I started playing Magic: the Gathering when I was in sixth grade, and played well through high school. My favorite part of the game was deck building. After high school I would pick up the game again for six months to a year, but the game was way too expensive to continue playing the way I wanted to play. It’s been a few years since I last played, and I’m beginning to feel that itch that only Collectible Card Game can scratch. I simply cannot afford to get into the game again, so I started looking for alternatives. Cortnie has never been interested in these types of games, so the most important thing I was looking for was something to draw her in. I found several games that had great art, which helps, but it’s not enough to be a long term draw, which is what I’m looking for. What made me finally decide that Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn was the game to try?
What caught my attention to this game wasn’t the fantastic art everyone was talking about, not the varied formats of game play which is exactly what I was looking for, but the lore. The deep world that this game takes place in, as each set is released we get more of the story.
In Argaia, the world in which this game unfolds, Red Rains fell upon the land corrupting and changing the animals their. From these rains the Chimera were born. The Chimera brought destruction to the world spoiling the ground and water alike, devouring cities, and bring humanity to the brink of extinction. On the twilight of the human race, an unknown power, which was wielded by a select few now called the Phoenixborn, arose to confront the Chimera. Together they eliminated the Chimera and restored the planet into a new, golden age. For the Phoenixborn however, this time was known as the Collection of Ashes. The power that they used was not gone after the threat. It drove the wielders of it to seek one another out in an effort slaughter other Phoenixborn and absorb the power of the fallen to unify the power under one person.
This part of the story is known, but histories before this event are only hinted at. Through flavor text and interviews/podcasts with creator Isaac Vega, we’ve learned bits and pieces. We know that there are other, powerful entities that are not Phoenixborn. The phrase “crimes against the children of the dragons.” is one I’m waiting for elaboration on.
I normally look for a Watch It Played by Rodney Smith to link at this point, but there is a blurb on the rule book that says Plaid Hat Games has a how-to Video on their website, so I wanted to go directly to the source. Of course when I got to their site I found out they just have an embedded Rodney Smith Video.
This was one of those games that Cortnie was excited for because of the art. Every time I asked her what she wanted to play, this was on the list. I always found a reason to play something else, but really it was always the same reason: I was scared. I wanted this to be one of our go to games, that we played often. I wanted to mention a new release and have Cortnie be excited for it. If the first experience wasn’t a good one, I doubt I’d ever play again.
Today, Cortnie put her foot down and told me we were playing Ashes. As we were cleaning up from breakfast I was talking to her about the Lore and the developing world. We sat down and I went through the turn, step by step explaining the game. I didn’t want to miss anything, and took more time than I expected, but this was my most important game.
If you’re interested in how to play, go watch the video I linked above, I leave it at a few comments. Instead of drawing your first hand, you select a full hand of cards from your deck. Also, your deck does not contain the resources you need to play your cards like most games. You each have a pool of dice that gets rolled each turn, and playing cards / activating abilities requires specific symbols. So far, I love this system. Now, to the game:
I took Noah Redmoon who uses Illiusion and Ceremonial magic, against Cortnie’s Maeoni Viper’s Nature and Charm Magic. Play started smoothly enough, there were a couple of questions in the first turn, but nothing that was misunderstood. I was playing with a mindset to make sure Cortnie had a great time, but quickly, before the end of the first turn, changed that into a completely reactionary mindset.
Now, she says she felt the same way, but every turn, when I was out of dice, she would continue with one or two actions preparing for next turn, or eating away at my health and creatures. A few times, I reminded her of an ability she had, or a strategy she could employ. Sometimes she followed my advice, sometimes she simply said “Thank you” and pressed on with her move. Finally I was able to get some wolves out and make an attack she couldn’t block. She was down to six health, while I was at two. Cortnie had exhausted everything on her spellboard and her battlefield. I expected her to pass and I would take the win, but then something happened.
She used a side action of Meditate, which allows her to discard cards to change the face of one die per discard. I had completely forgotten that was even available! She used a spell from her hand that placed three wound tokens on my Phoenixborn.
Stunned silence. I couldn’t block with an ally, because it wasn’t an attack. I couldn’t prevent damage, since it was wound tokens, not damage being caused. She stole my victory from me one turn before I gain it.
I was so proud. And I can’t wait for the rematch.
Only time will tell if this is something that she gets into and wants to play regularly, and I hope and pray that Plaid Hat comes out with some great playmats soon, but I will be picking up every expansion as soon as they come back in stock. I’m very happy with this game, and anxiously await Isaac Vega’s next podcast appearance for more Lore.