Players: 2 to 4
Game Length: 40 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2 players who are up for a tactical wargame with innovative mechanics
Summoner Wars is a relatively light two-team wargame where players will take control of a Summoner and his (or her) forces, and use them to try to eliminate the opposing Summoner from the game.
The game is played on a 6 by 8 square grid, with each unit represented by a card. The board will start populated with units, as determined by your summoner’s setup card, so you’ll be able to start swinging right from the first turn.
What makes Summoner Wars special is the way that summoning new units works. Each player will have a hand of 7 cards at the start of their turn, and may cast spells or summon new units from this hand. If they wish to summon a unit, they’ll need to spend cards from their Magic pile – this pile consists of enemy units that have been defeated, or the player’s own cards that he has chosen to discard.
At the end of your turn, you have the option to discard as many cards as you want and you always draw back up to 7 cards. However, you only have a set number of cards in your deck and when you run out, you’re out of cards for the rest of the game. If you do want to burn bright, you’d better make sure to win before there’s nothing left but ashes!
Summoner Wars is easy to learn and it won’t take long for players to be slinging spells and summoning creatures to take each other apart. The Summoner Wars: Master Set game includes 6 factions to play around with, each with a range of unique mechanisms and playstyles. The card rules are well-written, so despite each new faction adding a slew of new rules, it won’t be difficult to work out how they are supposed to work – from the Benders who control the flow of magic and the minds of their opponents, to the Swamp Orcs who ensnare their opponents in place before getting up close and personal with them, there’s a wide range of strategies to discover.
Summoner Wars isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some will find the reliance on dice in combat frustrating, and others may simply dislike competitive 1 on 1 games. Furthermore, when both armies run out of cards it can come down to a handful of units walking around the board to try to eliminate the opposing summoner, which can be a little anticlimactic. Usually games will be decided before this happens, however, and the game is certainly exciting while the spells and summons are coming out.
Summoner Wars is eminently expandable, with new armies consisting of a simple deck of cards. There’s scope to start customising your decks as well, tweaking which units you want to feature in your armies, but this is by no means essential like with other games that feature customised decks. It’s enough to just pick one of the factions, lay out the starting setup, shuffle your decks and begin playing!
Summoner Wars plays with 2 teams, for 2 or 4 players, but works best with just 2 players. If you’re looking for a good light wargame with a huge amount of variety that can be played in under an hour, Summoner Wars: Master Set comes highly recommended.