After hearing lots of hype about Summoner Wars (which has two base sets: Elves v. Orcs and Dwarves v. Goblins), I finally had the opportunity to play the game (special thanks to Danny in Tulsa for teaching me this game).
In Summoner Wars, each player takes on the role of a race that is led by a Summoner (hence the name), and the object of the game is to kill your opponent's Summoner. On any given turn, you will draw cards, summon new cards, play events, move, attack (killing your opponents gains you extra magic), and (optionally) discard cards to turn them into magic. This continues back and forth until one player kills his opponent's Summoner. And then the person who has a Summoner left gets to do a happy dance... or whatever version of celebration he deems appropriate for winning a card game.
The first thing that I really enjoy about Summoner Wars is how the magic works. Whereas in almost every game I have ever played, you normally gain whatever currency you needed to play characters every round, in Summoner Wars you do not gain magic just because a new round has started. Instead, you are able to gain magic in one of two ways: first, you can kill your opponents, thus putting their dead unit into your magic pile (which I think is awesome); second, you can discard cards from your hand at the end of your turn to put them into your magic pile. Therefore, each round you must decide if the cards in your hand are important enough to keep, or whether they would serve you better as magic (you will never get them back - you only go through the deck once). In case you missed it earlier in the paragraph, you gain magic for killing your opponents. And that is awesome.
The next thing that I like about Summoner Wars (and every other game that does this well) is that each race has its own unique, well formed identity. Something that often annoys me about a game is when each player uses a different "race" (or "character" or whatever) and the only difference is that the pictures are different. I realize that it takes a lot more effort to balance a game where different factions work in completely unique ways, but Summoner Wars has done this. I haven't had the opportunity to play all of the races as much as I would like, but from what I have seen they all play out quite differently with varying strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. I really compliment the designer for doing a great job in bringing life to the playable races.
The third thing that I like about Summoner Wars is the speed and pace of the game. The game seems to take between 20-40 minutes, but there aren't really slow times in the game. Whereas many games (such as Magic, Race for the Galaxy, etc) have times where the game is fast paced and other times in players are building up to get ready for the action, Summoner Wars is constant action. You start the game with several units on the board, and you will have very few (if any) turns in which you don't fight each other. Units will die - often. But that's why you have more of them.
One thing to mention that is neither a pro nor a con about Summoner Wars is the expandability of the game. Either base set provides a player with all that they need to play the game. However, like with Heroscape, Warhammer: Invasion, and many other games recently, it appears that the marketing strategy for Summoner Wars is that they will provide you with everything you need to play the game in the hopes that you will continue buying more of their products and expanding your gaming experience. Honestly, I am of the mindset where I really like to buy the whole game in a box and then I have everything I need for that game. That I will ever need for that game. Realistically, most game companies seem to have gone away from this model due to the cost and risk of developing a new brand, and so I much prefer this marketing to the CCG random pack opening.
Another thing to note (this one I haven't decided if I like it or not) is the small deck size - approximately 30-35 cards. This keeps the game going very quickly since you are unable to gain new units once you run out of cards. However, it seems like the game may be a bit too short and may have been better with more turns. At the same time, having more cards means you would probably just spend more time going back and forth killing trivial minions instead of focusing on your opponent's Summoner. I don't really know my thoughts on this - like I said, I don't know how I feel about this part of the game, but I did think it was worth noting. I'm sure a lot of playtesting went into this, and I would guess that they considered making the deck bigger, and they must have decided for whatever reason that the smaller deck worked better... so I'll go with it.
Overall, I give Summoner Wars a 9.0/10. I was quite pleased with my time with the game, and I truly look forward to playing the game quite a bit more and seeing what options are available among all the different races, expansions, etc. I would highly recommend this game to most any gamer.
If you want to check out some more opinions on Summoner Wars, I'd recommend reading this Summoner Wars Review from Play Board Games, or another Summoner Wars Review by Games With Two. Or, if you want to check out more of my reviews, you should consider The Summoner Wars Master Set (obviously), but you might also try The Resistance, Yomi, and BattleCON.