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Subject: Ascension and Small World got drunk one night... rss

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Paul DeStefano
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If you aren't familiar with Ascension and Small World, that won't mean much.

If you are, picture the game as this:

Play Ascension. But whenever you do damage, place a tile on the Small World board. Keep score on both simultaneously, for cards in deck at game end as well as VPs off the map.

Really, that's what this is.

And it's great.

So let's start by saying it's great. Especially if you're fond of Ascension and Small World. Which I am.

Now let's start looking at the things that make you think they went out of the way to make it not great: The Components.

I got the game on sale for $41. MSRP is something absurd like $75. Again - GREAT game - just realize you will be paying for the gameplay and do not expect a treasure trove of components.

The cards - on the flimsy side. But they function well. And the art is very nice. The flavor text is dark, sinister and often amusing. Moreso if you imagine they are said by Donald Trump.

The board - it is unpleasant. Fair to say that it won't matter after the first few turns, you will just be seeing the territories and lines. But first glance - it is unpleasant. It is dark and drow. But mostly humans will be playing, so there's a slight disconnect there. Would have been nice to actually look like a map or something, but OK, it really does fade away once playing. And when playing 2 player, only the middle of the board is used. This SHOULD have been selectable segments, ala Power Grid, so there would be a flexibility in the map.

The player boards - Useless. OK, they give a nice turn summary, which could have been printed on a card. Seems a waste of resource, where you may have been able to spend that money elsewhere. They take space and are generally annoying.

The market board - THIS IS MADE WRONG. You layout the cards all facing the right way then place the market deck so that YOU CAN'T SEE THE FIRST CARD. Then place some other decks blocking other cards, but not as badly. Welcome to the most horrifyingly executed graphic gaffe in recent boardgame history. This thing is usable only if you look directly down on it. Solution: turn it around. Or you could place it on the floor with all players standing over it. Play with the print facing away, so the market row is on the player side of the board and the decks behind them. This is truly absurd. I have to go by the belief that layout guy had no idea what the rules were and that the rules guys never saw the layout.

Pieces - Too small. Who the hell chose these colors? Red, the other red, black and the other black. Did no one actually see the live samples of these? Then you have your regular troop pieces, incredibly boringly represented by shields rather than little dudes, and you have Spies - who ARE little guys. When they are on the board more than a foot away, you have to scan the board say 'does anyone see any spies? Cuz all I see are a bunch of red and black blobs'. Solution #1: Cubes. Replace the damn shields with cubes. They should have been minis which they could have paid for by not including the player boards. OR Solution #2 - buy a Silver Paint Marker and rim the sides of the bases in silver on the spies so you can quickly find them. Or whatever painting trick you would like, but that's the easy one. I suspect they avoided cubes to make it less Euro/Waterdeep like. Maybe. But a poor choice.

The "Inner Circle" bits. Look. Drow coasters. Listen, if you insist on having player boards, and have sections off the side for "trophies" and "barracks", just designate another side "Inner".

The manual - Too big and too long. Almost half is lore about these drow places. If you're a drow fan, you know it. If you're a boardgamer, it won't matter to you.

It is at this point in the review I would like to say I really wish my spellchecker knew the word 'drow' so I didn't keep getting the little red underlines.

OK - so that's the crap of the game. It's just badly produced. The parts are on the lower end of usable. The cards (while thin) are most of the game, and they serve fine.

On the other hand, this is a stellar game gameplay wise. The rules leave you shrugging and wondering what the hell the game is, since you learn all about how to place spies in nice detail, but at no time is it mentioned why the hell you would want spies.

And that's the beauty. Depends on your deck. Spies might work like investments, returning as resources on a later turn if that rat bastard opponent doesn't kill them first, or as ways to get your armies further, or as ways to score points, or as... You get it. It's a deckbuilding game with a variable market row. The idea is to make the best of what is presented and the synergies it presents within your existing deck.

You could concentrate on your deck - getting high value cards, promoting them for points. You could concentrate on the board, gaining powerful territories for resources. Or maybe build a deck to gain VPs during play. Or work on destroying the opponent.

And the deck is nicely variable, stealing a touch from Smash Up by having each game being a mix of two smaller decks. Man, I want a bunch of inexpensive new expansion decks to throw the game a bunch of new twists.

You place your guys, slowly spreading for victory points and position, an amoeba of shields, obliterating those neutral guys that they also lifted from Small World, gaining tactical position while building up your deck. There's a whole lot to juggle, a whole lot going on, and a whole lot of pissing off the opponents.

It's fun.

It's fast (under an hour, even on your first few plays).

An it's very simple to learn. The game is nicely included in the cards, not the rules.

There's enough really fun backstabbing gameplay here to make up for the crappy production that happened. If you are buying fun instead of bits, its a worthy addition to a game collection.
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Arthur Rutyna
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Love the title

Game also caught me off guard. I'm not a D&D guy, so the theme is just OK for me. But I did like my 1 play of this game quite a bit.
 
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John E
United States
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Absolutely agree; my thoughts are much along the same lines as yours. Love the game and everyone in the two groups I have taught it to lately have really enjoyed it too.

If GF9 plays their cards right (see what I did there?) with expansions this could be stellar.
 
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Jean-Philippe Thériault
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Everybody absolutly loves this game until i mention the price.Thankfully for them, I already bought it.
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Aaron Lewicki
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Nice review! I don't know anyone who has it, so I'm still on the list of "I'm sure it's good but it's too ugly to spend $80" gamers. The cards may be 80% of the gameplay, but even the box can't help but focus on the big, ugly board and tokens.
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Paul DeStefano
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XDarkAngelX wrote:
Everybody absolutly loves this game until i mention the price.


Deal Of The Day.

I always check all the online places for what's on daily sale.

It's the first thing I do at work.
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Veljko Dobrijevic
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Everyone bitching about the price should know I just saw it on Amazon for 46$ or something like that...
 
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