Mar 162012
 

imageBy Dale Medhurst

Summoner Wars is a board and card game where two players use units represented by cards on a board to defeat the other’s leader, the eponymous Summoner.

As a player destroys an enemies card, they place it in their Magic pile which they can use to summon more troops to the battlefield. When the game first came out, there were two starter sets, each with two different sets of faction decks, each with it’s own set of abilities, represented on their cards.

Since then their have been fourteen different Faction decks released and most of these have had extra cards added in special expansion packs. These packs contained extra unit cards for two existing Factions plus cards that could be used with any Faction: the Mercenary Cards.

Now, the Mercenaries have their own Faction deck, led by the enigmatic Summoner, Rallul. The 36 cards in this deck have a large Magic flavour, with Walls being drained to give the Mercenaries more Magic and lots of arcane-themed Commons and Champions.

imageWalls are moved around the board with spells, magic is stolen from opponent’s Magic or Draw piles and great, lumbering Stone Golems suddenly have allies summoned from them.

The Mercenaries are a tricky little Faction. If you take your eye off one unit, it is soon stealing from you, leaving you with little or no resources. They have a mixture of cheap and middle- cost units and, Mercenaries cards have been released with EVERY Expansion pack, when deck-building, you
have an access to a vast variety of different units!

The cards are well-produced and a joy to look at. Whenever, I get a new set of Summoner Wars cards, I can’t wait to open them, read them then, most importantly, play with them. The Mercenaries are no different. Summoner Wars has a very basic rules set but each card adds its own set of rules tweaks. All the rules needed for the unit are clearly written on the cards and the art and design is a delight.

imageWell done, Plaid Hat, for another cracking addition to a brilliant game!

The Mercenaries Faction Deck is released by Plaid Hat Games and should be on general release around the time of this review being published. Check out GMS Magazine’s interview with Plaid Hat Games, Colby Dauch, on the G*M*S Magazine podcast.

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Mar 152012
 

imageBy Dale Medhurst

Over two years ago, Plaid Hat Games released the small, but perfectly-formed Summoner Wars Starter Sets and there was much rejoicing!

Since then we’ve seen four new Factions, beautiful premium playing boards, expansions for all the Factions and, finally, last year, the wonderful Summoner Wars Master Set, which has such great box design that you could store EVERYTHING released for the game and still have more room for new Factions.

Now, we have two new Factions, one of which is the rather-delightfully named Filth.

This 36-card set is very different from previous Factions. There are no Champions card; instead we have Mutations… Where other Factions would summon Champions onto the board with the imagemagic they had accumulated by discarding cards or killing their enemies, the Filth use magic to place Mutation Cards on top of existing Common Cards, giving them special abilities, augmented attacks and more life points.

All of the Mutation cards are unique so when they are on the board they’re a bit like a group of super villains and very deadly.

The only Champion is the Abomination, an expensive card and very random. A bit reminiscent of the Chaos Spawn from the Warhammer 40K universe, the Abomination rolls a die each round and the result is the number of attacks it has that round, so it can be very deadly or …meh! However, it can soak a lot of damage so it’ll be round a long time harrying your opponent.

The Filth’s Common Cards are cheap, as in FREE, to summon and there are a lot of them, so, even though they die all over the place, they’re soon mutating into something much nastier… imageOne other neat trick the Filth has under its vile sleeve are some great Event Cards. They can mutate their enemies, turning them against their former allies and they can possess an opponent’s wall! It then can’t be used to summon until the Wall’s owner discards two cards from their hand! Ouch!

The Filth faction are one of the most flavourful set. I love them!

You start the game running your weak Cultists and Zealots around the board then…BANG! A mutation occurs and the game shifts. As usual with the Summoner Wars series, the cards are gorgeous: well produced, great art and very nice card stock.

Well done, Plaid Hat, another great addition to an already-fabulous game… Viva Summoner Wars!

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Jan 312012
 

imageBy Dale Medhurst

By Colby Dauch & Plaid Hat Games

I love Christmas! Love, goodwill and games!

One of my presents this year was the lovely, big and shiny Summoner Wars Master Set and, oh, boy, was excited to open this baby!

But, was I disappointed…?

Inside the box are an updated rulebook that clarifies some old and new rules, plenty of lovely dice and wound markers, a gorgeous playing board (replacing the wrinkly paper mats from the Starter Sets) and, most importantly, six new decks of cards representing six spanking new factions.

imageAll of this comes in a great plastic tray insert that allows you to store ALL the factions from the Summoner Wars range, dice and tokens. A masterpiece of box design!

The new factions all have different flavour.

The goat-like Mountain Vargath can take damage and knocked their enemies all over out the battlefield or charge into their opponents’ side of the board, dishing out pain.

The Benders mess with their enemies draw deck and units, sowing confusion.

imageThe Swamp Orcs cause vine walls to pop up all over the board, tangling their foes whilst leaping out to attack.

Then there’s the magic-bending Deep Dwarves, the shifting, wriggly Sand Goblins and the swift and deadly Shadow Elves…

All the rules for the units are on the cards so once you pick up the easy rules you’re ready
to play. For those of you haven’t played Summoner Wars, the rules are easy.

imageOn their turn, a player draws up to five cards into their hand then, using cards from their magic pile, can summon more units next to the walls on their side of the battlefield.

Magic is accumulated by destroying enemy units or casting certain spells.

Next a player can cast spells/ play event cards or place more summoning walls on their side of the battlefield.

Then up to three units are moved up to two spaces. Diagonal movement is not usually allowed.
imageThe fourth phase is ATTACK! Up to three units can attack. Those with ranged attacks can strike those within a straight line of three spaces whilst melee combatants can attack opponents adjacent to them. Attacks are successfully resolved by rolling 3 or more on a D6 and units have as many rolls as those shown on their card. When a unit takes enough wounds they are usually placed in their enemies magic pile.

The last phase is the Magic-Build Phase. A player can place as many cards as they want from their hand into their magic pile. This is one of the most strategic elements of Summoner Wars. Do you get rid of several cheap units so you can summon an expensive, but powerful, champion next turn? But you then run the risk of depleting your draw pile too quickly…

The game end when one player destroys their opponent’s Summoner.

imageSummoner wars is like a war game without the hours of mini painting and money drain.

The art and presentation is fantastic and it can be taught in moments but hours can be spent learning strategies for all of the factions.

Another cool thing is that their are another eight factions to buy with two more on the way and all factions have new cards to purchase now in the near future. Plaid Hat have also released Faction- specific dice which are very nice!

Oh, and before I forget, keep an eye out for the upcoming iOS Summoner Wars game coming soon!

Buy this and you’re ready for hours of fun. It usually plays in 30 minutes to an hour so can be a great start for a game evening.
Highly recommended!

You can buy Summoner Wars Master Set from:

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Jan 312012
 

eminent-domain-board-game[1]By Dale Medhurst

By Seth Jaffee and Tasty Minstrel Games

First there was Dominion, and it was good….if a little dry.

Then, the pretenders attempted to take the deck-building crown from Dominion. Some came close and others evolved, such as the splendid Seven Wonders and this latest spin on the deck-builder, Eminent Domain.

Eminent Domain uses cards but has lots of tokens. Tokens for resources, tokens for fleets of invading ships and tokens for victory, sorry, influence points.

The aim of the game is to finish with the most influence, thus, the biggest galactic empire.

Influence is gained by surveying planets then colonising or invading them. Certain planets allow you to produce goods which you can then sell for more influence. Simple!

Each player starts with a deck ten set cards from which the draw a hand of five. They also have a planet on their side to start their empire.

In the centre of the table is a set of five draw decks. Depending on how many players their are, the game ends when one or two of these decks is depleted.

Beside the draw decks are three decks of technology cards. These can give players special actions when researched and claimed.

imageDuring a player’s turn, three phases can be completed.

In the Action Phase , the player whose turn it is can resolve an action from one of the cards in their hand. This is optional. A lot of the Technology cards allow special actions.

In the Role Phase, the main player chooses one of the draw decks. He can then perform the role/leader action on the bottom of that card, boosting the role with any matching symbols from cards in his hand and planets he controls. Other players can either follow or dissent.

Following means that the other player performs the role from the chosen card, boosting with their cards and matching symbols.

Dissent allows the player to draw another card from their deck.

After cards are used, they are placed in the player’s discard deck.

In the Cleanup Phase, the main player can discard any number of remaining cards from their hand and draw up to five new cards. If their draw deck is empty, then the shuffle their discard deck to form a new deck and so forth.

The cards in the centre stacks are:

  • Survey, which allows you look through a certain number of cards from the planet draw deck or draw cards from your draw deck.
  • Warfare, building your fleet of ships, invading worlds you have surveyed.
  • Colonise, build colonies on surveyed worlds and settle them.
  • Produce/Trade allows you to place resource tokens on planets you control that have resource slots or trade those tokens on your planets for more influence points.
  • Research can be used to get rid of cards from your deck or gain access to game-changing technology cards.

Each player starts with a Politics Card which is a single use card that allows you take an extra card from the central stack. Once you use it it’s gone!

imageWhen I first tried this game it took a bit of time to learn and teach but after a few turns , it did what most good mechanics do….it clicked!

I taught it to my 10 year old son and after a few confused frowns, he picked it up and started to learn some of the strategies. He soon had fleets of the cool-looking ships tokens and was surveying and invading planets wholesale!

I love the SF theme and the fab tokens. They have a lovely tactile feel and transcend this game from being yet another Dominion-wannabe. The art and graphic is very good; very neat, clear and easy to understand.

The rulebook is well written and presented and, at sixteen pages, not at all daunting.

The game lasts less than an hour and I’d quite happily play this again straight afterwards.

If you like Seven Wonders, Dominion, SF, or all the above, then play Eminent Domain. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Emminent Domain. (2-4 Players, Ages 10+, Approx. 45mins Playing Time)

You can buy Eminent Domain in:

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Jan 312012
 

imageBy Dale Medhurst

Author: Tim Gray

Published by Silver Branch Games

Centuries ago, the years of ecological abuse came to a head. Stories say that Gaia,Mother Earth, caused the sea to rise, the ground tremble and the climate change in extraordinary ways. Society crumbled and in it’s place arose the Druid Order.

Now, in the realm of Albion, peace and prosperity have come, the technology that brought upon the Age of Madness has gone but rumours of a growing darkness have begun to spread…

The background of this new RPG is fascinating; think Robin of Sherwood meets Survivors with a dash of Warhammer 40k and Fallout thrown in. The Druid Order who maintain the peace could be seen as kindly parents, guiding society, or a brutal, authoritarian group, who punish those who wish to learn more of Albion’s past and the technological marvels it possessed.

Yes, some relics of the past do exist but they are rare; the magic items of this setting, maybe. But, their use is strictly forbidden by the Druids… In general, life in Albion is similar Celtic Britain with it’s Druids, Bards and mythical trappings. There are towns and settlements, ruled over by town leaders who in turn answer to the King, of which, there are many. But guiding most are the Druid Order..

Well, enough of the setting, what about the rules?

Basics

imageAs in most RPGs, characters have a set of attributes, in this case, seven as opposed to six. Good old DEX has been split into Agility and Deftness. One is movement based and the other is hand-eye coordination. Personally, I couldn’t see the point of splitting these but more on that later.
Then there are the Skills. These are normally chosen as you create your character, figuring where he/she came from and their occupation.

Tasks are performed by adding the relevant attribute to a skill and rolling a number of D6s equal to the total. 4, 5 and 6 are successes, with 6 being an impressive success, allowing you to roll another die. However, roll roll all 1s and bad stuff happens. We leave that to the GM’s imagination..

Die can be taken from a player’s die pool for more difficult tasks, player injuries or the metaphysical force known as Blessing or Curses. Yes, there is Magic in Albion…

Magic
Magic is split into two types: Spirit and World.

Spirit comes from within whilst World is the manipulation of the strands of the Web that covers the land.

To cast spells, characters add the relevant attribute to their Art, Spirit or World Magic Skill then rolls that number of die, much like performing any task. But casting magic may fatigue the character, making them less proficient to perform other tasks for a short time.

Players can buy a few spells in the character creation process, normally if they follow certain career paths such as the Druid, Priest or Magican but may learn more as they progress.

There plenty of spells of spells to choose from and leave plenty of room for Roleplaying opportunities.

imageCombat

Combat is reasonably simple: rounds are broken into 10 sections. Everyone rolls a d6 and adds their initiative modifier then the GM counts down from 10 to 1 and everyone gets to act when their number is called.

Using a mixture of Attribute, Weapon and Skill, attackers get a number of die which they roll and they have to get a number of successes equal to or more than the defender’s Defense. Damage can take the form of reducing the characters initiative, number of die in their pool, knocking them unconscious or even killing them.

Overview

Well, there is plenty more in this book, such as different equipment, everyday life in Albion, Fire and Destiny points that gain aid players. (Action points, basically!) and a small bestiary containing all kinds of horrors from Celtic mythology. Some of these can even be used as Player Characters.

There are factions, geography,some example NPCs, a small adventure and a two page GM’s reference sheet at the back of the book.

This 260 page hardback book has a wealth of information. There are plenty of black and white illustrations within, just not enough. The layout is okay but I wish the creatures had each gotten a page of their own; some spread over pages, so a GM would have to keep flicking back and forth.

Having been over the rules several times, they are relatively simple though there are plenty of modifiers which at times seem to over-complicate things. The proof would be in the play, but I feel early games would involve too much page turning. The joy of the D20 system was that players and GMs both had a point of reference to work from whereas learning a new system can be daunting.

I am from the rules-lite, Roleplaying- heavy school and found some of Albion a bit ‘crunchy’.

However, I rather like the setting which has just right mix of fantasy with a sprinkle of modern day. I wouldn’t mind running a few sessions though I don’t think it could maintain my interest for a long-term campaign.

Congratulations to Tim Gray for creating an interesting setting and I would recommend people at least take some time to explore the world of Albion.

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