Ascension is a fantasy deckbuilding game created by Stone Blade Entertainment (formerly Gary Games), first released in 2010. The game itself's official title is simply "Ascension," though the "Chronicle of the Godslayer" subtitle was the name of the first set and frequently added to help distinguish the game from the myriad of other games and works called "Ascension."
As is the case with many deckbuilding games, its principle designer, Justin Gary, was formerly a highly-regarded Magic: The Gathering
player, best known for winning Pro Tour Houston in 2002. Ascension was Gary Games first product, and the only product released under that name. (They changed their name to Stone Blade Entertainment in time for their second product, SolForge
, to get a beta release.)
The story is somewhat nebulous, but involves the mad god Samael, and later, his successor, Kithis, threatening the world of Vigil. Vigil is composed of four realms: Arha, Hedron, Ogo, and the Void, which band together against Samael's endless wave of monsters.
Gameplay revolves around building the deck worth the most Honor (victory points). Like most deckbuilding games, each player starts with an equal deck composed of the worst cards in the game, and must "acquire" (buy) new cards over the course of the game to improve their deck; these cards are broken down into Heroes (which take effect immediately when played and are discarded at the end of the turn) and Constructs (which take effect once per turn and stay in play until an effect discards them). Ascension differentiates itself from other games in the genre in that there are also monsters to fight to award Honor Tokens. It also sports an unusually fluid turn structure. On each player's turn, he or she may take any actions he or she can afford—there are no limits or other requirements on how many actions can be made in a turn. The primary resources of the game are Runes, which are used to buy cards, and Power, which is used to kill monsters.
There are basic cards available all times. A player can always buy Mystics and Heavy Infantry or fight the Cultist; starting in Storm of Souls,
players also have the option to fight the Fanatic. Most of the game's action happens in the Center Row, a line of 6 cards drawn from the communal, randomized "Portal Deck." Whenever a card in the Center Row is acquired, defeated, or "banished" (discarded) from the Center Row, it is immediately replaced.
All cards in the game are broken down into six basic factions, each with defining traits. They are:Common:
The basic cards of the game, only the generic Apprentices, Militia, Mystics, and Heavy Infantry are Common.Enlightened:
The cards of Arha, Enlightened cards focus drawing cards, improving your existing cards, defeating monsters in a single shot, and sculpting the Center Row to your advantage. Enlightened also has the only cards that let a player acquire new cards directly to their hand, instead of requiring them to cycle.Lifebound:
The cards of Ogo, Lifebound cards focus on playing multiple Heroes in a single turn, generating Runes, and gaining Honor Tokens peacefully. Lifebound is also able to acquire cards to the top of their deck, instead of requiring the player to wait for them to cycle.Mechana:
The cards of Hedron, Mechana cards focus on slowly assembling a powerful machine. Most Mechana cards are designed to work together, particularly with Constructs. Mechana is unique in that it is the only faction that produces specialized Runes—they can only be used to acquire Mechana Constructs. Mechana Constructs are noteworthy in that their Rune cost and Honor value are always equal, meaning all the most valuable cards in the game are Mechana Constructs.Void:
The cards of the Void focus almost solely on fighting monsters and banishing (removing from your deck) cards. There is very little that Void cards can do that the other factions can't, but none of them do them as well as the Void. Efficient decks almost always hinge Void cards.Monster:
Monster cards are enemies that appear in the center row that must be defeated using Power. All monsters trigger a "Reward" when defeated, awarding Honor Tokens and an additional effect that varies by monster; it can be as simple as letting the player draw a card or as massive as instantly acquiring or defeating any other card in the Center Row. Storm of Souls
introduces Trophy Monsters that are put in front of the player when defeated and can be banished to gain their reward at the player's convenience. Immortal Heroes
expands this mechanic to add Ongoing Trophy Monsters that have a constant effect once defeated.
So far, Ascension is composed of eight sets - five large and three small - as well as a few dozen promotional cards, a 'light' version for newer players (or shorter games) called The Apprentice Edition
and an upcoming large set.
Originally, the sets were released in "blocks" of one large set and one small set that would complement each other. While all of the sets can be combined together or otherwise mixed and matched to make a playable game, the sets are designed to be best played in their respective blocks. With Realms Unraveled and onward, the release strategy was changed to be two large sets instead with a mind for future balance and interplay with previous sets in an attempt to avoid the block structure they created.
In release order, the main sets are the following:Chronicle of the Godslayer.
A large set that introduces all the basic mechanics. Its boss is the Avatar of the Fallen.
Return of the Fallen.
- Lorewise, the Realm of Vigil, otherwise isolated from the gods, is trobled by the avatar of the fallen god, Samael. various heros gathered armies to defeat him in the hopes of becomgin the prophecied Godslayer. Interestingly, the winner isn't the one who kills the enemy, but the one who gets most fame and can successfully claim to be the Godlsayer.
A small set that introduces the Fate mechanic (cards that have an effect when they enter the Center Row). It's boss is Samael, the Fallen (which was a prototype for Trophy monsters).
Storm of Souls.
- In the lore, Samael escapes the Void by unbinding Kithis the Gatekeeper, god of death, from his duties to prevent the dead from returning to Vigil. (Samael was originally one of the gods who bound him there.)
A large set that continues the mechanics introduced thus far and adds the Event mechanic (cards that have an enduring effect on the game), the Fanatic, the Unite ability, and Trophy Monsters. Its boss is Nemesis.
- The shades of the dead are returning from the Void, and the embodiement of the strom of souls maifests as a great serpent made of ghosts, referred to only as Nemesis. But what could cause this?
A small set that continues the existing mechanics and adds Soul Gems (reprints of cards from Chronicles
that are gained randomly and do not enter the player's deck) and Ongoing Trophy Monsters. Its boss is Kithis, Rebel Godling.
Rise of Vigil.
- Yes, Kithis is behind the Storm of Souls, and has captured the spirits of past heroes in soul gems.
A large set that retains the existing mechanics and adds Energy to the mix. Energy can be obtained through some heroes, killing/tributing some monsters and from Energy Shards which can be drawn into the center row as Treasures to be taken. Energy allows the activation of additional effects when enough has been accrued during a turn. Its boss is Terrus, Paragon of Strife.
- After long years of peace, odd crystals radiating energy fall from the Void, empowering those around them. Sadly, the energies which are ehancing the power of the factions also warp some wildlife into mosnters.
A small set that adds Dark Energy Shards which have the effect of allowing all plays to banish a card from the hand or discard pile when they first are put into play in the center row. It also adds Transformations, used here when the player has enough energy to Energize an applicable hero. Its boss is Erabus the Exiled.
- The shards are revealed to be the fragmets of the crystal cage that once held Erebus, son of Samael and Nyx, goddess of the void. His father's death let him break free and he's not happy.
A large set that adds cards belonging to multiple factions, reintroduces the transformation mechanic (powers up or changes cards under certain circumstances) and the Multi-Unite mechanic (an added effect that comes into play for each hero of the same faction played that turn). Its boss is Adayu the Tormented, who transforms into the all-factions-at-once hero
Adayu the Serene upon defeat.
Dawn of Champions.
- Adayu the Dreamer, the Reality Warper, is suffering from nightmares that are becoming real and unravelling reality.
A large set that continues to use the multi-faction mechanics and add special champion identity cards for players. These champions can earn reputation, which unlock rewards, first being the champion in card form, and later an ongoing ability at maximum reputation, and acquiring or defeating cards that share a faction with these champions help speed up the process. Introduced in this set is Rally mechanic, which when a player acquires or defeats a card of a specific faction in the center row, if the card replacing it shares a faction, the player gets to acquire or defeat the cards immediately for no cost. Also introduced are monsters with factions, which thus can trigger effects such as Rally and reputation. Its boss is Xeron, Lord of Deofol.Dreamscape.
A large set that nixes most of the mechanics from the previous sets (except for a few exceptions in multi-faction cards) and introduces several new ones instead.
The first major one is the Dreamscape, a second deck of cards that players take cards from to form a hidden and private row of their own cards to acquire. Throughout the game, various card effects allow you to add more cards to your Dreamscape, but it ultimately allows players to form a buying strategy right from the beginning of the game depending on their starting Dreamscape cards. These cards are, in turn, purchased from their Dreamscape with Insight which is accumulated through various effects throughout the game.
Unlike Energy from the Rise of Vigil block, Insight does not get reset between turns; it's a persistent resource that is spent when used. Cards acquired through the Dreamscape are treated like any other card and go to your discard as normal with the exception of one type: Visions.
Visions are cards exclusive to the Dreamscape which act more like spells. The moment you acquire them, they fire off whatever their effect is and are banished. They can range from fairly standard effects seen on cheaper heroes to potentially game-changing.
The boss of Dreamscape is Nilus, the Despair.
This Game Provides Examples Of: