Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Players: 1-6 Ages: 12+ Game Time: 30 -90 mins
Ascension is a deck-building game, designed by Justin Gary, in which players spend Runes to acquire more powerful cards for their deck. It is published by Stone Blade Entertainment in the dead tree format, but also available in digital form on mobile and on Steam.
It offers a dynamic play experience where players have to react and adjust their strategy accordingly. Each player starts with a small deck of cards, and uses those cards to acquire more and better cards for their deck, with the goal of earning the most Honour Points by gaining cards and defeating monsters.
Gameplay / Mechanics
The cards are split into different types:
Heroes – help build a more powerful deck. Heroes may also come with special abilities, which are often boosted when combined with the abilities of other heroes, usually of the same faction
Constructs – can remain in play permanently (unless destroyed) and their ability has an ongoing effect for the player who controls it
Monsters – can be defeated to earn Honour Points.
In addition, the hero and construct cards are split into four factions:
Multiple cards from a faction will often complement each other, and provide an overall more powerful deck.
Throughout the game, you deal with three major resources;
Runes – are used to purchase more powerful cards and improve your deck
Honour – acquired by defeating monsters (and also by holding more powerful cards)
Power – more powerful cards are required to defeat more powerful monsters
In order to win the game, you must use strategy to build upon all three resources, and do so in a more efficient way than your opponents. For example, more power is required to acquire better cards, better cards are required to defeat more powerful monsters, and more monsters must be defeated to obtain Honour. You must use all three resources collectively to achieve your ultimate goal.
The cards you can acquire, and the monsters you can defeat, are chosen from the game’s ‘centre row’. A starting deal of six random cards determines the choices you make and the strategy you implement. This can make for an unusual and varied game. The cards replenish as soon as one is removed, meaning all your in-game decisions will be influenced by the plays available to you on each turn.
The board, the cards, and the resources are all simply lovely to play with. The board is sturdy, the cards are thick and of a good size, and the resources don’t feel cheap. Although I like the artwork on the cards, there's somewhat of a disconnect throughout the whole deck. I do wonder if two artists were employed, as there feels like a distinct split in artwork from one card to another.
Despite being sometimes a little quick and easy to play, Ascension boasts an impressive deck to play with. I doubt many people can say they have played with all imaginable combinations of cards. With so many to choose from, and expansions, we have immense fun finding the latest combination of cards to play for the most interesting or powerful manoeuvre of that game. We really enjoy playing Ascension and it is a firm favourite in our household.
As much as Ascension is fast and simple, sometimes it feels like I never quite got going before the game ends. In fact, we sometimes decide to extend the goalposts and add more Honour to the game than we are supposed to. This allows us to prolong the game, and to also build up a really fun deck, where you can start to see some really interesting play combinations appear, especially when my wife is the queen of the Mechana and quite literally steamrolls the game!
A solid game that I associate as the founding deck-building game. We love it in our household and it is a firm favourite. The only criticism is the limited availability of expansions in the UK, otherwise it's well worth it.
The DoaLG founder