Over the years, I have had to write emails to designers letting them know major issues in their games. Most have been very supportive and taken the news well. Most even feel grateful that I contacted them to let them know what the issues are and not just written a review bad mouthing their game. Most have delayed their games release until they have revisited the issues, or at least play tested it more to see if they were issues or were just me. I’ve been lucky, that some have also contacted me to review the new version of their game.
So I was quite shocked when Stuart of District 31 contacted me about Ember and his re-release of it. I reviewed the original and really enjoyed it; it actually made my ‘Top 10 Games I Reviewed in 2016’. I was therefore shocked to hear he was changing it and couldn’t understand why. He informed me he had changed a few of the mechanics and added some new rules and cards to make it more competitive, so I was intrigued and took him up on his offer. So this is Ember Revisited.
If you haven’t read the original Ember: The Magical Card Game review, please view it here, as I will be going over just the rule changes in this article, as the setup has not changed.
So, each turn is similar to the original game with one major difference, step 1:
- Advance Creatures: You may Advance (rotate creature cards 90 degrees to the right) any or all of your non-Ready creatures.
- 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.
Along with the new mechanics, there has also been a massive overhaul of the cards, with some really amazing additions. Here are a few examples and their rules.
Advancing Creatures – Using an ability drains that creature’s magic, but it regenerates over time, allowing you to reuse its powers every few turns. This is reflected in the rotation of each creature as it recovers its essence.
- Creature in Ready position. Abilities may be used at any time.
- Creature in exhausted position after using ability.
- Creature orientation at the start of the second turn.
- Orientation in third and final turn. At the start of your next turn this card will be Ready and its ability may be used once more.
Spectral Cards – Spectral cards marked with a negative VP cost are played on an enemy player. The Conjuring wizard keeps the VP earned for the Conjure (as listed in the Conjuring Cost), while the target wizard receives a negative VP penalty while they are the owner of that card. Spectral creatures can be Conjured (as a standard Conjure) and transferred to another player, at which point the earned VP are transferred to the Conjuring wizard. Summary: there is only ever one set of VP in circulation for Conjuring a Spectral creature.
Elemental Dragon Gods – Made up of three separate parts, the Dragons are beings of great power. When a player has Conjured all three parts: the Head, the Body, and the Tail, the Legendary ability becomes available to them (so long as at least one part of the Dragon is Ready).
Tutor Cards – Tutor cards are revealed at the end of the game when the final scores are about to be tallied. Each Tutor modifies its owning player’s final score with the creatures they control.
Artifact Cards – Artifacts are magical items that have three effects. The first listed ability is always working (as long as the Artifact is Ready).
- Exhaust: The Artifact’s second ability is activated by Exhausting the Artifact.
- Drain permanently depletes the Artifact of its magical energy. It can be used at any time, but to do so Burns the card and even an Archmage card cannot restore its magical energy.
The Archmage – The Archmage is a card that gives a player a variety of abilities. Used in the same way as any creature ability, you may use just one of the following effects whenever you play an Archmage:
- Act as a wild card. The Archmage can be used as any other card in the game when used in a Conjuring.
- Advance one of your creatures to the Ready position.
- Burn or Regenerate any one creature in play.
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.
Again, I was a little worried when District 31 informed me of this massive change, especially seeing as I felt this was a little card game that was super fun and a great filler game – I have played this game many times since the review. Were there faults (see original review here) with the original game? Yes, but they weren’t major and most you could simply wave off. I therefore thought it was a little crazy to be redoing it, but now after playing the new version I’m a bit blown away and am definitely eating my words.
The theme is the same, and the art very similar, with the addition of some new cards. The abilities on the cards have been updated, and the gameplay and mechanics have tightened significantly. This has gone from a light filler card game to a highly competitive battle. It was a massive risk to redo Ember and I have heard of several designers trying to do the same and either over complicated the game or losing the feel of the original. District 31 has knocked this one out of the park in that sense, as the game is a little more complex but the theme and the overall feel of the game is still Ember. Ember, which has spent the last year at the gym getting buff, is still Ember. The addition of the Elemental Gods is amazing and if you see them come out on the board, put a stop to it real fast. Those 3 cards are a game changer.
I had so much fun with the original, but a lot more with the new version, knowing exactly what is going on. Hand and Board management is a major aspect of this game, as you no longer have to deal with abilities just once, but multiple times. If timed right you can have several abilities going off per turn, and not to mention having the Elemental God’s legend ability going off 3 out of 4 turns is just plain scary. I have come back from the brink on several occasions with them on the table.
I must applaud District 31 for taking this massive risk. This was a risk I thought was stupid and really unnecessary, yet turned out to be one I’m super glad they took and one that has now taken a great game and made it better. If you liked the original Ember or thought it was a bit light for you, I would definitely check out the new version. If you have never heard of Ember, but love a great card management game this is definitely one to check out.
Ember: the Magical Card Game can still be purchased through their website, but they have the third mini expansion Light and Dark hitting Kickstarter on the 19th of January here.
This is a great place to get the core and the 2 expansions for this game in one simple bundle.