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Jun 24

First Impressions: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Ascension is a fantasy deck building game designed by Justin Gary.  Players draft from a play area stocked with cards from a common deck.  Each player begins with an identical set of cards that allows for minimal combat strength and purchasing power.  From these modest beginnings players recruit heroes to fight monsters and build constructs to aid the pursuit of honor.  Honor may be gained from a community bank of tokens that consist of 30 stones per player.  When this pile is depleted it triggers the endgame conditions wherein all players receive one additional turn until the player who went last in the first round of the game takes one.  If the final player emptied the honor stockpile then no one takes any further turns.  I found this to be an excellent rule for the purpose of negating much of a first player advantage.  While honor stones are visible to all, an interesting feature is that each card also has an honor value that is tallied at the end of the game.  Unless you are playing with a professional card counter, it is highly unlikely that your opponents have more than a rough estimation of your total score.  This can lead to wildly different strategies that either pursue overt or covert honor gain, and sometimes to a surprise winner!

After playing the Ascension for the first time last night with my friends Eli, Jeff(owner of the game), and my wife Heather, our first impression was almost entirely positive!  So much so, that my sweet gamer wife demanded that we head to the local game store and purchase the base game and its expansions!  Poor me.  However, I know better than to deny a determined gamer wife and we were of to the Game Preserve in Greenwood, Indiana.  Can one give a more positive review than to purchase a game after only one play?  If it is possible, I am not sure how.  Since returning home with our new prize Heather and I have played three games with me emerging the winner of 2!  In the very close third and final game, I managed to eke out a one point win!  How is that for close?  Here is a brief overview of the games played for those veteran players among us.

Game #1

                                       Heather                               Chris

Visible Honor                   41                                       22

Deck Honor                      32                                       43

Total Honor                      73!                                      65 🙁

Basic Strategy             Lifebound+Void                     Mechana

.                                      Strong Combat                     Weak Combat

.                                      Medium Rune Production     Plentiful Rune Production

.                                       Heroes                                   Constructs and Card Drawing

Game #2

                                     Heather                                 Chris

Visible Honor                 16                                            44

Deck Honor                    38                                            48

Total Honor                    54 🙁                                        92!

Basic Strategy              Strong Combat                      Strong Combat

.                                      Medium Card Drawing          Heavy on Constructs

.                                      Heavy on Mechana

*Post game analysis by Heather. “Yeah, that didn’t come together!”

Game #3

                                       Heather                                   Chris

Visible Honor                 23                                              37

Deck Honor                    39                                              26

Total Honor                    62 🙁                                          63!

Basic Strategy             Heavy on Mechana                 Heavy on Mystics

.                                      Constructs+Heroes                Heavy Card Drawing

.                                      Medium Combat                      Heavy Combat

All in all, we had a blast!  We both really enjoyed the game.  She liked the idea of building from a common deck and having to adapt to what cards come up each turn.  As an old school Magic The Gathering player, I found it to be similar to the 2 player continuous draft format which I have always found entertaining. The clear and simple rules allowed us to quickly move from the learning stage and focus on enjoying the game.  The artwork on the cards is well done and does an excellent job of capturing the fantasy theme.  The board and other components are easy on the eyes and perfectly serviceable.  The only negative that we encountered was the high level of randomness in what cards come up for draft and how that complicates the formation of long-term strategy.  It may be possible to mitigate this effect with more experience, but for now it does limit our enthusiasm a little.

In conclusion, Ascension showed itself to be an enjoyable, relatively light, fast paced game that should offer excellent replay value.  After just a handful of plays I would rate it 8.0 out of a possible 10.  It remains to be seen if this will rise or fall with further exposure, but it most certainly made a positive first impression.  I look forward to exploring all that Ascension has to offer and reporting back with more in-depth analysis in the future.  I know it will be fun!

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on Ascension:  Chronicle of the Godslayer.  Join the conversation in the comments below!

5 comments

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  1. Jeff Atkins

    Glad you enjoyed it… I wanted to play it with you ever since I got it since I knew how much of a Dominion fan you were… Can’t wait to play it with you guys again!!!

  2. Heather absolutely loved it from the start! I could tell by her high level of enthusiasm even at 2 in the morning that we were going to own a new game by Sunday evening. You better make sure that you practice as much as you can because I think we might be playing a bit of Ascension in the coming weeks.

  3. Heather

    I really had a great time with this game! I knew I would like it, as card based games are my favorite, once I realized this was very similar to dominion, yet a lot different, the rules were super easy to learn AND the “points” were shiny rocks, what girl wouldn’t like this game ; )
    Seriously, as stated in the blog the second game DID NOT come together for me, but I was darn close to winning the third game, so give me a little while and I will be the house master of Ascension!

  4. Ryan

    I enjoy Ascension, but with repeated play I’ve come to prefer Dominion.

    The randomness of Ascension is great, but in my opinion there is almost always a best card to buy. If you have the “money” you buy the best card (which is almost always the most expensive), almost never will you choose a to buy a lesser card. The joys of buying a lesser card only to turn up the “nuts” for your opponent because you can no longer afford it grow to be annoying as well!

    Overall, I enjoy and continue to play ascension because it is fast to set up (between Pizzas), can be walked away from as you don’t need to card count, and fast to play with competent players.

  5. You make some interesting points Ryan, that seem to confirm some of my fears about Ascension. I would say that my preference remains Dominion hands down, but Ascension does have a few advantages. I am a huge fan of the end game rule that sees to it all players will have an equal number of turns during the game. I have complained many times about Dominion’s lack of this feature. I also like that it is quicker to set up than Dominion, although I wonder if it will remain so with the inclusion of the expansions. My primary complaint aside from the obvious randomness is that the game appears to be almost 100% tactical in nature. I have only played about 5 games, but it looks really difficult to have much of a game long plan and stick to it. It looks like you pretty much wait until your turn and pick the best. I hope with more plays I will begin to see actual strategies. If not, I think my rating of Ascension will begin to come down over time.

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