Tabletop Game: Ascension Chronicle Of The Godslayer

aka: Ascension
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 seven sets - four 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. 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. 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.

Immortal Heroes. A small set that continues the existing mechanics and adds Soul Gems (reprints of cards from Chronicles and Return 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. 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.

Darkness Unleashed. 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.

Realms Unraveled. 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. An upcoming large set that will continue to use the multi-faction mechanics and add special identity cards for the players. This new set will also add Reputation that will "unlock powerful cards and effects" in what is assumed to be a similar vein to energy.

This Game Provides Examples Of:

  • All Your Powers Combined: Adayu the Serene counts as belonging to all factions; playing him gives you one Rune, one Power, one Honor, and lets you draw one card. His Multi-Unite effect is that you gain another Rune for each Mechana hero, another Power for each Void hero, another Honor for each Lifebound hero and you draw an additional card for each Enlightened hero played that same turn. Needless to say, given that many Enlightened heroes focus on drawing more cards themselves, particularly-lucky draws may allow you to play your entire deck in one turn.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Runic Lycanthrope seems to think so.
    Flavor Text: "Senses. Speed. Reflexes. Cunning. Only a fool would call this a curse."
  • Deus Est Machina: P.R.I.M.E. The card art makes this fairly explicit.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: The Enlightened faction. Either their names or their Flavor Text reference transcending the physical limitations of their bodies, or even time itself — usually manifested in gameplay as instantaneously defeating monsters, affecting cards in the central row, or drawing additional cards.
  • Mix-and-Match Weapon: The Canon Templarsic  wields an enormous blade with a huge gun attached to it — it's not for show, either, as (in addition to granting two runes) he may defeat a monster whose power cost is less-than or equal to the rune cost of a construct you control, befitting its status as a Mechana/Enlightened Hero.note 
  • Morton's Fork: In the text for Seer of the Forked Path; one side held death for the Godslayer, while the other, for his beloved.
  • Nature Hero: Any hero belonging to the Lifebound faction. From Fair Folk to shamans and druids, they are surrounded by flowers, spirits, or wild animals. The Flavor Text of the Landtalker card in particular invites people to Ogo to experience 'free earth'.
  • Power Copying: Twofold Askara can copy the effects of any hero card.
  • Power of the Void: The Void faction. Most of them revolve around gaining power to kill monsters or banishing cards — the area designated for this is called 'The Void', after all.
  • Reality Warper: Adayu; his cards have incredibly powerful effects, as you might expect. Realms Unraveled is about his concept/perception of reality getting... shaky from the stress of taking care of the realms and the pain of fighting so many Eldritch Abominations, causing the realms to blend into each other at points — it allowed them to cooperate in new, varied ways, though, explaining the multi-faction heroes as them doing precisely that.
  • Sadistic Choice: Samael tried forcing one of these by means of an enchanted gate, knowing that only the Godslayer's beloved could break it, thus killing her. There was a little interference, though.
  • Science Hero: All Mechana heroes, naturally. Most have Power Armor or a Giant Mecha at their dispossition, or some manner of over-sized gun.
  • Take a Third Option: The text of Twofold Askara. The Askara acted instead of the Godslayer's beloved to break a gate that would kill the disenchanter that broke it.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Hedron Cannon is a construct that gives you one power per Mechana construct you control; they are geared towards obtaining more constructs and putting them in play quickly, so it will become powerful very fast. Controlling the Hedron Link Device makes all constructs be counted as if they also belong to Mechana.
  • Yin-Yang Bomb: Realms Unraveled introduces multifaction cards with this in mind. Why bother with a Harmony Versus Discipline conflict when you can add Steam Punk claws to a druid and wreck everything standing in your path?card  Referenced in the Flavor Text for Deathbound Druidnote .
    The druids nourish life, but do not think for a moment that it is because they fear death.

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