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Subject: New Reviewer, Summoner Wars (with pictures =D ) rss

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Brian Tanner
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Hello fellow board gamers,

I am new to writing reviews, this being only my second one here on the geek. This is my review of the card game Summoner Wars. If you have any tips, advice, criticisms on my reviews (or how to write them) please let me know =D. If you think it sucks, at least tell me why =).

There are 2 sets out right now, Goblins vs Dwarves and Phoenix Elves vs Tundra Orcs.

The set I will be talking about is Phoenix Elves vs Tundra Orcs, though all the rules and such are the same for either game, just the decks that come with the sets are different.

For those who just want my verdict without all the reading: This is an excellent card game. Very cheap to get, easy to learn, fast playing, but with enough strategy to keep it from being too simple or getting stale too fast.

For those who want to know why, read on:

Overview:

Summoner wars it a strategy card game where 2 players (or 4 if you have 2 different Summoner Wars sets) use their decks to summon fighters onto the battlefield. The end goal is to kill the opposing player's summoner. Many people have compared it to a simplified miniatures game without the miniatures.

What comes in the box:



- A nice full color Rule book with examples
- 5 six sided dice
- Double sided wound markers (representing 1 or 3 wounds)
- 2 thirty card decks, one for the Phoenix Elves and one For the Tundra Orcs
- Reference cards for both players
- A foldout grid based battlefield / playing map



It all comes in a nice compact box. The components are nice for the price, and the game can be found online for ~$15 or so. That being said, the battlefield / playmat is made of thick paper, and as such it is full of creases from being folded and unfolded. The quality of it seems good enough to hold up in the long run, but having large creases on the field each time you play is a bit annoying (though only a minor complaint, as I think it is well worth it to help keep the game so cheap).

Setup:

As stated earlier, the goal of Summoner Wars is to kill the other player's Summoner. To do this, players will be drawing cards from their decks; either spells called event cards, or creatures that players can summon and use to fight on the battlefield.

The game has a quick and very easy set up. At the start of the game, each player takes their faction's reference card:


And sets up their side of the battlefield accordingly. Each letter represents a different type of card to play on that specific grid position. For example, the "S" on the setup card represents the player's Summoner, it starts on the last row (the row closest to the player), 3 spaces from the left. With that being said, because the setups are static, opening moves can become stale and predictable (i.e. I make the same moves on my first turn with the Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs each time).

An example of a Summoner (for the Phoenix Elves):


In addition to the Summoner, there are 3 other card types: Event cards, Wall cards, and Creatures themselves.

Event Cards:


Event cards are special spells that can be played during the event card phase of a player's turn (more on that later). They essentially grant the caster a special ability that can help augment the on going battle. One minor complain about these cards is that they all have the same art. This means I can't just glance at the art and know what card I have in my hand. It is a minor complaint to me, I don't mind much. However, one of my opponents during our early games did not realize they had several different types of event cards. They had been glancing at the art thinking that the cards were of the same type and had the same effect. This was quickly remedied when they misplayed some of the event cards however =), and they now know they need to read them instead of glancing at them.

Wall Cards:


Wall cards are incredibly important during the course of battle in Summoner Wars. Each side starts with one wall card in play, and each deck contains additional wall cards. Wall cards server multiple purposes, they can be used to help defend your side of the battlefield, block ranged attackers, and are required in order to summon new units. When a player summons a new unit, it must be played in one of the spaces directly adjacent to the wall (top, bottom, left, or right space, there are no diagonals in Summoner Wars). This means that if a player's wall is destroyed (and they haven't played another), or if all spaces around a wall are full, then they can't summon any new units to the battlefield.

Finally, there are unit cards. These are creatures/warriors that the controlling player can summon to the battlefield to fight on their behalf.

A unit card:


The card is broken down as follows:
1. This is the unit's name, as well as if it is a common or champion unit (champions are special more powerful units).
2. This is the unit's hit points. They can have a max of 9, represented by the gold circular icons. This unit only has 1, as only 1 of the circles is highlighted and the rest are greyed out.
3. This is how much magic the unit costs to summon. This particular unit costs 1 magic to summon.
4. This is the attack type of the unit. There are two types: Melee, represented by a sword icon, and Ranged, represented by a bow and arrow icon. Melee units can only attack adjacent units, whereas ranged units can attack other units up to three clear straight-line spaces away.
5. This number represents the number of attack dice the unit rolls. This particular unit rolls to dice while attacking.
6. This area will list a unit's special abilities

Gameplay:

Each player's turn is broken up into six different phases. Each phase will be explained in the following section.

1. Draw - During the first phase of a player's turn, that player draws back up to 5 cards (i.e. if they played 3 cards last turn, they would be down to only 2 cards, and as such would draw 3 at the beginning of their next turn to make their hand total 5 again).

2. Summon - During this phase, the current player uses magic in their magic reserve to summon new units to the battlefield. These units must be summoned adjacent to the controlling player's wall. Summoned units can move and attack on the same turn they were summoned.

3. Play Even Cards - During this phase, the current player has the option of playing any event cards that are currently in their hand. Their effects resolve immediately after being played. Some of these cards may stay in effect until a certain condition is met, whereas others may only last for one turn.

4. Movement - During this phase, the current player can move up to any three units that they currently control (on the first turn only two can move). These units can each move two spaces in any cardinal direction (no diagonals). They can move up two spaces, move up one space and left one space, etc. Units cannot move through other units, or stop on spaces that are occupied by other units.

5. Attack - During this phase, the current player can attack with up to three units (they do not have to be the ones that were moved this turn). To attack, a player chooses which of their units is attacking, and what their target unit is (the unit must be in proper ranger). They then role the number of attack dice listed on the card. Every dice roll that is a 3 or above is considered a hit, and every roll that is a 2 or below is a miss. For every hit, a wound marker is placed on the unit that was attacked. If the number of wound markers on the card are greater than or equal to the number of hit points the unit has, that unit is immediately destroyed. Upon its destruction, that unit is placed in the attacking player's magic reserve pile.

6. Build Magic - During this final phase of a player's turn, the current player can discard any number of cards in their hand face down into their magic reserve pile. This is how a player builds magic. If they discard three cards from their hand, they will have three magic with which to summon new units on their next turn.

This picture further illustrates magic and attack:


The gameplay in Summoner Wars is pretty fast paced, strategic, and very fun. The way in which players build magic is a very interesting mechanic, as it always gives you tough choices to make during your turn. Do you discard weak units in order to build magic for a powerful champion? Do you discard event cards that you don't need at the moment, and hope that you don't need them later? There are several situations that present themselves constantly throughout games of Summoner Wars. The fact that killing an opposing player's units adds to your magic also makes for an interesting mechanic, as it encourages both players to attack each other.

One thing I noticed about all of my games of Summoner Wars that I liked a lot is that they all seem to be very back-and-forward. During one turn, I will make a big push killing a lot of my opponent's units, feeling like I am doing well, only to have my opponent on his turn summon new units that slaughter mine.

Luck does play a role in this game, as I've had a few games where literally all of my elven archers rolled 1's while attacking, but overall this game has a lot of strategy in it.

Overall:

Overall I highly recommend this game to anyone who likes card games or strategic combat games. It might not be as complicated as miniature games, but it is cheap and incredibly easy to get into, and provides a ton of strategy.

Right now there are plans to release more factions, and additional cards for the current factions, allowing players the opportunity to customize their Summoner decks. This should allow for even more strategy and some deep customization once they are released.

Pros:
- Factions that feel and play completely differently
- Very cheap game
- Easy rules to learn and teach
- Quick Playing
- Strategic

Cons:
- Paper battlefield/play mat (though there are plans to release a stand-alone deluxe battlefield)
- Static setup leads to predictable opening moves
- Might be too simple for people used to complicated/strategic war games (though to a lot of people, like me =D, this would be considered a good thing)

Summoner Wars is definitely worth picking up. If you are on the fence, I highly recommend trying it, as it does not require that much of an investment compared to most other games.

Thanks for reading my review =D!




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Jerry Hawthorne
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Wow! That was a great review. I like how you laid it all out with pics and everything. It's like a mini tutorial. I'll read your reviews anytime!!
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Neil
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See here for info about the premium board.
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Matt Mehlhoff
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Excellent review, thanks!
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Brian Tanner
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Thanks for the compliments guys =).
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Chris Schenck
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If I was first evaluating a new game, this is exactly the kind of review that would tell me what I need to know about the game.

Very nice job. Keep doing game reviews!
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Andrew C
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Great review. Some folks here on the geek disparage reviews that "rehash" the rules, but I find them very useful. I can tell more about the game by seeing a rules summary, and the primary game mechanics, than I can from a single person's opinion.

The pics are great and make everything clear. Excellent review, keep them coming!
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