One of the benefits of playing with Joe, besides being able to ogle his fantastic beard, is that the smallest of rules get surfaced for discussion. Of course, nothing beats the infamous “passing is a main action” arguments of yore, but precision in the timing of setup for FFG’s LCGs is certainly up there.
We discussed this very briefly in the latest podcast (along with AGoT State of the Nation, Progrunning for Netrunner and how Ben killed the President) and this is the time to unpack this in its goriest level of detail.
So what is it then?
I’m glad you asked: in FFG’s LCGs the first player will always complete setup actions before the other players. Setup actions typically include drawing their starting hand and any subsequent mulligan, but in AGoT it also includes setting up cards.
In competitive games there is some play advantage to being second player at this time. Let’s take a look at that for each of the games.
If the first player took a mulligan then they didn’t see their key pieces in their hand. Usually their key pieces are going to be a three-of so there in a 49-card deck and drawing 5 cards there is a c.30% chance they’ll see a 3-of in the opening hand, and c.50% chance they’ll see it in either their first hand or a mulligan hand. There’s more variance in the discussion of this topic than I expected there to be, if I’m honest, and I intend to look into this in more depth in a future article.
The way in which the player approaches the decision may also inform the second player’s actions. Did they hmmm and ahhh over the decision before deciding to go with it “against their better judgement”? Then your own barely passable hand might well be sufficient if it has some okay pieces.
Did they pass setup to you faster than you could say “Tywin, Roseroad, Reducer”? You might mulligan that barely passable hand after all.
Rule of thumb: if the player has mulliganed it is safest to assume that they’ve got a key piece to their deck. For instance, if you’re facing a Criminal player in Netrunner who didn’t mulligan, then your first turn as a Corp should assume they have Account Siphon in hand and icing HQ over R&D might be preferable.
What does this mean for A Game of Thrones?
The setup phase in AGoT includes the placement of the setup hand, wherein 8 gold worth of cards are placed facedown in front of the player. The first player does this first, then followed by other players in order. This card setup dictates board presence at the point that the first plots are played.
If the first player only sets up one or two cards, then this may decide the cards that the second player sets up. One good example of this is the Plot Card ‘Marched to the Wall’. What this does is send one character for each player to the discard pile. It might be that seeing only a couple of cards out, the second player would choose to not setup any characters to play that plot and therefore not be hit by its effect.
If the players took their setup decisions independent of each other this tactical advantage might be lost.
What does this mean for Netrunner?
In Netrunner the Corp always goes first and therefore the decision on whether to mulligan is the Corp’s. The nature of Netrunner means that the Corp is likely to be looking for some ice and some economy in the opening hand, with not very many agendas. Deck archetypes have different priorities, of course, but this is a typically good opening hand.
This is the first opportunity for the Runner to gain information advantage over the Corp, as they get to see what the Corp does before they decide to mulligan or not. A careful read of the Corp players decision making around a mulligan may reveal clues as to what the Runner should do early doors.
In addition, the Corp’s first actions may well be influenced by the Runner’s mulligan or not. The example of icing HQ over R&D cited above is the most obvious example, but it might also influence whether the Corp believes there is a scoring window to be had in short order and whether naked assets can be played.
What does this mean for Conquest?
Conquest is similar to Netrunner – it is the presence or not of a mulligan that is most telling. In many cases in Conquest the mulligan is taken where insufficient army units were found in the opening hand and this may indicate whether a strong board presence is to be expected or not.
I find that it is of least importance in Conquest, as delaying deployment and who has initiative at particular planets has a much stronger bearing on how the round is going to play out.
What does this mean for Lord of the Rings?
Well, you’d *think* that it meant nothing for a co-operative game like Lord of the Rings wouldn’t you? Well, let me introduce you to my friend Joe…
…Slightly more seriously, it has less impact on LotR due to the nature of the game, but turn over is a sensible discipline to get into and this should be observed from the early setup phase as well.
So there we have it, player order in setup matters. The most information is gained in AGoT, but observing the way in which the player decides or not to mulligan may give some advantage and if the player has mulliganed the odds are that they’ve found what they were mulliganing for.
Use this knowledge to your advantage in what you choose to do and whether or not you mulligan as well.
If you’ve got further insight or comments hit us up below, or at the usual places.