Old Buzz: Summoner Wars

So far, I’ve covered 20 games (well, 17 games and 3 expansions) that have come out recently and that I’d love to get my hands on.  This does not mean that I’m only interested in new games.  There are a bunch of games out there that have been out for a while (let’s say over a year) that I’m interested in as well.  So I’m starting some old buzz to talk about some of those.

Guild Dwarves vs. Cave Goblins - image by BGG user screamingtruth
Phoenix Elves vs. Tundra Orcs - image by BGG user screamingtruth

Summoner Wars came out in 2009 from Plaid Hat Games.  The game was designed by Colby Dauch, with art by John Ariosa and Gary Simpson.  It’s a game for 2 to 4 players, takes about 30 minutes, and is for ages 9 and up.  It’s essentially a fantasy battle game where you are playing the role of a summoner, calling up forces and casting spells in an effort to destroy the other summoner.  Originally, there were two base sets, each containing two factions – Guild Dwarves vs. Cave Goblins, and Phoenix Elves vs. Tundra Orcs.  With both sets, you can pit any combination of factions against each other, or you can combine the sets to have a team battle.  As time has progressed, more factions have been released – the Fallen Kingdom (undead) and Vanguards – as well as reinforcements for the Guild Dwarves and Tundra Orcs.

In a copy of the base game, you’ll find a rulebook, five d6, 20 wound markers, 70 cards, and a “battlefield mat.”  This is simply a folded piece of paper that you can spread out to create the playing surface.  Plaid Hat is releasing a special mounted board if you don’t want the hassle of folding and unfolding that piece of paper, as well as trying to smooth it out every time.  Personally, I’m not too bothered.  It might be nice in making the game feel more like a board game, but one of things that’s attracting me to the game is its portability.  I love having games that are compact but that still provide a rich gaming experience.

Starting set up - image by BGG user screamingtruth

The game works like this.  Each player sets up on one side of the mat and chooses a faction deck.  Your reference card will tell you your starting set up.  Cards are placed in various spots so you can read them from your side of the battlefield.  You’ll shuffle the remainder and place it in the appropriate spot to form a draw pile.  Roll to go first.

On your turn, you’ll draw, summon, play event cards, movement, attack, and build magic.  To draw, simply bring your hand up to five cards.  If there are no more cards to draw, you’ll have to finish the game with what you have on the battlefield and in your hand.

 

Charger unit - image by BGG user screamingtruth

Next is summoning.  You’ll be summoning units to the battlefield from your hand by paying the summoning cost – the number below the circled number on the card (the Charger has a summon cost of 2).  These cards will come out of your magic pile and go into the discard pile.  The units you summon are placed orthogonally adjacent to a wall you control.

You can now play any number of event cards from your hand, one at a time.  Effects are immediately resolved.  Once done, the cards are discarded.  Wall cards are events that simply get placed on the board.

Now you can move up to three of your units.  Each unit can move up to two spaces, and can only move orthogonally.  Movement must end on an unoccupied space.  You can cross the line between fields.

ATTACK!  You may attack with up to three different units that you control.  Unlike, say, BattleLore, the units with which you attack do not need to be the same ones you just moved.  No unit can attack more than once per turn, and each attack should be fully resolved before moving on to the next.  If you destroy the enemy, you take the card and put it on top of YOUR magic pile.  So you get stronger the more enemies you defeat.  Some units can only attack orthogonally adjacent units, others are ranged and can shoot up to three spaces (provided that there is nothing in the way).  Attacks are resolved by rolling the number of dice equal to the attack value (the circled number – 1 for the Charger).  Each 3 or higher is a hit, resulting in a wound for the enemy.  Once the unit has collected as many wound markers as it has life points (the colored circles – three for the Charger), it is destroyed.  Walls can be attacked.

After you’re done with attacks, you build magic by discarding as many cards as you like from your hand and placing them face down into your magic pile.  You’ll only get to use these in summoning, so only get rid of cards that you don’t think you’ll ever want.

The game ends when only one summoner is on the board.  That summoner wins.

This game seems relatively simple to play.  The only thing I’ve played that is comparable is BattleLore, which in itself is not tremendously complicated (though quite overblown).  I think it’s clever how a battle system got boiled down into a card game.  The use of the magic pile is reminiscent of games like Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome.  The artwork is pretty cool, and I like the expandability – get all kinds of different factions and pit them against each other.  However, with all the reinforcements, this game is teetering on the edge of becoming collectible.

At any rate, I’m excited to get the game and give it a try.  Hopefully I’ll get a copy this Christmas season.  Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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