EMBER Review First Published 2017
EMBER from District 31
A Review by Mark (mawihtec) Capell-Helm
The Origin Back-story
Ever since EMBER first appeared on my radar way back in March of 2016, I have enjoyed watching this project develop over the past 12 Months into something that is now greater than the sum of its parts. Initially I was attracted to the bright graphical style and the simple set collection mechanics to conjuring the creatures. All of whom were lovingly drawn, rendered and then given special powers to help you and / or hinder your opponent. Using the magical equivalent of a deck of cards to control the forces of Earth, Air, Fire and Water meant creatures like Fairies, Eagles, Griffins, Bunnies and even the Great Cthulhu were at your command.
OK so far
Here was a game that had strategy and simplicity yet retained variety and Replayability. It was a game that was equally at home with the game group as it was with the younger player. In fact my son who was 7 at the time insisted on playing 10 games straight and loved every one of them. And at just £13 for 110 cards (56 core conjuring deck and 54 creatures) there was a lot of game for the money.
It would have been easy for District 31’s head Stuart Garside to rest on his laurels and move onto one of the many other projects that were bubbling away in the background. But he could not do that. He felt that the Ember universe was missing something? It did not feel complete. There was more crying to be let out. So after listening to suggestions and ideas from original backers, He locked himself away with his spell books and cauldrons. Until in September 2016 in a blaze of glory he burst back onto the Kickstarter scene with EMBER FROM THE ASHES. Here was a stand alone expansion which did not need the core set but once combined became so much more. It consisted of all new Creatures, 3 Spectral creatures whose VP relied on what other creatures you had and what their state of play was, 5 Artifact cards, A special Promo Card, Elemental Gods, 3 part Dragon creatures each card of which had its own special abilities but when combined as Head-Body-Tail gave access to even stronger powers. Also introduced were Tutors which provided you with hidden abilities to help or hinder in the end game. This project doubled its funding goal and was met with great positivity by reviewers and backers alike when it finished in October 2016. After running two successful projects and delivering on his vision of a much improved game Stuart Garside and District 31 wanted to focus on their next project…..
Until January 2017. When, following the clamours of backers for more of the EMBER universe and an inspired decision to shake up the rules. LIGHT & DARK was born. A short run-time project which smashed its £1000 target in 51 minutes and went on to achieve over 1000% over its target. This project introduced us all to a new rule set that completely turned the original game on its head (quite literally) and not only that it introduced us to more Creatures, more Artifacts, more Elemental gods three part dragons, more Promos and Postcard/ Player aides which when revealed added more powers and more twists and turns.
So here we are currently 3 campaigns over 200 cards Replayability by the bucket load untold numbers of combinations of cards. This is one game that will take a long time to master just when you think you have a great strategy along comes your 8 year old son (yes that same one who was playing EMBER over a year ago) and conjures a card then uses it in a way you had not thought of scuppering your victory dance and winning for himself. There is no 1 strategy wins all in this game. Do you try to conjure creatures to burn through the deck to get the cards you want? Do you set your sights on a Dragon God with which to destroy? Or do you just sit tight slowly building forces for a sudden surge using your tutor’s hidden power? All these strategies and many more are at your disposal. YET at its heart it is still that beautifully drawn and imagined gentle set collection game only now it has teeth and they can be sharp.
This is definitely one game I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone. Be they 7 to 70 there is quickness and simplicity to the rules that makes it easy to understand but at the very same time has enough strategy for almost all gamers. There is also a very solid solo play mode which keeps me coming back for more.
Rate me up then.
Ratings are tricky because they are subjective. I will use a rating out of 5 where 1 is not for me/ I did not like and 5 is I will play this a lot.
At a games night for some serious game time? 4/5
Family game time with younger players, or less experienced gamers? 5/5
Home alone, ordered pizza delivery, solo blitz? 4/5
Authors EDIT: Four years have passed since I wrote this review. I still play and more importantly enjoy EMBER from time to time with my son (now almost 13). While it does not get to the table as much as it did when I wrote this review I am still the proud owner of a complete set of EMBER containing every card or promo ever produced. I have chosen not to edit any scores as they were true at the time of writing and to a degree still are valid even if the number of regular plays has dropped off considerably.