Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Expansion Review - Summoner Wars Reinforcements

One of the very few downsides to being a game reviewer is that I don't get to play the games that I really like as much as I want. If I have a spare night to play a game (and I'm not playing 500), I usually have to play something so I can write about it. This means that as much as I would love to break out some old favorites, I have to devote myself to playing crappy Reiner reprints far more than is pleasurable (of course, when it comes to a crappy Reiner reprint, one play is too many).

While there are many games I would play a lot more if I had time, one of the most painful casualties of my mandated short attention span is Summoner Wars. I just plain love this game. It's quick to set up, quick to play, and quick to put away again. It's brilliantly balanced and deep in strategy and tactical plays. There's a lot of careful gambling and risky play. Sometimes everything comes together and you pull off an amazing coup at the last minute, and sometimes you're just plan screwed. However it goes, it's always fun.

But after a while, it can get a little repetitive. You might be playing the phoenix elves against the goblins and wishing you could swarm a little better, or wishing you could smash walls with a bit more reliability, or otherwise just want to change things up from time to time. And that's where the reinforcements come in.

There are two packs of reinforcements, one for each of the base sets you can get. One pack has replacements for the burny elves and the freezy orcs, and the other is for the dwarves and goblins. Both packs also include mercenaries, which can be added to your deck for even more variety. The reason for all these extra cards is so that you can customize your deck - your opponent can't really counter-draft against your orcs any more because you may not even have ranged units in there, and he can't count on you spawning a horde of weak-ass goblins that he can tear up like wet toilet paper. You can try different strategies than you've used in the past, because the new units give you all new ways to get your head chopped off and stuffed up your ass.

The additional elf and orc cards are very interesting. My favorite new tundra orc is a champion who makes your freeze cards more expensive to thaw, which can give you a huge advantage if you time it right. The elves have some new commons called fire beasts, and they're incredibly awesome, but frighteningly expensive. If the cost is scaring you off, though, you can also find the elf chick who brings them in cheaper, and who can still hold her own in a brawl.

On the other hand, maybe you just want to pull out a little flame-based horde to rush the field. In this case, you can add a bunch of fencers to your elf deck, and summon them for free. And bad news for the enemy who attacks and misses, because he gets to try out his own weapon as a suppository.

The dwarves were already pretty decent at crushing walls, thanks to some wicked event cards and some irritating engineers, but with the addition of the ballista, now they're flat-out frightening at it. Play your cards right, and you might be able to clear out all the walls before your opponent is halfway through his deck, and then mop up whatever he has left like the mess your dog made in the kitchen.

The dwarf champions are also impressive. You can send the protector dwarf to the front lines to cover for your engineers, giving you a better chance to tear down walls like Jericho, or you can send the scrappy little ass-kicker screaming across the board to wail on targets who thought they were far enough away to be safe. There are lots of new ways to break things and hurt people, and I like them all.

After all this new brilliance, I was surprised at how thoroughly I was disappointed in the new goblins. Both of their new commons have a summon cost of one, which would be fine except that so many of the goblin event cards only affect free goblins. It's actually possible to build a goblin deck in which more than half of your event cards are completely useless. Not advisable, I wouldn't think, but still possible. I was really hoping for some new zero-cost goblins, and while I like the beast riders and the wall crawlers, I'm a little disappointed at how much their absence limits my options with my favorite crazed horde.

I haven't mentioned the mercenaries yet, because I'm saving the best for last. There are two new champions and some cool new commons. The spear grounders are ten pounds of kick-ass in a five-pound bag, and the vermin have an incredibly cool plague attack - as long as you don't stand around your own guys too long. The champions are also pretty cool - one lets you hold a bigger hand, and the other can cut through the enemy ranks like poop through a goose.

I really like all the new ways that Summoner Wars is expanding. The reinforcements add so much to the starting sets that you'll have lots of new ways to build your armies. And since every pack includes all the commons and champions you'll need, you don't have to buy crates of them just to make them worthwhile. Plaid Hat Games may be a one-trick pony so far, but that one trick just keeps getting better.

Now if I could figure out some way to store this game when it's languishing on the shelf for weeks at a time, it would be perfect.


2 or 4 players

Lots of great new cards to really tweak the decks you already love
New strategies and new combinations
I really like the direction the new art is taking

The lack of zero-cost goblins seems like one hell of an oversight - if they weren't bundled with the dwarves, I wouldn't buy that set

If you haven't tried Summoner Wars yet, that's a mistake you should correct immediately. While you're correcting your grievous error, you can pick up the reinforcements and the expansion decks:

1 comment:

Sinfreealex said...

Looks like your storage tray is on the way;