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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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?
- Yes, Kithys is behind the Storm of Souls, and has captured the spirits of past heroes in soul gems.
- 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.
- 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.
- Adayu the Dreamer, the Reality Warper, is suffering from nightmares that are becoming real and unraveling reality.
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.
- 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.