PT Guides: Ascension DLC Buying Guide [Part 1]09 May 2017 2
Since the release of the original card game, way back in 2010, Ascension has expanded faster than the universe itself. This is a serious concern as we will eventually hit critical mass, and everything will be sucked into a big black hole. At the last count, the digital version alone has enjoyed a grand total of 14 expansions and add-ons, which have introduced a range of new features and challenges. Easy to grasp rules and regular updates have helped maintain the game's popularity; ensuring that it is still relatively easy to arrange matches.
In Ascension each player starts with a small deck of cards, most cards have special powers and also provide runes, power or honour. Runes are used to purchase new cards, whilst power is deployed to defeat monsters. Both of these actions have the potential to earn honour points - the player with the most honour wins. Players have two basic types of card; heroes are played and then discarded for their effect, whilst constructs remain in play and provide long-term advantages. The cards are divided into four factions, namely, Void, Enlightened, Lifebound, and Mechana. Each faction has its own distinctive feel and unique card combinations.
Before looking at the expansions in detail it is probably best to explain how they are organised. Initially, expansions were grouped into sets of two, called a block. Each block has a large set and a smaller set which are designed to complement each other. From the Realms Unravelled expansion onwards this changed, with each new release designed as a stand-alone game - although you can still combine them with previous sets.
Title: Return of the Fallen
Cost: £1.99 | $1.99
Unique Cards: 31
New Mechanics: Fate
The first expansion includes eleven new cards, which have an additional fate power. These cards trigger as soon as they are drawn, their effects impacting on all players. There are a range of different fate powers that allow players to banish cards, draw extra cards and do other cool stuff.
The effects of fate are usually positive, adding variety and a few nice little surprises to the flow of the game. However, what really makes this expansion worth owning are the new hero and construct powers. The wider variety of cards makes it easier to discover cool combos. There are also many new cards that improve flexibility by allowing a shift in focus between power and rune cards. This expansion is pretty essential to stop the base game from becoming stale.
Title: Storm of Souls
Cost: £2.99 | $2.99
Unique Cards: 53
New Mechanics: Trophies, Events, Fanatics, Unite
Lots of new features to examine, so turn up your collar and let's head out into the storm. Ever fancied mounting the head of that pesky monster on the wall of your study? Well, now you (sort of) can as Storm of Souls introduces trophies. Now, when you kill some monsters, instead of banishing them to the void, you display them in front of you. At any time you can then use the card's one-time special ability, allowing you to do such things as draw more cards and increase your power.
Another new feature is the introduction of event cards. Like fate cards, events have a global effect; the big difference is that an event will remain in play until superseded by another event. There is an event linked to each faction and an extra one linked to a new monster type called the fanatic. Fanatics are a more hardcore version of the cultist. They are always in play, but when defeated they also act as a trophy monster providing a variable reward based upon the current event. Some Lifebound heroes now have the "Unite" ability, which gives them an extra power when played with any other Lifebound Heroes on the same turn.
There is a lot of good stuff in Storm of Souls. The new card powers really help to distinguish the four factions and lead to a more balanced game. Being able to store your trophy bonuses to use when required means more control and flexibility. The varying powers of the cultists is a nice touch, it is just a pity that there are so few event cards in the deck.
Title: Immortal Heroes
Cost: £1.99 | $1.99
Unique Cards: 57
New Mechanics: Soul Gems, Ongoing Trophies
This expansion sees the introduction of soul gems and includes a separate deck of cards that represent the eponymous immortal heroes. Throughout the game, players will have the opportunity to take actions that allow them to earn soul gems. These gems can then be used to recruit the top card from the immortal heroes deck. These guys are copies of cards from previous decks that, according to the background story, have fallen in battle. Their powers range from the fairly hopeless to extremely powerful ones that can really change the tide of battle. There are also some new trophy monsters with lasting effects that continue to provide their benefits for as long as they remain in play.
Immortal Heroes is at its best when played alongside other expansions. Many of the cards, although really interesting, are expensive and difficult to obtain. The soul gem mechanic itself introduces a fair amount of luck that will frustrate some players. On the plus side, there are also an extra five event cards that, when combined with Storm of Souls, helps ensure that events have a more significant role in the game.
Title: The Rise of Vigil
Cost: £1.99 | $1.99
Unique Cards: 46
New Mechanics: Energise
The bargain-hunters amongst us will be happy to see that this instalment introduces the concept of buy one get one free. When one of the new energy shard cards enters the top row another card is also drawn and placed on top of it. Whenever a player acquires or defeats a card they also gain any energy shards that may be underneath it. Energy shards are used to energise certain cards. These energised abilities are usually a more powerful version of the card’s standard ability.
Energy shards place more emphasis on careful consideration of the cards in the centre row. It is now not always best to simply take the most powerful or best fitting card because you are also trying to balance your ability to generate energy. Since you have the added complication of managing a third resource and banishing cards is more difficult, this set is not recommended for inexperienced players.
Title: Darkness Unleashed
Cost: £2.99 | $2.99
Unique Cards: 43
New Mechanics: Transform
This is a small expansion designed to complement Rise of Vigil, it completes the third expansion block. Alongside a bunch of new heroes, constructs and monsters this expansion introduces dark energy shards and a new transform ability. Dark energy shards act like normal energy shards, but when they appear all players can banish a card. Energy can now be spent to permanently upgrade cards that have the new transform power. Each faction has two new cards that can be transformed, one of which will be a weak hero that costs only two runes but can be transformed into a new hero that would normally cost five runes.
The banishing ability of dark energy provides a welcome way of tailoring your deck to be more efficient. However, it is the transform ability that is the most interesting addition, especially when played alongside the Rise of Vigil expansion. It is very satisfying to be able to upgrade your cards, and since you only have to spend the energy cost once, you do not have to worry about having a constant supply of energy. In short, Darkness Unleashed adds to the energise concept for a more well-rounded experience.
Tune into the final thrilling episode when we will take a nap in the dreamscape and relive that eternal struggle between Light and Dark!