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Subject: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn - Flash Review rss

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James Parsons
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Kent
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Hi! I'm James, an attorney, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker, and avid gamer in Ohio. I enjoy writing brief, concise, easily-digestible reviews for games I've played. One such game is...

ASHES: RISE OF THE PHOENIXBORN
Isaac Vega, 2015

TL;DR:

Pros: Absolutely fantastic art, tasteful depictions, easy-to-dive into experience.

Cons: Somewhat derivative theme, lack of tactical complexity relative to other card games.

Please note that I did not have any experience with competitive play systems, rewards, or support Plaid Hat may have implemented since the launch of the base set, nor did I try any additional Phoenixborn other than those included in the base box and the pre-order promotional "Dimona Odinstar"

I found Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn to be enjoyable, well balanced, and fun. The art is phenomenal, and the fantasy genre's oversaturation of hyper-sexualized depictions of women is tastefully avoided. Despite the beauty of the cards individually, I did not feel a large degree of attachment for the theme or story, or that there was a clear fleshed-out "world."

If you have some experience with other card games, the inclusion of a few dice will not revolutionize the experience, though it does avoid the resource-generation pitfalls of Magic: The Gathering (which it seems to present itself as an alternative for). The game highlights the inclusion of the "first-five," a mechanic allowing you to pick your starting hand, but this double-edged sword appears to hinder the strength and complexity of the card pool. Expansions may introduce variety, but core-set interactions seem simplistic compared to other gaming options.

Still, this isn't necessarily a criticism. Fantasy Flight offerings (of which my largest amount of experience is Android: Netrunner and Lord of the Rings) are sometimes shunned for being overly complex and fiddly, such that the option for a more streamlined experience with high-production value may be welcome. Additionally, the simple rules and modestly-paced expansions make Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn uniquely new-player friendly, perhaps more so than any other card game.

All in all, I found Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn to be a solid game, filling a current thematic and mechanical void of a less monetarily painful alternative to Magic: The Gathering without leaving the genre or level of complexity altogether. I think this would make a fine starter card game for someone unfamiliar with the genre, or a good addition for a gamer looking to scale back from other card games. Additionally, I've noticed boardgaming friends that typically shun card games have particularly enjoyed Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn.

My wife and I ultimately decided to trade it away, with her favoring other card games (including Plaid Hat's "Summoner Wars") for casual play experience, and my favoring other options for competitive play. Still, the popularity of the game and the more positive experiences of others cannot be ignored. With tight, solid gameplay, beautiful art, and being particularly easy to dive into, I may consider revisiting Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn in a few years to see what it has evolved into.
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Nathan Stiles
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Brandon
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CowboyHatValor wrote:
.. lack of tactical complexity relative to other card games.


I agree with your 7/10 rating, and many points-- I disagree with the above, but I wonder if it's just the wrong choice of words. I find Ashes (at least currently) lacks the deck building complexity of other games; however, it's lack of a snowball to a one-hit-kill card makes it seem much more tactical to me. Like each turn is more of a fencing match where you have to decide if taking 3 points of damage, or sacrificing a unit now will be what costs you a tight game later.


Quote:
The game highlights the inclusion of the "first-five," a mechanic allowing you to pick your starting hand, but this double-edged sword appears to hinder the strength and complexity of the card pool.


This is very true. From a design point, this now eliminates the "start your hand with an instant kill" (e.g. the black lotus, mountain, channel, fireball). It also eliminates (with the help of the dice) a need to mulligan. However, it does sometimes feel that it puts the training wheels on the games opening hand by removing too much risk.

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James Parsons
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SaintHax wrote:
CowboyHatValor wrote:
.. lack of tactical complexity relative to other card games.


I agree with your 7/10 rating, and many points-- I disagree with the above, but I wonder if it's just the wrong choice of words. I find Ashes (at least currently) lacks the deck building complexity of other games; however, it's lack of a snowball to a one-hit-kill card makes it seem much more tactical to me. Like each turn is more of a fencing match where you have to decide if taking 3 points of damage, or sacrificing a unit now will be what costs you a tight game later.



Thanks for clarifying it for me. I think you've definitely phrased this better than I did. This is more along the lines of what I meant.
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Skyler Tipsord
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As someone who plays this super frequently, running tournaments for it every other Wednesday, I can say that the complexity really comes down to how and when and in what order. Due to the fact that you only get 1 MAIN ACTION and 1 SIDE ACTION per turn, you need to pick your turn very carefully, being careful to play around what your opponent has while maintaining dwindling resources. Since the game is handled in refreshing rounds, not turns, at the beginning of the round you'll have your 10 mana and the cards you can use for the round, and everything you spend is something you've lost. Sure, I could play this big expensive card that might make my day a bit easier, but then I can't afford to play this other card that I need to protect myself. The First 5 mechanic, while perhaps feeling a bit simplified for card games, is actually one of my favorite mechanics. Everyone has access to all the same cards, thus making it, in constructed, a game of building the better engine, without the problem of "I have better parts" and more a problem of "I have better plans." It allows you to start how you need your deck to start, letting you build outward from that point. The best way I can describe it is that your first 5 is what you came into the fight with, and everything after that was pulled in on the fly, eliminating getting that "Lucky Draw" in the first turn. If you set up a good first 5, not even the luckiest hand is going to save your opponent.
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