In Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, a two-player expandable card game, players take on the roles of Phoenixborns, demi-gods and protectors of this world. These characters are the great saviors of their civilizations. Before they came into existence, the humans were plagued by monsters like chimeras that took away their lands and forced them to live in walled-off cities. When the Phoenixborns came, they fought off the chimeras and freed the lands for humans to take over once again.
But the time of peace was short-lived. A prophecy arose that if one Phoenixborn was able to absorb enough Ashes of others, they would ascend into full gods and take mastery over this world. This, as well as humans' greed for land, fueled the War of Ashes. The great cities now fight among each other, each one of them with a Phoenixborn at its helm, and you will decide who will rise and who will fall to ashes.
Each player controls a Phoenixborn and a 30-card deck of spells and units, plus 10 dice that serve as magical resources and have powers of their own. Each Phoenixborn can be wounded and has a certain number of life points, and a player wins by being the last Phoenixborn standing.
The game takes place round-by-round, with each player going back and forth taking just one main action and possibly a side action per turn, until both players pass, triggering the end of that round and the start of a new one.
At the beginning of a round, each player can keep or get rid of unused cards from their hand and dice from the previous round before drawing up to 5 cards and re-rolling dice so that they have a fully-equipped 10-die pool.
Each turn, players get one main action. That action can be used to play certain cards, to activate certain cards already in their play area, or to attack an opposing unit or Phoenixborn with their units.
When a player attacks, they choose a single target and push forward a set of unexhausted units already in their battlefield to attack with. If the target is a Phoenixborn, the defender can either take the damage or block with any number of their own unexhausted units. Blocking units may either simply take the damage and remain unexhausted for future turns, or counter, dealing damage themselves but becoming exhausted.
If the target is a unit, the defender may either simply have the unit take that damage and perhaps be destroyed, counter-attack with that unit, or block with their Phoenixborn, taking the damage onto themselves.
Cards have costs to play (often including your Main Action, spending dice, or placing an exhaustion token on that card), and have various effects depending on their type:
Ready Spells: These go into your spellboard and have effects that can be activated again and again as long as they remain on your spell board. Some summon conjurations onto your battlefield, and some can also be focused with additional copies of the spell to lessen their cost or enhance their effect.
Action Spells: These have an effect (after you pay the action/dice cost) and then go to the discard pile.
Reaction Spells: These spells do not cost a main or side action, but do usually cost dice, and must be played at the time designated on the card to trigger their effect. They then go to the discard pile.
Ally Units: These are cards which go onto your battlefield to attack or have other effects this turn and future turns, as long as they remain on the battlefield.
Alteration Spells: These cards are often attached to other cards already played by you or even by your opponents, having effect for good or ill.
Side actions can be used to play or trigger certain cards as well, to improve your dice, or to spend dice for actions inherent to certain die results.
Once all players pass in a round, usually due to being low on dice, cards, and unexhausted resources, units who can recover do so, exhausted cards have one exhaustion token removed, and the next round begins with a fresh hand of 5 cards and 10 dice rolled and ready to go.