Game Buzz – Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

As a faithful Doug (aka listener of the Plaid Hat Podcast), I’ve been hearing them talking about today’s game for a long time.  And now it’s almost here.  Time to take a look at

image by BGG user jfc1005
image by BGG user jfc1005

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is a game designed by Isaac Vega that is being published by Plaid Hat Games (it should be released at GenCon).  It’s a 2-4 player card game that takes 60-90 minutes.  According to the mythology of the game, the Phoenixborn are magical humans that are both protectors of the world and mortal enemies of each other.  So, you’ll be playing out a duel between them.

The game comes with 6 Phoenixborn cards, 241 spell/unit cards, 20 reference cards (phases of play and dice), 26 wound tokens, 30 exhaustion tokens, 21 status tokens, 10 charms dice, 10 ceremonial dice, 10 illusions dice, 10 natural dice, and a first player token.  Each player begins with a deck that consists of 30 cards and your Phoenixborn.  You can follow deck suggestions in the rules, or build your own.  If building your own, note that you cannot have more than three copies of a single card, and there are cards specific to particular Phoenixborn that only that character can use.  From the deck you construct, you choose five cards to be your First Five (no more than one copy of each), then shuffle the rest.  You also choose ten dice to use, and have a pile of conjuration cards.

In each round, there are three phases – prepare, player turns, and recovery.

PREPARE PHASE: Each player rolls all dice in their exhausted pool (you have all ten there to start the game).  These are then placed in your active pool.  You may then discard any number of cards from your hand, and draw up to five.  If you don’t have enough cards to draw, your Phoenixborn takes one damage per card that could not be drawn.

image by BGG user jfc1005
image by BGG user jfc1005

PLAYER TURNS: Players alternate turns taking a main action and possibly a side action.  The available main actions are:

  • Play a card with a main action symbol. This is just part of the cost of playing a card.  You could also have to exhaust the card, discard some cards from your hand, or exhaust a die of the appropriate type.
  • Attack a Phoenixborn.  Use your units, and your opponent can also use units to block.  Each unit used becomes exhausted after being used if it’s not destroyed.
  • Attack a Unit.  You’ll only be attacking one, but you can use as many as you want.  The defender’s Phoenixborn can guard the unit.
  • Pass.  If play gets back to you, you may take another main action or pass again.

The available side actions:

  • Play a card with a side action symbol.  As before.
  • Meditate.  Discard any number of cards from your hand, the top of your deck, and/or ready spells from your spellboard.  Each card you discard allows you to change the face of a die.
  • Activate Dice Power Ability.  Exhaust a die in your active pool to carry out its power effect.

When all players have passed on consecutive turns, the round ends.

RECOVERY: First, remove a number of wound tokens from each unit up to their recover value.  Then, remove one exhaustion token from each card that has at least one exhaustion token.  Any number of dice can move from your active pool to your exhausted pool, and the first player token passes.  You then begin a new round.

The game ends when there is only one Phoenixborn left standing.  The controlling player wins.

This game looks like a pretty interesting combination of card play and dice rolling.  You have magic symbols on your dice that are used for activating cards, but can also be used as special actions on their own.  Your cards to are also your timer for the game – run through them too fast and you’ll be hemorrhaging hit points before you know it.  So it looks like a good balancing act.  I’m not too excited about the head-to-head combat aspect of the game, and I wonder how this will fit in next to Plaid Hat’s Summoner Wars line.  It’s also really difficult to know how it will all work without seeing the cards.  But the art all looks really nice, and Plaid Hat has a pretty good track record, so I’m expecting good things.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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