Glen Cooney
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So I've played Ashes maybe around... 8 times I want to say. I have mostly played 3 or 4 FFAs, with a few 1v1s, and I have tried every Phoenixborn. I am particularly fond of Maeoni.

I really enjoyed Summoner Wars and I am certainly a fan of the genre of Ashes, but I find there are a few elements that have been rubbing me the wrong way lately. I feel like I'm either missing something, or this game just isn't as good as I first thought. Compared to MtG or Hearthstone, there are a few dynamics that I feel really slow the pace of play and make strategies in other CCGs ineffective. Things like:

* Chump blocking is *very* effective, since attacking at all exhausts a unit until the end of the round, and short of a few abilities there is no way around this.
* Sending multiple small units to take down a bigger unit rarely works in your favor, as it just denies both players from being able to deal damage to each other's Phoenixborn
* Having attacks be a main action also slows the pace of the game, as it makes attacking more costly. Combined with the above two facts, I feel like the game turns into an arms race, with relatively few attacks launched at either player until you draw a lucky spell or an opponent slips up.
* Outside of Aradel, Coal, and Maeoni, there are very few options to deal with opponents that outnumber you. If you try to attack to take out a few of their units, you leave yourself open to a counterattack you cannot block.

So I guess I bring this up to ask if there is any general strategy advice on how to play the game and the proper game mindset to make the most out of the experience. Like:

* Is this more of a trade-heavy game (where the focus is not on avoiding damage entirely, but on frequently exchanging blows with opponents with you dealing more damage than they do)
* Is it better to make several small attacks to control the board, or wait to amass a bigger force?
* Is the expectation that you should number crunch the cards you can afford to use and plan out the whole round as soon as you see your hand/dice?
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John Choong
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Whether you opt to spam units such as what Aradel and Noah players mostly do or to play large units to pressure your opponent will depend on the deck build. Personally, i find that the intricacy of the game lies in timing and the decision you have to make based on the limited number of main action and side action. It is not just about trading blows but also about how to exercise control over the board state and make a well timed play especially for the purpose of clear the path to initiate your attack.

For the former, an example will be using the Wolf dice and choose an opponent's dice to put into the exhaust pool, thus denying them the resources and subsequently their options. Or it can be as simple as playing Enchanted Violinist to make the opposing player think twice when he/she decides to meditate to get the desired dice symbols.

For the latter, a well timed play of Fade Away or Out of the Mist can signicantly hurt your opponent. Or sometimes playing an overwhelming number of units can overcome decks that relies on a few strong units as the latter PB will probably have less unit to defend. Examples of this will be Noah utilising Iron Worker to privide him with more side action to summon his wolves before making an attack.

I believe all the above are just basic game tactics but i believe to effectively leverage on Ashes, players should deck build rather than playing the pre-constructed decks (and also manipulating your dice composition), test them out and see how they hold against other decks. My friend and I (which we mostly play 1vs1 game) get twice the pleasure in playing Ashes with our own constructed decks and it gives us the opportunities to talk about what works and what not. Give this a try if you have not done it.

,
 
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Erik Rodriguez
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Don't think of this game like Hearthstone or MtG. Strategies that work in those games don't directly translate to this game because you have 10 resources (dice) available every round from turn 1. Conjurations also change things quite a bit because now one card can provide units every round.

Card advantage and board control are super important in games like MtG and Hearthstone. You strive to make exchanges that are card favorable (1 of your cards for 2 opposing cards). Card advantage is not as important in Ashes - this game is more centered around dice advantage. This means you need to view exchanges in terms of dice costs (1 of my dice for 2 opposing dice) and dice strength (1 of my basic dice for 1 opposing class level die). Also, most of the Phoenixborn have less life than you normally start with in games like MtG and Hearthstone AND you start with 10 resources so you can put out big damage threats right away.

This game definitely requires a different mind set to play. I have won a lot of matches because my opponents focused too much on clearing out my battlefield instead of dealing damage directly to my Phoenixborn. There are only two cards that heal Phoenixborn in the game at the moment, so most damage that you put on them will stay there. This makes doing 4 damage huge because it's between 1/4 to 1/5 of their life.

Edit: removed redundant word
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I agree with the OP. Although the mechanics and the metagame features are good, I think that there are too many control cards: 90% of our turns ended up being cancelled by the opponent. Say, I summon a creature and it is killed before it can act, or I meditate a die and then it is discarded with an illusion die, etc. I hope they steer away from control-heavy in the expansions
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John Choong
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drstein2004 wrote:
I agree with the OP. Although the mechanics and the metagame features are good, I think that there are too many control cards: 90% of our turns ended up being cancelled by the opponent. Say, I summon a creature and it is killed before it can act, or I meditate a die and then it is discarded with an illusion die, etc. I hope they steer away from control-heavy in the expansions


I think it is a matter of how you should respond to each PB in your play. For example, when dealing with Aradel, I ensure that I don't simply put down a Unit with 2 Life or below without some dice or card support, knowing her Water Blast ability can immediately kill the Unit before it can act. Or she can utilise one Frog dice to despatch a 1 life unit. For example, knowing such threat I would probably put down Protect. Or I play a Unit using a Main Action and then attached immediately attached it with Root Armor to give it an additional +2 Life using a side action at the same turn. This help your units to be less easily disposed off. Alternatively, if you are playing with Charm dice, then you can spend a side action to place a Charm die on the unit card to give it an additional +1 Life (and simultaneously, +1 Attack).

If you worry some of the key (offensive) unit will be attack and be destroyed early, then pack in cards that can summon conjurations with Unit Guard ability like Gilder and False Demon. False Demon can be very resilient if not directly attack as it will not be easily destroyed by abilities and card effects such as One Hundred Blades, Mist Typhoon, Water Blast, Slash, etc. Your opponent most likely will not send in unit with high damage output to destroy False Demon as they would rather reserve it for the Phoenixborn or to address some high life enemy unit. So if they send in low damaging unit, you can always have your Phoenixborn to absorb the damage and prevent False Demon from being discarded due to its Illusion weakness.

In some decks with low life units, you may not mind your opponent killing them when you synergise your deck with Chant of Revenge and Ceremonial Dice for recursion especially when playing with Anchornaut which have 0 Attack, meaning it will not hurt the Phoenixborn if it is to be returned to your hand. And I don't mind my unit being destroyed if I know I can play Summon Sleeping Widow.

With regards to the dice, you can always look at what the opponent has in his Active Dice pool. If you think he/she has a Wolf dice and will like to discard your Active dice, then don't just meditate with one cards. You can always meditate up to 3 with 1 side action. Although the worry is whether you will be discard some unknown but important cards from your deck, you can always choose to discard cards from your hand which is a known information or on your spellboard if you have some Ready spell which you don't think you need or have too many on the board.

Furthermore, you want to spend a side action first to Meditate and then immediately use the dice you changed to the facing you want instead of keeping it for the next turn (unless you can see that your opponent don't have any Wolf dice present since he cannot meditate and trigger the dice ability with only 1 side action).

Alternatively, you can build into your deck with some dice manipulation cards like Shifting Mist and Call Upon the Realm so you can avoid meditating.

I believe there are answers to many of the issues that you are facing. And personally, I prefer card game with some greater degree of control as it provide subtlety in the game play rather than spending turns trading blows via attacking and defending hence my preference to games like Call of Cthulhu as compared to Warhammer 40K Conquest (even though the latter still have some form of control in terms of blanking card effects and removing units from battle. Even games where at the first instance may look like trading blows like Doomtown Reloaded where you have two opposing posse fighting in a shoot-out has some intricate elements designed in the gameplay as players has to avoid overcommiting their characters and wait until they have some 'control' cards before engaging in a shootout.

foxtrot2620 wrote:

Card advantage is not as important in Ashes - this game is more centered around dice advantage. This means you need to view exchanges in terms of dice costs (1 of my dice for 2 opposing dice) and dice strength (1 of my basic dice for 1 opposing class level die).


For me, I believe we need to be concerned with both the dice advantage and card advantage which is the beauty of the game. With more cards you have in hand, you gain flexibility of options and to be able to quickly build your board. Hence, I sometimes include 1 Sleight of Hand in my customised deck and have it in my starting hand.

Some PBs like Coal would want to have more cards so he can activate his Slash ability.

Nevertheless, it is unlike MtG where your resources often appear to be fixed but there are opportunities to manipulate your dice. And you don't need to waste card spaces to put in Resource cards.
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Glen Cooney
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Hmmm... so based on the feedback here, it sounds to me like Ashes shines most when playing constructed. It does seem like the pre-built decks have blind spots (particularly Noah), and being able to control what goes in your deck makes a big difference.

I guess the challenge for me comes more from who you play with and where. If you are introducing the game to new players all the time, or if you want to jump into a game quickly, then you end up playing the pre-made decks a lot more. Seems like this is the kind of game that really needs a diehard group to really make the most of the experience. The strategy also doesn't seem to hold up well playing beyond 2 players.

It sounds to me like the best way to go is to play constructed in 1v1, and draft for 3 or more players, just to keep everything fair. Even if playing with pre-made decks, its much better to pick your first five to tailor it to your opponents, rather than go with the recommended setup.

Would you say for constructed that it is okay to do it with one copy of the game (how do you arbitrate if people want the same cards?), or do you need at least 2 copies to make that work?
 
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My son and I have been playing constructed 1v1's with my single set for a couple months now.

I am planning to get a 2nd copy eventually, but for now, it effectively forces me to choose a strategy that differs from the one he's building to use different cards. It's been very doable, and results in very varied play.

In my case, letting him go first then picking from a now restricted pool also acts a slight handicap to balance out our play. He's 10 and getting better fast, but I can still win more games on average.

Two sets is probably better, or taking turns choosing cards to balance out choices, perhaps?

We will still very often pull out the preconstructed decks for a quick game, though, and with practice, even the more tricky matchups (Coal vs. Aradel) can be won by being very strategic with combos like recalling an Anchornaut with a Ceremonial die, playing it out and pinging a blocker with its ability, then killing it with a frog next turn and triggering multiple chant of revenges to wipe out more blockers.

It is definitely a game that benefits from practice,though...
 
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Marc Bennett
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i would say i have played close to 100ish games so far. i have played preconstructed, constructed and draft.

by far my least favorite mode is the draft mode. it is fun, but fairly random especially in 3-4 player games, its good for a social event though where you are chatting and such.

preconstructed is good for teaching games. i would explain the phoenixborn and playstyles and let them play one they enjoy, but don't play well. let them make some power moves without countering them. make the game close.

by far my favorite way to play is constructed. the strategies and counter strategies are fantastic.
 
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Transplanar wrote:

... its much better to pick your first five to tailor it to your opponents, rather than go with the recommended setup.



This is definitely true (to me). With more experience with this game, you know the strengths and weaknesses of your PB and also your opponent's. For example, even with the pre-constructed Noah, I don't have Summoning Iron Rhino in my starting hand (as recommended in the rulebook) because I will lose momentum if spend my resource to summon 1 single Iron Rhino. In addition, even if I were to put the summoning spell down, it costs me 1 dice and I can't immediately use it without putting me into a significant "economic" disadvantage. So my starting hand will have Summoning Iron Rhino be replaced with Protect to help me provide some resiliency to my other units.

I may even switch to having Chant of Revenge in replacement of Iron Worker if I go against Noah and Aradel which have many 1 life Units so I can first kill 1 unit with Anchornaut Hammer Throw and if the opponent want to deliver damage and destroy Anchornaut, then I get to deliver an additional 1 damage to one of his/her units or the PB himself/herself.

So my Coal starting hand can be -
1 Protect
1 Chant of Revenge
1 Expand Energy
1 Anchornaut
1 Hammerknight

As a sidenote, I never did deckbuild with Iron Rhino. It doesn't suit my playstyle as I like to engage in constant aggression and being able to play my cards and use them immediately rather than spend time building my board.

For Noah, if he anticipates the opponent will be playing some large Units like Silver Snake or Hammerknight, he may want to have Fade Away or Shadow Counter in his starting hand.

Noah starting hand -
1 Summon Masked Wolf
1 Summon False Demon
1 Bring Forth
1 Fade Away
1 Sleight of Hand

For Saria, some players may want to have Enchanted Violinist in replacement of Rose Fire Dancer. This is because the latter will usually get killed in the round it is summoned so it does not provide help in establishing board dominance. An enchanted Violinist, being resource-free other than using a Main Action to put it into play, I can to use my dice for other purpose. I may also switch Abundance with Sympathy Pain in my starting hand.

Saria starting hand -
1 Summon Three Eyed Owl
1 Summon Seaside Raven
1 Purge
1 Sympathy Pain
1 Enchanted Violinist


Transplanar wrote:

Would you say for constructed that it is okay to do it with one copy of the game (how do you arbitrate if people want the same cards?), or do you need at least 2 copies to make that work?


I think if your friend has a copy himself and is a regular player, then I think 1 copy will be enough. However, I can foresee that in the future with the coming expansions, there may not be enough dice to go around if you only have 1 copy to played with your friends and they have none. So personally, if I do choose to buy additional copy, it will mostly be for the dice. However, I wonder whether Plaidhat will sell their dice separately.

 
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Transplanar wrote:
So I've played Ashes maybe around... 8 times I want to say. I have mostly played 3 or 4 FFAs, with a few 1v1s, and I have tried every Phoenixborn.

Beginner player here. From what I've seen in my first few games, I don't think Ashes is really suitable for more than two players. The risk of games dragging is real if players are inexperienced and probably increases exponentially with player count.

Interestingly, playing Ashes reminds me of Imperial Settlers. I don't know if it bodes well for a dueling mages game to feel like a civ building game, but so far I have enjoyed all my plays.
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fameros wrote:
Transplanar wrote:
So I've played Ashes maybe around... 8 times I want to say. I have mostly played 3 or 4 FFAs, with a few 1v1s, and I have tried every Phoenixborn.

Beginner player here. From what I've seen in my first few games, I don't think Ashes is really suitable for more than two players. The risk of games dragging is real if players are inexperienced and probably increases exponentially with player count.

Interestingly, playing Ashes reminds me of Imperial Settlers. I don't know if it bodes well for a dueling mages game to feel like a civ building game, but so far I have enjoyed all my plays.


I would agree because in a game of more than 2 players, a lot of time will be spend on negotiating and political maneuvering on how players should engage in temporary alliance to hit at "game leader" and how the targeted person will attempt to argue that he/she is not a significant threat and the focus should be on destroying another player. (Nevertheless, some players like to have this manner of play and enjoy such dynamics.)

Perhaps, perhaps such weaknesses can be overcome by playing the Free-for-all Hunter Format which was introduced by Epic, another card game which I follow and play (see here). Players can only attack another on their right and can play cards that can only affect those on their left and right. This will eliminate the need of spending time for negotiation. However, the downside of this is that you will take a lot of player interaction out from the game.

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brighknight_216 wrote:


Saria starting hand -
1 Summon Three Eyed Owl
1 Summon Seaside Raven
1 Purge
1 Sympathy Pain
1 Enchanted Violinist



For what it's worth, I think one measure of whether or not a game is "interesting" is whether or not everyone is making the same decisions in the game. If 10 of us play the game, and 10 of us come up with different ideas about what the optimal strategy is, then that game is "interesting" in the sense that there are enough different variables in it for the 10 of us to NOT have all arrived at the same conclusion as to what is good and can then have an interesting discussion about why something is or isn't good.

I point this starting hand out as an example. Brightknight says he might cut Abundance for Sympathy Pain, but there would have to be a very specific strategy reason why I would have Purge in my starting hand instead of Abundance. I'm personally of the opinion that Purge is a trap except for said specific circumstances, even if it is the most "obvious" card for advancing the milling strategy, simply because it costs too much and doesn't move fast enough.

This isn't the only time I've seen someone suggest Purge instead of Abundance, so I would cite these particular two cards as an example of something interesting going on in Ashes.


I'm actually of the opinion that the biggest reason people might be losing interest in Ashes is because there isn't more discussion about the game going on, but I don't think that's because the game isn't interesting, I think that's because the marketing hype for it was mistimed (there's another thread about that on BGG).
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A suggestion for those who wants to have a more varied experience is to go on to Plaidhat Ashes Deck Builder here - http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes and look at other people's deck. Some of them I find quite interesting and it is very intriguing to see how some decks use 3 dice types or even 4. If my sparring partner and I have more, I wouldn't mind playing some of these decks and see how they fare. And this can always open up for opportunities for discussion after the game.
 
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Marc Bennett
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brighknight_216 wrote:
A suggestion for those who wants to have a more varied experience is to go on to Plaidhat Ashes Deck Builder here - http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes and look at other people's deck. Some of them I find quite interesting and it is very intriguing to see how some decks use 3 dice types or even 4. If my sparring partner and I have more, I wouldn't mind playing some of these decks and see how they fare. And this can always open up for opportunities for discussion after the game.


I have made 4 die decks before. they are interesting and I almost always have shifting mist.
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Klaxas wrote:
brighknight_216 wrote:
A suggestion for those who wants to have a more varied experience is to go on to Plaidhat Ashes Deck Builder here - http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes and look at other people's deck. Some of them I find quite interesting and it is very intriguing to see how some decks use 3 dice types or even 4. If my sparring partner and I have more, I wouldn't mind playing some of these decks and see how they fare. And this can always open up for opportunities for discussion after the game.


I have made 4 die decks before. they are interesting and I almost always have shifting mist.


I'm not planning to play in any Ashes tournaments simply because I don't expect there to be any near me, but if I was planning for tournament play, I would plan on my deck making use of Illusion dice to make sure I had several opportunities to use the die power to hose people that make 4 "color" decks.
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Marc Bennett
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lluluien wrote:
Klaxas wrote:
brighknight_216 wrote:
A suggestion for those who wants to have a more varied experience is to go on to Plaidhat Ashes Deck Builder here - http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes and look at other people's deck. Some of them I find quite interesting and it is very intriguing to see how some decks use 3 dice types or even 4. If my sparring partner and I have more, I wouldn't mind playing some of these decks and see how they fare. And this can always open up for opportunities for discussion after the game.


I have made 4 die decks before. they are interesting and I almost always have shifting mist.


I'm not planning to play in any Ashes tournaments simply because I don't expect there to be any near me, but if I was planning for tournament play, I would plan on my deck making use of Illusion dice to make sure I had several opportunities to use the die power to hose people that make 4 "color" decks.


well I didn't say it was the best deck just interesting.
 
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drstein2004 wrote:
I agree with the OP. Although the mechanics and the metagame features are good, I think that there are too many control cards: 90% of our turns ended up being cancelled by the opponent. Say, I summon a creature and it is killed before it can act, or I meditate a die and then it is discarded with an illusion die, etc. I hope they steer away from control-heavy in the expansions


I find this interesting, as in quite a few communities, it is the opposite problem; aggro decks are winning too often, and there is some need of stemming the tide.
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brighknight_216 wrote:

You can always meditate up to 3 with 1 side action.


I just thought it was worth pointing out that there's no limit on meditation. You could meditate all 10 of your dice, if you really needed to.
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