Game Review: Summoner Wars

Summoner Wars by Plaid Hat GamesBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

So far I’ve reviewed Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (a semi-cooperative game where someone ends up a traitor cylon) and Lost Cities (a quick two-player card game).

This month’s game is you against me until one of our armies is destroyed.

I’m not normally a fan of games where you directly attack the other person. Most of my game play is with my husband, who I love. Neither of us like working hard to build something only to have another player destroy it. We especially hate doing that to the person we love the most. But in Summoner Wars, you go in knowing that your units won’t last long.

Enter into the story…

You’re the leader of a race of peoples in the kingdom of Itharia. For years, the Fallen Kingdom has reigned over Itharia because they were the only ones who possessed a summoning stone—a magical object that gave them the ability to teleport troops onto a battlefield rather than having to move them normally.

Now more summoning stones have been found and the world has fallen into chaos as every race tries to win their freedom from all the others and rule their own portion of Itharia.

How well does the theme work? You feel like you’re there.

If you enjoy World of Warcraft or Guild Wars, there’s a good chance you’ll also like Summoner Wars.

In Summoner Wars, you’re playing one of 16 fantasy race armies (e.g. Tundra Orcs, Benders, Mountain Vargath, Phoenix Elves) against the army of a single opponent. Each race has its own unique special abilities. The Tundra Orcs can freeze their opponents in place. The Shadow Elves can bring darkness over the battlefield so they can’t be attacked with ranged attacks like arrows.

Summoner Wars Phoenix ElvesType of Game: Tactical war game using cards instead of miniatures.

The object of the game is simple. Kill your opponent’s summoner (leader) before they kill yours.

You’ll set up your chosen race into the starting configuration specified on your faction’s set-up card, and then if you want to bring more troops onto the battlefield, you’ll need to “summon” them by discarding magic points. (You earn magic points by either killing your opponent’s forces or discarding cards from your own hand.)

Length of Play Rating: For a Sunday afternoon.

I can’t call this game “after dinner fun” because I save that for games that always run an hour or less. While Summoner Wars can take less than an hour, it can also take up to 90 minutes. The better you know the army you’re playing and the one your opponent is playing, the quicker the game will go. However, if you’re equally matched in skill with the person you’re playing against, games can take the full 90 minutes as you fight to the bitter end.

Number of Players: 2 people

There is a way you can combine two boards so that four people can play (two against two), but I haven’t played that way and have no desire to. What I love about this game is that while there’s a little luck in which cards you draw into your hand at any time and in the dice rolls, what this really comes down to is my brain against yours, my strategic abilities against yours, my tactical moves against yours. Imagine chess but with magical creatures and abilities. It’s a little like that.

The Most Important Question: Would I Buy It Again?

For this game, the answer is definitely. My husband and I originally got the Master Set, which came with six armies. We’ve since bought more of the faction packs. It won’t be leaving my collection.

If you’re in the United States and want to check out Summoner Wars, I recommend CoolStuffInc. If you’re in Canada, a good site to buy games from is Cult of the New.

On this blog, I like to occasionally feature fun ways to introduce “fantasy” to your everyday life. Make sure to tell me what you’d like to see more of. More game reviews? More recipes from movies or books? More unbelievable real life features (where I highlight a place or creature from our world that’s real but looks like it should belong in a story)?

I hope you’ll check out my book of suspense short stories, Frozen: Two Suspense Short Stories.

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