Two Guys, One Throne: Melee

Where you claim one power just for listening.

Profile photo of Robert By Robert On May 30, 2012 Posted In Game of Thrones LCG

One of our biggest fans (massive overstatment… maybe) Glenn Tyler, sent me a message a few weeks back and asked us to talk about Melee games.  So Glen, this cast is for you.

Oh yeah, Buz stopped by and joined us for this one.  Did you know he’s as congenial in a podcast as he is in a real life?  Hard to believe I know.

If you have any topics you would like to hear discussed or would like to come on and discuss yourself, please leave us a comment, or send an email to Steven or I a line at our respective pages (Steven’s or Robert’s). We’d love to hear from you.

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    1. How modest of you to say so, Buz. lol. Honestly, I kind of agree that this was one of the best podcasts that you guys have done. Is it because of Buz and his infectiously positive personality? Or because my name was actually mentioned on a couple occasions? *hint* I’m not THAT conceited.

      Yeah, Buz, I’m on your team. 2v2 is fun and all and opens up a whole realm of different deckbuilding possibilities. However, even after playing this game for 4 years I’m still not bored with all the deckbuilding options for Joust and Melee. Could that have to do with the fact that I actively play every house? Absolutely! The LCG distribution model could have a good bit to do with that as well. I just see no reason to play 2v2 games(especially during regional season). Why not just play Melee? I can certainly see 2v2 as having it’s own place in the game, and it does…once per year at Gencon.

      That being said, I don’t really play Melee outside of the Gencon Championships. If my regional ran Melee as part of the competition, then I would play it there…but we don’t. I just don’t like some of the underganded practices that have went on days, sometimes weeks, before the Melee tournaments at Indy. Certain metas sending out “headhunters” to take out certain members of other Metas, or obvious pre-game collusion between meta mates to shaft other players out of winning. Some people may say “that’s just A game of Thrones and how it’s supposed to be played.” But I disagree, there still needs to be some level of sportsmanship. And too many times over I have seen or even been a part of this and it has left a bad taste in my mouth towards melee as a format for competitive play. For casual play at home…sure go for it.

  1. Well, Steven, I gotta thank you for the kind words and, you’re right, I do love all things Game of Thrones… but I’m gonna have to go with Buz and Nathan on this one. :-)

    And, I agree with Buz in principle, that I think AGoT is a Melee game. It’s the most fun (IMHO) in Melee. There’s more interaction, more community dynamic that happens in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joust because it’s more Science-y. You analyze the meta, build your deck with the tech you think you need to overcome the common tricks while not losing sight of your deck’s power. Then it’s just you and the other deck builder reading each other and playing your cards.

    Melee is a lot more art… and, in that, a lot more “game” for me. You still have the science of reading your meta, trying to figure out the types of decks you’ll see and you do your best to tech against it… but you’re just as much playing a people game in Melee.

    Melee is a Dale Carnegie contest while Joust is more David Allen.

    As far as the question, “Is Melee broken?” No, I don’t think it is – I think we do see a lot of Rush decks, but it’s far from the only way to win Melee. I’ve interrupted any number of Rush decks by playing Forgotten Plans during a Power of Faith turn or through Search and Detain. If you’re building your deck with Rush in mind… there are things you can do to try and compensate.

    The problem is when EVERYONE tries to Rush at the same time… then it’s just no fun and you’re really just playing a four person Joust match with the person who gets the cards they need fastest winning the game. While I build Rush elements into my Melee deck, I’m also building Rush interruptions into my deck all the time.

    I play to win, but I play for the fun of it… sometimes I do things in Melee just so everyone has more fun. If I can tell my buddy is going to rush – I play everything I can to overwhelm his deck (even if it means I won’t win) but it makes the game more interesting for everyone.

    Okay… that’s probably long enough… turning into a blog post of its own! (And I still haven’t even FINISHED listening to the podcast yet!)

      1. Well, in one episode the office workers challenge the warehouse guys to a basketball game. Jim, one of the main characters, schools one of the warehouse guys really hard to impress this girl. Well, after the game, the guy he beat really badly says “look it’s Larry Bird. Larry Legend!”

        I guess it just stuck in my head all these years.

  2. Got to wrap up listening to the episode while I ran today. Good listen for sure.

    I’m sorry to say though, Steven, that I think you’re wrong about always beating up on the guy that’s got the weakest board. More often than not when I play, people tend to gang up on the person with the strongest board presence. Call it “Englightened Self Interest” if you will. While there are certain decks that can go it alone, I find it’s almost always to the other three player’s advantage to work at least somewhat together. If everyone always just smashes face against one guy to farm him for power, then each player must be pretty confident in the thought that their deck will always have the absolute fastest capability to get to 15 power. Sadly, this just isn’t the case most of the time. Especially if you piss off that one guy and one of the few actions that he does manage to take slows you down just a tad and the other players pass you by. I’ve very much found that it’s better to take a little bit of time and attempt to achieve a certain level of board parity (while trying to keep your board better without other players noticing) so that you’re able to maneuver into a winning position.

    That said, it really seems that I see quite a few people in the games that I’ve played over the years who still run a certain level of control or toolbox in their decks to help prevent anyone from getting too far ahead. Sometimes all it takes is a small hiccup to trash your plan if everyone is singlemindedly rushing. I know Other Ben played a fairly toolbox-y Greyjoy build at our Regional this year and Big Ben surprised us all at the table by wiping us with Westeros Bleeds. It was only be a very narrow turn of events that I slipped past that for the win next turn rather than him trashing all three of the other players and moving to the top.

    I’d be curious to hear more of what you guys think of outside the physical game shenanigans in melee. For instance, at our Regional last year, we ran Melee on the second day. We learned that we probably shouldn’t do that in the future because the final table actual led to me ignoring all other factors than staying ahead of Greg (as long as I did, I won Overall. If he finished ahead of Me, he won Overall) and in the end, Kingmaking another player in order to keep myself in second or third place at the table ahead of Greg. As well, the final table at Gencon last year was won by one player playing an event to give his friend at the table an extra challenge and then let him make win all challenges unopposed against him. Neither of these situations quite jive in my mind with the competitive spirit of the event, even though I was involved in one.

    1. Kennon – we experienced the same thing at the Melbourne regional where we ran a split event and (foolishly) ran the melee component first. It introduced a whole range of out-of-game considerations that fundamentally changed the match. Not ideal, that’s for sure.

      As to the ‘control’ elements in melee – it is too often the case that you play your ‘interrupt’ effect and merely kingmake someone else. It is quite difficult to play control effects and benefit yourself more than anyone else – although I did see it happen once in the Blackburn regional yesterday (report to come).

      And I just haven’t seen the “gang-up” thing happen very often. It is too easy to aim for the weak target that you *know* you can get the unopposed on, rather than fire challenges off against the strongest deck that you probably won’t win. At Melbourne, I had three players collude against my Starks – the alliance fell apart midway through the first challenges phase. They stopped my challenges, but one player had to kneel out to do it – the other two players turned on him badly, getting unopposed and PBTT power for the INTs. I came second on that table anyway.

      Yesterday, two players *wanted* to collude against my Starks again, but could never coordinate it. There was simply no gain for the Bara rush deck to run into me – he might win an opposed INT, but otherwise MIL was impossible and POW would have knelt him out for an unsure victory. Faced with the prospect of kneeling out and then giving his “ally” the opportunity to run into him, he opted to race me and we both piled on the weakest player.

      When the gains from deal-breaking are high (and the short-term gains from keeping the deal are low), expect deals to be broken, I guess.

      Interestingly, and I’ll talk about this in the report, the three player games seemed to function, in general, better. Maybe it was the lower potential for someone to start off weaker? The point is, when there were no obvious weak-link, the games involved far more jostling for position and shifting alliances.

      Maybe there’s a pattern here – in games where there’s one player who is dominant and another who is weak, the other players bandwagon (either racing for the win, or playing for second – knowing that they risk becoming the new “meat” if they challenge the hegemon). In games where there’s one player who is dominant, but no whipping boy, the players collude against the leader.

    2. I’ve also found a mix of these two things to be true. It really depends on board position. I have to agree, that the smart play is to look at board position and try to determine who is the real threat and work with others to try and eliminate that threat while quietly trying to become a threat yourself; however, many players will pick on the weakest to try and gain those unopposed challenges. It really depends on the mix and how bad the board looks. If someone is amassing power quickly and it’s obvious they’re poised to be an early win threat, everyone will pile onto that person and try to bring them down. If there is some parity or nobody really looks like a big threat yet, the weaker player becomes the whipping boy (or girl).

      1. I also think that the experience level of the players matters here quite a bit. I think newer players are more wont to pile on for a cheap challenge win while experienced players know that being outraced is a possibility.

        Or maybe I just am blowing smoke about that? Who can say?

      2. No – I think you’re right on that one. That’s what I’ve seen, newer players tend to go for the easy challenge while the more experienced players tend to take a longer view.

        Although it does seem to depend upon the deck their running… obviously, if their deck capitalizes on unopposed, even the experienced player will tackle the weakling to gain the extra power needed to try and pull an early win.