Each faction in Crayne: Fractured Empire has has a unique focus and play-style. When playing Crayne with an experienced group, all factions can play well and winning games largely comes down to luck (what comes out in the market) and a player's ability to change strategy midgame. In a game of Crayne, it's typcial for a player to focus on collecting one or two main factions throughout play.
Whilst a lot of care has been taken to ensure all factions are balanced there are some factions that have a competitive edge over others. This is partically true when playing games with new players as some factions are very easy to play and others are more difficult.
In addition, some factions seem a bit lack-luster, but when combined with another faction, or a smattering of other cards that compliment their play-style, they can become very good.
Ranking factions, therefore, is a difficult task. You must take into account the overall strength of the faction and balance it with the various strategies, combinations, luck required and the difficulty of play. Here is my ranking of the base-game factions from most powerful to least powerful.
Knights of Kalimas
Knights form the top tier in the original base game. Their main mechanic, influence gain, is instantaneous and very difficult to counter (currently). In addition the faction itself is VERY easy to play. When I see new people playing Crayne, the winning player is generally the one collecting more Knights than the other players. Even in experienced games, however, knights still usually pull ahead of the pack, easily giving this faction the highest ranking.
Demons of the Rift
The demons are very aggressive and particularly difficult to counter if they manage to get
synergenistic cards early. Despite having some of the (auguably) worst ranked high-level cards in the game, Demons have a very solid, aggressive mid-section and easily the two best starting cards. The main Demon mechanic, sacrifice, is the most powerful mechanic. This mechanic enables you to closely optimise your deck and potentially play a near-perfect hand every round. The faction itself is reasonable easy to play but slightly more challanging to get right compared to the Knights. In addition, if you sacrifice too early in the game it can go very wrong for the player.
Mages of Illiban-Sina
The Mages have the most powerful combinations. These combinations are both fun and very easy to pull off. Between the Reanimator, Polymorph and Archmage cards it's very easy to have a Colossal Golem or Master Shapeshifter EVERY ROUND, giving the player solid stats and the ability to choose to be aggressive or defensive. It can take a little while to set up this strategy but is very difficult to lose once you do.
Servants of the Baron
The undead have a lot of cards that are quite underpowered at first glance. This faction makes
up for this flaw by being able to easily purchase cards from The Pit. This greatly increases the player's buying options enabling them to purchase a large number of undead for massive combos. In addition several undead cards allow the player to completely ignore Strongholds for a round, making the Servants very strong against factions that rely on Strongholds for defense. Finally the Servants are the only faction that can purchase ANY card from The Pit making them a great addition to use alongside any other faction. Unfortunately their "raise dead" ability can be countered fairly easily by the Knights a mechanic found on several Knights cards, making match ups against Knights frustrating.
Free Elves of Springlake
The Elves are a very defensive race. Their main mechanic, draw and discard (cycling), is powerful and gives a similar results to the Demons sacrifice ability. Cycling gives the player many options and can allow a player to completely forgo the need to sacrifice their trade carts. Don't like a card in your hand, play an elf and watch it go away (for now). Cycling can make your purchasing a little complicated though, especially if you are closely counting your cards and you unexpectedly have to play an elf card and draw another one. This can kill your discard pile (and your discounts) and leave you unable to purchase cards. The main flaw of the faction is actually it's defensive power. You can easily have rounds where you stack way too much defense and it goes wasted. This will typically be followed by a round with insufficient defence. Your opponents can whittle you down on your non-defensive rounds, whilst you struggle to take them down due to your lack of strong attacking cards.
Dwarves of Emerald Peaks
It's really hard to rank the Dwarves. By themselves they are a terrible faction that is difficult to
play well and strongly lacks attack even if you have the Mightly Cannon. That said Dwarves are very strong in the early game and a favourite of new player due to their ability to easily purchase powerful cards and dominate the market. Unfortunately this extra revenue becomes less important in midgame and almost worthless in the endgame. Dwarves can be great though when paired with other factions, particularly aggressive factions such as Demons, Greenskins and Mages. Dwarves typically need strong cards from other factions in order to play well so their effectiveness largely depends what other factions are being played. Finally, if paired with a defensive faction, particularly the Knights, games can become very long and even end in a stalemate.
Malrathian's Chosen (Deep Elves) can certainly win games and be a powerful faction, but they are very difficult to play well. The faction requires the player to have a good idea on how to use the cards optimally. To unlease their most disruptive effects requires good timing, a bit of luck and a lot of cunning. In the right hands, the Deep Elves can be very frustrating to deal with as your carefully made plans go out the window.
Greenskins of Chak
One of my favourite factions and sadly the least powerful. This faction requires the player to
focus almost entirely on collecting Greenskins, generally excluding other factions. They are also an aggressive faction, meaning you must take out your opponents quickly if you want to win. This requires a bit of luck because you NEED to get the right cards from the market. If the market has a lot of Greenskins in it to begin with, or the player starts with one or two Cunning Sappers (who can cultivate an ideal market plentiful in Greenskin cards), then it might be worthwhile going "full green". Unfortunately, even in ideal scenarios where you get a lot of good cards early, you are not guarenteed a win; the cards themselves are lacking a little strength. That said, pulling of sick combinations and smashing your opponents into the ground with Greenskins is VERY satisfying.
So there it is: my faction rankings. How do you feel about the rankings? Got anything to add?