A miniatures game without miniatures?! While there are no pretty figures on the table, Summoner Wars is all about using different units, moving them into position, and using their unique powers to full effect. And it even allows some constructed deck action for those who want to make it their own.
In this fantasy battle, each player controls a faction – whether it be Guild Dwarves, Sand Goblins, Swamp Orcs, the Vanguard, or up to twelve others. Each faction is made entirely of cards. On the board, you start with a few units, including a single summoner. To win, all you have to do is kill your opponent’s summoner. Simple, right?
Well, maybe not. Each player starts with only a few units. The units are just cards, but those cards are moved around the board just as miniatures would be. In fact, using cards instead of figures has some great side benefits. All of the information is displayed on the card and it’s easy for both you and your opponent to see and remember any special rules or powers that unit might have. Plus the artwork means you don’t have to worry about painting anything.
Each turn, the players draw new units or spells and can use them to inflict their wrath on the opposition. But summoning or spellcasting costs magic points. Importantly, you only generate a few magic points each turn. To get more, you have to discard cards. So you end up with many critical choices about whether it’s better to get a particular unit out now at the cost of more cards, or save those cards for later. And when you run through your deck, that’s it. No more summoning for you.
There are a few rules about how you move units, how you establish range for those with arrows or javelins, and how many you can activate on a turn. But it really falls in line very quickly. It’s a straightforward system that nevertheless provides high strategy, tactical engagement, and an overall rewarding experience.
Summoner Wars provides huge variety. Each faction plays very differently. The Swamp Orcs build walls all over the map and can summon close to their opponent. The Mountain Vargath constantly attack, hitting over and over and putting the enemy on the defensive. And the Fallen Kingdom can bring their dead units back to life. Yet despite the variety and differing play styles, each faction feels pretty much balanced.
And this leads to fantastic games. Feint and block, attack and defend. One of the best rules is that when rolling dice to attack, you hit on a 3 or above. That’s awesome. It means that the attacker often feels success. Nothing is as bad as starting a big battle in a game and rolling a bunch of misses. (Sad Trombone). With Summoner Wars, you hit more and so both sides get to feel a lot of success throughout.
Plus, there is deck construction capability. If you have a particular faction you want to tweak, you can grab the Mercenaries which can be added to any deck, or even a “Second Summoner” pack which adds more cards for that faction. You still have to build within tight constraints – only one summoner, only three champions, and a specific total number of cards. But it allows you to tweak it just enough to really tailor a favored faction to a flavor you like.
It’s a 1-on-1 competitive slugfest where great powers and abilities come to bear. You’ll have to maneuver out of range of an opponent or use your special abilities to keep them at bay, all the while they do the same to you. Because hits are more common than misses, the body count is constantly on the rise. And because the decks are limited, even the lengthiest games quickly experience attrition and come to a conclusion long before outstaying their welcome.
Summoner Wars comes in a Master Set (which has six factions), two starter sets (with two factions each), and six standalone factions. Plus, there are now Second Summoner sets and an Alliances set that allow you to mix and match or tweak the contents of your factions.
Quick, exciting, and satisfying. If you are looking for a great one-on-one miniatures game, then you should definitely should check out Summoner Wars.
Have you played Summoner Wars? What’s your favorite faction?
All Image Credits: Plaid Hat Games