Hard to believe it’s only been a year since I bid adieu to Summoner Wars. When I wrote that piece, I believed it was my final paean to a game that kindled friendships and shaped my approach to the tabletop hobby. Only a short time later, Colby Dauch mentioned he was working on a second edition. It didn’t seem real. Even after chatting about it on the Space-Cast!, I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe it would ever materialize.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve played the second edition of Summoner Wars nearly every day. Some part of me still doesn’t quite believe it. The other part has to acknowledge that it might not be the same this time around. The same friendships. The same community. That same pull to create new factions and discuss rules on the Plaid Hat forums.
That all comes later. For now, I want to tell you about Summoner Wars, and why the second edition feels like coming home.
After three unbearable years, the Space-Biff! Space-Cast! is back! And to celebrate this momentous occasion, Dan Thurot and Brock Poulsen are joined by Colby Dauch to talk about a much more important revival: the independence of Plaid Hat Games. We also chat about Summoner Wars old and new, Dungeon Run (that’s Brock’s fault), and Forgotten Waters.
You can kill your own units for magic.
That’s something I always tell people when I teach them how to play Summoner Wars. Over the past decade, I’ve taught Plaid Hat’s inaugural game to perhaps forty people. In person, that is. Online, the number gets fuzzier. Whether through my match reports, faction discussions, or that one rudimentary strategy guide, whenever somebody mentions they began reading Space-Biff! through Summoner Wars, it warms my heart. Maybe that’s because there aren’t many games I’ve felt such a need to talk about. Which is why, after introducing the phases, the way units move and attack, and the clever magic system, I always share three pieces of advice — because, as this game’s advocate, there’s nothing I’d want less than to stomp a newcomer. One, you should try to block the spaces around my walls. Two, keep in mind that units also cost the magic you aren’t gaining by discarding them. And three, you can kill your own units for magic.
Ten years later, with even its would-be successor dead and gone, I want to talk about Summoner Wars one last time.
In Summoner Wars: Alliances, this battle has been brewing for a while now — two battles, actually, now that I think about it. Sure, it’s the fight between the Deep Benders, which I suspect is a sort of yoga squat, and the Sand Cloaks, which sounds bonkers itchy. Just shake them out, y’know? And stop tracking all that sand all over the carpet.
More importantly, it’s the fight between Somerset and Dan. A fight that will leave only one of us left standing. Or at least a fight that will break our stalemate.
It was inevitable that I would do a review of Plaid Hat’s latest and greatest, Summoner Wars: Alliances. Not here, however. Oh no. Over at the Review Corner, see.
What’s the Review Corner? Well, it’s like that graffiti-encrusted spot sandwiched between the high school gym and the auto shop. We ditch class, smoke cigs, and trade reviews of board games, eyes peeled all the while for the school cop to come rumbling over in her golf cart. The folks over there were nice enough to ask if I’d do a review now and then, and I answered with a resounding “Okay.” The rest, as some people say (not me), is history.
You can find the review over here.
Deals have been struck. Some benevolent, some… well. It was always inevitable that once the Summoner Wars began in earnest, the sixteen factions who found themselves in possession of summoning stones would seek alliances, no matter how desperate or ill-motivated. And when it’s between the Tundra Guild and the Cave Filth, that’s one fight you sit back and let run its course.
Poop just got nonfictional. I’ve always preferred an assassination strategy in Summoner Wars, and now two of my three favorite factions — both of whom are among the slipperiest, most low-down assassins of all — have just received their second summoners, and entire sacks of tricks, traps, and mean horribleness to go along with them. This time, the nomadic Cloaks and the probably-also-nomadic Jungle Elves are having a go, and their appearance on my doorstep means another duel with Somerset.
Summoner Wars is so full of bitter rivalries that it could be about pro wrestling, but all of them pale in comparison to the conflict between the sickeningly rotten Fallen Kingdom and the sickeningly noble Vanguards. Now, with the appearance of an additional summoner on each side, these two factions are once again squaring off on the battlefield — which means Somerset and I are squaring off again too.
The original plan was to write a lengthy battle report showing off the capabilities of Queen Maldaria and Torgan, the second summoners for the Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs. You know, like we did last week for the new Guild Dwarves and Cave Goblins. Then the actual match didn’t go quite as me and Somerset hoped — as dynamic and interested as the battle had been, it didn’t feel like it would make for particularly good reading. Our rematch was similar, though inverted. That will make sense later.
Somerset then had two realizations: first, the crazy outcome of these two fights was actually a perfect example of what we both like most about Summoner Wars; and second, although I’d written about Summoner Wars over a dozen times, I’d never actually gotten around to writing a review. So that’s what this is: my unconventional review of why I love Summoner Wars, from the perspective of two matches that just didn’t want to be written as battle reports.