Hi hi,my local game store managed to get in a few copies of Ascension: Storm of Souls imported from Essen so we were lucky enough to kick the game out over the weekend.
We wanted to get a good feel for SoS's new play elements so we played a bunch of games as a standalone. We haven't yet added it to the main mix...
Presentation and components:
Gary Games has managed to shift the quality of it's production up just a tiny notch with each Ascension release. SoS brings a much improved game board (it sits flat, which was an issue with my older one from Chronicles) updated for the new game mechanics, very nice mat card stock for all the cards and new artwork for all the reprinted cards.
The honor tokens are the same as previous releases, nice and distinctive and attractive on the table. Everything has the same distinctive design and artwork as previous Ascension releases, a style that has quite grown on me overtime.
In this set we have two new card types, trophy monsters and events. Events are printed landscape so are easy to spot, and the subtle changes in card layout for the Trophy monsters is nice as well.
A whole bunch of new center cards, two new card types and a new "always available" monster. (The Fanatic) The most obviously new Mechanic are the events which introduce a constant effect on game play when they appear in the center row. The event is then put aside as the "current event" and replaced as normal. Each event has an effect until banished or until a new event comes out; replacing the old one. Each event also has a trophy effect, which ties into the new Fanatic monster card. (see below)
Trophy monsters are a little more subtle but combo-tastic element added in SoS. Trophy Monsters are kept as trophies when defeated, rather than going to the void they are set aside in front of the player much like constructs. Each has an effect that can be activated by banishing the trophy, granting cards, runes or strength for example.
The new Fanatic is a Trophy monster that connects the two new mechanics together. It is an always available card like the Cultist, and when defeated it becomes a trophy in front of the player. The Fanatic trophy is limited to one per player and it can be banished to trigger an "event trophy" effect on the current event.
Well you get another set of base cards with new artwork, this set allows up to four players to play and could be combined with Return of the Fallen or Chronicles... to allow a six player game. (or more with house rules)
Storm of Souls as a standalone:
Like the previous two releases, Storm of souls is a very easy game for new players to pick up. It's basic engine is a strong variant on the now popular deckbuilding game that Dominion pioneered and the newly introduced elements do little to distract from that. Game play is still very quick, with trophies allowing some wonderful combo play and events adding very subtle shifts in the power of cards. The great thing about the events is that the designers have resisted the idea of having events that turn the game on it's head, we don't have cards that reverse play direction or change the way fundamental mechanics work, instead they subtly change the way some cards interact.
As a standalone game it feels very much like Chronicles.. in balance, the new cards for each faction strengthen each suit's themes and creates new ways of expressing their strengths. (Mechanica for example are very much based around destroying constructs and bringing them back, Void has even more card banishing, lifebound has it's "unite" effect etc.) The monster balance has been shifted a little due to the Fanatic, with many of the 3strength monsters being worth 2honor and the two big boys being a 7 and an 8 in this set.
Gary games has indeed done this right, expanding and exploring the game's elements with new mechanics without harming the core strengths of the Ascension line. It looks great, it's fast and above all very satisfying to play. We have yet to mix the center decks together yet, and I'll be interested if the new mechanics become too diluted when playing two or three sets together. Ascension has saddled up and is running neck and neck with Nightfall as the most interesting child of Dominion and Storm of Souls only confirms that assessment.