In this part I am going to start talking about the specifics of playing as each house. I have broken this discussion into 3 parts, as each house has a lengthy section attributed to it. In this first part we will look at Stark and Greyjoy (if you missed the previous parts, part 1 can be found here and part 2 here).
|"Do we have a house slogan?" "We do not, so...?"|
6: Specific House Strategies and Weaknesses
And when not to fight"
- Sun Tzu on Waging War
During this discussion on general strategy I have also alluded to the specifics of playing as individual houses. In this section I am going to talk about the key strategies that each house should deploy, as well as proposed opening moves. The majority of these opening moves are based on the principle that a large land grab in turn 1 is the best move, but also allowing for flexibility and time to react to opponents' moves.
House Stark are often seen as the most defensive house, since a lot of their house cards are designed to protect units, as well as them being geographically the furthest away from the action. Probably the biggest strength for Stark is the large number of land areas that they can take and hold without much fear of retaliation; the only house that may consider heading north is the Greyjoys. The Starks can create a choke point at Moat Cailin, as well as having easy access to the Vale. It is therefore a priority for Stark that they set up a defensive position around Moat Cailin (or even Seaguard if the opportunity arises), and send 2-3 footmen to pick up the undefended territories in the north and the Vale. This creates easy power token farming as well as allowing Stark to pick up extra barrels, which has to be an early game priority for them, as they only start on 1.
Perhaps Stark's biggest weakness is their navy. Winterfell is the only territory that can be marched on from both the west and the east sea areas, and as such it needs a strong navy on both sides. The problem with this is that Stark's neighbours, Baratheon and Greyjoy, boast the strongest navies in the game. Furthermore, Stark has at best 6 ships to play with, which is not going to be enough to hold both sides. Therefore, Stark must consider how to put pressure on these two houses. By continually making aggressive moves towards Seaguard Stark can force Greyjoy to keep their navy in and around Ironman's Bay, as they will not want to leave their land forces unsupported. This means that Greyjoy will not be able to spare an attacking navy to head north. That said, it is vital that Stark muster 1-2 boats into Bay of Ice as soon as possible to ensure that Greyjoy have a strong enough incentive not to head north.
|Pictured: A strong incentive|
To defend against Baratheon, Stark need boats in the Narrow Sea. Ideally having a force of 3 boats, possibly with additional support from either the Shivering Sea or White Harbor port, will make any naval attacks an unappealing prospect for Baratheon. Their trump card is Salador Sahn, who only works when Baratheon are being supported, which they can't be when marching north.
Stark have the most unusual house deck, in that Roose Bolton's ability to avoid playing through the full deck means that Stark can ensure they always maintain a strong hand of cards. This means that Eddard, Robb and the Greatjon should be used first to maximise Roose's value. The best time to play Roose is by marching into a key territory for an opponent, which forces them to play a winning move. For example, a march into Seaguard puts pressure on Greyjoy to play a strong card to ensure a win, whilst also posing little threat to you, since Greyjoy have few sword icons at their disposal.
Unless Greyjoy or Baratheon are completely wiped out it is unlikely that Stark can make a play for 7 castles. Therefore, Stark players should aim for 5-6 castles; namely, Winterfell, White Harbor, Moat Cailin, The Eyrie, and ideally Seaguard and Flint's Finger. As long as Greyjoy are kept in check Stark shouldn't have too many problems making a safe attempt at the win.
Shivering Sea: March -1 into the Narrow Sea
White Harbor: March 0 into the Fingers
Winterfell: March +1, knight into Moat Cailin, Footman into the Twins
Shivering Sea: March 0 into the Narrow Sea
White Harbor: March +1 into the Moat Cailin
Winterfell: *Consolidate Power (Boat in the Bay Of Ice, Footman on Winterfell)
It says a lot about Greyjoy's position that, in the 3 player game, Stark and Lannister quickly come to blows without them squeezed in the middle; as such, Greyjoy, more than any other house, will feel the pressure of being on top of other houses. Put simply; Stark needs to march south through the Greyjoys, and Lannister do not want Greyjoy sitting on their doorstep. Fortunately, Greyjoy start with the Valyrian Steel Blade, as well as having by far the strongest house cards. If used correctly, Euron, Victarion and Balon are all effectively guaranteed wins. Theon and Asha are very strong in the right situations, and Aeron is arguably the most dangerous 0 (he can burn himself and lets Greyjoy respond to whichever housecard they come up against). All this gives Greyjoy a huge number of options in combat, which they desperately need, especially due to their lack of special orders.
|Special orders not always required.|
Another plus point for Greyjoy is their naval presence, in that it is possible for Greyjoy to support all their key territories with a single strong navy in Ironman's Bay. The two key naval positions that Greyjoy need to consider are the following. Firstly, there is enormous power in being able to hold two adjacent sea areas, as it allows any naval supports to be raided, whilst also protecting your own support. As such, it is key to try and take Sunset Sea as soon as possible, as this allows raiding of Lannister support from the Golden Sound. This feeds into the second key aspect of the Greyjoy navy; Ironman's Bay is adjacent to Riverrun, but the Golden Sound is not adjacent to Seaguard. This means it is much harder for Lannister to defend Riverrun that it is for Greyjoy to defend Seaguard. If Greyjoy can achieve this naval set up they can comfortably take and hold Riverrun, giving them access to a 4th castle (and a 3rd stronghold). Because of this difference in positioning and all things being equal, Greyjoy will probably have the upperhand in the contest for Riverrun.
From here Greyjoy need to consider whether to march north or south. Due to the aforementioned naval issues that Stark face a push into Winterfell is not a big stretch for Greyjoy, since Stark simply cannot defend their Western coast against Victarion. It is also very difficult for Stark to safely defend their northern holdings once their navy has gone, as Greyjoy will have much easier movement options. Once Winterfell has gone Greyjoy should aim to take either Moat Cailin or Whiteharbor, which would likely give them the win. This is made even easier if Baratheon hold the Shivering Sea, as it prevents Stark supporting.
Alternatively, Greyjoy can head south and clash with Lannister. Again, as above, Riverrun is likely to go towards Greyjoy, which can be a killing blow for Lannister. Once it has gone then Greyjoy can either push east for Harrenhal and Crackclaw point, or aim to take Lannisport. Lannisport is generally the better choice, since the Greyjoy navy can get involved, and once Greyjoy have taken Seaguard, Riverrun and Lannisport it is pretty much game over (especially if there is a mustering).
Obviously both these strategies are very aggressive, but it is the nature of the Greyjoy position. It should be said that if you are moving to take Winterfell or Lannisport make sure it is mid to late game, since you are effectively taking a player out of the game, which they won't be too happy about if it's only turn 3.
Aside from positioning, the other main issue Greyjoy face is the influence tracks. Outside of Pyke they are unlikely to ever be able to consolidate power safely anywhere on the board, which is dangerous, since they need to grab special orders to compete with Lannister. Otherwise a well-paced and conservative Greyjoy game can be a strong candidate to win, as their house cards mean reliable victories when you need them.
Greywater Watch: March -1 into Flint's Finger
Pyke: March 0, knight into Seaguard, footman into Riverrun (or both into Seaguard if Riverrun has been taken by Lannister)
Pyke port: Consolidate power
Ironman's Bay: Support
Greywater Watch: Consolidate power
Pyke: March -1, knight into Seaguard, footman into Flint's Finger
Pyke port: Consolidate power
Ironman's Bay: March 0 into Sunset Sea
So that's Stark and Greyjoy. In the next part we move to the middle of the board and look at Lannister and Baratheon.