I've been hearing a lot of praise about Plaid Hat Games' Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, and after seeing it being played by a handful of gents in my LGS, I decided to pick it up. For those that may not know, Ashes is an expandable card game system, similar in vein to FFG's highly popular LCGs. Basically, you have total control of deckbuilding just like you would in say, Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon, BUT without the "blind buy" booster pack model. Meaning, everyone will access to fixed card sets, no need to chase expensive, ultra rare cards! In Ashes, you play as a magic-wielding Phoenixborn, summoner allies and casting spells, while ducking it out with the opponent's Phoenixborn! First to knockout the opposing caster wins! Here's my unboxing and component review of Ashes. I've also watched PHG's "how to play" video as well as actually read the rules myself, so while I haven't played, I'll speak a little bit about the rules themselves. Anyway, on with the review!
|The 1st thing you see...|
The rulebook! At 20 pages, it's a quick and easy read. Throughout the book, there are plenty of illustrations, and diagrams, and is very aesthetically pleasing. The rules themselves are pretty straightforward, and easily make sense. It's often cliche', but I can see Ashes being one of those games that are "easy to learn, yet difficult to master". After watching the "how to play video" and reading through the rules myself, I feel confident that I know how to play. I can also confidently say there are tons of tactics and strategy within the game, so on one hand, I know what I'm doing, but on the other hand, I have no clue! I can foresee getting beat up for my first few games while I learn the ins-and-outs of Ashes' strategies.
|Nice layout overall...|
Next up are the tokens. You've got the blue exhausted tokens, the green status tokens, the red wound tokens, and the 1st player marker in the bottom right. The tokens are double-sided, with some higher denominations on the other side. They are basic cardboard, but they feel really nice, and popped out really easily, with no rips.
Next up, you can see how the box insert divides the box. On the left, you have all the cards shrink wrapped, and on the right you have the dice and storage bags.
|Dice are the resource mechanic...|
The dice themselves are brightly colored, slightly larger than I anticipated, and are a bit weighty. There are 4 different types, and 10 of each. When you Deckbuild, you'll use a max of 10 dice, but more than likely you'll be using multiple dice-types, so you typically won't be using all 10 of a single type all at once. Every turn, you'll roll your dice, to determine what resources you'll have access to that turn. Cards require a specific number symbols to spent in order summon that card or cast that spell. This creates a little dice game within the game, similar to games like Quarriors, Dice Masters, and/or SAGA. This replaces the resource mechanic typically seen in a lot of other games. The bags themselves are bit big in my opinion. I'm saving them for other games, as I doubt I use them with the set.
Next I'll take a quick look at the cards. Wonderfully illustrated, made of a good, strong card material, and in a standard size. At first, aesthetically the cards seemed a bit strange, as there is something about the cards in Ashes are little bit different from what I'm used to. Can't put my finger on what exactly, maybe it's also the board layout feels a bit strange to me too. Thankfully, what at first seemed a bit strange, was actually pretty easy to understand once I ran through the rules. This set came with an extra Phoenixborn that I was not expecting, Dimona Odinstar. The Pheonixborn cards are all double sided, with a full art image on the other side. In addition there are spell cards, allies, certain cards that only be conjured through spells, and reference cards for both the turn and dice. The card backs feature the Ashes logo, in grey for regular cards, and black for the special "conjured" cards. These need to be kept separate during the game. Using the Dimona Phoenixborn, you can see they easily fit in standard sized sleeves, though it may be nice to find some WITHOUT the little bug in the bottoms right, since it obscures some of the text.
|that stamp gets in the way...|
Finally, you can see the inserts themselves. There is a lot of potential in the space. It can hold all your cards, deck boxes of you wish, token container, really whatever you may need. It will all depend on what you'd like to do with the box itself. Some extra dividers would have been nice, if I'm being completely honest. Something that would make separating/storing the cards, or maybe even holding your sleeved decks in place without the need to keep them in deck boxes. I do know there are companies out that make laser cut inserts that would do just that, or if you have skills, you could also make your own foamcore insert like you'll often see people doing in boardgamegeek.
|Lots of space...|
|The 2 decks I'm hunting for...|
... And there you have it! Overall, I'd say the game and components are very high quality, and I'm very impressed. In terms of quality, I'd say they give the LCG giant, FFG, a solid run for heir money! (If they don't outright beat them in quality already!) The core box cost me $50 at my LGS, but can probably be found cheaper online, and was well worth the cost! The game will be expanded through new Phoenixborn decks, giving you access to new spells and allies as well. As of writing this, there are two additional decks already out, but I have noticed a problem on Plaid Hat Games' part in regards to availability of the expansion decks. Right now, as of writing this, he two decks I mentioned are already out of print! Currently, the only place I can find them online is scalping them for an extra $10 PER DECK! This can be a bit of an issue, as one of the whole point of games like these are that everyone has access to the same cards, creating a game that comes down to skill not just who owns the best and rarest cards. Which is NOT the case if I cards go out of print way too quickly. I understand that the last thing a gaming company wants is a warehouse full of spare product that won't move, but still, I'm hoping for a reprint sooner, rather than later! Maybe I'll get lucky, and find the decks I'm needing hidden in one of the many local gaming stores in the KC area, but as the game seems to start gaining popularity, the likely hood of doing so feel slim. There are more decks coming up on the horizon, of which I'll really want to dive upon the second the come out! I've also heard rumors of playmats coming out as well, and I'm definitely a sucker for playmats!
I can't wait to dive in and try out the game! Again, such awesome quality, in a game with simple mechanics, yet TONS of depth and strategy! It looks like one of the shops in my area will be running events, complete with Organized Play kits, which is something I'm really looking forward to. Look for Ashes content, including deck lists, new product reviews, and tournament reports on here in the near future!
- WuhSawBe -