House Bolton Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Neutral Faction

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The Neutral Faction in A Song of Ice and Fire: The Miniatures Games consists of those who fight for coin or their own ends, willing to switch allegiances at a moment’s notice. While just about every faction in Westeros can make use of these mercenaries, only the most calculating and merciless commanders are willing to field an entire army of such soldiers. Any faction other than FreeFolk can make use of Neutrals as long as no more than 50% of their force consists of such units. In order to truly unlock the potential of the faction, the entirety of your force must be made up of Neutral units. Neutrals are a very rewarding faction to play with its aggressive units, strong NCUs, and flexible tactics cards. Alongside some influential, if self-serving members of the Small Council, the first wave of Neutral releases is primarily House Bolton.

An ancient House, the Boltons trace their ancestry to the Age of Heroes when the Red Kings fought the Kings of Winter for control of the North. Having dipped their banners a thousand years ago, House Bolton remains a bitter vassal of House Stark. However, their allegiance wavers often in favor of their own self-interest, demonstrated by their many past rebellion attempts. It is said that in the hidden dungeons of the Dreadfort, the Boltons still flay their enemies to this day…

 

How Neutrals play

Fitting their sinister reputation, Bolton units love to spread terror in their foes. An aggressive faction, Bolton units hit hard and deal additional damage through panic. Panic tokens are an important resource, as many of their commander specific tactics cards require them. While it may be tempting to expend these tokens early for extra wounds on panic tests, it should only be done to finish off an opponent due to the Bolton commander’s use of them to power tactics cards.. The incredibly versatile neutral tactics deck allows you to deal with just about any problem as it arises.

Bolton Cutthroats

At only 5 points, Bolton Cutthroats are Neutral’s cheapest source of battlefield activations. Boasting an attack profile comparable to many elite units,  Their 8 dice hitting on 3+ with vicious is effective and cost-efficient. Their Spiked Mace ability allows placement of Vulnerable when attacking an unactivated enemy unit- rewarding a first strike. This applies significant board pressure in the early round, forcing your opponent to make tough choices about their activation order. This ability should not be underestimated, especially when applied en masse- making cutthroat spam a viable if uncommon strategy.

With only average morale and poor armor, Bolton Cutthroats tend towards fragile, so they require careful placement and mindfulness of an opponent’s threat ranges. With Cutthroats, it’s important to remember your ABCs (always be charging). Combined with the right tactics card, a charge in the flank can often destroy an enemy unit outright.

Bolton Blackguards 

With a solidly above-average 3+ armor and 6+ morale, the House Bolton Blackguards are a capable defensive bulwark at 6 points. They give pure neutral forces a reliable objective holder, able to take charges without folding. As heavy infantry their speed is sub-optimal, so they will take some to advance up the field. As a result, the initial unit deployment becomes essential, as bogs or the beloved corpse pile can stymie their advance. But once the Blackguards are in position, the Seven Kingdom’s best fighters will have trouble dislodging these troops.

The Blackguards’ signature ability, Horrific Visage, punishes foes for every melee attack on them. This can often blunt an enemy attack through the panic-induced reduction of enemy ranks, making an assault on the Blackguards a lose-lose scenario. Blackguards excel against basic units, who often lack the hitting power to cut through their armor in the first place. And when the need arises to hold an opponent in place, the Blackguards are great at tarpitting, while your aggressive units charge from the flank. Remember there is no such thing as a fair fight!

Bolton Bastard’s Girls

Deceptively fragile, many new players pass the House Bolton Bastard’s Girls over after one or two games- but learn to use them correctly and opponents will give them a wide berth. Their signature ability Sic em! allows both their ranged attack and a charge in the same turn, dishing out 10 attack dice and two panic checks in rapid succession. While it is quite possible to pick off a few enemy soldiers or the stray dire wolf on the first or second round with their ranged attack, it is important to use their shift to optimize your follow-up charge. These 2 extra inches can make the difference between successfully charging or dying out in the open.

While they make a decent skirmisher on the flanks, the Girls can potentially tie up heavy cavalry by charging in and denying them the use of their lances. Another tactic is to play a game of keep-away with an expensive enemy unit, drawing them away from your lines as you pepper them with arrows. Alternatively, with proper support unit can shine by helping set up perfect charges from the safety of your lines.

House Bolton Flayed Men

One of House Bolton’s iconic units, the Flayed Men have often defined the ASOIAF meta. Representing one of the best toolboxes in the game, this unit does well in just about any role. With their 2+ armor save, opponents must dedicate significant resources to their destruction… Meanwhile, 8 attack dice with Critical Blow and Vicious allow them to cut a swathe through the battlefield.

At 10 points the House Bolton Flayed Men are a significant investment- treat them as such. One mistake players often make is overestimating this unit’s survivability, sending it forward from their lines unprotected. There is nothing more demoralizing than losing an expensive unit in the early game through overaggressiveness. A savvy commander will keep the Flayed Men close to their lines, intimidating opponents with their 11” threat range. Few units in the game will dare to venture near, allowing you to position the more fragile Bastard’s Girls and Cutthroat units for maximum impact.

Attachments

Dreadfort Captain

As mentioned earlier, panic token management is crucial when fielding Boltons. For only one point, the Dreadfort Captain provides an additional, albeit situational, token source. Their Spread Fear ability triggers when an engaged enemy unit fails a panic test, requiring the enemy unit to not only survive the initial attack, but fail the subsequent panic test. The Blackguards’ Horrific Visage is our best source of consistent panic tests, and when combined with the Dreadfort can make an excellent panic token engine.

Bolton Flayer

For only 1 point, Bolton Flayers provide considerable healing with their Prey on Fear ability. Remember, the ability triggers ANY time engaged enemies fails a panic test; making 2v1 scenarios even more rewarding.  Consider putting the Flayer in a unit of Bolton Cutthroats, as the extra staying power might help mitigate their poor survivability.

Roose Bolton- The Leechlord

At 3 points Roose Bolton the Leechlord is a considerable investment, pushing even the humble Cutthroat into elite infantry territory. What he provides is a reliable source of panic tokens when successfully charging. His second ability Prey on Fear, can increase a unit’s survivability in prolonged combats. This attachment shines in a unit of Bastard’s Girls, though at 10 points a unit of Flayed Men might work just as well.

Ramsay Snow-Sadist

Ramsay’s Cut Them Down! causes 2 additional wounds when an engaged enemy fails a panic test. This ability synergizes well with the Blackguards, as an opponent’s failed panic test will result in no less than 3 casualties. Both versions of Ramsay are fielded with his sidekick, Theon Greyjoy – Reek. Reek is another fairly reliable source of Panic Tokens, making Ramsay a great two-for-one value at 3 points. Just be careful, after Reek passes out a panic token you must roll a die, and on a roll of a 5 or 6 Reek will be killed. Try and only use poor Theon when you need him!!

Non Combat Units

Varys-The Spider

Most players will be familiar with the meta-defining Lord Varys. A source of much consternation, Varys is one of the reasons that Neutral NCUs are considered some of the best in the game. Varys’ ability to shut off enemy NCUs or tactics zone effects on a 3+, make him an excellent control piece. There is nothing better than denying a Sudden Charge or a free attack at the top of the round – effectively causing your opponent to skip a turn. With 4 order tokens, it may be tempting to use Varys’ ability early. However, these tokens are at maximum effectiveness mid-to-late game as the tactics board becomes more valuable. Often the threat of Lord Varys will cause a smart opponent to avoid the board entirely in exchange for a guaranteed activation.

Petyr Baelish – Littlefinger

Baelish is a versatile NCU, allowing you to trade his claimed zone effect for another unclaimed zone on the board. This lets you deny your opponent a key zone without having to change your game plan. His ability can also be used to double-dip on certain zones, allowing combos like attacking with the same unit 3 times within a single round!! Petyr Baelish assists offensive plays,  setting up cards like Wealth and Cunning or Adaptive Strategy.

Commanders

I will talk more about commanders in a future article, but here’s a quick overview

Ramsay Snow- The Bastard of Bolton

Ramsay is one of the most aggressive commander choices in the game. His signature tactics card, Cruel Methods is almost reason alone to take him, allows a free attack at the start of the round! Even if you are the second player, this card creates an advantage over the opponent and can potentially shift the balance of a key combat. Ramsay’s order, Flay them All!, forces extra panic tests on nearby enemy units. Pick a unit engaged with either a Dreadfort Captain or House Bolton Flayer for extra mileage.

Roose Bolton-Lord of the Dreadfort

Commander NCU’s are incredibly valuable, offering your force a free activation. Roose epitomizes the Neutral Faction’s control game. If you like shutting down an opponent’s hand, or saying “no” to a key unit, then Roose makes an excellent commander choice. Alongside House Bolton Blackguards, you can play a great denial game by giving your opponent a plethora of bad choices. Additionally, Roose’s Horrific Rumors ability is one of the best sources of Panicked, allowing the placement of 2 additional tokens per turn.

If you are interested in a Roose List, feel free to check my previous article: Tactics Talk: Roose Bolton Lord of the Dreadfort

Faction: Neutral

Commander: Ramsay Snow – The Bastard of Bolton

Points: 40

Combat Units:

  • Bolton Cutthroats (5)
    • with Bolton Flayer (1)
  • Bolton Cutthroats (5)
    •   with Bolton Flayer (1)
  • House Bolton Blackguard (6)
    •   with Ramsay Snow – The Bastard of Bolton (0)
    • and Theon Greyjoy – Reek (0)
  • House Bolton BlackGuard (6)
    • with Dreadfort Captain (1)
  • The Bastard’s Girls (7)

Non-Combat Units:

  • Lord Varys – The Spider (4)
  • Petyr Baelish – Littlefinger (4)

Made with ASOIAFBuilder.com

This list gives you a solid core of units while still maintaining a healthy 7 activations. The defensive core of Blackguards is great for holding objectives. Additionally, no Bolton list would be complete without 2 units of Cutthroats! For players who prefer House Bolton Flayed Men, feel free to drop the Bastard’s Girls and unit attachments to make room for them.

In future articles, we will take a deep dive into the Tactics Deck as well as some of the upcoming releases!

1 COMMENT

  1. Greetings from Germany,

    Hello Mike. Since I started to play the Neutral faction I searched for articles regarding play style and tactics. Earlier I stumbled across your podcast with Chase, which I highly recommended to our local players and to my club colleagues. This article in combination with your podcast appearance made me a better player and helped me to unterstand, how to play with the Neutrals. I want to thank you for sharing your experience and insight: THANK YOU!

    You are doing a great work, which helps a lot of people to understand the concept of their faction and to develop in being a better player.

    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,

    Jun „Genjuro_77“ Jingco, Privateer Poza Boyz Germany (you can find me on Instagram)

    PS. This are my current list:
    #1:
    Cutthroats + Ramsey (C)
    Cutthroats + Flayer
    Cutthroats + Flayer
    Bastards Girls + Bronn
    Blackguard
    NCU: Petyr, Varys

    #2:
    Flayed Men
    Flayed Men
    Blackguard
    Blackguard
    NCU: Roose (C), Petyr, Varys

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