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Expansion Review – Arcane Fire

arcanefireIt is not easy to get my wife to be seriously interested in a card game. The last time she really wanted to play a CCG with me, the game was Doomtown. And not the Reloaded version, but the old one that actually had a lot of cards to choose from. So when she keeps asking me to play Romance of the Nine Empires, it’s not hard to figure out why that’s my new favorite game.

Recently, she has been after me to build new decks using the Arcane Fire expansion box. This thing is chock-full of cards, the way an expansion should be. There are more than enough cards to build a variety of decks for either of the new factions, or to simply augment the decks you already have with loads of new, cool cards with wild new effects. Some of those effects will only be useful if you have a specific strategy in mind, and then others will be big winners all the time. But the real reason you want to get Arcane Fire is to get your hands on those two new groups.

Me, I’m partial to the Magocracy of Arcanix. I like to flood the field with cheap guys and just pour on the heat, overwhelming through sheer numbers even against a superior foe. And the Arcanix handle that like a champ, because once you get a mage in play, you can summon cheap guardians like they were going out of style. And you would think these cheap guys would be weak and underpowered, like magical cannon fodder, but they’re actually serious ass-kickers on a budget. The only catch is that summoning these guys requires a mage, and then that guy is spent for the turn, so you have to plan ahead a little. Or you can use the apprentice chump, who is crazy cheap to summon and then conveniently dies to make your guardian summons really quite affordable.

It is possible to summon guardians with clans other than the Arcanix, but it’s not as convenient. Their superpower lets you save a couple bucks when you’re bringing out the big guns, and while other factions might have the mages they need to make this work, they’re going to go broke in the process. This makes the Arcanix a seriously imposing force – lots of guys means lots of chances to attack, to raid, or to defend. Stack the little suckers three deep and even the most dangerous enemy heroes are going to have to consider whether they really want to defend that castle, or if you can just have it if you’ll go home and quit your nattering.

The Tuatha bring a completely different strategy to the table. These are fae, which is a short word for faeries, which is no longer an acceptable pejorative for homosexuals and I don’t want to hear anyone around here demeaning anyone. Except you, Bob. Everyone knows you have it coming.

The Tuatha are decent fighters, so they could probably hold their own against some of the more militant decks, though they do lack numbers. These guys are kind of expensive, especially if you want the heroes who do what the Tuatha do best – duel.

Duelling is new in Arcane Fire. Sort of. See, there are dudes in the base game of Romance of the Nine Empires who can duel, but until Arcane Fire came out, nobody knew what the rules were. And it turns out, dueling is pretty darn awesome. What happens is that you can play a card that forces one hero on the other team to fight one hero on your team, and then if your guy is Tuatha, you probably just kill him. That’s pretty awesome, and it’s a nice way to control the proliferation of enemy troops. These guys don’t do much raiding or attacking castles or what-not, at least not as much as other groups, but they are amazing at up and killing the crap out of people who bother you. Dueling is also a nice way to make your opponent run through his cards, incidentally.

So I love Arcane Fire, but I should offer some hesitation in case you were just about to run right out and pick it up without giving it a second thought. There are lots of new cards in the box, but no indication of how you should use them. In other words, you get two new factions, but no suggested deck list. I would really have loved to have that. I don’t always want to spend two hours building a deck. Heck, I don’t USUALLY want to spend two hours building a deck. I much prefer to just grab a deck and start playing. I know some people love crafting a deck, but I’m not one of those people.

This isn’t a huge problem, to be honest. It took us about five minutes on Google to find some fan-made deck lists, and that included having to pause to watch a cat wearing a costume and riding a vacuum cleaner. My Arcanix deck kind of sucked because I just whipped it up myself, but the Tuatha deck we found at BGG was bad-ass. I really should have fine-tuned the Arcanix a little, but like I said before, I just like playing.

The bigger problem comes in the fact that I would really have liked them to include a couple more motte and bailey cards. This seems like a nitpicky complaint, but since every deck gets one of these cards, it means building new decks requires dismantling old ones. No, this is still not a huge problem. But I’m not always sure what I will feel like playing next, and it sucks to have to spend twenty minutes fixing the Ord just because I wanted to play Arcanix last time.

The complaints with Arcane Fire really are very minor, though. The expansion comes with a few new cards teasing to some new factions, and I really hope AEG has enough confidence in Romance of the Nine Empires to make sure we get that set, too. Finding a game my wife will ask to play is rare enough; finding one that I enjoy this much, and that packs this much fun and variety in the box – well, that’s close to being miraculous.

Summary

2 players (or more. There’s plenty of cards for bigger games)

Pros:
Two new factions that are very different and very fun
Loads of new cards to tweak your favorite decks from the base game
Teasers for new factions make me want even more cards

Cons:
No deck lists
Have to dismantle old decks to make new ones

Coolstuff only has five of these great expansions left. This is how expansions should be made, so if you’re a fan of Romance of the Nine Empires, you should probably run over and grab one of these before they’re gone:

VIRTUALLY RUN, NOT ACTUALLY RUN

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