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Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

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+Gojira    1708

Ashes: Rise of the Phenixborn is a new card game that hits all the marks of excellence for me. It has great art, interesting and unique mechanics, and a solid, if simple, premise.


Official page: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/games/ashes

Card database/deckbuilder: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes




Ashes is not a collectible card game. The idea is that everything you need to play, even competitively, is in the core set, which is regularly available for $35. There are 2 expansion decks currently ($15 each) and 2 more being released next month. Despite the small starting card pool, the game is fairly deep. The way card advantage is gained is very different from the major card games, and there are multiple strategies/decks with close power levels. In my testing experience, games are decided more on player decisions than deckbuilding, in part because of the adaptable starting hand rule.



The main deck is exactly 30 cards, max 3 of each card. Additionally, you have a Phoenixborn card. Phoenixborn have a unique ability as well as differing life totals, board sizes, and a unique card for the main deck. There is also a conjuration deck, which is basically a deck of tokens summoned by specific cards.


Mechanics (in no particular order):




Ashes uses a semi-random resource system involving dice. There are currently 4 types of resources: Natural, Illusion, Ceremonial, Charm. Both players start the game by rolling 10 dice comprised of those types. Dice have 3 different symbols. All dice have 3 of the Basic symbol, 2 of a dice-specific symbol, and 1 of the "Power" symbol. A dice on the Power side can be spent for a low-power ability unique to the dice type. Cards require different sides in addition to types of dice. The Power side can count for the more common sides, and the other dice-specific side can also count for the basic side. Dice are removed from the active pool when used. While dice are an element of randomness, the Meditation mechanic allows you to cast all of your cards even if you get bad rolls.




As a side action (explained in Turns/Actions) a player can enter Meditation. The player can then discard any number of cards from their hand, spellboard, or the top of their deck to turn a corresponding number of dice to the side of their choice. While this eliminates most of the randomness of dice, the cards in your deck can be a valuable resource in control matchups, making it important to balance the use of Power dice.


Starting Five:


Each player, after revealing their Phoenixborn, searches their deck for 5 unique cards to start the game with. This mechanic relies on a lot of metagaming. With certain decks, you can just try to advance your own strategy, but it generally better to allocate 1 or 2 unique cards specifically to counter the opponent's strategy. You may have concerns about combo decks here, but, while combos do exist, they are only good against a completely unprepared opponent.




Each turn, the turn player can take one main action and one side action. Players can also play one Reaction spell each per turn. Side actions are optional, and a p]layer can pass instead of a main action. When both players pass their main action consecutively, the turns phase ends and a new round begins. Rounds are the largest division in game-time.




At the beginning of each round, players draw until their hand has 5 cards, if they cannot, they take damage for each missed card. This makes board presence the defining form of card advantage. Spells/units that can remain on the board (more on that later) are extremely important. However, it is not as good to empty your hand every turn as you might think. Control decks can stall opponents long enough to kill them through draw damage.




Cards require some combination of one of the player actions, a resource, and adding exhaustion tokens to activate. Exhaustion tokens are a similar to tapping in magic, but more than one can be added by some cards, locking a card down for an extra round.




Attacking with any number of units uses a player's main action and puts an exhaustion counter on the attacking units. You can either attack the player/pheonixborn or attack other units. A phoenixborn can always block attacks to a unit and vice versa, but units cannot block each other without the unit guard ability. When units are blocking/being attacked, they have the option to counter the attacking units and deal their attack damage. If they counter, they also gain an exhaustion token.




Damage to units and phoenixborn is treated to the same. First damage is dealt, then the damaged card gains Wound tokens equal to the damage. Certain cards can place wound tokens directly.


Field of play:


The field is separated into battlefield and spellboard, with their sizes dictated on the Phoenixborn cards. Units and summons go on the battlefield, and only ready spells go in the spellboard. All other spells are discard spells and go directly from hand to discard pile.


Card Types:


Units are standard, with attack/health/abilities similar to other games, though it takes a main action to play one unit. Ready Spells take a slot on the spellboard and act similarly to enchantments/continuous spells. Certain Ready Spells summon units from your conjuration pile to the battlefield. All spells/units are played similarly.


Games of Ashes can get pretty intense, and because of the turns phase there is a lot of interaction. Getting all of the cards is really cheap currently, so I suggest giving it a try.

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+Gojira    1708

This is the only one I've played so far, but I'm hyped for SeaFall. 

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Jesus the Jew    985
18 hours ago, Gojira said:

This is the only one I've played so far, but I'm hyped for SeaFall. 


I've heard mixed things about SeaFall because some people felt the progress of the story was too slow.


I have Dead of Winter, which is a great game.


I've heard good things about Mice and Mystics (for family weight gaming) and Summoner Wars as well.

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