Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

I found a new game a couple of weeks ago and it’s super fun. It’s called Ascension and it’s one of the most fun, replayable games I’ve ever played.

Ascension is a game for 2-4 players and each person starts with the same set of cards in their own deck. Throughout the game, they use the cards in their deck to gain resources (Runes and Power) in order to acquire better cards (obtained using Runes) or to defeat monsters (via Power) from the Central Deck, all the while working to gain as many Honor Points as possible. The game starts with a set number of points in the Honor Pool, which reduces each time a player gains Honor points, and is over when there are no more points in the pool. The aim of the game is to get the most Honor points of all players.

I actually came across this in one of the Digital Life segments from the newspaper, which was talking about fun apps to download. The article mentioned it was a fast paced, turn based deckbuilding game made by the top players of Magic: the Gathering (MTG), Pro Tour champions Justin Gary, Rob Dougherty, and Brian Kibler. It was released almost five years ago in physical form, but now it’s been made into a mobile game.

Immediately, I was interested and noted it down so that I could download the app when I returned home. It had all the elements of games I play. First, it was turn based strategy (TBS). I love TBS games (as opposed to real time strategy, or RTS) because I need the time to think and plan out my moves. Chess was one of the first strategic games I learnt in my childhood and while I didn’t like it much (it was “flat”, but I’ll talk about that later), it did get me interested in strategy games. It taught me the value of patience and planning ahead, although I think I was too young to fully appreciate it.

Ascension was also made by top players of MTG. A game made by the best players of another game I already play? Damn, it’s bound to be freaking awesome. If the newspaper article had said nothing else about the game, this would have been reason enough for me to go check it out. Also, being a free game on Google Play helped. XD

Ascension’s also self contained. All the pieces you need to play and win with are found within the game set, which you just have to purchase once. It’s not pay-to-win, like say, MTG, where, if you don’t have the funds to buy a Tier-One deck, you probably won’t get very far in a competition. What this means is that Ascension is based more on the skill of decision making and probability, rather than purchasing the best cards available. And I don’t mean buying cards with real money, I also mean using your resources in game to exchange for cards to add to your deck.

It’s very similar to Booster Drafting in MTG. Each person starts of with three booster packs, opens the first one, picks a card from it and passes the rest to the neighbour on his left while receiving a set of cards from his right, from which he takes his next card. This continues until all the cards have been picked, then the second pack is opened and the process repeats itself in the opposite direction. Finally, the third pack is opened and passed in the same direction as the first pack. Everyone forms a deck of at least 40 cards then they split into pairs to play a normal game of MTG. Although you still have to buy packs each time you play a round of Booster Draft, it’s more like Ascension than actual MTG, in that a lot of effort and value is put into the decision making part of the game, making it more skill based.

I mentioned above that I felt chess was “flat”. I meant that it was boring and one dimensional. There’s no lore behind the pieces and everything is literally black and white. I like MTG because of the stories and the philosophies of the colour pie. I mean, this was how I learnt about flavour. Ascension also has it’s own lore that I haven’t had time to delve into, but I will, eventually. Chess is also a game that, over time, becomes about pattern recognition, not so much skill. There is no “hidden” information; stuff that you don’t know for sure that your opponent has or doesn’t have. All the pieces and possible movements are available for all players to see (public information), whereas in MTG, you can guess what cards your opponent has in his hand or deck, but you can’t know for sure.

Of course, there’s a lot less hidden information in Ascension than there is in MTG, but the element is still there, and that appeals to me very strongly. The feeling of mystery and successfully being able to predict what your opponent will do with the information you have is a lot more satisfying.

Being a game that uses it’s pieces over and over, one might think that, like chess, it would also devolve into pattern recognition and, to a certain extent, that’s true. MTG is fun because each game is unique, so the feeling of anticipation and excitement is there. But Ascension does play out differently each time. There’s enough complexity to ensure that happens, even if you’re playing with the bots. I myself play a different strategy each time, or at least variations of the same strategy, so the element of replayability is there. Besides, there are expansion sets one could purchase to integrate with the core set. These expansions add in different cards as well as new mechanics to the game.

Get Ascension on the App Store or Google Play and come play with me! It’s free and comes with a tutorial, so you can learn at your own pace.

I promise not to kick your butt too hard 🙂

-Jace

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