This review was originally posted to MTV Geek
Just the Facts:
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Age: 13 to adult
Publisher: Gary Games
Release: June 29th, 2011
Ascension: Return of the Fallen is both an expansion to the original Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and a standalone game itself. As such, the two games play with nearly identical rules: players begin with generic 10-card starting decks and must acquire new cards or defeat monster cards to gain honor tokens. When all of the tokens run out, the game ends and the player with the most is declared the victor.
Where Ascension games break stride with the current glut of deckbuilding card games in stores today is that instead of choosing cards from specific pre-determined stacks, players use the entire card set and continuously replenish a six-card "center row." The end result is that players do not have enough advance knowledge to make methodical engine-building decisions. Instead, they have to fly a bit more by the seats of their pants, adopting whichever strategy fits the current mix of center row cards. It also gives players a more direct path to affect their opponents, since they are all competing over a much smaller selection of cards.
For a more in-depth look at how a game of Ascension plays out, check out my earlier review of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.
The one new addition in Return of the Fallen is the "fate" mechanic, which provides instant effects the moment a card enters the center row. To see just what sort of fate effects this set has in store, here are a few previews of cards that employ the mechanic:
- 120 cards
- 30 deluxe honor tokens
- Full color rulebook
- Storage tray
Since Return of the Fallen is playable on its own, it comes with a duplicate set of the starting cards and honor tokens seen in the base game. While this does open up the possibility for 5 and 6 player games when combining both sets, this also means that of the 120 cards included in Return of the Fallen, only 65 are truly new additions. For $30, this may test the price point of Ascension fans.
One change in this set's components versus the original's is that the card sizes are slightly smaller and the quality of both the stock and printing finish have been improved. While this has caused some strife with players afraid that the ability to identify cards in their deck will ruin the game, I'm not sure this is a problem worth calling home about. Perhaps I just don't take my gaming seriously enough, but it would take tense tournament play or a severe case of OCD to put a hurt on the actual gameplay. When I game, it's with friends and we're there to have fun in an honest competition. If you're taking out your set of calipers to study the differences between two cards, you're missing the point.
If this were a printing error, I could understand players being up in arms, but the card quality in the original Ascension was awful! Gary Games went out of its way to fix this while trying to keep the cards as identical as possible.
In my review of the original Ascension game, I admired its unique design but still felt that it was stuck in the middle of two different schools of thought: heavy and light player interaction. I must admit that after many more plays, my opinion of Ascension has improved. Rather than seeing the center row as a mechanic that is different for the sake of being different, I now feel quite strongly that it actually changes the flow of a game so significantly that Ascension should not be judged solely on its level of interaction versus other deck-building favorites.
With the tighter focus on six cards, rounds of Ascension play through at a quick pace you just won't find in those other games. This can also be attributed to the fact that there are very few moving pieces to keep track of both on your own and opponent's turns. All that matters is how many runes and how much power you have accumulated during your turn. For everything else, just read the text on the card when the time comes to do so.
But how do the new additions in Return of the Fallen fit into this? First off, I see the fate mechanic as a small but positive change to the game. It adds an added dash of unpredictability as to how the game will play out, but this is kept in check due to the low number of cards that actually have fate effects printed on them. The total count it 11 cards, which some have criticized as too low, but I don't believe those critics realize what they are asking for. It's one thing to spice up the game a bit, as Return of the Fallen does, but another to let it devolve it into chaos.
Adayu the Chosen is a great example of a powerful card that can shake up a game of Ascension without even using the new fate mechanic.
The other new addition--the ability to play with five or six players--is a change that falls a bit flat. As I mentioned above, my love for Ascension has grown because I see it as the fast-paced little brother of the deep-thinking deckbuilders. Cranking up the player count not only slows down the pace, but it completely takes your head out of the game. With such quick turnover of the center row, why bother even trying to form a strategy for your turn until the game has moved halfway around the table?
Unfortunately, while my opinion on Ascension in general has improved, I do not feel that Return of the Fallen changes the game enough to open doors for those who still do not have a taste for the original. That being said, this expansion certainly puts a breath of fresh air into the game for those who have played their original sets to death. It's generally just more of the same, but for the real Ascension-lovers out there, that may not be such a bad thing.
Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game
Now if it would only be released on the ios already...
Now if it would only be released on the ios already...Still on schecule for end of the months/beg. of Dec. Will be submitted by now, and about a week for Apple to approve it (or perhaps more due to the holidays)
EDIT: ahh, there's the link......
posted on Nov. 18th 2011
We're finishing up Return of the Fallen now. Should be submitting to Apple within the next couple of days. They've taken a week to review each of our previous submissions, but I have no idea how Thanksgiving will affect that schedule. Once the client is approved for release, there will be a brief interruption in online service so we can swap our server over to support the new set.
- Last edited Thu Dec 1, 2011 1:06 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:26 am