Visions in the Flames: Neutrals and House Bolton

Bannermen! We return for another look at the upcoming 2021 Updates.

Michael Shinall here, and today we are taking a full look at the revamped Neutral Tactics Deck, as well as diving into the denizens of the Dreadfort themselves: House Bolton.

Before we jump in, be sure to take a look at all our previous Visions in the Flames articles, but particularly our coverage of House Baratheon, available HERE. As previously mentioned, we’ve had a full article series going over the specific design and development ideas moving into 2021, and while some glimmers were seen when we released our 2021 Preview Document (Available Here), I believe seeing the full Tactics breakdown, along with the previews, from Greyjoys to Baratheons to today with the Neutrals, begins to paint the larger picture of our 2021 updates. Having said that, let’s jump right in.


What drives a man Neutral? Over the many years since the game’s release the argument of “Are Neutrals a real faction?” has been continuous, with the answer really depending on your definition of what makes a faction. Is it access to a specific Tactics Deck? Well, Neutrals have their own, so by that definition they absolutely are. Is it unique and diverse styles not found elsewhere? Again, they check that box as well… But having said that, they still stand unique among everyone else in the fact they can be incorporated individually into any (most, sorry/not sorry Free Folk) existing Faction. This means that their main purpose has always been a supplementary role to the “real armies”- at least that is how some view them.

So what direction did we want to push the Faction/Not-Faction in 2021? Well, of course we wanted to keep their role as supplemental forces intact, but when it came to pushing them as their own faction, we took a different approach. Specifically, due to the wide and varied nature of Neutrals, making everything within the “faction” a cohesive force just wasn’t going to happen- and we never wanted it to. Applying that level of homogeny to the most unique and eclectic selection in all of A Song of Ice and Fire wouldn’t do the series justice.

With that mindset going in, we asked a simple question: What actually binds these groups together? With the Great Houses, it’s usually a philosophy, a regional identity, tradition… A number of possibilities and doctrines… When it comes to those who remain Neutral though? Usually it is self-interest, and this self-interest usually stems from a single powerful individual… a Commander, if you will… Who through charisma, might, or reputation gathers people to their cause and goals, forming order out of the random elements not aligned to the greater factions of the world.

It was with that mentality that we shifted the Neutral’s focus to be heavily influenced by your choice in Commander. You will see, as we explore the cards, that above most any other faction, Neutrals draw upon their Commander, their cards, and their unique style to bring victory on the battlefield: A Stormcrow-centric army led by Daario Naharis is going to play vastly different from a Bloody Mummer army with Vargo Hoat, and both of those different from the focus of today’s talk: House Bolton of the Dreadfort.

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