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Ashes: Attacking and Defending

Attackers, guards, countering, and the death of the Phoenixborn

Welcome to Ashes: Coal Week at PlaidHatGames! Each week, all week long, we’ll take a look at a different Phoenixborn and their suggested deck builds. The goal of these articles is to introduce you to the cards found in the base game, as well as the strategies of each of the pre-built decks. On Mondays we will cover the general dynamics of gameplay. Check out Maeoni week from last week!

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!

Hello Everyone!

Today I are going to talk about the two different ways of attacking in Ashes. Ashes offers players some unique choices when it comes to getting into to battle. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and offer your opponent some different ways to counter your attack.

Attacking a Phoenixborn

Your goal in Ashes is to kill the opponents' Phoenixborn. Attacking the Phoenixborn, therefore, is one of the options when attacking. Attack a Phoenixborn by following these simple steps:

  1. Declaring Attackers: Simply choose at least 1 unexhausted unit to attack with. When declaring attacker you don't have to attack with all of your units since during a round you could attack multiple times. Understanding who to choose to attack with, when to attack with a swarm of units, or when to attack with just one is a key to victory. So don't feel that you have to charge with all of your units just because you can.
  2. Choose a Target: Now it's time to choose your target Phoenixborn for you units to attack. In a two player game the choice will be easy, but in a multiplayer game there will be more targets for you to select from.
  3. Declare Blockers: Here is where your targeted opponent has a say in how the battle flows. They now choose whether to use any unexhausted units that they have on their battlefield to defend their Phoenixborn against your attackers. Each attacking unit can only be blocked by up to 1 blocker, so pay attention to how your opponent might pair up defenders to your attackers.
  4. Resolve Damage: Here is where the carnage happens. Each of your attackers deals their damage and then receives an exhaustion token. If a unit is blocked by an opponent's unit, the defender may choose to deal damage as well - this is called countering. If the defender to counter, they must place a exhaustion token on their unit as well. Damage between the two units happens simultaneously. If your attacking unit was not blocked, then it deals damage to the target Phoenixborn, who does not deal any damage back.

It is important to note that the attacking player chooses in which order battles take place. They can choose to have their unblocked units deal damage to the Phoenixborn first or have their blocked units battle blockers first. Control over the order can be important to how abilities trigger and can affect the other little battles in waiting.

Here is an example of the flow of Attacking a Phoenixborn in the Rulebook:

Attacking a Phoenixborn, part 1

Attacking a Phoenixborn, part 2

Attacking a Phoenixborn, part 3

Attacking a Phoenixborn, part 4

Your other option, after declaring attackers, besides attacking a Phoenixborn, is to attack a particular unit. Attacking a unit is similar to attacking a Phoenixborn, but there are a few differences you should be aware of.

  1. Declare Attackers: This step is exactly the same as the first step in the Attacking the Phoenixborn section.
  2. Choose Target: Here is where things change. Here your target will be a specific unit. This is a way to deal with a problematic unit on your opponent's battlefield.
  3. Declare a Guard: This step is the only way the defender can mess with your target (without a well-played reaction spell, anyway). They have 2 options. If they really want to protect their unit, they can use their Phoenixborn as a guard. All Phoenixborn have the ability to guard their units at this step, even if they are exhausted. Unexhausted units with the Unit Guard ability can also guard the targeted unit. If the defender chooses to defend with either their Phoenixborn or a guarding unit, the guard becomes the new target.
  4. Resolve Damage: Now that the final target has been determined, your attacking units will all total their damage and deal it to the defender. If the defender was a unit, the defender can now choose to deal the defending unit's damage back to the attackers. The difference here is that the unit can split its attack value among the attacking units in any way the defender chooses.

Here is an example of how Attacking a Unit works from the rulebook:

Attacking a Unit, Part 1

Attacking a Unit, Part 2

Attacking a Unit, Part 3

Attacking a Unit, Part 4

And that's how attacking works in Ashes! Figuring out the attack system was one of the hardest parts of developing Ashes. Originally, attacking a Phoenixborn was the only way you could attack. Then I switched it over to only Attacking units. Both ways worked, but problems kept arising with having only 1 option. It wasn't until a Google Hangout with my playtesters in which we discused the issues that a playtester suggested, "Hey why don't we use both?" Suddenly all the problems were solved! After that shift, the battle system offered all the versatility I wanted without adding a ton more rules or complexity.

If you guys want more details on the Ashes attack actions, download and read the Ashes rulebook.

Next week we will discuss placement, card cost, and utilizing your battlefield and spellboard limits.

Thanks for reading!


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

Click here to pre-order Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn and get a $15 pre-order discount as well as the Dimona Odinstar Promo Pack.

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