As the fire crackles and the wind blows through the trees, excitement is in the air. No one can believe they have finished their first year of magic school; time has flown. Feels like only yesterday the acceptance letters came in the mail and you were all boarding a train on a journey that would forever change your life. It is amazing how much you have learnt in only a year and the friends you have made. But before you leave to go home, you have come to the woods near the school to have one last night with your friends and to show off what you have learnt. Let the Conjuring begin!
Ember is a game for two to five players where wizards draw cards to form “sets” which they can then discard to conjure mythical creatures worth Victory Points (VPs). The winner is the wizard with the highest number of VPs at the end of the game.
In Ember the cards are split into 2 decks:
Draw Deck: The Draw Deck is made up of 52 numbered character cards depicting a silhouette of a wizard in one of four elements: Air (white), Earth (green), Fire (red), and Water (blue). Each element is made up of thirteen cards ranked from 1 – The Demon to 13 – The Magus. In addition, the Draw Deck contains three Archmage cards, which are the only cards without a number and are purple with gold trim.
Pool Deck: The Pool of creature cards contains the mythical monsters your wizard can Conjure during a game of Ember. Each card shows:
1. The creature’s name
2. Victory Point value
3. Conjuring Name and cost (the combination of cards required to Conjure it)
4. Ability name and power
Setting up Ember is very easy, as the two fore-mentioned decks come in separate sections of the box.
- Place the Pool in clear sight of all players sorted in sets of three according to their VP value (all three cards with VP8 form one group while the VP7 creatures make up another).
- Shuffle the 52 character cards and the three Archmage cards together to create the Draw Deck.
- Randomly select a Dealer to deal five cards from the Draw Deck to each player.Play starts with the wizard to the Dealer’s left.
Each turn has the following steps:
- Draw a Card: You may draw one card at the start of your turn if you have fewer cards in your hand than your Hand Size. The standard Hand Size is five cards. If you have cards equal to or greater than your Hand Size, you must discard a card if you wish to draw a card. You may only discard one card per turn in this way to draw a card.
Refresh: You may discard all of the cards in your hand and replace them with an equal number of cards from the Draw Deck. If you choose to Refresh, you may not choose to Conjure a creature this turn.
- Conjure a Creature: To Conjure a creature, you must meet its Conjuring Cost: the combination of cards you have in your hand. Example: Phoenix requires a “Spellbook” to Conjure, which is any four of the same wizard (character cards of the same number). If you can meet the cost and the creature is available in the Pool, show your chosen cards to the group, then place them face up in the Charred Pile. Then take your chosen creature card from the Pool and place it face up in your play area. You can only Conjure one creature per turn. Although the creatures are sorted into VP rank, you don’t have to Conjure the top creature card. If there are two VP2 creatures remaining in the Pool, you may look at both before choosing to Conjure one of them. After you have Conjured your creature, draw a number of cards equal to the number of cards used in that Conjure. Example: if you Conjured a “Glyph”, draw three cards (even if this takes you over your Hand Size).
- End Your Turn: Discard down to your permitted Hand Size.
The winner is the wizard who reaches the pre-determined number of VPs obtained from all their Conjured creatures (Flipped or otherwise).
Quick: 20 VP Standard: 30 VP Long: 40 VP Very Long: 50 VP
When a wizard has reached the VP threshold for a game, he can “make the call”, immediately bringing the game to an end. Starting with the player to the “caller’s” left, each player can use their creature’s abilities until everyone passes.
Ember is a great little card game, though I shouldn’t say little as there are 101 cards in the set, all beautifully printed and the imagery and art is stunning. One thing I like about this game is that it is very easy to learn and just as easy to teach to other players. Most people I know have played Poker, Gin Rummy or ‘13’ (not sure of the official name of this game, but that is what I called it while playing it in High School) and so understand over half the mechanics of this game, such as forming runs or flushes or multiples of a kind. So because of this, Ember already has that old favourite feel to it.
District 31 has done an amazing job of taking a well-known mechanic, adding a stunning art & theme which if they had of stopped there, would have still been a fun game. But adding the extra elements of the conjuring really takes this game to the next level. The addition of conjures changes the way you need to approach the game as there is now the additional abilities you have to be aware of.
I actually got to play this several times with a couple of groups of people, and was shocked by how different it can be with the different number of players. With 2 players, you can find you can almost conjure something every turn, for the first few turns. But with 5 players, the cheaper conjures go very quickly, and what you have your eye on can go before you get another turn. I know in the past, I have found some games that state 2-5 players sometimes miss their mark. In some games, 2 players is great but above 4 it just drags it out and slows down the game. This is so not the case with Ember. You do have to change your strategy depending on the number of people, but the game doesn’t lose anything or slow down depending on the number of players.
The art of this game is stunning. The art is what drew me to this game in the first place. The draw deck is simple and a little different to what you would normally expect. Each number has its own character and corresponding element colour background. What most might expect is a giant red devil (character on the 1 card) highly detailed and brightly coloured and then a flat colour background. With Ember, they have done something a little different, they have done this detailed and textured style background and the Devil is a silhouette with a slight colour detail on the blade. I think this looks great, and is more effective, as the background colour is more important than the character on the card. District 31 could have gone fully detailed on the characters but I think it would have been overdoing it and would take away more than it would give.
The conjure cards are stunning and simple too. They have a purple, starry background and the conjures have this quite ghost-like feel to them. The art on this game is perfect. Could they have got more detailed and added more colours? Yes they could have, but it would have been overdoing it. There have been a few games I’ve seen that the art is stunning and so detailed, but it feels overdone and it doesn’t fully work with the game. District 31 has done an amazing job of keeping to their theme and getting the art and concept to match perfectly. The artist has achieved elegance in its simplicity.
Ember is not without fault, however. The rules book I wish was either a booklet or in colour. The card stock and the box is all of very high quality and the rules is printed back and front on an A4 page, black on a grey background. The rules are well set out and easy to follow, but it just feels like the rules should have been given the same love that the box and cards got.
Also one of the rules states, that once a player “makes the call” each person can use their creature’s abilities. But we didn’t seem to find a card that would really affect the end game. So I actually didn’t teach them or mention that to my friends. But I did reach out to District 31 in regards to this, what I thought was an oversight, and they informed me this would come into play more in the expansion.
Ember was Kickstartered back in April of this year and a copy can be purchased from their website. Their Kickstarter was also shipped 6 weeks after the end of the campaign, which is lightning quick. I have never actually heard of a Kickstarter turning around that quickly.
In regards to the Expansion, it is currently on Kickstarter and can be found here. You will need the original game to play the expansions, but from what I have seen it really tightens and adds a lot to the game. Not to mention the awesome 3 card set Elemental Gods and addition of 7 Tutors.
The Ember Core plus expansion is approximately 30 pounds ($47 Australian (at the time of writing), thank you Brexit for the best exchange rate in years!) shipped to your door. I think this is great value for 160 plus cards and a fun, easy to learn game!