Christopher Pratt
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Wow. What a tremendous weekend. Before I begin telling you about all of the great people I met, I feel as though I should put some sort of disclaimer here, lest someone accuse me of bending the truth in order to 'drum up business' for my son's podcast on Ashes – The Main Action podcast. Yep, my son does a podcast about the game, and I started playing Ashes because of his passion. Doesn't change a sentence about what I am going to write. Note: if you do listen to the podcast, I'm the one they call “Papa Pratt.”

For those of you who aren't aware, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is an LCG (though that acronym is trademarked I guess – so I should probably say ECG – with the 'E' standing for “Expandable?”). The base set came out last year, and probably missed its mark a bit with the justifiable hype around the game fading a bit before the game actually hit the shelves at your LGS. Add in the fact that the LCG/CCG space is already pretty crowded and Ashes has, sadly, had some trouble gaining purchase.

This hasn't dissuaded the people who are passionate about the game though, as it has a healthy, burgeoning, community, fueled by people who play regularly on Tabletop Simulator (it works quite nicely on there!) and support the game through attending events just like the one I am going to tell you about.

Ashes weekend was the premiere release of the first two expansions of the base set, adding two new Phoenixborn, Brennen and Rin. We were all looking forward to getting the new cards and finally playing with them!

Team Covenant hosted the event at their store in Tulsa. We were all excited to see the store, as we were all pretty much fans of Zach, Tim, and Steven from their regular podcasts on a slew of different games. When we finally got to the store a bit early, they invited us in and were incredibly personable and welcoming. The store is immaculate and sleek. Gone are the traditional burdened shelves clogging up sight-lines. A single set of shelves in the middle of the back wall, display a single copy of each of the games they sell. Four shrines, (and I can only call it that) to a handful of the games they have a passion for are built on the left and right wall - each with a banner signifying the game, and a shelf with the game set up mid battle. The floor is painted red, and obviously swept and mopped regularly, as it carries the sheen that comes from care. Tables, ready for play, fill the rest of the store. At the back behind the counter, the beer taps, ready to serve, are backed by a row of sparkling glasses.

For those of you who care about this sort of thing, the bathrooms are impeccably maintained and work without the concerns you may have in some LGS. Even in there, it's obvious Team Covenant gets it right with humor, as they have a poster noting the scene where Tyrion says “I am your son. I will always be your son." Those that know GoT know why that's funny.

Overall, the store's visual is really quite remarkable – as from the window outside looking in, you can see the whole space – clean, welcoming, and stunning - and you want to be inside and playing.

Registration went smoothly. We were assigned badges, a Plaid Hat, a poster, Lulu (another new Phoenixborn!), her special cards (Phoenix Barrage) and were asked to sign a large Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn poster.

Once inside, we were presented the opportunity to buy the new expansions, some new art Ashes posters, Team Covenant Ashes acrylic tokens (First Player, Status, Wound, and Exhaustion). I bought all of it. My favorite of the bunch are the exhaustion tokens, as they look amazing. I'm not as fond of the wound tokens (as they are orange), but they do work and are as awesome looking as the rest of them. I did put in my request for red wound tokens.

I sat down and began opening the cards, finally getting them in my hands. Plaid Hat had released the cards on their website over time, so we knew what they were. There were no surprises here, but actually seeing and sleeving the cards was awesome. In preparation and play for the event, I had a ton of proxies made up. “FBB” sharpied on a slip of paper doesn't do the Frostback Bear justice!

It was while I was doing this that I noticed Steven, from Team Covenant and the Team Covenant Youtube videos, walking around and asking people if they needed anything. He was genuine and friendly. Someone was pulling the backing off the tokens, and it can be a pain. He sat down and helped the guy pull all of the backs off while chatting with him. Once that was done, he cleaned up the mess, smiled and moved over to the next table to make sure they had what they needed. I could fill this entire write-up with stories like that. Johnathan coming over, sitting down, and chatting with me about behind the camera work. Tim getting the video up and running and dealing with the gentle gibes of an impatient audience with humor. And on.

The Team Covenant team is amazing and have a stunning store. I can't be more laudatory.

The rest of this time, before the Q&A panel, was spent talking, meeting, and fellowshipping with other people that had showed the gumption and desire enough to come to Tulsa and play some Ashes. Here, I will break down some of them (I met so many!) who they were, and the experiences I had with them:

Isaac Vega – Lead Game Designer at Plaid Hat Games. I had met Isaac before, and once again, he was his same effusive, positive, spirited self. His love for the game shines through, and he enjoys hearing, well, everything you have to say about the game. He takes all of it to heart. Your concerns about the game are his. And he's constantly working on it. You could tell he was engaged with you, and it's a pleasure to talk with him about the game he's created. Isaac had an iPad with the art and cards from the next expansion on them, and they look amazing. Throughout the weekend, Isaac would play people with the cards from the next expansions on proxy decks that he had created.

Fernanda Suarez – the outstanding lady who did all of the art for Ashes (http://fdasuarez.deviantart.com/) - Fernanda is awesome. She signed every single autograph asked of her – on cards, posters, hats, etc. She was approachable and ridiculously friendly. An absolutely delightful woman.

Rodney Smith – the Canadian heartthrob who reviews games - https://www.youtube.com/user/WatchItPlayed. Rodney came in and (like me) wasn't going to play in the tournament. But, his competitive juices got the better of him, and pretty much all of Friday was Rodney playing, tuning, honing, and getting ready for the tournament with a deck he felt was fun and competitive. Rodney's the real deal when it comes to games, folks. He loves to play and it shows. Once a game of Ashes was over, he would maybe change his deck a couple of cards, stand up, and move to someone else. “Wanna play?” And back in again.

Donny Behne – Podcaster from Low Player Count (https://lowplayercount.com) – Donny and I were able to chat at length Saturday night at an after party about some of his favorite games. The guy is a riot, mixing game knowledge and an irreverent touch of humor. If you like 1 – 2 player games, I suggest checking his podcast out. I'm definitely going to do just that.

JR Honeycutt – game designer, sage, dfw nerd night guru (http://www.dfwnn.org), and all around funny guy – anytime you spend with JR, you need to be on your game. The guy's mind is always working a million cycles per second. The odd things he comes up with things are punctuated with nuggets of pure gold. I enjoy listening to and hanging out with JR very much. If you get a chance to hit up a panel he's in, I suggest doing so (had the pleasure at PAX South). The man was 100% right about the game “Strike.” It's awesome. This is the last time I will pay deference to this fact... and no more pizza on my car, please? Kthx.

Jesse Eakin and Grant McKinney – Imperial Assault gurus, as they have their own podcast 'Vader's Finest' (https://soundcloud.com/vadersfinest) - Once again, and I know I keep saying this, but here were personable, friendly, knowledgeable gamers who were here to play Ashes and have a good time. Grant did very well in the tournament, making top 4 with a very interesting Aradel build. Cady, Jesse's wife, was beyond wonderful, turning me on to the wonders of the drink known as the Sazerac. Thanks Cady!

Austin Mills and Andrew Webber – from the Ashtray podcast (https://soundcloud.com/the-ashtray-podcast) – Austin's skills were on display as he was able to go 5-0 in the swiss, eventually losing in a white-knuckle affair in the second round of the finals. Andrew is a really, really good guy, even though he is a Patriots fan.

Again, I feel as though I could continue here ad nauseum. Jason Pere (author), Bob Klotz (lead tester for Ashes), Brian Beyke (intense, odd, and funny Community Relations at Plaid Hat), Elliot Kramer (looks 15, actually 25, tremendously sharp), Tim Keefe (the gracious runner-up), and on, and on! Good people, foundationally supporting a great game, from all over the country! Outstanding.

Friday ended with a Q&A that will likely be up on Team Covenant's channel at some point. I suggest checking it out so you can see what these folks are bringing.

Saturday started with tournament preparation. I didn't play. I probably should have. I thought the games/rounds were going to go about an hour per, and there would be about 6 rounds. Then there's the finals. That would be a long day, and my stamina for games like this isn't what it used to be. What surprised me was how quickly and efficiently the whole thing ran. In retrospect, I would have put my hat into the ring with something oddball and had some fun. What I was able to do was see all of the things the 52 participants were playing, and just admire a game that had such variance. I saw all kinds of strategies, and Phoenixborn. Jessa, Rin, and Brennen were easily the most represented. Noah, Dimona, Saria, Aradel, and Maeoni were under-represented with Maeoni being non-existent. It's a harsh meta for that three Battlefield.

And though there were some under-represented Phoenixborn, the top 8 had 2 Rin, 2 Jessa, 1 Brennen, 1 Aradel, 1 Noah, and 1 Lulu! What a variance! I talked with Isaac about that, and he couldn't have been more proud of the spread and representation of the PB.

Tip of the hat to Jarret Berman for his Noah deck losing only twice – both time to the eventual tournament winner – a GREAT match you need to watch on Team Covenant when it gets published.

At the end, Erik Rodriguez took home the trophy with his BDR deck (http://www.plaidhatgames.com/play/ashes/deck/bdr). Erik put in a ton of time, and I must say I'm proud I helped at least in some small way in prepping for the tournament with him. In the end though, Erik's ability to evaluate the opponent's Phoenixborn, with their dice spread, choose a strong first five from the information presented, and his aggressive mana stripping strategy took home the prize – a gorgeous wooden deck box with the Ashes Phoenix inlaid into the cover. Great job, Erik!


After that – the poster that was signed by all of us, was presented to Fernanda. The Main Action guys figured that since she signed all of those autographs for us, she would enjoy our signature as a thank you. Then - the party. Some drinks. Some laughs. Some Irish Nachos. Good stuff.

A huge, hearty THANK YOU to the Plaid Hat folks, Fernanda Suarez, Isaac Vega, and the Team Covenant crew. You all did a brilliant job! Well done!

With this write-up, it is my hope to show you that Ashes has a strong, friendly, vibrant community. If you haven't had a chance to check out Ashes, please do. It really is a wonderful game. And, since I am a proud father, go ahead and check out Kian, Callin, and Christian's (my son) podcast the Main Action (http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HMlQ90VQ)

And, while I'm at it, here are some other links of note:

Erik and Shi (pronounced “Si”) Ma are doing Tuesday Ashes chats on his twitch channel here: https://www.twitch.tv/tendolhorse

The Ashes Online Facebook group is up, running, and active: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AshesOnline/

There is a Slack Channel that we chat about Ashes and Rules: https://ashesrules.slack.com

I do hope that Ashes can continue to build steam with players. A game like this lives or dies with its community. Right now, I can tell you the folks in the community are pretty dang wonderful, and helped create a tremendous experience.

-Papa Pratt
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JR Honeycutt
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You should know the pizza on the car was 100% Donny's idea!
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Donny Behne
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jayahre wrote:
You should know the pizza on the car was 100% Donny's idea!

Oh hell no, that was all Callin. I wanted to put it in front of Christian's door!
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Christopher Pratt
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Hah! No worries. Let it be known throughout the land that JR Honeycutt is absolved of any pizza guilt!
 
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Donny Behne
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Get yourself an avatar Papa P!
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Erik Rodriguez
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Sweet write up Papa Pratt! The weekend went by too fast!
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Brian Beyke
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Zing! What a great time.
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Christopher Pratt
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Thanks Donny!
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Rodney Smith
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Christopher, you're a gentleman and a scholar. The worst thing about the weekend was that it had to end. I would have enjoyed spending much more time hanging out with you. Your enthusiasm and joy for the game is absolutely infectious and I so appreciate your willingness to share tips and suggestions. Here's to the next chance we get to cross paths!
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Trent Hamm
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The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
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CrispyRat wrote:
There is a Slack Channel that we chat about Ashes and Rules: https://ashesrules.slack.com

How does one join this?
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Skaak
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trenttsd wrote:
CrispyRat wrote:
There is a Slack Channel that we chat about Ashes and Rules: https://ashesrules.slack.com

How does one join this?

"To start using Slack, you'll need to be invited by your Team Administrator."

Not really an appropriate service for this, IMO. Discord might be more appropriate, although text chat is kind of a secondary focus there.
 
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Julius Besser
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trenttsd wrote:
CrispyRat wrote:
There is a Slack Channel that we chat about Ashes and Rules: https://ashesrules.slack.com

How does one join this?
I did not set up the chat, but the instructions to access it are here:
http://www.strangecopy.com/index.php/2016/03/02/ashes-chat/
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Great write up. I am so happy for the people who were able to attend. That is such an impressive turn out. It is awesome that Ashes is generating this level of interest. Is there a report of the actual tournament am Che's somewhere?
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Donny Behne
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Skaak wrote:
Not really an appropriate service for this, IMO.

Multiple channels to keep discussion focused is a key feature of Slack. We make frequent use of this and it works great.
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Erik Rodriguez
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Ronaldo wrote:
Is there a report of the actual tournament am Che's somewhere?

There are a few starting to pop up on the AshesOnline Facebook page:

http://teamcovenant.com/covenant/ashes-weekend-report

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ty275NTnB9h7euFvkDq6A_y5...#

http://www.strangecopy.com/index.php/2016/04/20/my-ashes-wee...
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Skaak
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kelann08 wrote:
Multiple channels to keep discussion focused is a key feature of Slack. We make frequent use of this and it works great.

As does Discord, except without the "invite people via email" aspect.

I use Slack every day for work, but it seems like an odd choice for trying to foster a real-time community around a game. Discord is more specifically targeting video games (hence the voice chat being built in), but I've seen communities for FFG LCGs on there, for instance; text chat for everyday stuff, and voice channels for people using OCTGN or whatever.
 
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Trent Hamm
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Slack and Discord both seem like web-based IRC to me.
 
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Skaak wrote:
kelann08 wrote:
Multiple channels to keep discussion focused is a key feature of Slack. We make frequent use of this and it works great.

As does Discord, except without the "invite people via email" aspect.

I use Slack every day for work, but it seems like an odd choice for trying to foster a real-time community around a game. Discord is more specifically targeting video games (hence the voice chat being built in), but I've seen communities for FFG LCGs on there, for instance; text chat for everyday stuff, and voice channels for people using OCTGN or whatever.

Made sense when someone started it, I dig it. Slack was new to me a few months ago and I haven't heard of discord. All seems sort of six of one. It's also worth noting that, if memory serves, the idea was borrowed from the MTG rules community that also has a rules/FAQ slack.
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Trent Hamm
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I hope there is an Ashes event at Gencon. That is all.
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Rodney Smith
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trenttsd wrote:
I hope there is an Ashes event at Gencon. That is all.

My understanding is that there will be something.
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Christopher Pratt
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Since this podcast is all about the weekend, I felt it apropos to post it here. It's really, really good stuff. I'm on it. As is pretty much everyone I mentioned above (Isaac, Fernanda, JR, Rodney, Donny, Jason, Robert, Brian "the Baker" Beyke, A&A from the Ashtray, and Steven from Team Covenant.)

http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/Hd0Db0ZQ

Hope you enjoy!

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There is no question. PHG still supports Summoner Wars events at GenCon with generous support. I think it is reasonable to expect nothing less for an excellent game such as Ashes.
 
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