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Tabletop Game / Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

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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 principal 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 Kythis, 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 a Cultist; starting in Storm of Souls, players also have the option to fight a Fanatic. Most of the game's action happens in the center row, a line of 6 cards drawn from the communal, randomized "Portal Deck." Players purchase the majority of their cards from the center row. Whenever a card in the center row is acquired, defeated, or "banished" (discarded) from the Center Row, it is immediately replaced with a random card from the Portal Deck, making each game a different experience.

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.

Aside from its many expansions listed below, Ascension also has a few dozen promotional cards (including a few online app exclusives), and a 'light' version for newer players (or shorter games) called The Apprentice Edition.

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:

    open/close all folders 
    Chronicle of the Godslayer 
A large set that introduces all the basic mechanics. Its boss is the Avatar of the Fallen.
  • Lorewise, the Realm of Vigil, otherwise isolated from the gods, is troubled by the avatar of the fallen god, Samael. Various heroes gathered armies to defeat him in the hopes of becoming the prophesied 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.
    Return of the Fallen 
A small set that introduces the Fate mechanic (cards that have an effect when they enter the Center Row). Its boss is Samael, the Fallen (which was a prototype for Trophy monsters).
  • In the lore, Samael escapes the Void by unbinding Kithys 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.)
    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.
  • The shades of the dead are returning from the Void, and the embodiment of the storm of souls manifests as a great serpent made of ghosts, referred to only as Nemesis. But what could cause this?
    Immortal Heroes 
A small set that continues the existing mechanics and adds Soul Gems (reprints of cards from Chronicle and Return that are gained randomly and do not enter the player's deck) and Ongoing Trophy Monsters. Its boss is Kithys, Rebel Godling.
  • Yes, Kithys is behind the Storm of Souls, and has captured the spirits of past heroes in soul gems.
    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.
  • After long years of peace, odd crystals radiating energy fall from the Void, empowering those around them. Sadly, the energies which are enhancing the power of the factions also warp some wildlife into monsters.
    Darkness Unleashed 
A small set that adds Dark Energy Shards which have the effect of allowing all players to banish a card from their hand or discard pile when they first enter 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 fragments 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.
    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.
  • Adayu the Dreamer, the Reality Warper, is suffering from nightmares that are becoming real and unraveling reality.
    Dawn of Champions 
A large set that continues to use the multi-faction mechanics and adds 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. Acquiring or defeating cards that share a faction with these champions help speed up the process. Introduced in this set is Rally mechanic: 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.
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.
    War of Shadows 
A set that brings a new mechanic of Day and Night. All cards in this set are either Day or Night, and if there are more Day cards in the center row than Night cards, the game is treated as Day and vice versa. If the number is equal or there is no Day or Night card at all, then it's neither. Cards not in the center row don't affect whether it's Day or Night. Several cards have effects that change depending on whether you play them during Day or Night. This set also introduces cards that require both Runes and Power to buy. The boss is Aklyss the Scourge.
    Gift of the Elements 
A new set that introduces the Empower mechanic, where when a player acquires a card with Empower, they may banish a card they have played this turn (that they have used to obtain the runes to acquire the Empower card, for example) as opposed to banishing a card from hand or discard pile like some other previous cards. There are also the Gremlin monsters, who, upon defeat, can be put into another player's discard pile to mess up their draw, seeing that these monsters normally have no effect when played. However, some other cards do depend on monsters being played or in hand. Finally, Event cards make a return, and this time, a player may spend 8 runes for each of said events to transform them into a hero and acquire them.
    Valley of the Ancients 
A large set that introduces Temples. Certain cards, when the right conditions are met, give you Life or Death "keystones" that allow you to take control of the Temple of Life or Death, respectively. Temples stay in play like constructs, although they can be taken away by another player. If you gain a Life or Death keystone while you already control the corresponding Temple, you gain a benefit depending on the Temple, and also take control of the Temple of Immortality. Controlling the latter Temple allows you to automatically acquire a card when it enters the center row if its faction matches the previous card that you just acquired. This set also includes cards with two new trigger conditions: Echo, which triggers when you have a card of the same faction in your discard pile, and Serenity, which triggers when you have no cards in your discard pile.

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.
    • Pasythea, the Aegis is the second hero to be counted of all factions, and her ability gives three of each runes, power and honor. She later gets another variant who not only still provides multiple different resources, but can have her massive cost reduced by collecting her various weapons which represent the four factions.
  • Alternate Self: Delirium introduces alternate version of existing heroes if they belonged to a different faction. The most notable case among these is Dharta, who not only shifted from Arha to Mechana, but also turns from a hero into a construct.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Runic Lycanthrope seems to think so.
    Flavor Text: "Senses. Speed. Reflexes. Cunning. Only a fool would call this a curse."
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Void faction are somewhat obsessed with death and destruction, but they fight against monsters to protect others.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Several heroes, such as Adayu the Serene, can only be obtained by first beating them as monster (e.g. in Adayu's case, beat Adayu the Tormented).
  • 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.
  • Expy: Dreamshaper Jesse is an unsubtle nod to Jesus.
  • I Work Alone: Referenced in Black Watch Elite.
    Elites are fated to be alone, for they destroy all that they see.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Some Void heroes sport tentacles and other bizarre appendages as part of their power. Sadranis is a good example, as his entire right arm has been replaced with a huge mass of tentacles.
  • 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.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Askaras tend to have many arms, usually three pairs.
  • Multiple Head Case: Lifebound's Honiskrot and Arha's Askara. The Honiskrot are a race of two-headed lion-men, while the Askara often have additional limbs in addition of having two heads (or sometimes two faces on either side of a single head).
  • 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'.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Askaras in Dawn of Champions onwards appear more like angels than before, ditching their extra head/face for wings (but they keep their extra arms).
  • Our Dragons Are Different: On the heroes' side, we have the likes of Dendris, the Gladewyrm (a tree dragon). But on the monsters' side, we have far more dragons. Often named Tyrants, these monsters tend to be among the biggest monsters that can be fought short of the bosses. The art gives many of them multiple eyes in long rows, and sometimes two sets of mouths. They are mostly seen in the earlier sets, since their origin is meant to be as minions of Samael, and later tyrants have different origins.
  • Power Copying: Several Enlightened cards, starting from Twofold Askara, can copy other card's effects.
  • 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. Some of their cards can actually reach into the Void and kill monsters that are already banished.
  • 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.
  • Red Baron: Ubiquitous; it's one of the most common naming conventions for Hero cards besides having some sort of title or job description. There is Aaron The Godslayer, Dartha The Eternal, and Emri collects these like it's going out of style, having ones like 'One With The Void', 'Soulslayer', 'Demonsbane' and 'The Unmaker'.
  • 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 disposal, or some manner of over-sized gun.
  • Shout-Out: There's a promo construct card called Destroyer's Gate which transforms into a different card after a random interval. The flavor text is "He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms."
  • 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.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Yeeeah... NO. In fact, Nightmare Delvers are Mechana/Void heroes that augment their abilities using Hedron technology to go further into the darkness of the Void.
    • None of the Enlightened heroes has Gone Mad from the Revelation either - the closest is Adayu the Tormented, but that is simply what happens when a Reality Warper suffers from a breakdown from sheer stress. Defeat him, and it will stop his power from going wild, giving him the chance to restore his inner peace. And gives you a powerful hero (Adayu the Serene).
  • 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 or the Conversion Port 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 Steampunk 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.

Alternative Title(s): Ascension