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Subject: The War Within rss

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Mike Perna

New Jersey
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Originally posted at InnRoads Ministries:

The same power flows through all of them. The same source rose up in the world to crush a common foe. The same voice calls each of them to unification. And yet, the Phoenixborn are at a crossroads. Will unity come as the powerful stand together for the mutual benefit of all, or will one rise to stand above the smoldering, broken world that remains in the wake of their conflict? Only time will tell.

This is the world you enter when you play Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn from Plaid Hat Games. While it can be played in multiplayer and draft formats, it’s primarily a two-player, preconstructed expandable card game. Players take on the role of a growing cadre of powerful, magically infused Phoenixborn. In the course of the game, players will cast spells, summon creatures, and raise allies in a battle to the death.

Back in March, Plaid Hat announced an organized play event called The War Within. Players will compete in a series of tournaments, but they will be asked to choose a “sphere” – representing different choices a phoenixborn could make towards ‘light’ or ‘dark,’ and how those decisions affect those around them. This event is the culmination of everything I love about Ashes, and why it has become one of my favorite games. Both mechanically and thematically, this game asks the player to make decisions that answer one overarching question. You have the power. Now what are you going to do with it?

The Game
Straight out of the box, the game asks you how you want to play. While there are well crafted guidelines to help create custom decks, the base box comes with six complete decks featuring a different phoenixborn with their own style. Will you be Coal Roarkwin, standing at the front of the fight – armed to the teeth to defend your home? How about Aradel Summergaard, calling on a host of animals and mist spirits to overwhelm your foes? Will you rule by fear like Jessa Na Ni, or will you kill them with kindness like Saria Guideman? This doesn’t even cover all of the decks in the base box, let alone the expansions currently out or yet to come.

When you become comfortable with the game, you have even more opportunity to craft the kind of phoenixborn you want to be. Players are free to combine creatures and tactics utilized by one phoenixborn to bolster those of another. Cards are played using resources found on custom dice, so players can choose to use cards from different decks that pull from the same magic schools (illusion, charm, natural, and ceremonial – with more on the way), or customize their dice pools to open up still more options. Once you’ve gathered your deck to your liking, the game even allows you to choose the first five cards you put in your hand. It literally gives you the choice of how you want this game to begin.

The Lore
Before the game even hit shelves, I was engrossed in this world. The phoenixborn were each given just a fraction of the power of the phoenix in order to combat the chimera – powerful creatures that were destroying the world. At this current time, the chimera have been defeated, yet they remain, and the world is a very different place for them.

It’s been revealed that the conflict at the heart of the War of Ashes is one of destruction and assimilation verses resistance and protection. It’s the choice that defines heroes and villains. It’s the stuff of epic narrative in the truest sense of the word. I find it especially interesting that the power each of the phoenixborn possesses finds its origins in the same place. What they choose to do with it is tied inextricably to who they are and how they see the world around them.

For me, the decks are not just a collection of abilities and creatures. They have a personality that is influenced, if not defined, by the phoenixborn that helms them. While I play all of them at one point or another, I’ll choose Rin – the jovial giant from Frostdale, hands down over Noah Redmoon and his shadows. It’s how I choose to interact with the world I’ve been given. It’s the path I’m choosing towards victory. It’s my decision – and my play will mirror that.

The Event
The War Within will not only offer a chance for players to interact with the world that is, but will allow them to help define the world that could be. The fate of a future phoenixborn is going to be defined by which spheres attract the most players in the event. Their personality, abilities, and unique cards will be directly affected by the choices players will be making. Players will also receive versions of cards already in the game with alternate art that have been affected by their decision. It effects more than the phoenixborn themselves. It ripples out to others. It’s the nature of choice.

We craft the world around us by the decisions we make. Some will only touch those around them, moving the world in the smallest increments. Some have been given unique power and authority to change the course of history. In either case – the world moves. The question remains – which will we choose, and what sort of world will be left in the wake of that decision?

To find a participating retailer near you, go to Plaid Hat Games’ news post and find your state/region.
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