It’s Out: The Summoner Wars Master Set
Prior to this your only option for getting involved with Summoner Wars was to buy a Starter Set containing a couple of races and a paper disasterpiece of a playing mat. Whether our review of Summoner Wars piqued your interest or you’ve invested in your first decks, you’ll probably be wanting this.
There’s no sense in doing a proper Shut Up & Sit Down review here since the game itself is exactly the same. You’re still trying to protect your Summoner while hatching desperate plots to chip away at the other Summoner, and you’re still using cards from a tiny deck as spells, servants and fuel to summon those servants. Also, the Summoner all still have names that make them sound like Ikea furniture. Mugglugg is definitely a bit of kitchenware, Tundle is a coffee table, and Tacullu is almost certainly some kind of shelf.
In short, the game is still a lovely bit of fun if you’re a competitive type. What’s exciting here are those new decks! Allow me to provide a robust and totally unbiased analysis of each new race you can play.
Jerks. Just huge jerks. A race of guerrilla desert fighters, the Sand Goblins all have abilities relating to running away, hiding, and picking over dead enemies.
Their summoner’s special ability is monstrous, too. By paying a couple of magic points he can take three nearby enemy units, move them all around and have a chance of damaging them as they become lost in a sandstorm. Horrible.
Colossal jerks. The Swamp Orcs are the single most innovative Summoner Wars race yet released, coming as they do with a seperate deck of “Vine wall” cards. When certain Swamp Orcs die they leave behind walls of vines that act like obstacle courses for your opponent, but boost your orcs.
In short, the Swamp Orc player is trying to choke the entire board with a wilderness of tangling weeds. Terrible.
Aggressive jerks. These goat-people all have special abilities that kick in when they’re on the opponent’s half of the board, meaning anyone playing against the Vargath will find their opponent kicking furiously against any defenses keeping them from running rampant in your territory. Awful.
Dangerous jerks. Dangerks? The Shadow Elves burn through their deck quicker than any other Summoner Wars deck I’ve seen. Not so much burning the candle at both ends as burning it in an oven, the Shadow Elves are (for the most part) pathetically frail with a cheap summoning cost, yet they’re fast and vicious enough that every turn feels like one where you could slice up the enemy summoner.
The result? You’re discarding cards ceaselessly to make the most of an exciting chance to assassinate the enemy summoner, a “chance” which never really goes away. Dreadful.
Mystery jerks. The Deep Dwarves are medidative scholars, and not only do some of them actually have an attack rating of zero, their mediocre special abilities require you to pay magic points to activate them.
Worst race ever, right? Well. Yeah. Try believing that when that force of peaceful Deep Dwarves arrayed against you abruptly turns around and kicks in your champion’s head in a single turn. Try believing it when three Deep Dwarves emerge from the earth beside your Summoner and start trying to drag them back down their bottomless hole. Frightful.
Planet-sized jerks. The Benders… you know what? I should explain.
UK readers! Yes, Benders is their actual name.
US readers! Bender is English slang for a homosexual gentleman.
Anyway, the Benders are psychics from another dimension where everybody dresses like they’re in a 90s dance video. I genuinely have no idea what’s going on with them. What I do know is that all of their powers relate to not just moving or obliterating their opponent’s units, but actually taking control of them.
So there you have it. Six new races, irritating freaks down to the very last card. In other words, Plaid Hat games have done a sterling job here. I couldn’t be happier.
Actually, I could. The sole criticism I have is that the new style of artwork on all of the cards can make a tough game of just trying to distinguish between your opponent’s unit types, seeing as they often look quite similar, but that’s a small quibble. The Master Set represents Summoner Wars getting more generous and more inventive than it’s ever been before. It doesn’t nudge this lovely little game any closer to being a classic, but it does make it an even safer purchase than before.