The chimera ravaged the world of Argaia. Nothing could stop them as they destroyed armies and townships and ruined both the ground and the seas. Humanity was forced to seek refuge in large fortified cities. After ages had passed, humans capable of wielding nearly impossible magic rose up and defeated the chimera. These were the Phoenixborn. However, defeating the foes of humanity was not enough for them. Instead, these wizard-warriors were not content with the fraction of the power they had been given. They wanted even more. Now they fight with one another so that they might absorb the powers of their fallen, incinerated foes. It is the time of the Collection of Ashes. Phoenixborn battle Phoenixborn until there is only one who remains.
What Is Ashes Reborn: Rise of the Phoenixborn?
Ashes Reborn is a card and dice magical combat game for 2-4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 15-30 minutes to play per player. Players take on the role of a unique Phoenixborn and battle to defeat the other players until only one is left alive. The original game, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, was released in 2015. Samantha Bryant wrote a review of it for GeekDad back then which you can read here. Ashes Reborn features the 1.5 version of the rules and many of the cards have been revised. The changes have helped improve the game balance as well as brought more clarity and consistency to the rules. Ashes Reborn was designed by Isaac Vega and published by Plaid Hat games, with illustrations by Fernanda Suarez. Ashes Reborn is available directly from Plaid Hat Games. The Master Set which comes with six Phoenixborn decks can be purchased for $49.95 while expansions, each with a unique Phoenixborn deck range in price from $14.95 for a regular expansion to $29.95 for a deluxe expansion which includes a Phoenixborn deck as well as 10 dice not included in the Master Set and a a premium deckbox to hold sleeved cards, 10 dice and tokens.
Ashes Reborn Components
The Ashes Reborn Master Set includes the following:
- 226 Game cards
- 40 Dice
- 78 Tokens
- 20 Reference cards
- 1 rulebook
The Phoenixborn cards represent the character as which you are playing. It is the most important card and provides information such as how much life your Phoenixborn has, how many units it can have in its battlefield and how many spells in its spellboard. Each Phoenixborn also has their own unique ability. These abilities can really help you win a game, so don’t forget to use them.
There are two types of units in the game: allies and conjurations. Both are summoned to the battlefield. Allies are played from your hand by paying their cost. Conjurations are summoned using a ready spell which needs to be played in advance. When an ally is defeated, it goes into the discard pile while conjurations return to the conjuration pile from where they can be summoned again. Each unit card has an attack value, a life value, and a recover value. Allies also have an activation cost. Most units have an ability as well. Units are used for attacking other units and Phoenixborn as well as for blocking or guarding other units.
Action spells are used for a one-time effect and then discarded. To use an action spell, pay the cost, carry out its effect, and then place it in the discard pile.
Unlike action spells, alteration spells attach to units and modify them. They can be attached to any unit on any battlefield, even on your opponent’s units. When playing this type of spell, pay the cost and then place it under the unit with the bottom part extending that describes its effect.
Ready spells are placed in your spellboard. Pay the cost, to put it into play. Then you can use the spell by playing it as another action, often on a subsequent turn. Often after using a ready spell, you play an exhausted token on it. You can play multiple copies of the same ready spell on top of one another so you can cast the same spell multiple times during a round.
Reaction spells are similar to action spells. However, you can play them in response to an action during any player’s turn. A player can only play one reaction per turn.
Power dice are used to pay the cost to activate cards and effects. The Master Set comes with four different types of power dice that represent four different types of magic: ceremonial, charm, illusion, and natural. each die has three different symbols on it. The power symbol is the highest value, the class symbol is of middle value, and basic symbol is the lowest value. You can always use a higher value die to pay a lower value die cost, but not the other way around. Power dice can also be used to by themselves for effects.
Players use power dice reference cards to separate their active dice pool from their exhausted dice pool. Each card also shows the symbols on that type of dice as well as dice power effects for that type of magic.
There are three main types of tokens used in the game. Red wound tokens are placed on Phoenixborn and units as they take damage. Exhaustion tokens are placed on units that have attacked as well as cards that have used their ability for the round. Finally, some cards use status tokens for various reasons as described on these cards. There is also a First Player token which is used to show which player goes first. It is passed to the next player at the end of a round.
How to Play Ashes Reborn
The goal of the game is to destroy your opponents’ Phoenixborn to win the game.
The Master Set comes with cards for six pre-built decks. These are best to use for learning the game and lets players experience the different themes of the six Phoenixborn which are included in the set. Players can also choose to build their own decks or follow optional rules for drafting decks. For the purpose of this explanation, we will be using the pre-built decks.
Start off by placing your Phoenixborn card in your play area with the information side up. Place all of your conjuration cards (with the black phoenix on the back) face down in a deck to the left of your Phoenixborn card. They do not need to be shuffled. This row of cards is referred to as your battlefield. When you play unit cards, they will be positioned to the right of your Phoenixborn. Now position the dice power reference cards which correspond to the types of dice you will be using in your player area. Place all ten of your dice to the right of these cards in an exhausted dice pool.
From your deck of cards (not the conjuration cards), select your First Five. This is your starting hand and you can have no more than one copy of a card in your First Five. This lets you choose what cards you have right at the start. Shuffle the remainder of the cards and place them in a deck face down below your Phoenixborn card. This row of cards is called your spellboard. You can place your discarded cards to the left of your deck and your ready spell cards in play to the right. Finally place the wound, status, and exhaustion tokens in easy reach of all players. You are now ready to begin.
Ashes Reborn is played in rounds of three phases each: the Prepare phase, the Player Turns phase, and the Recovery phase.
In the Prepare Phase, players roll all of the dice in their exhausted pool and place them to the left of the dice power reference cards to form their active dice pool. On the first round of the game, the player who rolls the most basic symbols chooses who will go first and be the First Player. If there is a tie, all players roll all of their dice again until there is not a tie. Next, players can discard any number of cards from their hand. They then draw cards until they have five cards in their hand. If players deplete their draw deck so they cannot draw up to five cards, they take turns placing a wound token on their Phoenixborn for each card they should have drawn but could not.
Player Turns Phase
During the Player Turns Phase, players take turns performing one or two actions until all players consecutively pass on their turn. During their turn, players must take a main action and then may take a side action. As a main action, they can pay a main action cost, attack, or pass. For a side action, they can pay a side action cost, activate a dice power, or meditate. You can play a side action before your main action or even play a side action and then pass for your main action. You can also pass for one turn but then play a main action on a subsequent turn unless all other players pass consecutively.
When you play a card from your hand, you often pay a cost in magic. Move dice from your active pool to your exhausted pool with symbols that match the symbols for the cost of the card. Some costs require you to place an exhaustion token on the card or even discard a card. Ally or unit cards are played to your battlefield row once you pay their cost. Ready spell cards are played to the spellboard row. If you play additional copies of the same ready spell, place the copies under one another so that the bottom part extends so you can see the copies. You can play each spell card individually, yet they only count as one slot in your spellboard. Some of these have focus which increases the effect of the spell. If you have two of the same ready spell, you can use the Focus 1 effect and if you have three of the same spell in play, you can use the Focus 2 effect. Action spells are good for one use. Pay the cost, carry out the effect, and then place the card in the discard pile. Alteration spell cards modify a unit. After paying the cost, place it under a unit so the bottom part extends so you can read its effect on the unit. Reaction spells are played on any player’s turn if its conditions are met and each player can play only one reaction per turn.
If you have allies or units in your battlefield that are not exhausted, you can choose to attack. When you attack, you can choose to target either a Phoenixborn or a unit. If you choose a Phoenixborn as your target, you can choose any number of unexhausted units you control to be the attackers. Then the defender can choose to declare blockers by assigning up to one unexhausted unit to block each attacker. Now resolve the battles one at a time. If blocked, the attacker battles the blocker and the blocker counters. Each deals damage to the other unit equal to its attack value. If the wound tokens on a unit equals or exceeds its life value, the unit is destroyed. If an attacker is not blocked, then it inflicts damage on the Phoenixborn equal to its attack value. All attacking and blocking units receive an exhausted token at the end of the battle. When a unit is the target of the attack, you can only assign one attacking unit. The defender can then choose to guard the unit with their Phoenixborn or an unexhausted unit with the Guard ability. A Phoenixborn can only guard once per round, so turn its card 90 degrees after the battle to remind you it guarded. The attacker then battles the guard and inflicts damage. If the guard is a unit, it can counter. When a defending unit is not guarded, it may choose to counter if it is unexhausted. Attacking, guarding, and countering units are all exhausted.
In addition to activating a card by paying its side action cost, you can also activate a dice power effect as shown on the dice power reference card. Just move the dice with the matching symbol from the active pool to the exhausted pool to use this power. Finally, you can choose to meditate to change a die in your active pool to a side of your choice. The cost for this is to discard a card from your hand, from off the top of your deck, or discard a ready spell from your spellboard for each die you wish to change.
Once all players have consecutively passed, the Recovery Phase begins. Each player simultaneously completes three steps in order. First they remove a number of wound tokens from each unit in play equal to that unit’s recovery value. Next they remove one exhaustion token from each card and rotate your Phoenixborn so it is upright. Finally move any number of dice from your active pool to your exhausted pool that you want to re-roll the next round. Resolve any end of round effects one at a time starting with the first player, then pass the first player token to the player to the left and begin the next round.
If a player’s Phoenixborn has a number of wound tokens on it equal to or greater than its life value, that Phoenixborn is destroyed and that player is out of the game. The game ends when only one player has a Phoenixborn in the game and that player is the winner.
Why You Should Play Ashes Reborn
Ashes Reborn is a very fun game to play. I had not played the original Ashes, but I found the Phoenixborn and their suggested decks which are included the Ashes Reborn Master Set very well-balanced. Some are a bit more challenging to play since they have unique ways to inflict damage on your opponent. While it is a lot of fun to just play with the suggested decks, each of which are themed around one of the Phoenixborn, you can also custom make your own deck from any of the cards or even have a game where players draft cards, both of which let you mix up the cards from each of the decks. For beginners, I recommend playing each of the recommended decks a few times to help learn out each of the cards works as well as how they can work together. Let’s take a look at each of the six Phoenixborn decks.
Maeoni Viper is a good deck for playing at the start. This deck has no ally units. Instead, all of its units are conjurations which consist of a Silver Snake and some Gilders. The key here is to put status tokens on the Silver Snake to build up its attack value and guard it with your Gilders. Maeoni also has some powerful action and ready spells that let you inflict damage directly to your opponent’s Phoenixborn.
Aradel Summergaard is another good deck for learning the game. It also has no allies, just conjurations which can be used over and over again. Unlike Maeoni, Aradel can summon twice as many units to her battlefield. While they are all fairly weak, you can use them for blocking attacks on your Phoenixborn as well as overwhelming enemy’s defenses. Some of her alteration spells can also make your conjurations more powerful.
Coal Roarkwin’s deck is all about power and attack. It only has one conjuration, but Iron Rhino is powerful. The only down side is the cost to summon this conjuration and that it does not recover any health. However, Coal also has several allies he can summon to help and spells to enhance his units as well as inflict damage on the enemy. Players with this deck can inflict damage on a regular basis and their units have some great abilities which make them even more useful than for just attacking.
Saria Guideman’s deck has some interesting cards. She has both conjurations as well as allies. However, many of her cards force opponents to discard cards. Therefore, player’s with this deck have to play the long game and stay alive until they can force opponent’s to empty their draw piles so they must take damage during the prepare phase when they take damage if they can’t draw cards to fill their hand. Her high health value also lets her absorb some damage so she can last until the end of the game.
Jessa Na Ni’s deck is another unique deck. Most of her allies and conjurations have attack values of 0. However, she uses magic to transfer the damage they take and inflict it on opposing Phoenixborn. She can also summon Blood Puppets which are placed in opponent’s battlefields. Not only do they take up space in their battlefield, preventing them from playing units of their own, the Blood Puppets also inflict damage on Phoenixborn unless they are destroyed before the end of the round. This deck requires some planning ahead and practice, but is a lot of fun to play.
Noah Redmoon’s deck has one type of ally and a few different conjurations. As such, he can put out quite a few units rather quickly. His ability to place an exhaustion token on an opponent’s ready spell each round helps keep a player from summoning a powerful conjuration or using other spells while his Resummon ready spell lets you destroy one of your conjurations and then place it back onto the battlefield. That effectively lets you remove any damage or exhaustion tokens from it and then use it again that same round. While his units don’t have high attack values, they can overwhelm enemies.
My family really enjoys playing Ashes Reborn. We had a great time trying different decks and pitting different Phoenixborn against each other. I like that a strategy used successfully against one deck does not necessarily work as well against other decks. Also, the fact that decks consist of only 30 cards, not counting Phoenixborn or conjurations, and the rule about taking damage during the preparation phase if you can’t draw cards, keeps games going quickly so you can either play a single duel if time is short, or play several matches during a longer sitting. While the six Phoenixborn decks included in the Master Set are enough to keep you playing for a while, Plaid Hat Games also offers 15 expansions, two of which are deluxe expansions which also include new types of magic dice. If that were not enough, Plaid Hat Games has also teamed up with Team Covenant for a subscription service that provides one new expansion every 3 months. Those new expansions will be available to retailers and on the Plaid Hat Games webstore three months after subscribers receive their copies. The first expansion, “The Breaker of Fate”, includes a new Phoenixborn deck as well as a new type of dice: time magic. For those who already own the original Ashes, there is an upgrade kit which contains the new 1.5 rules as well as 378 cards to update all existing products to the new version.
After playing each of the six Phoenixborn decks in the Master Set, I want to try out the expansions and am really looking forward to “The Breaker of Fate.” Ashes Reborn can be enjoyed by just playing the suggested decks. However, for those who like drafting or deck building, those options are also available. In addition to the unique flavor of each deck, I really like how this game combines the randomness of a dice pool with card play. Plus you can even use the dice themselves for actions. The mechanic of each player gets a main action and a side action per turn keeps the game moving quickly so there is very little down time for players. I am very impressed with Ashes Reborn and highly recommend it to those who are looking for a fun card battle game which incorporates some unique mechanics such as magic power dice.
For more information or to purchase the game, visit the Ashes Reborn webpage!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.