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Ascension: Deckbuilding Game» Forums » Reviews

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Ike Evans
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Ascension is a game that I had heard a lot about for years now, but have never played. It wasn't until an open gaming session not too long ago that I ran into someone who had a copy, with an open seat for me to jump in. Since this time about two week ago, I had several more chances to play to get a solid feel for the game. So what’s the verdict?

Artwork/Aesthetics:

Ascension is somewhat odd in the department of aesthetics. Most gaming aesthetics are either well done (and I like it) or are not well done (and I don't like it). Ascension has artwork that is very well done, but I sort of hate it. I have to give it due props: the artwork looks consistent while artist himself demonstrates a remarkable skillset. Besides, I’ve noticed the new “Collector’s Edition” which has different illustrations that do look a little better.

That said, I still hate the artwork. I totally respect anyone who disagrees with that particular assessment as it is a simple matter of taste. I fully anticipate someone countering with: you are and idiot! I LOVE the art.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Gameplay (most important):

I have long since played and thoroughly enjoyed both Legendary and Star Realms, both of which are based on the Ascension model. I expected Ascension to be a bland game because it only stands to reason that both of the aforementioned games would be improvements on the same model. Alas, I was pleasantly surprised. Ascension is not at all a bland game.

The cards come together in very interesting ways that seem balanced. In the same trade row, there are monsters to kill and allies for you to buy. The monsters, for the most part, go to the trash heap when you defeat them, while cards you buy go into your discard pile. Which direction to kick off your strategy can vary greatly depending on the cards that pop up. Each card itself is worth victory points, whether you defeat monsters or simply buy high value VP cards.

Each turn generally moves quickly, wherein things aren't too complicated. If you are annoyed by the infamous analysis paralysis bogging down the game (as I most certainly am), then this is a great game for you.

There are some problems with mixing monsters with heroes, however. If you start off investing in developing cards to increase the value of your deck, you might suddenly run into a problem of having a bunch of monsters that you can’t fight occupying all the slots. Conversely (and more commonly), you make pack your deck with strong fighters only to have nothing but expensive hero/construct cards that you can’t afford to buy. There are ways around this, to the extent that you aren’t too invested in just one strategy to make things work for you.

The luck factor is comparable to both Legendary and Star Realms, which is to say that luck is an important aspect, but not so strong that the better player will usually win.

Theme (second most important):

Ascension has a sort of fantasy/steam punk theme to it that feels respectably unique. I’m not at all aware of a meaningful backstory, nor am I aware that one even exists. Either way, the Ascensions has an interesting, visceral and slightly dark feel to it that I enjoy well enough.

Value:

Ascension suffers from a problem that isn’t really the fault of the designers. There is another game that is about 70% identical but about half the buy-in price - i.e. Star Realms. I won’t say that Ascension isn’t worth the investment (the price for Ascension is fair), but it is expensive when compared to a competing design.

Verdict:

I don’t own a physical copy of Ascension, nor is it on my wishlist for a future buy. Instead I bought the upgrades on the electronic version and I’m content with that. For me the deal breaker boils down to the artwork, and it just isn’t worth my own financial commitment.

...BUT...

This is a good game. If you are reading this review trying to decide whether or not you should get it, do not let me dissuade you. You should be able to peruse the photo gallery to decide if you disagree with my assessment on the artwork. If you like how the game looks, then I would say that I highly recommend this game for you.

Special thanks to Josh for introducing this game to me at the UGG open gaming forum.
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Richard Diosi
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I really enjoy the game. I have the base games and all the physical expansions but this is by far my most played iPad game. I play both solo against 3 AIs and multiplayer games through the server.

I hated the art in the beginning also. It has so grown on me that I would seriously consider buying prints for framing if they were available from the artist at a decent price!

I highly recommend this to other as you did. Nice review.
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Paul DeStefano
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Definitely my favorite art in gaming.
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I agree that the art to the game is not what I would call pretty, but I don't think that every game has to be. I feel that the art is very well done, and very unique. It gives the game a very iconic feel. I would put it in contrast with games like Legendary: Marvel which have pretty looking art but bad visual presentation (Legendary in particular has reused art between different cards and cards that are hard to read at a glance). I think that the art changes to the core set do not fully address the big complaint about it (that the art is not very pretty) but lessens just how striking the art is.


The Ascension is actually cheaper to try than Star Realms. There is the Apprentice Edition with an MSRP of about $10, though it is reprints of bigger sets and is a bit bland mechanically.
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Jesse W.
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I love the art, but totally understand why some people wouldn't. For a longtime I was also digital only on it, but recently started buying the physical sets.
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Ike Evans
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BDSb wrote:
I love the art, but totally understand why some people wouldn't. For a longtime I was also digital only on it, but recently started buying the physical sets.


I fear that my path to repentance may be very similar to yours. Everyday that I play the electronic version with a new expansion, I find myself enjoying this game a tiny bit more.

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Thiago Leite
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you are and idiot! I LOVE the art.

laugh

Spoiler (click to reveal)
to be honest I don't like the old style, the new is much better to me
 
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Quote:
I don’t own a physical copy of Ascension, nor is it on my wishlist for a future buy. Instead I bought the upgrades on the electronic version and I’m content with that. For me the deal breaker boils down to the artwork, and it just isn’t worth my own financial commitment.

I think the artwork statement should be reconsidered. You're reviewing Chronicle of the Godslayer, the boardgame, which just hit it's 3rd edition. The third edition has completely new artwork; the physical version you played is the first or second edition. Here are a few examples from the latest release:





Basing your lowest score on the artwork from the digital game isn't fair and misleading to anyone that's just learning about the game.
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Joke Meister
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Huuuze wrote:
Basing your lowest score on the artwork from the digital game isn't fair and misleading to anyone that's just learning about the game.


I disagree.

He has made it clear which version of the artwork he has had access to and is reviewing the version he has seen. That seems perfectly valid.

At most, now that he is aware that newer artwork is available, he could add a note to that effect in his review.
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Jokemeister wrote:
He has made it clear which version of the artwork he has had access to and is reviewing the version he has seen. That seems perfectly valid.

It might be better suited on the Ascension site on VideoGameGeek. Just my $.02.
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Joke Meister
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Huuuze wrote:
Jokemeister wrote:
He has made it clear which version of the artwork he has had access to and is reviewing the version he has seen. That seems perfectly valid.

It might be better suited on the Ascension site on VideoGameGeek. Just my $.02.


Except that he also mentioned that he has played the physical version (he just doesn't own it).
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Jokemeister wrote:
Except that he also mentioned that he has played the physical version (he just doesn't own it).

He reviewed a physical copy of the game that can no longer be purchased through retail channels, which is not mentioned. If someone read that review and was unfamiliar with Ascension, they'd be unaware that the rightly-criticized artwork has received a complete facelift.
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Joke Meister
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Huuuze wrote:
Jokemeister wrote:
Except that he also mentioned that he has played the physical version (he just doesn't own it).

He reviewed a physical copy of the game that can no longer be purchased through retail channels, which is not mentioned. If someone read that review and was unfamiliar with Ascension, they'd be unaware that the rightly-criticized artwork has received a complete facelift.


First off - I seriously doubt that all older editions are no longer available at retail. Is that really what you are trying to say?

Secondly - he does mention that newer editions have different artwork.
 
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Jokemeister wrote:
First off - I seriously doubt that all older editions are no longer available at retail. Is that really what you are trying to say?

Is it impossible to get an older copy at a FLGS? No. Will most FLGS have a copy that's over 3 years old? Hopefully not.

Jokemeister wrote:
Secondly - he does mention that newer editions have different artwork.

Fair enough, but he cites the Collector's Edition, which isn't comparable to the base game (higher price, foil cards, includes CotG+RotF+promos).

Quote:
For me the deal breaker boils down to the artwork, and it just isn’t worth my own financial commitment.


All in all, my point is that the lowest score and decision-not-to-purchase is based upon artwork that has aged out. Just wanted to make sure anyone reading the review was aware of the changes.
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Joke Meister
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Huuuze wrote:
All in all, my point is that the lowest score and decision-not-to-purchase is based upon artwork that has aged out. Just wanted to make sure anyone reading the review was aware of the changes.


For what its worth, I really appreciated your original post. I didn't know the game had new artwork until your post so it was definitely useful - particularly as the new artwork is much better (in my opinion).

I just disagreed with the notion that his rating of the artwork was unfair. I wasn't trying to have a go at you (I'm guessing that last smiley was added to defuse a tense situation? Your last statement didn't seem like a joke and I'm not sure why else its there. In any event, if it felt like I was attacking you, you have my apologies. Definitely not my intention although looking at my earlier posts, they were very direct. In my defence, I've been posting these from my tablet so have been lazy about explaining myself).

Getting back to the reason for my posts, I feel that any review is valid provided relevant info is disclosed Which was the case here. If the publisher changes something in a later edition which the reviewer hasn't seen - what onus is on the reviewer to reflect that in his review? Given the hobby nature of most reviewers, it seems unfair to place an additional burden on them to research the changes made by the publisher in later editions.
 
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Jokemeister wrote:
I wasn't trying to have a go at you (I'm guessing that last smiley was added to defuse a tense situation? Your last statement didn't seem like a joke and I'm not sure why else its there.

We're cool. Smileys to the rescue. Heck, if you come to Gen Con, swing by our booth and I'll make sure you leave with a promo or two.

Jokemeister wrote:
what onus is on the reviewer to reflect that in his review? Given the hobby nature of most reviewers, it seems unfair to place an additional burden on them to research the changes made by the publisher in later editions.

IMO, if you're going to review a popular game that was published a few years ago, you should at least check the version information listed on BGG. It's not a heavy lift. In the case of Ascension, the artwork has always been criticized (deservedly), but the reprint and the latest set, Dawn of Champions, have been lauded for the vastly improved artwork.
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I'm no "expert", but I did like some of the artwork that Sabee did early on. Even then, it certainly grows on you. Do like some of the new ones better though. However, in the end, it's a fun game. That's what gets me to play it, even though for some folks, the art plays a much larger role to them.

I know some folks more so had issues with the inconsistent layout and color schemes of the cards going into RU.
 
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Joke Meister
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Huuuze wrote:
Jokemeister wrote:
I wasn't trying to have a go at you (I'm guessing that last smiley was added to defuse a tense situation? Your last statement didn't seem like a joke and I'm not sure why else its there.

We're cool. Smileys to the rescue. Heck, if you come to Gen Con, swing by our booth and I'll make sure you leave with a promo or two.

Jokemeister wrote:
what onus is on the reviewer to reflect that in his review? Given the hobby nature of most reviewers, it seems unfair to place an additional burden on them to research the changes made by the publisher in later editions.

IMO, if you're going to review a popular game that was published a few years ago, you should at least check the version information listed on BGG. It's not a heavy lift. In the case of Ascension, the artwork has always been criticized (deservedly), but the reprint and the latest set, Dawn of Champions, have been lauded for the vastly improved artwork.


??? Checks Huuzes profile - ah!!

Can you believe I only just realized you are one of the designers?!?!

Anyway, thanks for the promo offer. I never get to go to gencon but I do appreciate the offer.

Re reviews - My pov is that, particularly for a hobby reviewer, all you can ever hope for is that they are transparent about what they are reviewing. Expecting them to do additional research seems unfair.

Another problem is how the reviewer would even know to do additional research. This feels like the classic cliche of not even knowing what question to ask. For example, if I were to look at the front page for ascension, I can't easily tell that the latest edition has new artwork (and as I mentioned before, I didn't know there was new artwork until your post). How would I even know to check the latest artwork?

And this is just one example. What if the insert had changed? Or if the card quality improved? Or the box size altered? Am I supposed to check all of this before I post a review criticising that component? What if I didn't like the game? Do I need to check the latest edition rulebook to see if the rules changed?

It just feels that putting this onus on a hobby reviewer is unrealistic.
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Jiryfoe Man
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That new art looks great!

Font size is smaller than I'd like, but that's the same with most games.

Large Print for all! googoo
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