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DOALG preview review of Crown of Ash - A work of pure genius? Maybe...

Updated: Mar 2, 2023


Welcome to what might be a first for #DOALG as we have had the very first preview review of Crown of Ash by Card Noir (Richard Lawton). So, to say we are honoured and excited by this is an understatement! This is coming to Kickstarter very soon and you can sign up ahead of the launch now, so you don't miss it. Please remember we reviewed the early prototype and early rules.

Players: 1-4

Ages: 12+

​Game Time: 60/90mins

So, what is Crown of Ash?

Crown of Ash is a strategic worker placement and area control game for one to four players. Players take on the role of vengeful necromancers, ambitious to rebuild and conquer the kingdom by using loyal minions (workers) to do their bidding!

Typical Crown Of Ash game setup (4 player)
Typical Crown Of Ash game setup (4 player)

Minions can gather the alchemical resources needed to the raise powerful undead fighters to the ranks of your armies. They can build and improve structures to offer better resources and earn influence over the land. Or they can march your undead army into battle and seize control of other players' structures.


Over the 4 game rounds players will maximise their turns to earn the most influence points from the structures they control, the resource they possess and the fighters they raise. The player with the most influence at the end of the game will take control of the kingdom and rule for the rest of time.


Summary

Primarily it is a worker placement game, but...

What makes Crown of Ash different?

Well, it has elements of area control!

Like many areas control games, combat plays a major role in Crown of Ash and is key to gaining territory from other players. But the Combat has been specifically designed to remove the 'take-that' elements featured in many areas control games. Players are rewarded win or lose through the use of combat cards.


Each player has an identical set of 5 combat cards that bolster their attack score in battle, but also reward players for winning and compensate for losing. The weaker the combat card, the better the reward for winning. Often meaning that combat is nail-bitingly close. The stronger the combat cards is, the better the compensation for losing, avoiding the bad feelings of a hard loss but also making losing a viable strategy. It is this level of strategy that is key in Crown of Ash.


To give players more options on how to play, Crown of Ash also includes a AI player decks that can be used to play solo, but also added to 2 and 3 player games to buffer the conflict between players.


The AI decks are easy to use, but hard to predict, so make for formidable opponents. The AI acts just as any other player would, assigning their minions to worker spaces, attacking structures, raising fighters and gaining influence points. At the start of the AI's turn a dice is rolled to determine which regions of the board the AI interacts with. Then a card in the AI deck in flipped to reveal what action is taken. There are also 3 scales of difficulty allowing players to customise their experience further, which makes for some serious SOLO player challenges.



Gameplay


On a players turn, they each must assign a single minion to do their bidding; They perform the action associated, then at the end of their turn they (optionally) can raise a single Fighter if possible.


There are 4 actions that a minion can trigger, these are:

GATHER; Gain the resources needed to recruit powerful undead Fighters.

BUILD; To build and improve structures to offer better resources and earn additional Victory Points (VP).

BATTLE; March fighters into battle to take control of other players’ Structures.

REFRESH; Immediately take all used Combat Cards back into the player’s hand.


After placing a minion, at the end of their turn a player can raise a Single Fighter from the 6 available on the board by spending the resources shown on the card. These fighters represent a multitude of characters and detailed lore outlined in the game, and they are all beautifully illustrated.


Crown of Ash takes place over 4 rounds. A round ends once all players have completed assigning all of their minions. Victory points (VP) are then gained based on each controlled Structures and for the central citadel if occupied, this is the gritty part, BUT not essential to win the game, while taking the central structure and defeating the King, can still have GREAT game, we did for the 1st 2 games, but aptly soon started fighting for the central point after we became familiar with the mechanics of the game.


Players then retrieve all their minions from the board, resurrect any Fighters from their graveyard back to their hand and clear the buildable Structure tiles, ready to begin the next round. At the end of the 4th and final round, in addition to the controlled Structures and citadel, players also score VPs for their Fate Card and any resources on their player mat. the fate cards can vary based on resources gathered.


The winner is the player who has earned the most Victory Points, proving themselves worthiest Lord and seizing the crown to the Kingdom of Ash. In the result of a draw, the tied players add VP for the other two kinds of Fighters not shown on their Fate Card, which should indicate a winner.


One of the great things with 'Crown of Ash' is the combat to initiate combat a player places a minion onto a vacant combat space in an area controlled by another player and announces the fight to prepare your opponent for bloody and glorious combat.

Combat can only be initiated if the attacker has at least one Fighter in their hand to participate. The attacker selects up to 2 Fighters from their hand (up to 3 for the Citadel- Central area) and plays them face-down on the table for the defender to see. Note: The defender cannot add additional Fighters to the combat from their hand. Both attacker and defender then select a single Combat Card from their hand and place it face-down on the table. Both players then simultaneously reveal their cards and compare combined Attack Value of the Fighters and Combat Card. The winner is the player with the highest combined score, defender wins on a tie.


One of the Fighters from the Nox Alignment, there are 4 in total
One of the Fighters from the Nox Alignment, there are 4 factions in total. Nox, Visio, Nors & Fortis.

Defender Wins: If the defender wins, the attacker discards the attacking Fighters to their graveyard.

Attacker Wins: If the attacker wins, they gain control of the area attacked. The defender discards the defending Fighters to their graveyard. The attacker must move all attacking Fighters into the newly controlled area and exchanges the Control Token with their own to show control.

After battle both players resolve their Combat Cards: gaining the reward based on whether they won or lost the battle. Used Combat Cards are discarded face up in the middle of the owners player mat (these get refreshed the more you play combat cards, once you have NONE, you can then shuffle and draw a new full hand of combat cards) So tactical decisions MUST be made with WHAT cards and WHEN to use them, the rewards from the combat cards are what often define some of your decisions, you may purposefully choose to lose a region, because you want gold reward from your combat card etc.


Production

So, I have been watching the development of this game for quite some time,

I stumbled upon Richard Lawton's, Card Noirs- Instagram account probably over a year ago now and I was drawn into his artwork and graphic design hook line and sinker.

This may not always mean the game is any good, but if it looks good then you have my FULL attention.


I quickly arranged an online TTS demo of the game with Richard, and I totally fell in love with the game's mechanics and the overall production value of the game. I was given a copy of the production version of the game at UK Games Expo this year to do the review and I was overwhelmed by the quality of the production copy... probably the best prototype EVER. The finish and quality were very impressive, and I can't wait to see what the final version is like!



Conclusion

So, what is it that I like about this game? Is it the innate twist made to the classic worker placement engine? maybe or is it the charm and theme of the game? maybe this has had an impact, but overall, its ALL of it, the finely tuned solo AI gameplay (still being tweaked) alongside all of the afore mentioned points, all make this not just a GREAT game, but a replay able game.


​​​Replay ability:

​This is VERY real world replay able, the theme and concept of area control means no 2 games are the same, especially with more players.


Production Value:

​The best I have ever seen in a prototype, how can this be improved? I mean seriously??


Theme: ​Love love love the theme, colourful, striking and vivid just what you want in a worker placement area control game.


Complexity:

​Not overly complex, the AI solo mode took a little to get my head round, but overall fairly straight.


Rules:

​One of the nicest written rule books I have seen in a while, visual examples are spot on, and it written clearly and precisely.


​Uniqueness:

​Unsure how unique this is, but the theme has been executed well and established firm individuality which in tern should make this pretty unforgettable.


Value:

​Excellent value, without a doubt. the multiplayer version is by far very well polished and has one of the best SOLO AI modes I have experienced in this genre.


So overall for me I give Crown of Ash a 6/6 on the D6 scale. The game is phenomenal and without a doubt a game of 2023 in my mind. Need I say any more? TOP SCORES from me, if you don't back it, you'll have extreme FOMO when you see someone else with it! The table presence and impact does a lot for this game, the fact that the board is double sided is incredible.

Thanks to Richard for providing us with amazing images of the game.


I genuinely can't pick which side of the board is my fav, and I am so thankful to Richard for allowing us early access to preview #CrownOfAsh


We hope your as excited about this as we are.. make sure you join us for the live switch on of the Kickstarter with Richard Lawton and special guest Grant Lyon - in the meantime you can check on the KS here




Your friendly DoaLG Founder & Talent


Mr Chris



Are you going to back this?

  • Yes... Yes.. Yes!!!

  • Err let me check it out more before I back it.


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