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The Long View: Summoner Wars


In this episode of The Long View, I’m joined by Jim Shaw as we discuss the game Summoner Wars. Is this the perfect, light tactical wargame? Does the theme shine through, or is it lost in abstraction? Are the decisions in the game meaningful or obvious? All of these questions and more are addressed as Jim and I sit down to discuss this popular game. We also take a special look back at the year 2008 in gaming. Which of the top games from this year have stood the test of time? This first segment begins the show and ends at time index 33:11 for those who wish to skip ahead to the main course!

The Long View: Summoner Wars

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Summoner Wars Master Set (Video Review)

Summoner Wars Master Set Front Cover

The War for Itharia Has Begun!

Summoner Wars is the exciting card game of fantastic battlefield combat that puts you in the grandiose role of a Summoner. Strategy shapes the composition of each deck of cards and how they are used. Tactics determine the effectiveness of those cards in battle. Call walls of stone to protect you in combat and serve as magic portals for you to summon your warriors. Call your forces forth and send them in a surging wave against your enemy. Cast spells that bolster your forces and cut down those who would oppose you.

~ Plaid Hat Games

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Summoner Wars Master Set – A Written Review

Review #37 – For All Your Board Game News and Reviews Visit 2D6.org!

Summoner Wars By Colby Dauch – Published By Plaid Hat Games – Art By John Ariosa And Gary Simpson

 “It was Ret-Talus, the lord of the Fallen Kingdom, who found the first Summoning Stone. The stone bestowed its power onto the dark-hearted king, changing him into the first of the Summoners. For a thousand years Ret-Talus went unchallenged as he and his summonings wrought havoc upon the world of Itharia. The power of the stone was so great, that though the world sent entire armies to fight against him, none could defeat Ret-Talus. It was not until Dane Lightbringer discovered a second Summoning Stone, that Ret-Talus’s reign was put in check. The discovery of a second stone gave a new hope to the people of Itharia for not only did it mean that Ret-Talus’s power might be countered, but it also meant that the Summoning Stone was not unique. If there were two, surely there were more. Every faction of Itharia began pouring their resources into scouring the world for a Summoning Stone to claim as their own. More stones were revealed, and more Summoners emerged, but the Summoners of Itharia have failed to unite against their common threat and have instead let old faction rivalries and the desire for more Summoning Stones turn them against one another, and so it is that…

The Summoner Wars have begun!”

* * * * * * *

Summoner Wars, is a tactical board game for 2 players played on an 8×6 grid, with additional 2 versus 2 team based rules using 4 Summoners and 2 game boards. Each player controls a faction led by a powerful and unique Summoner in a battle where each player seeks to destroy their opponents Summoner and win the game. With gameplay reminiscent of classic tactical console games such as Final Fantasy: Tactics, Shining Force, and the more obscure but no less classic Mystaria, mixed in with the capture the leader objective of Chess, sautéed with a hint of Magic: The Gathering, and garnished with a subtle hint of Race for the Galaxy, Summoner Wars is a fantasy themed tactical miniatures style smorgasbord that uses cards in place of actual miniatures. The agonizing twist though is that you need to discard valuable cards from your hand to pay the cost to bring other cards into play!

Player’s will summon their forces, maneuver across a tactical grid, and crush the enemy but the game isn’t over until your opponent’s, far from helpless, Summoner is vanquished.

What’s In The Box

Summoner Wars, comes in a 14” x 14” x 3” box that includes a fantastic molded insert that aptly holds all the games components in a nice neat manner with ample room to sleeve your cards and store additional purchasable factions.


1 Rulebook

1 Battlefield Board split into 2 halves

5 Six-Sided Dice

20 double sided Wound Markers

225 Cards – Broken down into 6 separate factions


Cards: Summoner Wars is predominantly a card game. Thankfully money was thrown at the quality control department and it shows. The cardstock is thick with a glossy laminate which will definitely add to the longevity of the cards. These are full color cards with unique artwork on the front and back and different colored backs to help differentiate between the factions and speed up clean up after a match. The game mechanics are laid out on the cards in a very clean manner with extra large fonts used for the relevant rules, for example a unit’s combat strength number is large enough to be seen from across the table by an opponent. Very discernable images are used to differentiate between ranged and melee attacks, a bow and arrow signifies ranged attack and a sword denotes a melee unit. Even a unit’s special abilities are written in a nice clean font on a nicely contrasting background. Each card has a full color piece of artwork covering about 1/3rd of the card which is very thematic and done extremely well. From the humanoid “Goat-men” of the Mountain Vargath to the desert themed Sand Goblins these 40+ paintings are great. The cards are slightly smaller than what would be considered the standard card size probably best described as a middle ground between “Yu Gi Oh” and “Legend of the Five Rings” which can be slightly problematic when trying to sleeve these cards. While the cards are hardy enough that you do not need to sleeve the cards I was able to find sleeves that were passable if you are so inclined.

I’ll add a few footnotes at the end of this review (since this isn’t a review of game sleeves) elaborating on my sleeving experience.

Battlefield Board: The game board oddly enough comes as 2 separate none interlocking folding halves which are laid next to each other during game play. The boards are large, sturdy, and seem to be pretty durable so far. The image of the “battlefield” is reminiscent of a slightly tattered “battle map” where a general would plan his moves from adding to the theme of the game. There are also additional spaces on each player’s side of the board for a draw pile, discard pile, and a magic pile. Each rectangular “space” on the 8 x 6 board is large enough to fit a card in a space without crowding and there is a nice frictionless laminate on the board so you can simply “slide” your cards across the board as they move as opposed to constantly picking up the cards and moving them that way. I am honestly puzzled as to why the board is 2 halves versus a whole but other than that the board is nice.

Rulebook: The rulebook contains 21 pages of rules, gameplay images, and gameplay examples. The rulebook is laid out in a fairly logical manner and while there isn’t a table of contents, the rules are presented in the order they should be encountered and there is even a handy terminology and definition section towards the end of the rulebook. The rulebook does a great job of explaining the games mechanics and even includes rules for deck construction for players who buy additional packs, 3-4 player team based rules, and discusses additional ways to expand your game play.

Dice and Tokens: Finally the game comes with 5 dice and 20 double sided wound tokens to represent damage on units as it is taken. The dice are well made with the pips engraved into the dice and have a decent heft and roll to them. The cardboard life tokens are made of thick cardboard with a 3 on one side and are blank on the other to represent a single point of damage or 3 points of damage, nothing too exceptional for either component but very serviceable none the less.

Components and Presentation Verdict: 9.0/10 Colby has been quoted a few times saying the Master Set was quite an expense for his company and I can see why. Card quality in the hobby seems to be dropping and it is refreshing to actually see sturdy durable cards that are not paper thin. The cards are also pleasing to look at and show that thought was put into their design. The board is well made and while I believe it would have been better served if it was a single board it still works well. Overall the components show a definite eye towards quality.

How Does It Play?

Summoner Wars is a competitive tactical game played out on an 8×6 rectangular grid that uses cards instead of miniatures to represent each player’s units, if you imagine it as a 2D skirmish game you are halfway to understanding how the game plays. Summoner Wars requires players to use advanced planning skills, a little bit of luck from dice rolling/card drawing, and some clever hand management in order to defeat an opponent. Each player controls a Summoner, a magical sorcerer that can summon allies, evoke magic, and even fight off enemies. Summoning allies is far from cheap though, costing mana which can only be gained by discarding your own cards and/or by defeating enemy units. The card discarding mechanic can occasionally create some very agonizing strategic decisions, do you discard a card that you might need later, to get Mana to summon a card you need now? In the end, there is only one path to victory… the utter destruction of your opponent’s Summoner!

Component Breakdown

Champion Summon: Each faction has three unique Champions. Champions differentiate themselves from Common Summons by generally being much more powerful (almost as powerful as the Summoners!), they are unique (you can only have one copy of each Champion in your deck (an important distinction if/when you decide to customize your factions), and they can be very expensive to bring into play (8 Mana not being unheard of). The card lists the Champions attack strength in a large circle in the upper left hand corner (how many D6’s you roll when the unit attacks), under that is listed the Champions summoning cost (how many cards must be discarded from your magic pile to bring the card into play), and whether it is a ranged or melee attacker. Next to that is a 3×3 series of dots representing how many Hit Points the Champion has. Under that is listed the unique special ability the Champion possesses.

Common Summon:  Commons can be thought of as your grunts (don’t call them cannon fodder some of them are actually fairly tough). The cards are laid out exactly the same as a Champion card, with the difference being you can have up to 10 copies of the same common in your deck, and they are cheaper to summon into play.

Event Card: Event cards are one time use abilities that can thematically be thought of as single use spells cast by your Summoner (They can occasionally create permanent effects though such as resurrecting Units). They give a one time effect and do not cost anything to use. Each deck has to have certain Event Cards in them even if you customize your faction deck.

Reference Card: Each faction comes with a 2 sided reference card. One side lists the factions starting formation (each time you play you start with the same units in play, in the same starting position). The reverse side has a turn phase summary and the listed Event Cards that have to be included in your faction deck each time you play (this is only important when you start customizing your faction).

Summoner: Of course no faction would be complete without their Summoner, a mighty spell caster that can be the lynchpin between victory and defeat. Each Summoner card is laid out exactly the same as a Champion or Common with one exception, since all Summoners start in play, and you only get one Summoner (even if you customize your faction), there is a lightning bolt in place of the summoning cost (signifying there isn’t a casting cost). Each faction’s Summoner has a unique very strong power, some that might even require your Summoner to get into the thick of things, but if your Summoner dies you lose.

Wall: Finally the walls create a unique mechanic. Each faction has 2 walls in their deck (technically 3 but the third always starts in play), walls have 9 hit points (represented by the 9 dots at the bottom of the card), and walls are required to summon Units into play! When a Unit is summoned it has to be placed orthogonally next to a wall (one minor point diagonal actions are for the most part not allowed in Summoner Wars). So if you do not have any walls on the battlefield or you do not have any open orthogonal spaces next to a wall you control (whether because your opponent is blocking or you are blocking), then you cannot summon units into play. This can occasionally lead to some interesting battle tactics by opponents who will intentionally minimize your available summoning locations. Walls are brought into play during the Event Phase (not the Summon Phase) and remember you only have 2 more Walls in your deck.

Setup is extremely quick and easy. Each player picks a faction, sets up the game board according to your faction’s starting layout, shuffles their remaining cards and place them face-down on their Draw Pile section of the board (players start the game without ANY cards in their hand), and then decide who goes first.

Rulebook turn Summary.

Turn Sequence

Each turn in Summoner Wars is divided into 6 phases that have to be completed in order (the first player of the first turn takes a slightly modified turn to counteract the advantage of going first).

1. Draw: Draw up to 5 cards if you possess less than 5 cards

2. Summon: Bring Units into play from your hand by removing cards from your Magic Pile and placing them in your discard pile. You must remove 1 card for each point of summoning cost listed on a Unit. You may summon as many Units as you can afford and are willing to play on your turn. The summoned Unit(s) must be placed orthogonally next to a wall in play you control.

3. Play Event Cards: Play Event Cards one at a time in any order you like. You must fully resolve an Event Card before you can play another one but you can play as many Event cards as you have in hand.

4. Movement: You may move up to 3 of your Units up to 2 spaces each. Cards cannot move diagonally. Cards cannot move through spaces occupied by other cards. Cards must end their move on an unoccupied space. No Unit can be moved more than once per Movement Phase unless an Event or Special Ability directs otherwise.

5. Attack: Attack with up to 3 different Units that you control on the Battlefield. The Units that you choose to attack with do not have to be the same Units that moved in the previous phase. No Unit can attack more than once per Attack Phase unless an Event or Special Ability directs otherwise. If a Special Ability or Event allows a Unit to attack multiple times that Unit still only counts as 1 of the 3 Units you are allowed to attack with during this Phase. Resolve each attack before moving to the next. When attacking a Unit, if you destroy that Unit, place that Unit Card face-down on top of YOUR Magic Pile.

Sword Symbol: The Unit can ONLY attack orthogonally a unit adjacent.

Bow Symbol: The Unit can ONLY attack orthogonally UP TO three spaces away (including adjacent). Again no diagonal attacks are allowed and the 3 spaces must be in a straight line and any card (even friendly) between the attacker and the target BLOCKS line of sight.

Attack Roll: Roll 1 D6 per point of attack (3 attack means you roll 3 dice for example). Every dice that scores a 3 or higher scores a hit and a 2 or 1 is a miss. Every hit scores 1 point of damage and if a Unit takes damage equal to its remaining hit points (called life points in the game), it is slain and placed in the ATTACKERS Magic Pile.

6. Build Magic: You may take any number of cards from your hand and put them face-down on top of your Magic Pile. This builds up your Magic Pile and frees up your hand so that you can draw more cards on your next turn.

After a player completes all 6 phases, it becomes their opponent’s turn.

A sample game might look something like this:

It is a very interesting game between the Benders and the Deep Dwarves. The Benders turn is about to begin with 7 cards in the Magic Pile, no cards in hand, and due to a tough prior round only 2 commons on the board with the Summoner. The turn starts with Bender drawing the following 5 cards, Controller (2 summon cost, 2 attack, ranged attack, and only 1 hit point), Deceiver (1 summon, 1 attack, ranged, 1 hit point), Breaker (2 summon, 1 attack, ranged, 1 hit point), Wall, and the Event Card Mimic (look at opponents hand if they have an event card take it and place it in your own hand). Bender spends the summon phase brining all 3 of the commons into play, placing them orthogonally next to a wall, and spending a total of 5 Magic to do so. Next for the Event phase Bender casts Mimic, taking the Event card Magic Torrent (spend Magic Points to damage Units Near your Summoner) from the Deep Dwarf, and then plays it! Magic Torrent is put to great effect. Bender spends his remaining 2 Magic Points to injure 2 nearby Gem Mages, slaying both, and placing them in Benders Magic Pile (granting Bender 2 Magic Points in the process).

Bender smiles at the Deep Dwarves player, places the Wall on the board, and then moves on to the Movement Phase of the game turn. Bender moves the Controller into range to hit Tundle the Dwarven Summoner, the newly summoned Deceiver next to another Gem Mage, and the Breaker moves into an advantageous position for the next game turn. It is now time for the Attack! First Bender resolves their Controller attack against Tundle, rolls 2 dice resulting in a 4 and a 5, and scores 2 hits! Tundle is hurt and only has 4 hit points left! The Controllers special power then kicks in allowing Bender to move a close Unit 1 space! Bender moves Breaker 1 space putting Breaker in range to now attack Tundle, a die is rolled scoring a 6! Another hit and Tundle is now down to 3 hit points! For the 3rd attack Deceiver attacks the adjacent Gem Mage rolling a die resulting in a 1, missing the target! The attack phase is over with Bender feeling like he now has the upper hand! Bender doesn’t have any cards in hand so the Build Magic phase is ignored and it is now time for the Deep Dwarves to regroup!

Simplicity of the Rules: 8.5/10 The rules are very well written and organized with game play examples and images. The game is also designed to play simply but have deep strategies. For example all units (barring special abilities) have the same movement, the same to hit target number, and the same line of sight rules. For a skirmish style of game it does a great job avoiding ambiguity.

Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly?

As a father of 2 future board gamers, a large concern of mine is how secure am I in letting my eldest son play and or rummage through a game box. Granted, BGG and board games themselves very clearly tell you a minimum age, they don’t tell you exactly why that minimum age was chosen. My hope is to arbitrarily tell you why I think this age range was chosen for this game and then hopefully give a few ideas I might have for a game to make it easier on the young ones. Finally I will close with what seems to be the “sweet spot” for number of players and if the game has solo rules I’ll comment on those too.

Summoner Wars is a competitive board game for 2-4 players ages 9+. The game is full of high fantasy images such as, humanoid goats, orcs, dark elves, and even goblins. While the images are not gory they do have a slightly darker feel to them but nothing overly risqué. Honestly this isn’t anything kids cannot see on Saturday morning cartoons. The basic gameplay is also pretty simple, my 6 year old was able to figure out how to play the game but he did need some adult “tactical suggestions” such as when it was a good time to discard cards, and timing of Event cards. Some of the factions were too complex for him to understand the subtler powers of but he still had fun, even though “Dad these Deep Dwarves die easily don’t they?” Overall an 8 or 9 year old should have no problems playing Summoner Wars and an adult can really enjoy the deeper strategies some of the factions require.

Family Friendliness Verdict: 7.75/10 Summoner Wars is a fun Father/Son, Mother/Daughter game. The game is easy to teach and there aren’t any obtuse rules to confuse younger players.

Summoner wars states it is for 2-4 players but it is really a 2 player game. The back of the box DOES state it is a 2 player game, but the rulebook includes rules for 4 players, which requires the purchase of a second game board. The 4 player rules are for team based play but in my opinion they simply muddy the waters of a game that is fine as a 2 player game. While I thought the 4 player team based rules were OK, I did feel the 3 player rules were a waste of time. For a 3 player game 1 player controls 2 factions, while the other 2 players each control a single faction in a team based battle and I honestly would not play this way again. The 4 player rules aren’t bad though, they are just not for me (I don’t really enjoy team based games that much; I guess I want all the glory from a win.). The game can also be simplified for younger players by removing Event cards and directing them towards more simplistic factions. The Mountain Vargath are a great faction for teaching the game to younger players with their higher hit points and aggressive play style they can easily grasp their tactics “Roman Legion advance!”. An average 2 player game should take in the 30-45 minute range to play and a 4 player game will run about an hour.


* 6 VERY different faction included in the box.

* Rules to customize your Factions (if you buy reinforcement packs).

* The included Factions are fairly well balanced.

* Great card quality.

* Very simple to teach the game.

* Clean rules with very few rules exceptions.

* The storage box, not only does it hold the included Factions there is room for MORE!

* Plays fairly quickly.


* The luck factor, from bad rolls of the dice, to bad card draws, even the best of players can lose due to terrible luck.

* The Factions can get predictable. “You’re playing Mountain Vargath? OK that means you are going to be playing extremely offensively and I need to watch out for your Rusher advance and Brute knock back….”

 — Which leads to —

* You WILL eventually want to get reinforcement packs for these factions to reduce the predictability of matches.

* You really need to understand your Faction AND your opponents Faction which creates a learning curve for new players (admittedly for me this is a PRO too).

But Is It Fun?

Colby Dauch has done a great job creating a game that mimics the enjoyment of a grid based miniatures game without the extreme cost often associated with those kinds of games. The Master Set box comes with 6 new Factions but this game has grown even larger. With almost twenty Factions currently available on the market, reinforcement packs that allow you to modify your Factions, and a play test team that seems to have Goblin Whips at their back the game is only getting better.

The game comes with rules to modify your Faction which for me is a great plus. I actually want to buy the reinforcement packs so I can play with a sideboard adding to the surprise element of the game. Admittedly though it’s going to take a lot of plays before you will feel like you need the variety a sideboard can provide.

I really appreciate the simplicity of the rules. I almost hate saying that because I don’t mean to infer the game is simplistic and lacks strategy because that is far from the truth. Simple touches such as the reuse of the number 3, 3 or higher to hit, attack with 3 units, range attack is 3 spaces away, move 3 units on your phase. The symmetry makes it easy to remember the rules. I may not like some of the rules, such as the lack of diagonal interaction, but I can appreciate how it matters on a smaller game board and reduces discrepancies of the rules, especially with ranged line of sight.

The game is very quick to set up and most matches will take only 30ish minutes to play which really aids the Re-match mentality. I like a game where I can challenge someone again if they kick my butt which sadly isn’t possible with some of these 2-4 hour monstrosities. With all due respect to those 2-4 hour monstrosities I do enjoy playing.

Sadly, the game is unbalanced… for anyone unable or flat out unwilling to learn their chosen factions strategy. Yes that was a sensationalist comment made in an effort to lead to the following point. The included factions are indeed fairly well balanced (an impressive feet, in and of itself) but you have to A: Play to your faction’s strengths and B: Know how to exploit your opponents weaknesses. For example the Deep Dwarves are great at turtling and guerilla hit and run tactics. If you are using them, capitalize on this; if you are fighting against them do your best to tear their advantage away! The Mountain Vargath on the other hand follow a much simpler “Charge down your opponent’s throat and beat the living tar out of them” strategy. Be smart, know your faction, but beyond that know your opponents faction too! At the risk of sounding smug, it is fun to crush an opponent with a faction they just spent 5 minutes describing to you just how inept they are.

The game is not perfect though, luck can really hinder your game play. While you would THINK is shouldn’t be too difficult to roll a 3 or higher on a 6 sided die, you will be surprised how often you miss that crucial roll. I have also had my fair share of pretty lousy starting hands “All 3 champions and 1 of my walls? Seriously? What the heck!” It won’t happen often and a good sport will let you either mulligan… or trounce you mercilessly and then challenge you to another match. It all depends on what kind of friends you keep.

With the smaller deck sizes I have yet to feel like a game has turned into a slog or an attrition of forces. Each unit feels like it is important because you know in the back of your mind your draw pile is very finite and that may be your last Unit. This can also create some agonizing decisions when you need to discard cards into your magic pile. Do you hang on to your Champion and discard that event card and those Commons and hope you can somehow get enough Mana to summon that Champion? Do you toss the Champion knowing your Magic Pile is dangerously low and there isn’t a chance you will ever get the Mana… or is there? The additional strategic ramifications of this mechanic do add to the strategy level of what could have been a very simple skirmish level game.

Overall Final Game Verdict: 8.25/10 If you are looking for an expandable skirmish level game to play with a friend that won’t break the bank, this is a game for you!

I picked up Summoner Wars from Myriad Games and wanted to say thanks for a great game!


I know I already said these cards are well made, so why would I go and sleeve my cards? Well I have 2 boys, they love board games, but they don’t love to wash their hands all the time. I am not germaphobic but I have seen them pick their noses on occasion… So without further rabbit holes I bring you Adventures in sleeving .

After some studious research and weighing the pro’s and con’s of what was available on the market, I settled on Dragon Shield card sleeves.

These are the Mini card sleeves for non-standard card games, which interestingly enough describes Summoner Wars cards. These sleeves provided a few advantages for me. First they are pretty darn durable. Second they come in quite a few different colors which helps to sort the cards after a match.

As you can see the cards fit pretty snugly in the sleeves.

Closer examination does show that the cards stick out of the sleeves just a hair but for me it was worth it for the next point…

… the cards still fit quite nicely on the board even when sleeved.

So in the end it wasn’t a perfect solution but considering all the alternatives, with their own issues, these seemed to work best for me.

Life is short, Play games!

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“20 Questions With” Colby Dauch at Plaid Hat Games!

Hello and welcome Colby Dauch and Jerry Hawthorne from Plaid Hat Games to 2D6.org’s “20 questions” and answers from the readers segment! Plaid Hat Games is a company that came out of nowhere and delivered the fantastic game Summoner Wars. Summoner Wars has turned into a full blown expandable line with well over a dozen different factions, expandability through reinforcement packs, and a very well made and cost effective Master Set that includes some nice extra bits for your money. Plaid Hat is also responsible for Dungeon Run, a dungeon delving game with an interesting twist at the end (lets not forget the soon to be released Dungeon Run 2) and the highly anticipated Mice and Mystics, a thematic story driven Dungeon Crawl that delivers the adventurous feel of stories such as the “Redwall” series of books and the “Tale of Despereaux”.


2D6.orgColby, could you please introduce yourself and your co-workers and for those who may not know, tell us what you all do at Plaid Hat Games?

My name is Colby Dauch.  I am the owner of Plaid Hat Games and the designer of Summoner Wars.  As far as co-workers go they are all freelancers or inventors and I’m running the operation with their contracted aid.  I’ll be fielding most of the questions with the exception of Jerry Hawthorne stepping in on a couple of the Mice and Mystics questions.  He is a friend that I made while being involved in the Heroscape community.  We went on to do freelance design work together.  I am now publishing his game design – Mice and Mystics.

2D6.org: Starting a gaming company from scratch can be a risky proposition with its own challenges, what would you say has been your greatest challenge and what advice would you give to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps? How hard is it to maintain a profitable games company in this day and age?

Profitability is a bit of an ongoing joke in this industry.  It’s incredibly elusive.  The thing about board games is that nearly everyone that plays them tends to get an idea for one.  And since you don’t have to go to film school or learn how to program code to see your vision come to pass, and nearly anyone can work and save hard enough to come up with enough money to do a print run of a small game, there tends to be A LOT of noise in the board game space.  There is also the matter of hobby board games having a bit of a sticker shock issue on those new to them.  Many are trained to believe that board games should cost $15 at Wal-Mart.  We can’t come close to that, but everyone in the industry tries their best, and it makes profit margins thin.  My advice:  Spend some time creating games just for the fun of it before you decide it’s the right choice to make it into a business venture.

2D6.orgIt is my understanding that you were already affiliated with the gaming industry prior to starting Plaid Hat Games. What was the reasoning behind your choice to start your own game company versus working with an established game company such as Fantasy Flight Games or Rio Grande?

Fantasy Flight would have been a good fit for my game I think.  But again, there is a lot of noise and my attempts to show them the game went unnoticed.  I also showed it to Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast but they weren’t interested in stretching their necks out on a new IP that didn’t stand up, sing and dance, and make the suits understand why it would be worth doing.  I didn’t bother finding a third strike.  I already had aspirations to start a game company, not just publish a game.  So if the big guys didn’t want it I would decide to do it myself.

2D6.orgDo you think attendance at conventions helps with the success of a game and do you think your recent presence at Origins was a success for you?

Conventions give you a chance to connect with your fans.  We try hard to build a relationship with the people who love our games and this gives us an opportunity to do so.  As far as Origins goes, it was awful this year.  The hall looked dead and we lost money.  It’s too bad, but I think it is just losing to GenCon.  They are both summer cons and they are within 2 hours of each other.  Origins can co-exist, but I think not at the size they’ve maintained in the past.  They’ve got a lot of overhead wrapped up in that big hall.

2D6.orgWhat is your view of the relationship between the community and a game publisher and how important is it to a publisher to have independent game reviews?

Before doing Summoner Wars I was an uber fan of Heroscape.  I built www.Heroscapers.com to support the community that grew around that game.  I have tried to implement that community mindset while growing Plaid Hat Games.  I think the community gives us a chance to show the people buying our products that we aren’t a faceless business.

Reviews help a good game rise to the top.  Reviews got Summoner Wars noticed as more than just more noise from a startup publisher.

2D6.orgKickstarter.com is getting a lot of attention from the board gaming community, some positive, some negative. What are your feelings on Kickstarter.com (especially how other publishers like Tasty Minstrel and Steve Jackson Games are now using it to fund games)? Do you think companies using Kickstarter.com will lead to lower overall quality since a producer isn’t as financially tied to the success of a game?

I think Kickstarter.com gives people the sense that they are a part of making something happen.  That is a good feeling to have.  That sense that you are helping something that you think is really cool come to pass.  So I understand why it works. I also understand why companies would want to take advantage of that.  Especially when they see consumers give nearly a million dollars to Steve Jackson to reprint Ogre.  That is a lot of money in our business.  But every time I personally consider Kickstarter.com I feel a bit dirty about it.  When I know I’ve got the money as a company to fund a game on my own, I don’t know that I would feel right telling the consumer that THEY have got to be the ones to make it happen.  It feels a bit like cheating doesn’t it?  I believed in a game I had, I funded it, and I sent copies to reviewers all over the place to get it noticed.  I took a lot of PERSONAL risk for an idea that I REALLY believed in.  If I’m honest I feel a bit jealous when I see the Kickstarter route seemingly pulled off so easily.  Maybe this is a case of if you can’t beat them, join them. We tossed around the idea of doing a tongue in cheek Kickstarter that basically says, “We can fund this, but we heard you guys like to give money to people on Kickstarter, so here we are.”

As far as producers being tied to success, I think everyone wants to be successful in something they are doing, whether it was their money or that of others.  I think many people may even feel more responsible with other’s money, I know I would.  But is such a lower barrier to entry healthy?  I’m sure that there have been and will be some great games that would not have seen the light of day if not for crowd funding.  But I’ve got to believe that people have also spent their money on something that turned out to be disappointing.  When the disappointing projects outweigh the exciting ones, can the system sustain itself?  I don’t know, but I think all of us who follow board games as an industry are staying tuned to see what happens there.

 2D6.org: Personally I am not a large supporter of Kickstarter.com but when I see companies offering discounts for pre-orders it gets my attention, is this something we can see more of in the future?

You are a referring to our pre-order promotion for Mice and Mystics (plaidhatgames.com, check it out) {Ed Note: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/store it is worth a $25.00 savings}. This was my little experiment in response to Kickstarter.  If a known entity pitches an exciting project and offers incentives not unlike those often found on Kickstarter projects, but puts it up for pre-order on their site rather than Kickstarter… what happens?  If the experiment is successful in helping us be profitable then I’m sure you’ll see us continue to explore these kinds of things.

2D6.orgThe Tablet gaming market is definitely exploding with some companies such as Days of Wonder expressing a surge in sales for their cardboard games coinciding with the release of Tablet versions of their games. Summoner Wars is due out for iOS soon, are there any plans for an Android release? Any chance we will see other Plaid Hat Games on a Tablet anytime in the future?

Playdek (our partner in building the iOS version of the game) has been telling folks that Android versions of their games are coming.  I view my relationship with Playdek as a partnership.  I think you can expect that to continue so long as it is successful for both sides.

2D6.orgThe gaming market is definitely growing, with big box retailers such as Target and Barnes and Noble selling board games now, do you think this is good for the hobby as a whole? Will we see any Plaid Hat Games in the big stores any time soon?

I think it is a sign of the growing success of board games.  I think the more stores that want to carry and sell board games the better.  Success breeds success.  I think we are getting noticed and I think that is a platform for getting into these bigger stores.

2D6.orgMice and Mystics is causing a great deal of excitement in the community, advertising itself as a fun adventure game that can be played by family members as young as 7 Years old (family friendliness is extremely important to me and is part of every one of my reviews). What was the inspiration for Mice and Mystics itself? Where did the idea for a more family orientated type of game come from and can we expect more family friendly games in the future?

Why did I produce it?  Because my buddy Jerry designed it, I thought it was a cool idea, and I believe in him.  I’m going to let him tell you why he designed it.  Mice and Mystics designer Jerry Hawthorne:

Thanks Colby. I’ll gladly answer this one. See, I am a dad of two great kids. I’m not an expert in early childhood development or anything, so when my daughter was struggling with learning how to read a few years back, I was desperate to find a way to help her. I was convinced that she just needed something to inspire her to read. She loves anything with mice, so I thought that if I could create an activity to accompany reading, it might help her in some way. I started designing a mouse story that could be played like a game. Later we discovered she had a learning disorder that is very similar to dyslexia, but by that time Mice and Mystics was already taking on a momentum of its own.

2D6.orgI understand the game is still in preproduction and not all the components have been finalized but is there any chance we might see a gameplay video posted soon? Could you give us some more details on the gameplay? What separates it from your average co-operative Dungeon Crawler and how exactly are the story driven mechanics intertwined with the gameplay?

My plan is to have Rodney Smith of Watch it Played produce a game play video using one of the first copies off the press airshipped over.  Whether that comes to fruition before the release I don’t know, but we are making a go of it.

The game is a story telling game in that it tells a specific story that you are going to play and read your way through.  And then a lot of rules of the game (including the ability to introduce chapter specific rules in the storybook) are designed to help tell an emergent story as you play your way through.

Why is it different than an ‘average’ co-op dungeon crawl?  Well Jerry is a great big fan of co-op dungeon crawls.  So don’t be surprised if you feel that inspiration in the game.  But what sets it apart is that many of those dungeon crawls try to tell a story and don’t always do a super exciting job of that.  Mice and Mystics however really helps players feel the story and it is a really great story.  What you are signing on for with Mice and Mystics is an interactive story telling experience.

2D6.orgMice and Mystics is definitely ripe for future expansions. Can we look forward to downloadable story books or possibly boxed expansions in the future? Can you go into greater detail about future plans including any estimated time frame for future releases?

 They are already in the works.  No time frames yet.  As with any game success will drive the attention we pay to it.  And according to the buzz and pre-orders I’m expecting success. J

2D6.orgThis question is directed at Mr. Hawthorne, how complete was the game when you presented it to Plaid Hat Games, had it already gone through playtesting or was it still more of a concept at that time? How has the playtesting process compared to Summoner Wars?

 You can call me Jerry if you like. To answer your questions, the game was nothing more than a collection of ideas and a framework of mechanics when Colby and I discussed moving forward. Colby asked if I felt that I could have a playable prototype by a certain date. I worked incessantly on it in my limited spare time (can I really call it that if I’m constantly filling it up?). When I officially presented it to Colby and a few other people whose opinions are gold to me, I had 3 chapters finished and all the basic elements in place. My prototype included only enough components to run the first three chapters and had been lightly tested by me, my children and 2 friends.

Because of the nature of this game compared to Summoner Wars, the playtesting process is quite different. Summoner Wars is so easily played on Vassal independently and by numerous skilled volunteers. M&M needs play groups who are willing to devote time to testing the chapters, so I spent a considerable amount of time and money to create playtest prototypes to send out to selected groups. Once the game is released, the testing process for future releases will be easier because of the amount of folks who will have actual physical copies of the base game and there will be more familiarity with the system and our goals to create cooperative adventures that appeal to a wide age range, are fun, and challenging, and encourage teamwork.

2D6.org: For our overseas readers, how long before they can see a translated version of the game? Do you have any distributors in Europe for example set up at this time? If this is not in the plans, what are the chances of seeing a translated rulebook and the cards in downloadable PDF format? I know of some European families who would love to be able to enjoy this family orientated game with the none-English members of their family.

We have international distributors that will distribute the game in English.  We are a young company so our foreign language print runs are still on a case by case and deal by deal basis, so I have no announcements on that front yet.

2D6.orgWhile we are on the topic, can we look forward to any other games getting translated into additional languages in the future?

Summoner Wars has been successful.  It is getting noticed internationally.  The two starter sets are in German and there are plans to do Summoner Wars products in French, Italian, Chinese, and Portuguese.

2D6.orgI really enjoy painting miniatures yet I realize not everyone feels the same. Are their any plans to release pre-painted miniatures for Mice and Mystics?

No plans as of now.

2D6.org: The collectible card game format was definitely a popular design for many years but it seems to be slowly phasing out in favor of the “Living Card Game” or “preset” format. Do you think Summoner Wars arriving in a preset format was part of the games early success? Do people just want to open a game box and have a game ready to play or is there still life in the “build your deck before you play” style of game?

I think in the world of CCGs you are either: Magic, Pokemon, or failing.  I think concerning CCGs most everyone falls into 1 of 3 categories: ‘I play Magic I can’t afford the time or money for another CCG’ or ‘I used to play Magic, I got out of it, it was too expensive.  I’m not interested in getting into another CCG’ or ‘I’ve heard the horror stories about how expensive CCGs can be, I’m not interested.’  But I think people still like to play games that expand and change over time.  They like more and fresh injections of an experience they really enjoy.  The expandable what you see is what you get model is something I loved in Heroscape and mirrored with Summoner Wars.  I don’t think it would have been a success without that model.

2D6.orgYou really tried to appeal to multiple play styles with Summoner wars. For those of us who hate to chase ”rares”  you offered the game in a preset format and for those who like to really fine tune a deck there are the reinforcement packs. Has this format proven successful for you and do you think this might be the future of Collectible Card Games?

Yes it has been successful.  Yes, it is my opinion that the CCG model is a dead breed with a couple of monolithic exceptions.

2D6.orgSummoner Wars currently has 16 Factions available, reinforcement packs, and even a boxed Master Set for a very reasonable price, what plans do you have for the future? Can we look forward to more Factions, portable neoprene boards, competitive faction sleeves (nice for competitive mirror matches), a return of faction dice, or even Deck boxes?

Our next Summoner Wars venture is more faction packs for the various factions.  This means new Summoners, new champions, new commons, and new events.

As far as accessories go the faction dice are being remade now.  The more successful Summoner Wars is the more viable various further accessories will be.  The trouble is you want to have a variety, which means smaller print runs of everything, which means the products are prohibitively expensive.

2D6.orgSpeaking of future factions what can you tell us about the next faction set to release? Any new play mechanics we can look forward to? Perhaps you could speak a little bit about the challenges of designing a new faction that is fun to play yet balanced versus a growing number of other factions?

Next up is the Cave Goblin Summoner Frick which takes the horde tactics of the Cave Goblins in a different direction and the Guild Dwarf Summoner Bolvi who builds structures.  The challenge in second Summoners is making the deck feel unique while still maintain the general feeling that has been established for the faction.  Balance continues to be a matter of playtesting. 

2D6.org: Magic the Gathering has been releasing Duel Decks for a while now. These “theme based” packs are not necessarily competitive or evenly matched with other preset decks on the market but are designed to compete with each other. Have you ever considered producing any theme decks like this for Summoner Wars? Perhaps a one off set such as “Dragons versus Phoenix”,” Zombies versus Survivors”, or “Ninja versus Pirates” just to come up with a few random off the wall ideas.

I guess our version of this is the 2 starter sets: Phoenix Elves vs. Tundra Orcs and Guild Dwarves vs. Cave Goblins.  I don’t really have much of an interest in creating a one off product that doesn’t keep the rest of Summoner Wars in mind when balancing it or creating its theme.

2D6.orgWhat can you tell us about the Second Summoners and how will they affect game play?

They will come as ready to play decks, which I know a lot of players appreciate, but they also really expand deck building opportunities as you cross over units from one Summoner to the other.

2D6.orgFor a new player looking to get into the world of Summoner Wars where do you recommend they start? Is the Master Set the best starting point or can you recommend factions with easier play mechanics?

We usually say if you want to give the game a try the starter set is a good place to start.  Since every product has unique stuff in it this lets you try the game out while still getting decks that you are going to really want if you get into the game and start buying up everything.  The Master Set is a good place to start if you know you dig the game and want to just jump in and have some variety with your first purchase.

2D6.org: For those of us who live in more rural communities with smaller game stores and rely on Amazon.com is there a chance we might eventually see a Master Set style box for the other factions?

Nope.  Everything we release will have unique stuff in it.  We are continuing to reprint stuff as it goes out of stock, so tracking down those other decks you want shouldn’t be too difficult.  The Master Set has a really low profit margin for us.  It is a deal to get people into the system.  Grouping other decks into a master set when they don’t need all that packaging isn’t something we want to do.

2D6.orgMage Wars and to a lesser degree Conquest Tactics seem to have roots based on Summoner Wars, do you take these imitations as a form of flattery and do you see a new genre of games being spawned by Summoner Wars much in the same way Dominion created a new genre of games?

I don’t know much about either of those games.  Other than Mage Wars looks, to my eye, pretty close in name, logo color and font style, and tag line text… I don’t feel very flattered.  It feels to me rather like the purposeful introduction of market confusion.  In 2009 I released Summoner Wars: The expandable card game of tactical combat.  Arcane Wonders is releasing Mage Wars: The customizable, card-driven tactical board game of dueling mages.  Even if the game plays nothing like Summoner Wars (and I really don’t know) why are they releasing a product that so closely mimics elements of our marketing and product design?

Concerning game design imitations: I think of games as a type of craft.  As with any craft inspiration often comes, in part, from what came before, and sometimes this comes by way of a big easy to point to example like Dominion.  I think Risk Legacy could also become one of these touchstones in the future.  It would be exciting to see Summoner Wars have a positive impact on the craft.  Things like attack values, and range, and special abilities, and moving on a grid, and rolling dice for combat are all part of the craft that I pulled from with Summoner Wars.  I hope I added some things to the craft as well.  I’m also not sure that imitation is the right word for what I just described.  I think inspiration is a better word.  I’m not sure direct imitation should be encouraged.  I think imitation suggests walking the line of a type of plagiarism.  Like Stan Lee invents Spider-Man and everyone loves Spider-Man, so I start to make and market blue and red action hero figures called Spider-Guy.  I think that would be an example of imitation and I think imitation that direct is harmful, as its intent is to introduce market confusion in an effort to profit off of someone else’s intellectual property.

2D6.orgSummoner Wars has a well thought out universe and even influenced Dungeon Run. Do you foresee any other games appearing in the Summoner Wars universe, perhaps even a Role Playing Game?

 I don’t think anyone currently on our staff is prepared to do a Role Playing Game, but I won’t say “never.” We do plan to do more with the IP.  “Dudes on a map” is probably the thing I’d like to do next in Itharia.

2D6.orgWhen Dungeon Run 2 releases can we look forward to expansions or will this be a standalone product that finishes off the line?

Dungeon Run 2 will be stand alone but it will be an expansion as well.  Everything in the 2 sets will be cross compatible.  Will we expand further after that?  That will depend on its popularity I expect.  Dungeon Run has a dedicated fanbase, but not nearly the size of Summoner Wars.  We think we are really improving the game with Dungeon Run 2.  We will see where that gets us.

2D6.orgWhat changes can we look forward to when Dungeon Run 2 releases? Will it be a simple cleaning up of the rules or can we look forward to a complete reboot?

 We actually have an article on our site that answers this question quite well so allow me to link you off to that: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/news/20

2D6.org: The board game market definitely has its most loved genres; it seems you can’t walk 2 feet in a board game store without bumping into a Space Opera, Fantasy, or Trading in the Mediterranean themed game. Yet aside from Sentinels of the Multiverse and a few other examples the super hero genre seems to be largely untouched which I find interesting since I think every kid in the world has at least looked at a comic book sometime in their life. What are the chances that a company whose name rhymes with Plaid Hat Games is secretly working on a game that might change this trend and what can you tell us about it?

I’ve been pretty public about the super hero game I’m working on.  I talk about it on our podcast as developments happen with it.  I’m really excited about it because I feel like we managed to make some stand out super hero characters and a game that does a good job of being both tactical and producing emergent storytelling moments.  It will be card driven, but the city deck will also act like a board that players move around.  Players will either play as a team of 4 young super heroes running around the city solving crises that pop up and protecting the city from the villains, or as villains and their minions running around creating havoc and destroying the city and cornering and beating up the heroes.

2D6.orgFinally is there anything else we can look forward to arriving from Plaid Hat Games in 2012?

Mice and Mystics, more Summoner Wars, and we may just squeeze out another big box sci-fi project inside of the year.

2D6.orgSome really fantastic answers from Plaid Hat Games. I am really looking forward to the release of Mice and Mystics and further information on that super hero game being worked on. Thank you again Colby and Jerry!


We at 2D6.org would like to thank Colby and Jerry for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer these questions.

Next up is Wizards of the Coast! Check back soon for a question submission thread!

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20 Questions With… Plaid Hat Games! A News Segment Where You Ask The Questions!

Plaid Hat Games has published some great games including

And the highly anticipated

Now is the chance to ask YOUR questions! Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games has kindly agreed to be a guest for “20 Questions” where You submit your questions, WE at 2D6.org gather the 20 most popular questions, and then we conduct the interview!

Want to know about the next Summoner Wars release? Interested in talking about Dungeon Run? Curious what new secret projects are in the works besides Mice and Mystics?


Who Knows There Might Even Be A Contest In The End.

Nothing is worse than Question and Answer sessions where the question you care about the most is never asked. We need   YOU to submit  your questions, you have until  June 17th before we gather up the questions and contact  Plaid Hat Games for the interview!


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