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Strategy Board Game Review: Summonaria

Summonaria from Salamander Games brings old-school strategy gaming back to our tabletops. Many of us remember the days of yore, when epic fantasy wars played out on cardboard chips moved around the board. HeroQuest, now having its twenty-fifth anniversary, gave us our taste of what would someday be MMORPGs, and a few other classics served us as whole armies moving to destroy one another. That golden age may be revisited with a few modern updates in Summonaria, called “The Ultimate Game of Wizard’s Combat.” Like the old-style tabletop games, Summonaria comes with a rich fantasy background. The first third of…

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Summonaria from Salamander Games brings old-school strategy gaming back to our tabletops. Many of us remember the days of yore, when epic fantasy wars played out on cardboard chips moved around the board. HeroQuest, now having its twenty-fifth anniversary, gave us our taste of what would someday be MMORPGs, and a few other classics served us as whole armies moving to destroy one another. That golden age may be revisited with a few modern updates in Summonaria, called “The Ultimate Game of Wizard’s Combat.”

summonariaboardnboxLike the old-style tabletop games, Summonaria comes with a rich fantasy background. The first third of the rulebook goes into great detail about the five sides of a sudden war sparked by the discovery of towers of great magic on the world of Thranok. Prince Ilshen is the youngest of the Master Summoners and heir to the throne of Steneval, a kingdom of men, dwarves, and gnomes.

Karras the Wise is a wizard of antiquity with allies among the elementals and spirits. Vodash the Undying rules a dank empire populated by creatures too horrible to exist. Painlord Gorrak is a bit more cheerful, leading legions of goblins and beasts to bring chaos upon the world. Finally, Quaris Deeproot brings armies of forest-folk from myth pursuing life above all else.

Each faction comes with a unique set of ten unit types from weak brownies and skeletons to champion dragons and giant-kings. As players experiment with the different types, they will see the pros and cons of each, such as having summoning costs to churn out lots of weak troops or more expensive, more powerful creatures. Some are better at defense, others swarm or make stalwart charges like tanks, and each have units with special powers.

While the fantasy world is worthy of an eight-part movie series, it stands as the skin for the rugged mechanics of Summonaria. The rules are very straightforward: draw resource cards, move units, engage, and summon new creatures. Each unit comes with Attack, Hit, and Move ratings to show its abilities in causing damage, absorbing damage before it dies, and moving around the board. Players will create a strategy around their faction’s strengths, mentally calculating odds and hit numbers. A unique point of Summonaria is its damage system in which units roll six, eight, or ten-sided dice. A roll of 1 (or 2, following a revamped system) hits, meaning that different units have different odds of hitting home.

In addition to its use of three different dice types, what sets Summonaria above the games some thirty years old is its innovative summoning system. Players draw resources of Toadstools, Bloodstones, Dragon’s Teeth, and Fairy Dust, each of which is very important to a faction or useless. Players are encouraged to trade resources, creating another level of play as each seeks to help themselves by being forced to help opponents.

 is a tabletop strategy game for two to four players aged eleven and up. It is perfect for lovers of the golden age of fantasy strategy games. Because the battle system is so straightforward and the world is so rich, classic strategy games go beyond “house rules” to outright customization to suit each gamer group. Players might rewrite the rulebook to make a resource a wild or try a lightning-quick bloodbath game where dice rolling 1, 2, or 3 hit. Expert Summonarians can even go as far as to create storylines and multi-battle campaigns with veteran units to weave an epic tale worthy of a golden age of fantasy.

 

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.