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Reviews - Summoner Wars: Cloaks & Jungle Elves
 
by Lee Valentine


Cloaks & Jungle faction packsCloaks and Jungle Elves Faction Packs for Summoner Wars
Published by Plaid Hat Games
Designed by Colby Dauch
Contents: 35 cards per Faction Pack
$9.95 each

Cloaks and Jungle Elves are two Faction Packs for Summoner Wars ("SW"), the card-based tactical wargame by Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games. Each of these introduces a new army to the game. Each comes without the dice, map, rules, and tokens required to play the game, so you will have to own one of the original two-deck boxed sets to use these.

This review assumes readers have a basic understanding of the Summoner Wars main game. If you need a refresher course, you can refer to my full review.

Gameplay
Both of these decks, and particularly the Cloaks deck, are more tactically flexible and more difficult to play than some of the decks that come in the two-player starter sets. The Cloaks have a number of unique abilities.

Thief cardThe Thief units, for example, force your opponent to discard a card from his hand onto your Magic pile each time a Thief lands in his back row (they then jump to another spot on the board next to one of your walls). Initially I thought this was a fairly modest ability, but some unsuspecting players may discard all the chaff in their hands during their Build Magic phases to save up to play one of their Champions on the following turn. If your opponent's best Champion is the only card in his hand, a Thief can really change the game. Both the Scrappers and the Gunners offered up some useful movement-related abilities. The Champions of the Cloaks come at costs of 4-6, making for a nice range of tactical options. On the cheaper side, Violet is capable of making ranged attacks that hit every unit between her and her target. On the more expensive side, Dagger (possibly named after the comic book duo Cloak and Dagger) can deliver a devastating five dice Backstab attack when he gets into proper position. Vlox, the Summoner of the Cloaks, can copy any power of any active Cloak, making him tactically versatile. The "Cloak of Shadows" Event is the secret weapon of the Cloaks; it makes one of your units extremely difficult to damage, allowing for some daring tactical plays.

Lioneer cardThe Jungle Elves deck combines hard-hitting champions with volatile, but extremely fast forces. In my first game playing the Jungle Elves I managed to get units in position to attack the enemy Summoner in the first few minutes of the game. I've never seen this kind of maneuverability out of any other faction in SW, so this was definitely a change of pace. The Lioneers featured the "Rider" ability, allowing them to make a special move like a rook in chess, covering vast open territory on a single turn. Other than the Lioneers, most of the Jungle Elves units were easy to dispatch, primarily useful for a quick strike or two before being eliminated. Among these weaker units, the Lioness units – female counterparts of the Lioneers – do not count toward your normal allotment of units you can move, allowing you to deploy many units at the same time. The Jungle Elves Champions, however, are all fairly expensive (one costs eight Magic Points to Summon), but each can be devastating. You can put out a lot of early pressure with this faction, but it lags in the middle of the game when many of your lesser units have been destroyed and you are scrambling to generate the hefty sums of magic needed to bring out your Champions. One of those Champions is an animated tree (a jungle Ent), a true force to be reckoned with, literally crushing lesser foes just by walking around. I really found the Event cards available in this deck to be enjoyable. Some are tactically direct like healing your units and moving them for free. Other Events are subtler, like swapping two of your units, or turning off the abilities of enemy units. Overall, this was a fun deck to play. Some of the early strategy is easy to adapt to, but when your starting units suffer casualties from every nick and scratch your opponent can deliver, you will have to be clever to survive long enough to bring out your Champions.

Components and Packaging
The cardstock used for these cards was good, but the coating on the backs of some cards felt a little rough. While I liked the art in the Jungle Elves, some pieces of art in the Cloaks showed an obvious tendency of the artist to flood-fill in large sections of some art with gray, detracting from the depth and quality of these images.

Each of these decks is in a small, full-color tuck-box. Unfortunately, I was unable to open the tops of these boxes without tearing them slightly. I was forced to open and close them from the bottom.

Conclusions
Both of these decks are good additions to a SW player's arsenal. I found the Jungle Elves deck more interesting to play, as I found that the ebb and flow of the faction creates a lot of suspense as to whether or not I would win. Both of these factions offer interesting movement options that help minimize my primary complaint about SW – units often die within one step of where they were Summoned. While I think these are harder decks to play well than some of the starter deck factions, they will still be fun for Summoner Wars fans of all skill levels.

For Retailers
If Summoner Wars starter sets sell for you, then these are worth considering bringing into your shop. The price is definitely right. As with the Reinforcement Packs, you may have an additional concern if you care to display these on a pegboard. While the decks do have a hang hole tab, the hole is appreciably smaller than on some other card boxes.

Lee's Ratings:
Overall: B+ for Jungle Elves, B for Cloaks
Gameplay: A- for the Jungle Elves, B+ for the Cloaks
Packaging: B (the tuck boxes I received did not open easily without tearing)
Appearance: B+ for the Jungle Elves, B for the Cloaks
Components: B+ (overall good quality)
Rules Clarity: A for the Jungle Elves, B+ for the Cloaks (there was one slightly vague card)
Retailer Salability: B- (substantially higher if your store actively supports organized play for Summoner Wars)

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