I sensed a willingness in Matthew to play a game. He offered up something we could play with Jacob and Julie, but knowing Julie was busy with CASA work and Jacob having an unknown return time from umpiring baseball, I grabbed the two player game Summoner Wars off the shelf.
This game, the "master set" edition, is technically on my I played list because I had only played the original small box version (and the iOS version). Opening the box brought a smile to my face. The mounted glossy board is so much nicer than the folded paper board in the original. The many different faction decks, most unplayed, were also a nice surprise. Matthew chose the Tundra Orcs while I picked the Shadow Elves.
The orcs are strong but slow, the elves sneaky but easy to kill. Summoner Wars lets you cycle through your deck just once. Think of the decks as "all the army reserves you're gonna get". The game requires that you choose to discard useful cards into your Magic pile so that you will have resources for summoning on a later turn. Also, opponent creatures that you kill go into your own Magic pile, creating a strong incentive to be aggressive.
Matthew indeed was appropriately aggressive, killing my creatures on three of his first four turns. Fortunately for me I had an event card that put the killed creature in my own Magic pile ("that's a two magic point swing Bob!"). This gave me a strong leg up early with a big creature majority.
Still, I nearly managed to throw it all away. You see, the only goal in the game is to kill off the opponent Summoner (a buffed up boss type creature) that is the leader of the faction. I got too aggressive and went after his Summoner with mine. Next turn Matthew summons new critters that surround my Summoner and nearly kill him off. I survive the onslaught and brought my big dragon-like creature up to clear out his minions then killed his Summoner.
The game played in about 30 minute. Because it is easy to teach, quick to play, and great for replay I think this will have a permanent spot in my library. It is mostly a tactical game but strategy clearly enters the mix as you make tough choices in hand and deck management.