So many cards it’s like Justin Bieber’s in the hospital.
Now that Realms Unraveled is out for Ascension, there’s different seven core sets you can choose to play with, plus a mess of promo packs. I did the math, and there’s now three digital Ascension cards for every man, woman, and dog on the planet. If we actually printed all of these cards out, the Earth would collapse under its weight and become a black hole, which would be pretty cool for Interstellar cosplay, I guess.
Clearly, playing with every single set is only good for the occasional lark or if you want to drive an OCD friend to insanity, but which sets should you be playing with? I decided to take this question straight to the source: Ascension designer Justin Gary.
The Canon Templar does not approve of your Lifebound-Mechana shipping.
In the wee small hours of the morning, Playdek dropped another expansion on us. Realms Unraveled is a highly respected box for Ascension, the durable deck-building card game that would almost certainly be elected the official pastime of Pocket Tactics if we ever put that to a vote. The expansion is available as a single $2.99 purchase within the Ascension app, and it’s on both iOS and on the recently-launchedAndroid port.
With the release of Realms Unraveled, digital Ascension has now achieved parity with the tabletop version. Ever since Playdek and game designers Stone Blade put aside their differences earlier this year the duo have been cranking out card sets; after Rise of Vigil and Darkness Unleashed, RU is the third expansion to get digitised this year.
For those somehow still unfamiliar with Ascension, stop reading this and go play the tutorial already. There simply aren’t any hobby card games that are easier to get into, and certainly none whatsoever that are so well-supported by mobile apps.
For Void-weathered Ascension heads, this expansion introduces multi-faction heroes that play with the Unite and Transform mechanics from earlier boxes. I’m still wrapping my head around it but I’ve enjoyed my couple of online matches already. Ascension artist Eric Sabee is also at the very top of his game with this set. Make sure you read my interview with him from earlier this year if you want to understand how Ascension’s one-of-kind card art comes into being.
We’ve not hidden our feelings about the lack of a decent city-builder on our tablets. Nearly every title out there is either a free-to-play mess, or just not deep enough to grab you and hold you the way the classics like SimCity or Caesar did. Therefore, we will take any and all chances of a decent city builder for mobile and run with them, even if their appearance on iOS or Android is, at this point, just a wish.
Cole Jeffries, who developed the puzzly Megacity for iOS and Android is twisting his city-building muscles again. This time he’s including a board game mechanic for good measure: deck-building. Concrete Jungle is the new title and it’s just been funded on Kickstarter with 23 days to go.
Concrete Jungle is still more puzzle than city manager, but the combo of deck-builer and city-builder looked too cool to ignore. So, the goal of the game is to clear city blocks so you can continue to build a bigger city. Of course, the bigger the city gets, the harder it gets to keep building. There are over 150 cards that you can use to build a deck that will allow you to build certain buildings, and as your cities get bigger, you can add bigger and better buildings to your deck. Best of all, the game features no IAP at all.
The big downside is that Concrete Jungle is currently only planned for PC and Mac, and those are the only platforms being funded by the Kickstarter. Cole does mention, however, that iOS and Android are possibilities down the road. Let’s hope he heads that route, as tablets can use any city-building love they can get.
“I think my favorite card so far is the Hectic Scribe. I think I see myself when I look at him.”
On a couch in a cramped Boston apartment — one of those glorified cubicles for recent grads where you can just about reach the kitchen sink from your bed — Eric Sabee and Justin Gary are playing Tekken 4. (Justin prefers Panda, for the record.) It’s 2002. Sabee, who works in a picture framing shop, and Gary, a law student, live down the hall from one another and spend a lot of free time pushing thumbsticks in front of Sabee’s Playstation.
Gary made a living playing Magic: The Gathering, a whimsical-sounding trade that amazed Sabee. Gary had played in the professional Magic circuit for years, capping his career with a victory in the 2002 Pro Tour. Gary won’t last much longer in law school. In a little while, he’s going to drop out, move to California, and start his own game company with other folks from the Magic scene.
Sabee graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration, and like young artists since time immemorial, was struggling to catch a break. It would be a long time in coming. On the walls of that Boston apartment are oil paintings that Sabee has been making over the past few months.
“I was frustrated with trying to break into illustration and getting nowhere,” Sabee told me a couple of weeks ago. “Someone convinced me to start painting scenes of Boston. People liked them a lot. I wanted to emulate Van Gogh so there was a lot of big expressive marks, bright colors.”
One of the people that liked those paintings a lot was Justin Gary. “The first piece Justin ever bought from me was a scene of a restaurant on Brighton Avenue that was familiar to us both,” says Sabee. “He gave me his old big-screen TV for it.”
Gary took a few more paintings with him when he left for California. And a few years later, when he started designing the game that would become Ascension, he knew which artist he wanted working on it.
After rejecting the app at least three times, Apple’s mercurial gatekeepers have finally deigned to release the long-awaited Star Realms to the App Store, about a month and a half after debuting on the Android Market. If you’re just tuning in, Star Realms is a deck-building card game akin to Ascension that I loved when I previewed it in June. That resemblance to Ascension is no coincidence, as Star Realms designer Rob Dougherty also co-designed that most cherished of hobby card games.
I’ve kicked the space tires on the new iOS version and it’s an easy recommendation to make. The UI isn’t as fluid and responsive I was hoping it would be (moving cards around feels weirdly straitjacketed) but it’s well up for the job and the gameplay itself is very compelling.
If you’ve wanted to get into deck-building card games and never tried Ascension for some reason, this is a fine opportunity to give the genre a shot. Star Realms is free to download (there’s a single in-app purchase to unlock all the content) and it’s got a pretty decent tutorial — plus you can play async online matches against the hordes of PT regulars who are about to flood the online lobbies.
White Wizard Games haven’t provided any video for this one so I’ve got Drive Thru Reviews’ hands-on with the Star Realms PC beta after the jump — it’s nigh-indistinguishable from the mobile version.
UPDATE: Maybe the future’s not so bright after all? Folks on Facebook and righthere on the PT forums are reporting problems with registering Star Realms accounts and encounters with UI miscues. Looks like the long incubation period may not have been sufficient to shake out all the bugs. I’ll send a note over to White Wizard to see what their plan is.
It’s come to my attention that some of you are performing a dark cabalistic ritual to summon the mysteriously delayed mobile edition of Blood Bowl. STOP. You are performing the wrong dark cabalistic ritual. I know you meant well, but you appear to have summoned this Kim Kardashian game into existence instead. Also the Jonas Brothers have been crashing on my couch for the last three days. You’re not allowed to watch E! while invoking the occult anymore.
Instead of beseeching the dark powers for aid, I sent around inquiries to see what the holdup is on high-fantasy football game Blood Bowl (announced for “early July” a few weeks ago) and on the iOS version of sci-fi deck-building card game Star Realms (which was meant to be here around July 4th).
Details of what I uncovered after the jump. But fair warning: none of it is particularly good news.
Champagne is being uncorked high atop Mount Hexmap in the Pocket Tactics Prognostication Center and Quick-Pick Lotto Research Institute. The Rise of Vigil expansion for Ascension is going to be out any minute now for iOS, just we predicted last week. This is the first new expansion to everyone’s favourite digital card game in over a year, and marks the renewal of vows between app developers Playdek and game designers Stone Blade, who agreed to put aside their differences and make beautiful Ascension together again.
I asked Stone Blade designer Brian Kibler to tell me what we should be expecting from the new expansion. “Rise of Vigil is my favorite set we’ve released since the original game,” Kibler told me. “The new Energize mechanic leads to big exciting turns, and Treasure cards really make players evaluate cards differently as the game goes on. This combination makes the set great for Ascension beginners and veterans alike.”
Well. We’ll see for ourselves very soon. The Rise of Vigil rules are available as a PDF if you want to get familiar with what’s new while you wait for the App Store update to turn over. From what I’ve read, this expansion mixes things up tremendously: the treasure cards incent you to make non-optimal buys from the center row, and the new energy shards boost your ability to draw cards from your deck, which might make bigger decks more viable and tight decks even punchier.
Android adherents need not be too envious: if all goes to plan, Playdek’s iOS app will be making its way to Google-powered devices sometime later this summer, then PC in the autumn.
After the jump, two more cards from the Rise of Vigil expansion. Never played Ascension? Neither had I a couple of years ago. Read something I wrote about the first expansion back in 2012 to see why it’s so popular.