Published on April 30th, 2015 | by Justified Croak0
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer Review
Average play time per game: 2-4
Suitable for ages: 13+
Number of players: 2-4
Mechanics: Deck Building, Hand Management
If you love Dominion then you better sit down because I am about to change your world. Whilst Dominion (2008) was an incredible game often accredited with the creation of the now beloved deck building mechanic, inevitably it has been surpassed. With Ascension’s faster game play, quicker set up, stream lined rules and lets not forget monsters dominion is starting to look a little redundant. If there was ever an 8th wonder of the world, I am telling you it would be Ascension.
As well as being the greatest gift to humanity, Ascension is also a Deck building game Designed by Magic the Gathering professionals. Each player starts with an identical deck of basic cards. Players will attempt to acquire better cards for their deck and remove the weaker ones, whilst using their deck to beat down monsters. Through various processes of acquisition, players compete for honour (a victory resource) represented by awesome little plastic crystals. I am going to tell you now if you’re a card game geek then you have to play this game, shortly I am going to explain set up and game play, and then I will conclude by telling you that you have to get this game.
While ascension comes with a game board which has a turn reference on opposite edges and indicates where to stack the cards for greatest convenience, the use of this board remains entirely optional.
There really isn’t much to setting up this game – all part of it’s charm.
Each player receives one deck of starter cards. Starter decks always consist of 8 “Apprentice” cards and 2 “Militia” cards.
Take the “Mystic” cards, “Heavy Infantry” cards and the “Cultist” card and set them with in easy reach of all players in three separate piles.
Take the remainder of the cards (excluding any unused starting deck cards) and shuffle them together in to one pile and place in the centre of the play space.
From the centre deck reveal the top 6 cards and place them in a row next to the centre deck.
Place 30 honour tokens near the board for each player (eg. 3 players have a stash of 90 honour crystals available, where the larger red crystals are worth 5 honour and the smaller white worth 1 honour.
Each player shuffles their starting deck, draws 5 cards and a first player is designated.
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer uses two resources. Runes (often called mana) and power (often called fight). Each card in the centre row has a cost in runes or a power required to defeat it. Players will play the cards in their hand to gain runes or power to acquire or defeat cards in the centre row. Some cards also have an honour value which is used in end of game scoring. The honour value from cards and crystals are equivalent to Victory Points (VPs) in many other games,
There are three types of card in Ascension:
Hero cards which are one use cards; they are acquired with runes then placed straight in the owners discard pile to be played when you reshuffle and draw them into your hand. When played heroes give players a resource and/or effect and are then placed in your personal discard pile again (all of the starting deck cards are heroes).
Constructs are similarly acquired with runes and then placed in the owners personal discard pile, however once played constructs remain in a player’s play space. Constructs usually give a permanent benefit turn after turn, so long as that card remains in a player’s play area.
Monsters are the third type of card and are defeated using power. A player must generate an equal or higher value in power to defeat a monster. Once defeated a monster usually rewards a player with honour crystals and often other awesome effects and abilities before it is discarded in to the void (a central discard pile for the centre row)
Hero and construct cards also belong to a faction which tends to work in a certain play style and often work well with cards of the same faction. Players may acquire cards from any faction and there are no limitations as to what cards can work with or affect other cards.
Players may also buy a “mystic” or “heavy infantry” card which work as better versions of your starting cards. Buying a few of these in the first few rounds is often a good idea just to pump up your buying/punching power.
The cultist card mentioned earlier is brilliant. There is one cultist card in the game and he is always on display. This one card represents the endless stream of cultists running around Ascension fantasy land. Players may attack the cultist for the low cost of 2 power (usually using up left over power) for a quick honour point. Why is this brilliant? Because my play group decided there is only one cultist, and he is called Nigel. Nigel is punched in the face again, and again and again. For example “is use 6 power/fight to kill the earth tyrant and then punch Nigel in the face because it is honourable” Make sure to give your singular cultist a name.
When a player has done as much or as little with their hand as they desire, any remaining cards in hand are discard and 5 more cards are drawn. Play then passes to the next player.
Once a player’s deck is depleted they reshuffle their discard pile to form a new deck. This gives players the opportunity to draw and play all those bigger, badder cards they have acquired on previous turns.
Ascension also contains multiple ways to remove cards from your deck. Its all about shaving your deck down to get rid of all those crappy starting cards so you’re just drawing the ones you want. Just like Dominion, there is a balance to strike and getting there is fiddly but fun. Too much fight? Buy some more mystic cards, or banish some of your weaker power cards.
When all the honour crystals are acquired or the centre deck is depleted the game ends. Players will count their honour crystals and then check each card in their deck for an honour value. Players add the total honour from cards in their deck to their honour crystal total to find the winner. If players share the same honour total then either play another round or accept it and move on.
Buy it. No, no I have to try and be professional. Its not a perfect game but certainly in my eyes it comes real close. To me it’s beautiful in how it works and how it looks, although there has been some debate over the art work. If we look at Dominion then you’ll see a classic but safe eurogame style, whereas Ascension wears its raw, almost sketchy aesthetic with pride. Whether it is to your taste or not; it certainly helps Ascension to stand out a little and with so many deck builders available, each one must do what it can.
Talking of its mechanics, it’s glorious. Dominion provides a larger selection of set cards where as Ascension provides a smaller selection of greater variety. I was always disappointed the cards don’t change during the course of Dominion, I get bored of the same ten cards all game. This for me maintains momentum and pace till the last few rounds.
The cards work well off each other and with more options, there are plenty of curious combos to discover. There is obvious synergy between the factions but the abilities and benefits are not so specific that you feel you can’t mix and match your deck. All that said, it’s easy. There is almost no learning curve. Yes if you have played Magic The Gathering and the like you may have a small heads up as you’ll recognise many of the mechanics but new players will get to grips with the game quickly.
I really think more people need to be playing this game. It’s a gorgeous little card game that can be picked up for a great price considering the components included. The box has good storage and the use of little red and white plastic crystals instead of card board tokens is a winning idea in my books. While perhaps not the ultimate game for heavy war gamers, if you’re a fan of card games and are looking for some thing familiar yet fresh, you have to have a look at this game. Look at it, With it’s pretty artwork, shiny crystals, lightweight rulebook and fabulous awesomeness. Need I say more? If I do then remember this – there are mini expansions that add rat kings, leprechauns and krakens. SOLD.