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    Designer Journal presents the weekly musings and ramblings of GoT designer Eric Lang.

    Past Weeks' Entries:
    "A Game of Ice & Fire" 06/18/2003
    I suppose the first thing you noticed here is that the header of this column does not contain the word “errata.” Meaning that I have failed you once again! Unfortunately, discussions about this issue have not completed here, so I can’t really report with any degree of accuracy what is going to happen. Next time, I won’t promise a column based on an issue until we’ve finished with it on our end. Promise.

    So! This week’s column is a quick look at the future of the game. I’m going to talk about a few things you can expect from the Ice & Fire edition, and give a bit more detail about how we structure our sets.

    Ice & Fire, a 250 card set, is the replacement for Westeros edition (which is not being reprinted). Over 200 of the Ice & Fire cards are new, and 10 of the reprinted cards are plots that are fixed to starter decks only. I&F will have starter decks for all five of the Great Houses – Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Greyjoy, and Targaryen. These decks are more randomized than their Westeros counterparts, containing 20 fixed cards and 30 random. This is going to make them really great for sealed deck play (see below).

    The Houses are all going to be fairly equally represented in this set. We would prefer not to do any more lopsided expansions in the future (although, remember that I told you to look for neat new ways to add to your “House” choices – I&F is going to showcase one of these in a big way). A big part of I&F is reinforcing the flavor of the Houses, which I feel was quite well accomplished. There are many new abilities for each House which you haven’t seen yet, so for those of you who think your favorite House is limited in its strategic options, think again! =)

    Once Around the Block
    Awhile back, I talked about how our expansion sets are structured. Each year (GOT’s year is from August to July), we kick off with a new base set and follow it up with two half sized expansions. Our current formula, which seems to work very well, is 240-250 cards for the base set, and 145 cards for the two expansions.

    We call the combined three expansions a “block.” A block is named after its base set – this year is the Westeros block (Westeros, ASOS, AFOD), and next year’s is Ice & Fire block (I&F, ATOB, ACOS). The year after that … well, now we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Beginning with I&F, each block is based around one or more themes, with the base set introducing the theme, and the expansions … well, expanding on it.

    Of course, each set in a block also has its own identity, and is designed to shake up the game in its own way. Ideally, the new mechanics in a set will have synergy with older ones, so you’ll have to keep reevaluating those cards you haven’t been using yet.

    Old is New Again
    The base sets are where the majority of the main characters get new versions. Each expansion, including small ones, does this, but the base sets are always the starting points for new players, so they want to see the main characters of the game. Here’s a bit of a spoiler: you’ll be seeing a new Eddard, Catelyn, Arya, Sansa, Jaime, Cersei, Tyrion, Tywin, Robert, Renly, Stannis, Balon, Theon, Asha, Aeron, Dany, Selmy, Dragons, and Varys. And that’s only the beginning!

    In a perfect world, each new version of a character would not be better or worse than an older version, just a different twist on that character’s flavor. This is, however, not a perfect world, and we needed to seriously update some of the older characters that were not being used (or “fix” others). But in most cases, I tried to make characters that would really make you think about which version you wanted to use for a given deck.

    I&F is also introducing new versions of unique locations. These work just like characters; the copy you play first is the original, and any others you attach, regardless of version, are duplicates. The new Casterly Rock will make Lannister players understand just what it means when George Martin says that Tywin Lannister [censored] gold.

    Sealed Fate
    Ice & Fire is going to be great to play sealed deck or booster draft with. If you have not tried these formats, please do … they are great fun. I wrote an article on Sealed deck awhile back (you can find it in the COTW archives), so no need to rehash that territory here. But, with the reprint of AFOD coming up, playing a sealed deck with I&F starter and any combination of AFOD/I&F boosters should be a blast. I don’t want to spoil anything yet, but your choice of starter deck for sealed play is going to be even harder than ever; some decisions are going to be needed before you even start to think about your plot deck!

    Well, that’s it for this week. I will begin I&F spoiler columns in two weeks, to get you guys ready for the future. In the meantime, enjoy all the new options AFOD has added to the game. And, for those of you coming to Origins, I’ll be there with my three favorite decks to take on all comers.

    Join me next week, when I examine the differences between tournament and casual play.