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Ashes: The Phases of Play

The Phoenixborn Rise with our first preview article!

Ashes: Rise of the PhoenixbornWelcome to our Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn preview series! Each week, all week long we'll take an in-depth look at one of the six Phoenixborn of Argaia, including cards, strategy, and their backstory. Mondays will kick off each week with an overview of some of the general gameplay dynamics of Ashes. Tune in tomorrow as we dive in with a look at Maeoni and her Silver Snakes.

Ashes is available for pre-order at the store. Pre-order today from our site and get $15 off the retail price! Order from and get a free Dimona Odinstar promo Phoenixborn, along with her exclusive Rayward Knight ally!

Good day everyone!

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the game as well as the characters and cards you'll get in the box, this is great opportunity to learn about how Ashes works. So let's get started!

Understanding the Phases of Play


Ashes is fun back-and-forth rumble between two or more players controlling magical demigods known as Phoenixborn. In Ashes, players will battle through a number of rounds. Each round is divided into phases:

Phase #1: Prepare

In this phase, players gain the resources and cards that they can play during the round. You will start off by rolling your magic dice.

Dice and dice reference cardsThroughout each round you will be spending these dice to play and activate card effects as well as to use the dice's own built-in powers. These Dice Power Reference Cards remind a player of those powers and help separate each player's active dice pool on the left from their exhausted dice pool on the right.

After you've rolled your dice, you'll discard cards you don't want and then draw cards into your hand until you have 5. At the start of the game you'll likely skip this step since you get to choose your first 5 cards.

This is called the First Five, one of my favorite mechanics in the game. This mechanic allows players to jump into the game with their intended strategy and helps gives them control over the actions they have available to them throughout the course of the game. 

Phase #2: Player Turns

The Player Turns Phase is where the meat of the game lies. This is where you will perform actions and try to destroy your foe! Each player will get the chance to perform 1 main action and 1 side action per turn. Once they have, their turn is over and the next player's turn begins.

Main Actions (Main Action Symbol)

There are 4 different types of main actions you can perform. During each of your turns you must perform 1 of these main actions.

(1) Pay a Main Action Symbol cost: Most cards that you play will require a main action be taken to play or activate that card. Seeing the Main Action Symbol symbol on those cards will let you know that that effect will require you to spend your main action for the turn. Most main actions you take will be a result of playing or activating cards.  

(2) Attack a Phoenixborn or (3) Attack a Unit: In Ashes you have two different ways to attack with your units. After selecting either a single unexhausted unit or a group that will attack, you can target an opponent’s Phoenixborn, or a specific unit. These main actions have a few more steps that are involved that we'll dive deeper into in next Monday's article.

(4) Pass: If you cannot perform any of the other main actions, or choose not to perform any of the other main actions, you must pass as your main action. Passing does not mean you're out of the round for good. If it gets back to your turn you always have an option of performing other main actions. Passing can be used strategically to see what your opponent will do before you move forward. Knowing when to pass and when not to can be something that can give you an interesting edge during game play.

Side Actions (Side Action Symbol)

Side actions are also available during your turn, either before or after your main action. Unlike main actions, you're not required to perform a side action each turn.

Pay a Side Action Symbol cost: Like main actions, some cards require a side action to play or activate. The Side Action Symbol symbol will let you know that the effect will require you to spend your side action for the turn. A majority of Phoenixborn abilities require you to use your side action; these abilities are critical so remember to stay aware of them!

Meditate: Meditating allows you to discard cards to change the facings of your dice. This side action is handy when you need to change dice to pay for other abilities. You have 3 different options as to where you can discard cards from: your hand, your draw pile, or your spellboard. Whenever you take this side action you can discard as many cards as you want to change as many dice as you want. During most games you will rarely use all of the cards in your deck, so using a meditate side actions here and there won't be a big deal. But be careful, because some decks (like Saria's) prey on your cards. So use this side action sparingly if you notice your opponent is after your supply!

Activate a Dice Power Ability: Dice powers offer handy little abilities that can really give you an edge in certain situations. All dice powers cost a Side Action Symbol (side action) and their power symbol to activate.

After you have taken your turn, play passes clockwise. Players will continue taking turns until all players have consecutively passed as their main action. When that happens the player turns phase is over and the players move into the recovery phase.


Phase #3: Recovery

The Recovery Phase is your chance to regroup and your units' chance to rest up. The Recovery Phase is broken up into 4 steps:

Recover: Some units will be able to heal by using their recovery value. During this step you will be able to remove a number of wound tokens from each unit in play up to that unit’s recover value.

Remove Exhaustion: Throughout the game you will be exhausting cards in order to activate them. This step allows you to remove 1 exhaustion token from each card in play that has them, so that you can use these cards in the next round. It is possible however for cards to have more than 1 exhaustion token on them and thus they could still be exhausted at the beginning of the next round.

Exhaust Dice: Sometimes you may not use all of your dice during the player turns phase. Each player may move any number of dice from their active pool into their exhausted pool. The reason you'll want to do this is so you can re-roll them in the next round for a possible better result. You can also choose to keep dice for the next round that are on a side that you desire.

Pass The First Player Token: Now that these steps are done, pass the first player token and then move on to a new round.

Games will continue like this until there is only 1 player left with their Phoenixborn alive. Most games last about 3 to 4 rounds and are around 15 to 20 min long per player once players have a handle on how the game functions.

Next week I'll go over Attacking, including why there are two different types of attacks, and how to use each type to your advantage.

In the meantime, come back tomorrow for an introductory article about the Phoenixborn Maeoni Viper written by Ashes lead playtester Bob Klotz. Bob has an deep understanding of the game and will give you guys a interesting overview of each of the Phoenixborns and their suggested deck builds as these previews continue over the next few weeks.

If you have any questions about the game feel free to comment below or email us at [email protected] as we are always happy to answer any questions about the game you may have.

Also, we invite you to download the rulebook and learn more about the game.

Thank you guys so much for reading! I am super excited about Ashes' release and its potential as another great Plaid Hat game. I have a ton of cool stuff in mind for the future of Ashes, and your early support will help make those dreams a reality. Click here to pre-order Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn and get the $15 pre-order discount as well as the Dimona Odinstar Promo Pack. 

Wishing you all the best in life and gaming!


Game Overview Previews: Phases of Play, Attacking/Defending, Placement, Card Types, Dice Powers, Multiplayer and Drafting
Maeoni Previews
: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Coal Previews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Saria Previews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Noah Previews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Jessa Previews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Aradel Previews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Written by Isaac Vega, designer of Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn and other Plaid Hat Games (Dead of Winter, BioShock, City of Remnants, and Video Game High School)

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