Summoner Wars (Second Edition) by Plaid Hat Games
Playtime: ~45 to 60 minutes
Perfect for: Individuals who enjoy strategic player vs. player competitive fantasy-themed deck management games
Summoner Wars (Second Edition) is a game of dueling factions! A remake of the 2009 version, this second edition includes six races of warrior tribes, each with their own set of distinct skills. Players must choose their team and outwit their opponent by being cunning and also a little lucky.
To begin Summoner Wars, each player selects their starting deck which represents the unique class they wish to play—each card is either a unit, gate, or event. Faction options include the Polar Dwarves who have ice-related abilities, and the Ret-Talus who can slowly overwhelm their opponent with zombie-like powers among others. Each faction then places their starting cards on the board which serves as the battlefield: their powerful Summoner, or leader; a gate through which reinforcements enter the fray; and two initial warriors. Players then shuffle the remaining cards in their deck and draw five for their beginning hand.
On a turn, players perform a sequence of optional steps: 1) Summon – spend magic points equivalent to the cost of reinforcement units (cards) to place them on the board/battlefield; 2) Move – Move up to 3 different units 1 or 2 spaces each; 3) Build – Construct gates or structures; 4) Attack – Roll dice to inflict damage on enemies. Destroy them to earn magic points; 5) Magic – Discard cards to gain additional magic points; 6) Draw – Replenish your hand up to five cards. Game play bounces back and forth between the players until one of them defeats the other’s Summoner.
What works in Summoner Wars is the balance, both between the asymmetrical factions and a near perfect mix of luck and strategy. Each race has a very different style of play which keeps the game engaging. For example, the goblins have a ton of cheap reinforcements, but their low health value means they don’t last long in battle—resource management and movement are key to their success since a player can only go through their deck once during the game. Finally, advanced players can mix and match cards into a custom deck, once they’ve mastered the six base factions included in the game.
The interaction between players is incredibly high. Summoner Wars demands that individuals pay very close attention to the events that unfold on the board and craft their plan of attack with care given how varied the warriors are. Every unit has either a melee or ranged attack ability, plus a strength level which indicates how many dice get rolled when it engages an enemy. These dice rolls keep Summoner Wars incredibly exciting as the fate of units get revealed. And finally, almost all units have some special ability such as additional movement, the power to summon reinforcements, and even mind control. The wide amount of variation not only between units but even among warriors makes each game feel fresh.
Players who prefer cooperation over competition, or games that rely less on luck, may not enjoy Summoner Wars (Second Edition) as much as others. Summoner Wars is all about head-to-head combat and requires players to be cunning and devious against their opponents. Plus, winning is somewhat dependent on the cards drawn combined with dice roll outcomes. As such, games can get very intense as opponents attempt to undermine each other plans at every turn.
Summoner Wars (Second Edition) is an excellent game for those seeking player versus player action. The factions are clever and keep the proceedings both highly engaging and encouraging of future playthroughs. Very recommended for fans of this particular mechanic.
Recommended if you like: Unmatched (series), Vs System (series)