Ashes : Rise of the Pheonixborn – It’s exciting.

There is a game being published by Plaid Hat Games, that I’m really excited about. It’s a card game, where you’re playing a mage, that uses dice for the spell power pool.

It comes with a half-dozen heroes, with a premade deck for each, but also with rules for building your own decks and for playing it as a draft.

The game has elements of several popular games, but has a unique feel to it. Breaking down those mechanics, here they are.

It has a card pool, provided completely in the core set, with expansions that will be provided quarterly, and not as a blind buy. I’d use the term LCG, but someone owns that term, so I can’t use it.

When you’re starting the game, you pick 5 cards for your opening hand, a mechanic similar to the Posse in Doomtown : Reloaded.

Then you roll dice, like Quarriors, or Marvel Dice, or Roll for the Galaxy. Those dice form your mana pool. The higher level dice can be used for any of the lower levels and there are ways to reroll them.

Some spells like to summon tokens, similar to Magic : The Gathering, but unlike the MtG tokens, these all have card text. Some with special powers, some without. Like Magic and various other games, there are spells that you can attach to your creatures to make them stronger or more durable. There is also an exhaustion mechanic, that while similar to magic’s tapping mechanic, or the kneeling mechanic, has a few differences. You can throw multiple on a card, but only one are removed per turn.

There is a mechanic I can’t recall seeing elsewhere, which allows you to play down extra copies of an individual card to reinforce it’s powers. These are called Focus, and they trigger at various levels. You’ve also got the ability to toss a card aside to flip the dice around; this is called meditating.

Basically, it’s a game with a pretty interesting magic system, using dice rolls and dice manipulation mechanics, creating a nice mix of randomness and strategy.

The biggest thing that makes this game stand out is how fast the turns feel, when compared to Magic or some other games. Each round, you can perform a major action and if you want, a minor action. Then the other play takes their turn, and it goes back and forth for a bit. After you’ve run out of dice and options, then you end the round, pull of the exhaust tokens, heal the cards that can heal, re-roll the dice, and refresh the hand, and start it over again.

The deck design is 30 cards, with no more than 3 of each card. So you’ve got a 1/10 chance of drawing a card. Given that you can discard and draw 5 cards in a turn, plus whatever you use for meditating, you can burn through your deck pretty quickly. When you hit the bottom of the deck, you start taking damage, similar to hearthstone.

For comparison, Hearthstone, 30 cards, of which there’s a max of 2 of each per deck. Magic, it’s 60 cards, 4 of each. Netrunner, it’s 45ish, 3 of each card. Doomtown, it’s 52, but you’ve got poker mechanics and 4 of any given card type. I’m not enough of a math guy to actually make much out of these numbers, but I’m sure some of you are finding this fascinating.

Each of the heroes has at a few cards that are exclusive to them, a limit to the amount of spell cards they can have active in front of them, a limit to the number of allies they can have protecting them, and of course specific amount of health. They’ve also got a power that they can trigger, which is exclusive to them.

When building a deck, you’ll decide which spells to include and how many dice of each type to include. The dice have 3 different faces, the common face, which is shared by all dice, the path face, which has the basic power for that type of magic, and the empowered face, which you need for the higher powers of that path. I’m not sure on the specific terms, but the ideas are there. The player who rolls the most common dice, they’re first player for the round.

So far, I’ve only seen it played as a two player game, but I can see it as being pretty cool as a multiplayer game.

Anyways, that’s why I’m excited for my copy. You’ve got a few hours left to pre-order your copy if you want to get it as part of the Pre-GenCon shipment. After that, I’m not sure when the next shipment is going out.

http://www.plaidhatgames.com/games/ashes

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