So, as many of you know by reading my original Summoner Wars Review, I really love Summoner Wars. Because of this, as soon as I heard about the Summoner Wars: Master Set, I was very eager to pick up a copy. (NOTE: The link is to Plaid Hat Games' Store, which is the only place I currently know of where you can get a copy of the Master Set.)
Normally in reviews of expansions, I write about the major changes that are introduced in the set. However, since the Master Set doesn't really change anything about the rules of Summoner Wars (at least, not that I noticed), I will instead focus on the races and contents of the box. I am assuming that you have already read the original Summoner Wars review that I linked to, and I will not be rehashing the pros and cons of the Master Set (since they are the same) as I normally do in my reviews.
The Master Set includes 6 races (who will be addressed later), the premium gameboard, and is setup to be able to easily hold all of your armies. What's more, it has all of this for only $50. Previously to get into Summoner Wars, you had to buy a two-player starter set for $25, which came with a fairly pitiful fold-out game board (and to buy the premium board you had to pay another $15). Plus, to get more armies, you had to buy faction packs for $10 each. Therefore, to get 6 armies and the premium game board, you were looking at paying $80. And now, it's only $50. Right there, I could already stop writing this review (and assume you read the original review already), and you should all be convinced to go buy the game. Instead, for your reading enjoyment, I will write about the races.
Mountain Vargath: This race (looking somewhat like minotaurs) is the most straightforward, easy race to play with. Play lots of units, charge, pound on your opponent. Most of their units have abilities that are pretty easy to capitalize on; abilities that do things like give you an extra die when you're attacking on your opponent's side of the board. Like I said, get close and pummel your adversaries. I really enjoy using this race, and it is also very convenient to give to a new player.
Deep Dwarves: This race could also be known as the Magicians. Most everything that they do causes you to use magic. Fortunately, their Summoner has a special ability that allows them to take the top card from the Discard Pile and put it on your Magic pile (but then you can only use one unit to attack that round). They have a bit of a learning curve in seeing how they can fit together, but once a player learns to use them, they can be incredibly effective. One of their units (Scholar), specifically, has a Strength of 0. However, for 1 Magic, you can cause every unit that attacks an enemy that happens to be adjacent to a Scholar to attack with an extra die. Therefore, they are able to attack with 1 if you use their ability (since, by definition, as a melee unit they are adjacent to whoever they would be attacking) - or, more usefully, your other units are able to attack with 2, 3, or 4 dice. This is a quick way to slaughter an opposing Summoner.
Benders: Also known as "Sheer Awesomeness in a Bottle" (my term). First of all, you must make sure that nobody ever gets very close to your units - none of them are melee, and they all have hitpoints in accordance with that (such as Champions with 3 or 4 hitpoints). However, they are all able to attack at range effectively, and their abilities are phenomenal. Things like Stun, "Common enemy Units that begin a turn adjacent to this Deceiver cannot move or attack during that turn." One Champion can also force a Common units to attack twice in a turn. And another Champion can capture any opposing unit that he dealt the final blow to (even Champions!). These guys can be a lot of fun to play.
Sand Goblins: This is an interesting mix of what you would expect traditional "Sand People" and Goblins to do. For example, they have Camouflage, which states "This Javelineer cannot be attacked by non-adjacent Units." That is fairly standard for a "Sand Person." However, they definitely have a Goblin flavor; one of their Champions, accurately named "Biter" has an ability called "Crazed" which doesn't allow him to move if he is adjacent to an enemy. Another traditional Goblin character is the "Scavenger", which takes destroyed cards and puts them under himself as protection instead of sending them to your magic pile. These aren't my favorite race to play, but, they can't all be favorites, or it loses it's meaning, now doesn't it? They are still a very solid race.
Shadow Elves: Who said that elves were wimps? Oh right - most fantasy books that I have ever read say that. Fortunately, these Elves come with their friend the "Hydrake", which destroys everything. Everything. He has 3 attack dice, but he can attack each enemy unit that he is adjacent to. Oh, and he also has 8 health. As for the rest of the Elves, they have some interesting abilities but the general strategy is to hang back and shoot at your opponents - and choose the most opportune time to charge in and strike. They are well designed to truly have both a traditional "Shadow" and "Elf" feel to them.
Swamp Orcs: Last but not least are the Swamp People. They have a special card called a "Vine Wall". This annoying thing (my opponent normally plays with this race instead of me - hence things that they are able to do are very annoying) starts sprawling it's way across the battlefield. This serves two purposes. First, Swamp Orcs can be spawned just about anywhere (after all, there are Vine Walls everywhere, and you only have to spawn next to a Wall). Second, it drastically hinders the movement of all other players (who have to roll to move their units across Vine Walls), while improving the abilities of the Swamp Orcs (they often get bonuses for being adjacent to a Vine Wall or for moving over a Vine Wall). This is a very interesting new way of strategizing in Summoner Wars, and because of this I am very pleased that they were included in the set.
Overall, I give the Summoner Wars: Master Set a 9.0/10. If you love Summoner Wars (and if you don't, why did you really read all the way down to here?) then you should definitely look to buy this set. It is definitely worth the money, and it is also a very good way of storing all of your old Summoner Wars sets (though the box is a bit bulky).
I would like to thank Plaid Hat Games for providing me with a demo copy of the Summoner Wars: Master Set.