Monday, 15 May 2017

Out of the Ashes

The tabletop hobby is home to a fickle, restless bunch of people. However much we have just spent on a new game, there’s always something else to catch our eyes. Some shiny, must-have that’s hitting the shelves.

If you’re into collectible or Living Card Games you always have that pending thrill of a new release, but being stuck in that release cycle can also make new games outside that cycle all the more tempting, if only to mix things up a bit.

For many, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn was exactly what was needed.

Revealed at GenCon 2015, Ashes is an expandable card game from Plaid Hat Games and designer Isaac Vega in which you pit your Phoenixborn against your opponent’s in a back and forth battle of attacks and counter-attacks, full of incredible spells and powerful units.

With a less aggressive release schedule than what we are used to with CCGs and LCGs, it became accessible for those already neck-deep in expansions and cardboard and all was going swimmingly for the game at first.
Spreading through word of mouth and players introducing the game to others, Ashes developed quite the following. Some Magic players even came over to the game as it scratched that Magic: The Gathering itch, while still feeling fresh.

And the art. My goodness the art. With wonderful work from Fernanda Suarez on predominantly white cards, the game has an amazing, clean look to it that looks great on the tabletop.

Tournaments were held, forums, blogs and podcasts for the game started to appear and the first two expansions were released to the eager players, hungry for more.
And then.......nothing.
The supply of the first expansions dried up and became incredibly hard to find. Game kits for tournaments were suddenly unavailable and any official talk of the deluxe expansions rumoured for the end of the year, fell silent.

Forums and Facebook pages for the game turned from enthusiastic discussion to frustrated speculation and the assumption amongst some that the game was dead.

So what happened?
Seemingly, a number of things. Plaid Hat were simply not prepared for the popularity of the game and couldn’t keep up with demand via their parent company F2Z Entertainment.
Then F2Z was acquired by Asmodee.
While many thought this would result in greater, more reliable support for Ashes, there would inevitably by a further delay during the transition period as the two companies settled and the suits all met to discuss supply and demand issues the game was suffering from.

So is Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn dead?
Well on 27th February 2017, the silence was finally broken with this:

The long-awaited deluxe expansions were announced along with news of a series of tournaments that would shape the creation of a new character for the game.

More previews followed along with word that we would soon be getting an update to the Ashes rules which would look to tidy up and clarify a few elements of the game.

Inevitably, dormant podcasts and blogs quivered back to life. Ashes was on its way back.

But will this be a triumphant return for the game?

We are, as I said, a fickle bunch, liable to move on to new things and a lot has happened since Ashes first graced our tabletops and game stores.
Fantasy Flight Games released a Collectible Card Game in Star Wars: Destiny, currently emptying many a gamer’s pockets. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is out and has been well received. And the colossal form of FFG’s reimagining of Legend of the Five Rings looms on the horizon.

It is a crowded market that Isaac Vega is bringing his game back to that’s for sure.
But it was crowded the first time around too; and if any game can rise from the ashes, surely it’s this one.

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