Summoner Wars, released in 2009 by Plaid Hat Games, the brainchild of Colby Dauch, is a fast, card-based battle game. Although primarily a two player game, there are rules for up to four players.
There are slight similarities to Magic the Gathering in that you summon creatures and cast spells using magic that you accumulate. However, you don’t draw magic from your deck. Instead, you gain it by defeating your opponent’s cards or discarding cards in your hand and putting them into your magic pile. Plus, once you use magic, it’s gone so it’s a limited resource.
Each Common and Champion card has a Summoning cost, it’s own unique special ability, number of attacks and amount of wounds it can take.
Spells come in the form of Special Events cards which can attack opponents or bolster the Summoner’s forces or additional Summoning Walls.
When cards enter, or are summoned,they are played onto a battlefield grid next to a Summoning Wall after which they can move about and attack their enemy. In this way,there are also elements of a war-game.
The object of the game is to defeat your opponent’s Summoner who starts the game at the opposite side of the battlefield. This is not as easy as it sounds as he/she is protected by a small force of Common and Champion cards and the Summoner hurls spells that weaken his attackers or bolsters his defenders!
Attackers can attack an opponent’s Summoning Wall and destroy it thus, limiting where or, even if, a Summoner can bring reinforcements onto the battlefield.
The game is very easy to learn and plays very fast. I have played this with young kids AND older, seasoned gamers and all have enjoyed it.
Even though the rules are simple ( move two spaces, roll dice and wound on a 3), there are plenty of room for tactical play.
Save your magic to summon a big, bad champion or swarm the board with lots of weaker, cheaper cards? Discard cards from your hands to increase your magic but run the risk of running out of cards in your draw pile?
The only down side in the starter set is the fold-out battle grid. It doesn’t always lay flat.
However, Plaid Hat must heard this complaint as you can now purchase a rather nice folding hard board for a low price. In fact, having the original mat paper was obviously a financial consideration to keep the starter set both cheaper and, even better, very, very portable. A starter box comes with two faction decks and everything you need to play, all for under twenty quid! Plus, you can quite easily carry all current faction decks, rulebooks, dice markers and playing mat in the original starter box in your coat pocket.
The cards are very nice with great colourful artwork that captures the feel of each faction. Just look at some of card previews on Board Game Geek. The new Mercenary witch art is absolutely gorgeous.There are currently two different starter sets, two new armies and expansion sets that give you extra cards to add to the current armies, creating a deck- building element to the game.
Each faction has it’s own feel. Goblins are weak but many, orcs tough but sometimes clumsy, dwarves are sturdy and deadly in melee whilst elves wield devastating magical and ranged attacks.
Recently, two new factions, the undead Fallen Kingdoms who drain the life from their enemies and human Vanguards with their healers and knights.
Then, there’s the Mercenaries who can work with any faction…
In conclusion, I’d recommend this game for people who’d like an alternative to Magic ( the cards you get are not random) , players who like idea of a war-game but can’t be bothered straining their eyes painting dozens of miniatures or anyone who is after a fast-paced two-player game that they can play in around thirty minutes.
In fact, I’d just recommend it!