Summoner Wars: Second Edition Master Set
Plaid Hat Games
Designed by Colby Dauch
2 players, Ages 9+, 40 - 60 Minutes
When I first began my interests in this tabletop gaming hobby, I heard about a plethora of head to head games that interested me. Of course, I had already gone into Magic: The Gathering, but I was starting to put those cards away and moved towards board gaming. The Portal was always the game store that showed me the new and interesting games that were coming out, and at this point in my gaming life, I wasn't too interested in European Style Games, and focused more on head to head experiences.
I heard about Summoner Wars one of those times when I was in the Portal when a Master Set had come out. But even then, after some research, I noticed that I would be so far behind when it came to the content that I passed on it. And then, within a month, the game was gone. I couldn't find it anywhere on the shelves, and when I did, it wasn't the base game. After a while, I forgot about the whole thing, and moved on to other games in this genre, including Ashes which is published by the same company. But recently, Plaid Hat Games announced that they were reprinting Summoner Wars, along with adding factions out of the gate. Reviews began to come out and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.
So what's this game about? Well, it's a head to head two player game that pits summoners against each other. But the thing that's different here is that there's a grid style board along with some dice that'll be rolled for combat. Let's go through how the game works, and then I'll give you my thoughts to see if this is one you'll want to get.
To set up, you'll choose one of the six summoners in the box, then turn over their card to see which units you begin with, and how to place them on the board. Once you've done that, each player starts with 2 magic, with the second player getting 3 magic as a second player bonus, and you begin. A turn is played out through six phases, all of which are printed on the board. The first phase is summoning. Here, you spend your magic to bring units out onto the board based on the cost. You must place a new unit adjacent to a gate orthogonally. Once you've decided that you're done summoning units, or you don't have any magic left, you head to phase 2, which is movement. For this phase, you move 3 different units up to 2 spaces. This must be orthogonal movement, never diagonal, and you cannot move through other units, friendly or enemy, unless your card allows you to do so. Once you move your units, you head to the build phase. This is where you can choose to build any number of gates you might have in your hand. They're free to build, but they must be placed in your back three rows, or an empty space adjacent to your summoner. Then comes the combat.
In phase 4, you choose up to 3 different units to engage in combat. In melee combat, your target must be adjacent, not diagonal. You then roll the dice determined by the strength of your unit, and each melee symbol rolled is a hit on the opponent. Damage is given out determined by the card effects, and you move on to the next attacker. If you use ranged combat, you choose a target up to 3 spaces away in a clear line without anything blocking you. Then you roll based on your strength and deal out hits accordingly. When you've taken out an enemy unit, you gain one magic. In phase 5, the magic phase, you can choose to discard any number of cards in hand to gain 1 magic for each discarded that way. And then phase 6 is to draw up to five cards in hand. If you already have five cards, then you don't draw. If ever your draw pile is empty, you don't draw back up, and you don't shuffle your deck. You'll play the rest of the game with what you have in hand.
Now the only thing I haven't covered yet is events. These are cards you'll have with specific times for you to play them listed on the card. If the card is considered active, it goes to the side of the board and at the beginning of your next turn, it will be discarded. And overall, that's how you play the game. There are subtle nuances that enhance each player's abilities, but overall it's quite simple.
So what do I think of this game? I think it's one of the best head to head card games out there that isn't collectable. When a game takes on an elegance such as this, it's one that remains on the table. When I first got a chance to play it, not only did I want to play again, I wanted to play as the same character instead of jumping right into another one. I wanted to understand each and every one of them eventually, but I wanted to master the summoner I had chosen. I love Ashes, which is another of these non-collectable head to head card games with new factions trickling out, but this one might come out ahead. The game is simpler, there's less to keep track of, and for the most part, all the rules are on the board. And I love it when game rules are on the board.
If you love head to head combat games, this is one that should be in your collection. I'm so happy Plaid Hat Games brought this one back, and I hope it's here to stay. I know that I'll be diving in to each and every one of these summoners that'll be released. I give it a solid 9 out of 10.