lannister)
2) Very aggressive sea expansion early on should still be an option, (never the go-to move), but it needs to be with great risk. You can get rewarded if the move pays off, but doing a daring early assault should come with a negative impact if you fail! High risk, high reward.
3) With a fair early game in terms of sea balance, all the houses should have a reasonable chance at winning the game. AGOT is a highly asymmetric game, and there are so many variables that are not the same on each house (map position, house cards etc), so none is expecting there to be a perfect win rate for everyone, just within a reasonable amount.

Tyrell in base game:
I also sneaked in a small base game adjustment, to the worst house in the base game, Tyrell.
I would give Tyrell another ship in Redwyne Straights. (ideally it would be in port, but there isn’t a port in Highgarden, and he doesn’t control Oldtown on round 1). It would mostly solve the problem of Martell crippling Tyrell on second round, similar to the tweak done to Lannister/GJ.

Also, it’s worth noting is that this isn’t shifting the power balance, as giving Tyrell two ships there would pose a balance issue for the other houses. He can’t attack anyone on round 1. On round 2, Martell will have at a minimum 2 ships (and has star orders as well, with support +1 in Sea of Dorne). So, Martell will have a comfortable defense with various options to keep safe. Up north there is no point sending a single ship (you won’t send both, and leave BOTH your home seas open for Martell either), as Lannister will have 3-4 ships on round 2, and GJ 2 (with steel blade most likely still intact). So, he can’t really go anywhere, but having two ships would help greatly vs the early aggression from Martell. So purely a defensive measure. Also, even with two Tyrell ships, Martell can still take his sea on round 2, so the option is still there, but it follows with greater risk.

Summary on Arryn/Baratheon vs Targaryen:

a) Both have no star orders, so no muster or powerful tokens, unless you play with fewer players that push vassals down. Also, once you get into 6, 7 or 8 player games, that vassal first pick may not matter. Baratheon wants primarily Arryn or Martell as vassals, to be able to help defend their sea vs Targaryen. And for 8 players, vassals aren’t part of the equation anymore.

b) Their home sea is both adjacent to Targaryen home sea, so Targaryen can attack either one on round 1. GJ/Lannister are the only houses in the base game that start with their home seas bordering each other, and that proved to be problematic.

c) Targaryen can win regardless of what house cards/order tokens the other two uses. Even with optimal token/house card usage and Targaryen player publicly saying what cards he is going to play. Doesn’t matter. Targaryen losing ties doesn’t matter, because they will win by a good margin in these fights, so it will never come into play.

Baratheon, TLDR: Baratheon will always lose their sea early on, and cannot regain it without being lucky in westeros cards/several allies helping. Will also lose Dragonstone in several scenarios, which of course is not okay.

Arryn, TLDR: Worst start positions on influence tracks of all 8 houses (that’s saying something). Sea is same situation as Baratheon, bad.

I have talked in great length earlier on Discord about Targaryen strength, but trying to keep this short haha. If anyone have questions, please ask.

Balance discussion:
What I want to accomplish first here, is Targaryen no longer being able to have a 100% guarantee to take Arryn/Baratheon sea at round 1, and to a certain degree also round 2 (he’s able to do it, but with greater risk). Also, he should NEVER be able to take Dragonstone at round 1/2 (without misplays by Baratheon, which isn't the case today).

To draw some parallels, I want to move your attention to GJ-Lannister matchup again.
GJ and Lannister share home sea borders. The same does Arryn/Baratheon/Targaryen. But there the similarities mostly end.
GJ (the strong part) has VSB and Balon (one of the best house cards in the game, nullifies 90% of other cards, without requiring any setup whatsoever). Lannister (the weak part) however, now has 2 ships (at different locations, to enable star order bonuses), has 3 star orders, and can muster on round 1. So, he has 3 compelling counters to GJ’s aggression. (even if his house cards can’t do much). Another important point to make is that now, both GJ and Lannister start with the same amount of ships. Yes, GJ can still take the home sea vs Lannister on round 1, but at a GREAT RISK, after you gave the extra ship. He needs to move both ships, use Balon (his best card), and gamble on a muster on round 2. If not, he is often in a deep hole. Lannister can muster 2 ships in port round 1, and then have 4 ships (with star orders) vs 2 GJ ships.

Meanwhile, Targaryen doesn’t run the same risk pulling a stunt like this. That’s what I really dislike about the current situation.
Here, Targaryen (the strong part) has 3 star orders, 3 ships, 5 STR house card combo AND can muster new ships on round 1. That’s 4 compelling advantages, double that of GJ.

Meanwhile, Baratheon and Arryn (the weak part), has respectively:
Fewer ships (1 and 2 less). No star orders. No house cards to counter anything on round 1.
Wins ties, which isn’t happening anyway, so not relevant.
How is that OK? It’s far worse than the GJ-Lannister matchup, at least there Lannister had several things that acted in favor of him. Baratheon and Arryn have nothing. And Targaryen run a minimal risk at doing this.


My early game fix for Targaryen:
- Move one ship into port of Pentos. (Two ships in port).
- Remove one ship from Bay of Pentos. (Bay is now empty, just like the Arryn home sea).
- Move one Baratheon ship into Blackwater Bay.

What this accomplishes:

- Targaryen can no longer attack Arryn/Baratheon home sea, on round 1.
- Reduces the overall strength of the fleet for a round 2 attack, in case of no CoK/mustering. Now at most Targaryen can have 4 ships, 3 in a march +1 attack, and one moved into bay of Pentos (but you cannot setup support form here, on the round 2 attack). 4 STR vs Baratheon 3 STR. So, Baratheon still loses. But now Baratheon was able to move out of Dragonstone on the first round to expand, without risking Dragonstone. Same for Arryn, even with optimal setup for Arryn, he will lose vs Targaryen and his Vis – Khal 5 STR combo. But he was able to use defense order as this was round 2, which enables his house cards. For example, he can use Robert Arryn to remove Vis from the game (which would be painful for the Targaryen player) So overall, again, Targaryen is doing a riskier move here, even if he can still win.
- Allows Baratheon to take King’s Landing on round 1, just like in the base game. This would also make losing Shipbreaker Bay on round 2 to Targaryen, less punishing, as he can get mustering from both Kings Landing and Dragonstone on round 3.

Then for the late game.
As I have mentioned before, Targaryen is just absurdly strong. You can manage to hold Targaryen on one or two victory points until round 6, but as long as he has two dragons, he can easily take 5 – 6 more in the remaining rounds. I understand that they are supposed to be strong, but is too much!
I don’t have any online data for MoD, as the expansion isn’t anywhere right now online, but based on my home game experience, and the stories I have seen the others tell in my Discord, we are fairly unanimous in finding Targaryen a bit too strong after round 6. Some are even reporting 50%-win rates for Targaryen, even after many games. We ourselves have, as I said, 3 in a row for Targaryen.

What really makes the scale tip after round 6 is that the dragons attack combo is now 10 STR. (3x3 dragons & +1 march). It is just too soon, when Targaryen have permanent VPs.
Ideally, I would have liked the dragons to be 4 STR at most. Their tokens would have been placed on round 2, 4, 7, and 9. But I understand that it will not change. We have 5 spaces for the strength markers on the game board/deluxe mat, and 5 tokens.
BUT: We can easily adjust the rounds they are given out.

My late game fix for Targaryen:
- The dragon strength markers are given out on round 2 (-), 4 (-), 7 (+1), 9 (+1), 10 (-).

What this accomplishes:
- We delay the primary impact point from round 6 to 7, which gives more room for the Westeros houses to prepare. If you have vassals in play, it is more likely that some of these areas have been conquered by player houses, which in turn makes the loyalty tokens there harder to take.
Then delaying the 4 STR buff to round 9 as well for similar effect. At round 10 they are still the magnificent 5 STR monsters, which will surely provide a few loyalty tokens, so you better make sure they are not at 5 VPs before round 10 😊

Both the early game and late game changes, actually provides breathing room for Targaryen:
As is the case today, the other players feel forced to instantly gang up on Targaryen to remove at least 2 dragons, and cripple his map control in the process. Because they know that by “only” letting one player skirmish with him (as is pretty normal for the other houses), they run a huge risk of getting into a position where once again, the Targaryen train will be unstoppable on round 6-8 (often not requiring the last few rounds to win at 7 VP). So, either pick between making things miserable for the one playing Targaryen and gang up on him, or regret it later when you lose to his dragons at round 6-7-8, once he gets to 7 VPs.
So honestly, these changes will make things more enjoyable for everyone.

Summary

So, to summarize, the following changes have been purposed:

Base game:
- Give Tyrell another ship in RwS.

Mother of Dragons:
- Move one ship into port of Pentos.
- Remove one ship from Bay of Pentos.
- Move one Baratheon ship into Blackwater Bay. (also applies to games without Targaryen).
- The dragon strength markers are given out on round 2 (-), 4 (-), 7 (+1), 9 (+1), 10 (-).
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Tex
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Favorite AGOT House: Arryn

Good news :blush:

Jason liked my Dragon strength shift suggestion, and also acknowledges that Targaryen is too strong early on vs Baratheon (and to some extent Arryn). So some Targaryen ship adjustments isn't ruled out.

Mandatory disclaimer: This doesn't mean that a new errata is confirmed to be coming (or that it will contain exactly this, or any of it at all), but I am hoping =) This may be the first step of the long process, in any case.

PS: Base game won't be touched I think, so you can ignore the Tyrell ship suggestion. It will just stay my personal house game fix for them :relaxed:
Mandy Storm
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Favorite AGOT House: Targaryen

I believe that all the Houses have their specific strengths and weaknesses for a reason..there are counters to every card and move..A great GJ and Lanni player will be pretty even 1 on 1..also it is not in other players best interests for 1 house to get demolished so diplomacy is always helpful when you are losing and need assistance. Targ is definitely over powerful but they are meant to be in accordance with the GoT story and lore. The dragons slowly grow and can usually win at the end if players do not do anything to stop them. Diplomacy and alliances will help balance Targ from winning. A Good 2 on 1 can effectively contain Targ and If houses support Bara at the beginning then it is in everyone’s best interest. :). I have seen Targ get wiped out in 3-4 turns with Stark, Arryn, and Martell aggressively expanding and houses who show force on Essos early can be successful in neutralizing the dragon threat, therefore balancing the game :).
Gereon
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Favorite AGOT House: Stark

Mandy Storm wrote: 24 Sep 2021, 06:10 I believe that all the Houses have their specific strengths and weaknesses for a reason..there are counters to every card and move..A great GJ and Lanni player will be pretty even 1 on 1..also it is not in other players best interests for 1 house to get demolished so diplomacy is always helpful when you are losing and need assistance. Targ is definitely over powerful but they are meant to be in accordance with the GoT story and lore. The dragons slowly grow and can usually win at the end if players do not do anything to stop them. Diplomacy and alliances will help balance Targ from winning. A Good 2 on 1 can effectively contain Targ and If houses support Bara at the beginning then it is in everyone’s best interest. :). I have seen Targ get wiped out in 3-4 turns with Stark, Arryn, and Martell aggressively expanding and houses who show force on Essos early can be successful in neutralizing the dragon threat, therefore balancing the game :).
From my point of view, you have summed up the biggest weakness of the expansion here. After a handful of games, it should be clear to everyone that at least 2 dragons must die before turn 8. The easiest way to do that is to surround Targaryen from all sides. And then the beginning of every game looks very identical and it's no fun to play Targaryen at all anymore...
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Favorite AGOT House: Arryn

Mandy Storm wrote: 24 Sep 2021, 06:10 I believe that all the Houses have their specific strengths and weaknesses for a reason..there are counters to every card and move..A great GJ and Lanni player will be pretty even 1 on 1..also it is not in other players best interests for 1 house to get demolished so diplomacy is always helpful when you are losing and need assistance. Targ is definitely over powerful but they are meant to be in accordance with the GoT story and lore. The dragons slowly grow and can usually win at the end if players do not do anything to stop them. Diplomacy and alliances will help balance Targ from winning. A Good 2 on 1 can effectively contain Targ and If houses support Bara at the beginning then it is in everyone’s best interest. :). I have seen Targ get wiped out in 3-4 turns with Stark, Arryn, and Martell aggressively expanding and houses who show force on Essos early can be successful in neutralizing the dragon threat, therefore balancing the game :).
I completely agree on this, Targaryen is powerful ONLY if left alone. I have played this expansion at home, and now here and that is the main thing. Even if Targaryen gets the 3 dragons at full strength that doesn't mean he can win right away, he always goes last and by the end of the game there shouldn't be any empty land to reach easily.

It's worth nothing too that Targaryen doesn't need to take Baratheon or Arryn's sea... In fact, I think it's a clear mistake in strategy only justified on our force of habit of taking castles. I've done both Bara and Arryn sea rushes as Targaryen, I won't deny it it's fun as always, but it doesn't win you the game or put you in a good position.
Base game:
- Give Tyrell another ship in RwS.

Mother of Dragons:
- Move one ship into port of Pentos.
- Remove one ship from Bay of Pentos.
- Move one Baratheon ship into Blackwater Bay. (also applies to games without Targaryen).
- The dragon strength markers are given out on round 2 (-), 4 (-), 7 (+1), 9 (+1), 10 (-).
About these points, I would take ONLY the suggestion of Baratheon's ship moved to Blackwater Bay, to allow Kings Landing be taken in turn 1 and the sea more defensible.

About Tyrell having another ship: Star + 2 boats? I think it would be too much, and should be one thing or the other. In fact, I think you have 2 options:
º Tyrell with Star and 1 ship & Baratheon's ship in Bay
OR
º Tyrell with 2 ships, no star & Baratheon with Star and no ship moved.
"Many people have died for their beliefs; it’s actually quite common. The real courage is in living and suffering for what you believe"
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Favorite AGOT House: Arryn

Base game:
- Give Tyrell another ship in RwS.

Mother of Dragons:
- Move one ship into port of Pentos.
- Remove one ship from Bay of Pentos.
- Move one Baratheon ship into Blackwater Bay. (also applies to games without Targaryen).
- The dragon strength markers are given out on round 2 (-), 4 (-), 7 (+1), 9 (+1), 10 (-).
About these points, I would take ONLY the suggestion of Baratheon's ship moved to Blackwater Bay, to allow Kings Landing be taken in turn 1 and the sea more defensible.

About Tyrell having another ship: Star + 2 boats? I think it would be too much, and should be one thing or the other. In fact, I think you have 2 options:
º Tyrell with Star and 1 ship & Baratheon's ship in Bay
OR
º Tyrell with 2 ships, no star & Baratheon with Star and no ship moved.
[/quote]

Base game dude ;) Of course in MoD Tyrell no change.
Taking only the Bara ship move is pointless. It does very little to change the balance, you change the Targaryen ship count or you may as well leave it as it is. See my reasoning in the OP.
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