Not sure how I first heard about the new expandable card game Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn. It was either from a cashier at 401 Games or postings on Facebook from X Planet Games. I’m a big fan of the Fantasy Flight Games LCGs and I’ve also tried getting into Magic a few times. Ashes seems to be a perfect blending of the two for quite a few reasons.
First, it follows a release pattern similar to the FFG LCGs. Plaid Hat Games plans on releasing 2 pairs of minor expansions each year as well as one deluxe expansion. This results in less cards per year than a typical LCG while still keeping the card pool fresh and interesting. I stopped playing Netrunner for about 2 years and now have a huge card pool to catch up on. Netrunner is hugely popular in Toronto so i’ll probably start playing it again but most of my friends whom i’ve introduced to the game quickly lost interest. This was mostly due to the huge number of cards they would have to buy.
The way that Plaid Hat plans on releasing expansions is a little different too. Ashes involves a Phoenixborn, a sorcerer who casts magic spells to defeat the opposing Phoenixborn. The player is limited to using spells from specific schools of magic. So far the two planned expansions will each focus on a specific school of magic. Meaning that when you buy an expansion all the cards will be useful to a player who uses that school. A big frustration with LCGs is that players often buy an expansion and only ever end up using one card out of the whole pack.
While Ashes has a similar play style to MtG, one complaint people have with Magic the Gathering is that sometimes games can be won or lost based on your mana draw. A poorly shuffled deck deprives a player from the mana they need to cast spells, costing them the game by no fault of their own. The other big drawback to MtG is the initial barrier to entry. A lot of the local stores mostly play the Modern format competitively. The cost of a competitive Modern deck can be huge. While there are many different formats you can play, MtG is an expensive hobby. Ashes requires only a core set and in the future, expansions, to play competitively. These are all available at a fixed cost and you know exactly what you are getting when you buy them. Unlike the process of buying randomized boosters when playing CCGs.
Although I’m loving Ashes so far, one drawback is that it is a relatively new game that isn’t quite as popular as the other games just yet. You can head into any FLGS in Toronto and there will be people there playing MtG and almost all stores have a dedicated LCG night where you can play Netrunner, Conquest and maybe a few other LCGs. The Ashes nights are starting to draw a good crowd and hopefully once the tournament kits get released later this year the game will start growing even more.
I’d like to hear in the comments what you love about Ashes.