Recommend
20 
 Thumb up
 Hide
22 Posts

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Sometimes, You Need to Burn to Shine - A Review of Ashes rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Seth Dodson
United States
Mount Joy
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
So, I don't write reviews normally, it's not my "thing." I've never boiled over with feelings about a game and felt the need to write about it, to tell the world about something I feel they need to experience. At most, I'll take a pic of a game and post it to social media with a blurb about what I felt about it.

Until I played Ashes.

Before we go any further, I'm going to ask read the rules. You can get the PDF from Plaid Hat's site, and it's a pretty quick read.

Oh, and a bit of background before I really launch into it: I played Magic as a youth, and I still dabble in it now and again as an adult. I might hit up a pre-release once year or so with buddies, scratch my itch with sealed, and call it done. The hobby is expensive (I'd rather sink that cash into board games I can play with multiple people), and the game has always felt too random to me. Get great cards but not enough land? Mulligan and lose a card. Get too much land? Agonize over keeping it and hope you don’t just draw more land. Get mana screwed or flooded mid game? Tough luck!

I completely understand that's part of the game and the strategy. I'm also certainly not saying Magic is a bad game, trust me. I'm just using it to set up one of the (many) reasons I fell in love with Ashes.

While any game involving shuffling cards is going to be random (and Ashes adds to that by making you roll dice as well) there are many clever ways to mitigate that randomness. Right away we have the First Five mechanic. You begin the game with a hand of five cards you choose. You can get your engine and strategy going right from the jump, after you both place your Phoenixborn on the table. You know who you're up against, and can think about what five cards you want to use against them during the first round. Sure, cards you draw after that will always be random, but every card you draw is useful. You'll never be stuck with a card that's not good for something. If you can't use it that round for what it says on the card, you have the glorious Meditate mechanic.

Meditate allows you to discard a card from your Hand, Deck, or Spellboard, as many as you want, from as many of those sources as you want, per turn as a Side action. Then you can change one die for each card you discarded to any face you want. Die roll didn't work out? Ditch a card you know you won't use. Maybe your hand is amazing! Ditch a card from the top of your deck. Good hand and low on cards in your deck? Ditch one of your three Summon False Demon cards in your Spellboard.

Speaking of dice, let's take a second to talk about them before I move on. THEY ARE AMAZING. What a brilliant choice to use them as resources. They don't clutter your hand, they can be changed with Meditate, you can use higher rarity faces as lower, and the cards themselves are balanced with randomness in mind. Few current cards require two of the rarest face to play and they are very powerful. Usually, if a card requires two or more resources it's often a uncommon and a common rarity, or maybe a rare and a common. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one card that requires two Uncommon resources of the same color. And did I mention that the dice have their own powers you can activate as a Side action? So good.

Lots of choices right? That's good, because every choice has weight and matters. You have to Actions you can take during you turn, a Main and a Side. You better make them count! Do you Summon a creature to add to your defense, or for a bigger attack next turn? Should you attack for just two while your opponent is wide open, and his Readied Summon is exhausted? If he plays a big Ally can you respond with a defender next turn? Should I take a damage to not draw a card when I exhaust this spell and force my opponent to make the same choice?

Whew, that's a lot to think about. Even writing this I'm thinking back to my games on Saturday night. My opponent took a damage to not draw a card. Two rounds later I was able to directly deal the exact two damage needed to win. Had he not done that, I'd have lost instead. We both knew it. He didn't need to take the damage, and he had plenty of cards in his deck. It's almost a smidge Euro gamey that way, it's often not as much about the cards you draw but the choices you make.

Ashes gives me that feeling in the pit of my stomach that is both adrenaline and dread almost every turn due to how monumental every choice is. It's incredibly rewarding to see what you played something that just felt right and absolutely paid off. It's devastating when you see that the choice you made was wrong, and you're paying for it.

I'd be doing the game a disservice if I didn't mention the amazing art, which was solely done by one artist, Fenanda Suarez. Each piece is beautiful, but when you start seeing the characters and spells from other cards on other cards, it'll blow you away. The world building is done all through the art and it just works. For example, Noah has a card that allows him to summon spiders when one of his creatures dies. The card shows the spider's leaping from the corpse of another creature he can summon, attacking the Knights that are exclusive to the promo character Dimona. It those sorts of touches that make the cards a joy to look at while you play.

Let's talk value before I wrap this up. You can play this game 30 times without a rematch between Phoenixborn using the recommended decks in the rule book. (33 if you have the promo, Dimona. She requires you to strip cards from four other decks if you use the recommended deck from Plaid Hat's site.) Play it that much? Go ahead and make constructed decks. Unlike LCGs, you don't need to buy more than just this box to make functional constructed decks. You get three of every card, and you cannot have more than three copies in a deck. Then there is drafting, which is simple and easy, and will produce all sorts of crazy decks.

I think you can tell I really, really love this game I think this one is really special. Hound your FLGS to get copies in and build a community around this game! Maybe I'll even see you on the battlefield.

Reviewer note: I paid $50 for this copy with my own hard earned money at Gen Con. No promotional consideration was given, and I do not work or volunteer for Plaid Hat Games. I’m Chorazin on Instagram and Twitter, give me a follow if you want to see what I’m playing. Thanks for reading!
34 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
trevor

Missouri
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. A big plus for me is it is the only lcg/ccg style game my wife likes, except for a brief foray into LotR.

Loving this game so far!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Seth Dodson
United States
Mount Joy
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
bigGameGeek wrote:
Great review. A big plus for me is it is the only lcg/ccg style game my wife likes, except for a brief foray into LotR.

Loving this game so far!


Thank you very much! I really can't wait for this to be in wide release so more and more people can love it like we do.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marc Bennett
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
great review!

I would like to point out that molten gold does cost 2 nature power dice. but wow what an effect. place 3 wound tokens (not damage so cant be responded to)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Seth Dodson
United States
Mount Joy
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Klaxas wrote:
great review!

I would like to point out that molten gold does cost 2 nature power dice. but wow what an effect. place 3 wound tokens (not damage so cant be responded to)


Oops, you are right! I'll edit that into the review. I was on the receiving end of that spell, and it definitly is painful!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jean-Philippe Thériault
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Chorazin wrote:
You can play this game 30 times without a rematch between Phoenixborn using the recommended decks in the rule book.[/i]


15. If you go 6x5 you are double counting (Noah vs Coal is the same matchup as Coal vs Noah).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Sitz
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Klaxas wrote:
great review!

I would like to point out that molten gold does cost 2 nature power dice. but wow what an effect. place 3 wound tokens (not damage so cant be responded to)


It also cost two to activate Summon Silver Snake. 1 Charm and 1 Nature. (Or as I like to say, Snake and Froggy). But that's not the cost of the spell, which is just a major action.

Luckily Maeoni can meditate or use Open the Realms, which changes 3 dice to the side of your choice for a main action.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C. E. Freeman
United States
Kansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
XDarkAngelX wrote:
Chorazin wrote:
You can play this game 30 times without a rematch between Phoenixborn using the recommended decks in the rule book.[/i]


15. If you go 6x5 you are double counting (Noah vs Coal is the same matchup as Coal vs Noah).


I believe he is counting the possible match ups with him playing each PB. In Noah vs Coal he played Noah. In Coal vs Noah he played Coal. While the PB were the same, the match up was different for him because he played a different PB in each game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Seth Dodson
United States
Mount Joy
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jexik wrote:
Klaxas wrote:
great review!

I would like to point out that molten gold does cost 2 nature power dice. but wow what an effect. place 3 wound tokens (not damage so cant be responded to)


It also cost two to activate Summon Silver Snake. 1 Charm and 1 Nature. (Or as I like to say, Snake and Froggy). But that's not the cost of the spell, which is just a major action.

Luckily Maeoni can meditate or use Open the Realms, which changes 3 dice to the side of your choice for a main action.


D'oh! Like I said, I'm not usually Mr. Reviews guy, guess I should've checked that. Changed the wording to "Few current cards require two of the rarest face to play and they are very powerful." Just in case I missed more!

Tacullu64 wrote:
XDarkAngelX wrote:
Chorazin wrote:
You can play this game 30 times without a rematch between Phoenixborn using the recommended decks in the rule book.[/i]


15. If you go 6x5 you are double counting (Noah vs Coal is the same matchup as Coal vs Noah).


I believe he is counting the possible match ups with him playing each PB. In Noah vs Coal he played Noah. In Coal vs Noah he played Coal. While the PB were the same, the match up was different for him because he played a different PB in each game.


Exactly.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Avatar Aang
United States
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I was a playtester of this game...it's so cool to see something you've worked on get that much praise. Thank you so much man.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Quinn
New Zealand
Auckland
none
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Chorazin wrote:
Oh, and a bit of background before I really launch into it: I played Magic as a youth, and I still dabble in it now and again as an adult. I might hit up a pre-release once year or so with buddies, scratch my itch with sealed, and call it done. The hobby is expensive (I'd rather sink that cash into board games I can play with multiple people), and the game has always felt too random to me. Get great cards but not enough land? Mulligan and lose a card. Get too much land? Agonize over keeping it and hope you don’t just draw more land. Get mana screwed or flooded mid game? Tough luck!


I highly recommend watching Richard Garfield's talk on "Luck in Games" at Copenhagen University (granted he is not the most fluid presenter but his content is excellent IMO).

People site the randomness of Magic as a negative all the time. For me it is one of the best things about the games, and the game that balances variance and skill almost perfectly.

Look at the tournament results - if the game was "too" random wouldn't you expect completely different winners? The fact that there is enough variance that newcomers can expect to win against the best players some (small) percentage of the time, but skill is also highly rewarded is why the game has been around for 20+ years. The inherent variance leads to more interesting game states that allows the more skilled players to find new and innovative ways to win.

Many, many TCGs have claimed to "fix" the "excessive" variance of Magic...but they are no longer around

Not wanting to go too far off topic, but I just felt giving my 2c on your point regarding Magic.

As for Ashes, I am really liking the look of it! The biggest challenge will be trying to get my wife interested...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C. E. Freeman
United States
Kansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
For all the criticism leveled at Magic, much of it legitimate in my opinion, there is still way more good than bad in the game. Magic may have been around for over 20 years, but how many years has chess been around? It seems no randomness is doing pretty well too.

The amount of randomness allowable in games is a subjective quality and we each need to find our own sweet spot.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Quinn
New Zealand
Auckland
none
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Tacullu64 wrote:
For all the criticism leveled at Magic, much of it legitimate in my opinion, there is still way more good than bad in the game. Magic may have been around for over 20 years, but how many years has chess been around? It seems no randomness is doing pretty well too.

The amount of randomness allowable in games is a subjective quality and we each need to find our own sweet spot.


So how long have simple dice rolling games been around? 3000BC if you consult Wikipedia.

You can find examples to suit your point of view without too much trouble.

My point is, let's be realistic with our comparisons. In the recent history of TCGs (~1993), Magic has dominated by quite some margin. I believe this is due to the variance in the game design, and the commercial success and growing player base seems to back this up.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C. E. Freeman
United States
Kansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
slimo wrote:
Tacullu64 wrote:
For all the criticism leveled at Magic, much of it legitimate in my opinion, there is still way more good than bad in the game. Magic may have been around for over 20 years, but how many years has chess been around? It seems no randomness is doing pretty well too.

The amount of randomness allowable in games is a subjective quality and we each need to find our own sweet spot.


So how long have simple dice rolling games been around? 3000BC if you consult Wikipedia.

You can find examples to suit your point of view without too much trouble.

My point is, let's be realistic with our comparisons. In the recent history of TCGs (~1993), Magic has dominated by quite some margin. I believe this is due to the variance in the game design, and the commercial success and growing player base seems to back this up.


My point is that Magic hits the randomness sweet spot for some and is too random for others. The reviewer was reasonable in his comments. He stated that Magic was a bit more random than he prefers. I responded to your comment that different folks like different amounts randomness in their games. How is any of that not realistic? Do you not believe that some people find Magic too random?

The reason I don't play it anymore has nothing to do with the amount of randomness in the game. While I prefer more control over the outcome of my games, I'm ok with the amount randomness in Magic. Clearly the majority of people who play Magic don't have a problem with the the amount of randomness in the game or they would quit. However I frequently hear complaints about mana screw, mana flood, or not drawing the needed card all game when there is 4 of them in the deck. Walk around a room filled with peopl playing Magic and you will frequently hear these complaints.

I do believe Magic hit the level of randomness it was aiming for and we each need to decide how much we enjoy Magic's level of randomness.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Quinn
New Zealand
Auckland
none
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Tacullu64 wrote:
slimo wrote:
Tacullu64 wrote:
For all the criticism leveled at Magic, much of it legitimate in my opinion, there is still way more good than bad in the game. Magic may have been around for over 20 years, but how many years has chess been around? It seems no randomness is doing pretty well too.

The amount of randomness allowable in games is a subjective quality and we each need to find our own sweet spot.


So how long have simple dice rolling games been around? 3000BC if you consult Wikipedia.

You can find examples to suit your point of view without too much trouble.

My point is, let's be realistic with our comparisons. In the recent history of TCGs (~1993), Magic has dominated by quite some margin. I believe this is due to the variance in the game design, and the commercial success and growing player base seems to back this up.


My point is that Magic hits the randomness sweet spot for some and is too random for others. The reviewer was reasonable in his comments. He stated that Magic was a bit more random than he prefers. I responded to your comment that different folks like different amounts randomness in their games. How is any of that not realistic? Do you not believe that some people find Magic too random?

The reason I don't play it anymore has nothing to do with the amount of randomness in the game. While I prefer more control over the outcome of my games, I'm ok with the amount randomness in Magic. Clearly the majority of people who play Magic don't have a problem with the the amount of randomness in the game or they would quit. However I frequently hear complaints about mana screw, mana flood, or not drawing the needed card all game when there is 4 of them in the deck. Walk around a room filled with peopl playing Magic and you will frequently hear these complaints.

I do believe Magic hit the level of randomness it was aiming for and we each need to decide how much we enjoy Magic's level of randomness.


I'm sorry but you can't talk about realism when you were the one who brought Chess into the conversation to compare with Magic as a game without randomness that has been around longer than 20 years.

Listen to Richard Garfield's Luck in Games talk - I found the part about cushioning of egos relevant to the frequent complaints you list.

If you walk around a room filled with people playing a game that has "fixed" the randomness, like the WoW TCG, you won't hear any of these complaints because the room will be empty because the "fixed" game design lead to repetitive game states where entry level players were realistically never able to beat better players so the player base never grew.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C. E. Freeman
United States
Kansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
slimo wrote:
Tacullu64 wrote:
slimo wrote:
Tacullu64 wrote:
For all the criticism leveled at Magic, much of it legitimate in my opinion, there is still way more good than bad in the game. Magic may have been around for over 20 years, but how many years has chess been around? It seems no randomness is doing pretty well too.

The amount of randomness allowable in games is a subjective quality and we each need to find our own sweet spot.


So how long have simple dice rolling games been around? 3000BC if you consult Wikipedia.

You can find examples to suit your point of view without too much trouble.

My point is, let's be realistic with our comparisons. In the recent history of TCGs (~1993), Magic has dominated by quite some margin. I believe this is due to the variance in the game design, and the commercial success and growing player base seems to back this up.


My point is that Magic hits the randomness sweet spot for some and is too random for others. The reviewer was reasonable in his comments. He stated that Magic was a bit more random than he prefers. I responded to your comment that different folks like different amounts randomness in their games. How is any of that not realistic? Do you not believe that some people find Magic too random?

The reason I don't play it anymore has nothing to do with the amount of randomness in the game. While I prefer more control over the outcome of my games, I'm ok with the amount randomness in Magic. Clearly the majority of people who play Magic don't have a problem with the the amount of randomness in the game or they would quit. However I frequently hear complaints about mana screw, mana flood, or not drawing the needed card all game when there is 4 of them in the deck. Walk around a room filled with peopl playing Magic and you will frequently hear these complaints.

I do believe Magic hit the level of randomness it was aiming for and we each need to decide how much we enjoy Magic's level of randomness.


I'm sorry but you can't talk about realism when you were the one who brought Chess into the conversation to compare with Magic as a game without randomness that has been around longer than 20 years.


You made it sound like Magic hit the perfect amount of randomness a game can achieve. In trying to point out there is no perfect amount of randomness in games and different people prefer different amounts of randomness in their games, I bring up chess as an example of a successful game without randomness. How is this not a valid point?

slimo wrote:
Listen to Richard Garfield's Luck in Games talk - I found the part about cushioning of egos relevant to the frequent complaints you list.

If you walk around a room filled with people playing a game that has "fixed" the randomness, like the WoW TCG, you won't hear any of these complaints because the room will be empty because the "fixed" game design lead to repetitive game states where entry level players were realistically never able to beat better players so the player base never grew.


Do you believe there is only one proper amount of randomness and that Magic has achieved randomness perfection, or do you believe different people like different amounts of randomness in their games? I believe the latter and that is the only point I'm trying to make. You are reacting like the author and myself are demeaning Magic by prefering games that are less random.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Quinn
New Zealand
Auckland
none
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Tacullu64 wrote:
slimo wrote:
Tacullu64 wrote:
slimo wrote:
Tacullu64 wrote:
For all the criticism leveled at Magic, much of it legitimate in my opinion, there is still way more good than bad in the game. Magic may have been around for over 20 years, but how many years has chess been around? It seems no randomness is doing pretty well too.

The amount of randomness allowable in games is a subjective quality and we each need to find our own sweet spot.


So how long have simple dice rolling games been around? 3000BC if you consult Wikipedia.

You can find examples to suit your point of view without too much trouble.

My point is, let's be realistic with our comparisons. In the recent history of TCGs (~1993), Magic has dominated by quite some margin. I believe this is due to the variance in the game design, and the commercial success and growing player base seems to back this up.


My point is that Magic hits the randomness sweet spot for some and is too random for others. The reviewer was reasonable in his comments. He stated that Magic was a bit more random than he prefers. I responded to your comment that different folks like different amounts randomness in their games. How is any of that not realistic? Do you not believe that some people find Magic too random?

The reason I don't play it anymore has nothing to do with the amount of randomness in the game. While I prefer more control over the outcome of my games, I'm ok with the amount randomness in Magic. Clearly the majority of people who play Magic don't have a problem with the the amount of randomness in the game or they would quit. However I frequently hear complaints about mana screw, mana flood, or not drawing the needed card all game when there is 4 of them in the deck. Walk around a room filled with peopl playing Magic and you will frequently hear these complaints.

I do believe Magic hit the level of randomness it was aiming for and we each need to decide how much we enjoy Magic's level of randomness.


I'm sorry but you can't talk about realism when you were the one who brought Chess into the conversation to compare with Magic as a game without randomness that has been around longer than 20 years.


You made it sound like Magic hit the perfect amount of randomness a game can achieve. In trying to point out there is no perfect amount of randomness in games and different people prefer different amounts of randomness in their games, I bring up chess as an example of a successful game without randomness. How is this not a valid point?

slimo wrote:
Listen to Richard Garfield's Luck in Games talk - I found the part about cushioning of egos relevant to the frequent complaints you list.

If you walk around a room filled with people playing a game that has "fixed" the randomness, like the WoW TCG, you won't hear any of these complaints because the room will be empty because the "fixed" game design lead to repetitive game states where entry level players were realistically never able to beat better players so the player base never grew.


Do you believe there is only one proper amount of randomness and that Magic has achieved randomness perfection, or do you believe different people like different amounts of randomness in their games? I believe the latter and that is the only point I'm trying to make. You are reacting like the author and myself are demeaning Magic by prefering games that are less random.


I'm assuming the most commercially successful one did it the best.

Not perfect, but the best.

In any case, I'm done now
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Keddie
Wales
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
slimo wrote:
I'm assuming the most commercially successful one did it the best.

Not perfect, but the best.

In any case, I'm done now


Flawed assumption sadly. A superior product can be edged out of the market by better marketing, or an inferior product might already have established market dominance simply by coming out sooner. Look how many better smartphones there are than iPhones, for example.

I'm not suggesting which games might be better than Magic; I have my own preferences on that score and I don't want to derail the thread in that direction, but simply because something is the most successful doesn't intrinsically make it the highest quality.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Seth Dodson
United States
Mount Joy
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good debate you guys! Hopefully you're all enjoying Ashes now that it's more available.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Zarzycki
Poland
Poznań
Wielkopolskie
flag msg tools
spiral out
badge
keep going
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
CommissarFeesh wrote:
Look how many better smartphones there are than iPhones, for example.


You really don't want to go that route. "better" is very subjective term, unless you just measure the overall customer "satisfaction" with the product and service. And in that area, Apple triumphs (or: is not worse than others) year after year, as studies show.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Keddie
Wales
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
rattkin wrote:
CommissarFeesh wrote:
Look how many better smartphones there are than iPhones, for example.


You really don't want to go that route. "better" is very subjective term, unless you just measure the overall customer "satisfaction" with the product and service. And in that area, Apple triumphs (or: is not worse than others) year after year, as studies show.


Fair point. I was thinking in terms of specifications, but I understand where you're coming from - "better" will always be a source of debate.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Zarzycki
Poland
Poznań
Wielkopolskie
flag msg tools
spiral out
badge
keep going
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Coming back to your example, though, because the original reasoning was good: VHS vs Betamax.

http://www.cnet.com/news/format-wars-the-tech-that-should-ha...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.