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Subject: Ascension: Storm of Souls -- Raising the bar for Gary Games rss

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K. David Ladage
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Ascension: Storm of Souls
By: Robert Dougherty, John Fiorillo, Justin Gary, Brian M. Kibler
Published: Gary Games
Web: http://www.ascensiongame.com/news-archive/item/ascension-sto...

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A Brief History
As I said in my initial review of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer: Deck building games are an interesting evolution of card games. They are the illegitimate red-headed step-child of Collectible Card Games; and like their predecessors, they hit the market and gained speed unlike anything the publishers thought possible. The people involved in developing Magic: The Gathering had no idea what they were looking at from a marketing and sales perspective; I find it hard to imagine that the people involved in Dominion were any more clued in. This was a new concept; and new concepts have a high failure to success ratio. This remains as true now as it was when I wrote that. And for me, Ascension is one of those games that teetered on failure...

Rise of Godslayer
My rating for the base game is a solid 9. It is a good deck-builder that plays lighter than Dominion and Thunderstone with much simpler rules and far less setup/tear down. In other words, it remained a strong contender for my game time. My thoughts on the base game (such as the idea that it is a lighter deck-builder) brought out some of the cultists of the game to tell me what an idiot I was. I remain convinced that this is a much lighter game than Dominion and/or Thunderstone (my other two favorite deck-builders).

Fallen with the Return
After Ascension: Rise of the Fallen was released, I was soured on the game. The expansion offered very little in the way of fresh concepts or thought. Once you added in the Fallen himself (and if you kept in the Avatar of the Fallen), the game seemed... well, awkward. This is strictly my opinion, but these two cards made things feed wrong every time they came up -- I still feel that if included, they need to be an alternative end-game trigger. But the rest of the cards were rather bland, I felt and gave little by way of overall game-play. So my rating for the whole enchilada dropped considerably, as I felt that the direction the game was going was a bit off. My rating dropped to 6 or 7 depending upon when you looked. *

Now, when I made my thoughts on this expansion known, I was asked to create some cards that would illustrate some of the directions I would have liked to have seen the game go... I did. Some of the cards I created, I still have and will even throw them into the mix -- I think they are quite good... however...

Rising Storm
...some of them have been superseded by this new expansion. The idea of trophy creatures was one that I tinkered with (under another name, of course) and I have to say that the way they did them here is better than my implementation. Cleaner too.

The idea of events was one I played with as well. My events were set up as global effects on monsters, meaning that the combination of events could all be happening at once. The way they did it is not only cleaner, but offers the possibility of interesting mini-expansions with more events to throw into the deck.

Now with the release of Ascension: Storm of Souls, I can honesty say that my faith in the direction the game is headed has been renewed. This is very close to what I would say that the first expansion should have looked like. It has some cool, fresh ideas that truly impact play and add in some choices... something I think that is still missing at times in game play. Still, after this one, we have my rating for this game back up to an 8. If this game continues in its evolution with expansions on par with this one, I can see the rating climbing back up to 9 or so...

Soul Food for Thought
Ascension: Storm of Souls is a stand-alone expansion. This comes with 200 cards, 50 honor tokens, a rulebook, and a game-board.

GOOD:
-- The 106 new cards include:

* Fanatics. Fanatics are like a slightly more powerful cultist (3 power to defeat). The reward is the same as a cultist (1 honor). However, a cultist is a trophy monster...

* Trophy Monsters. Trophy monsters are monsters that act just like monsters from earlier sets. However, when defeated, they are not banished just yet. Instead, they are played in front of you and can be banished at any time to gain the trophy effect. Each monster has a trophy effect listed on it. Trophy effects include gaining honor, runes, cards, or other effects. The Fanatic is a trophy monster that lets you gain the trophy effect on an event card...

* Events. There is one event for each of the factions, and one for the monsters. Each event, when revealed, replaces any current event and its global effect takes place immediately. Each event has a global effect that impacts all players all the time; they each also have a trophy effect that can be gained by any player by banishing a defeated Fanatic. No player may have more than one Fanatic in front of them as a trophy. However, defeating multiple Fanatics and banishing them for multiple copies of the event trophy effect is perfectly valid...

* Fate: Fate makes a return in this set with more cards that will trigger odd event like effects when revealed.

BAD:
* Redundancy. You already have nearly half of the cards that come in this expansion if you have either of the first releases in this game series. The game includes 4 starting decks (8 Apprentices and 2 Milita each), 26 Militia, 26 Mystics, and a CultistThus, of the 200 cards that come with the game, just over half are new cards. Granted, the starting decks and the always available cards (Apprentices and Militia) have vastly improved artwork, so this may not be an entirely bad thing.

* Redundancy. You already have more than enough honor tokens for this game. If you have all three releases you have far too many to be honest... unless you want to play some sort of an Epic Ascension Variant.

* Redundancy. You already have a gameboard. This one is better looking, and has a place marked for Honor (not that I think a place on the board needs to be reserved for honor), and a place for the current event card. The major issue I have with this game board (as with the previous one) is that the cards in the center row, if placed as marked, are too close together if you are playing with sleeves -- they tend to be close enough that picking one up causes others to shift around. As a bit of an obsesive-compulsive, this is annoying.

* Redundancy. The game has effects that have now been key-worded (unite, for example, means that an effect gan be gained if you have played a card from that faction earlier in your turn). However, rather than letting this clean up the card, they repeat the effect description after the key-word. For example, the key-word trophy means that you can banish this creature to gain the effect that follows, but every single trophy effect reads: Trophy: You may banish this to ... I think this should have been handled like the reward key-word. None of the reward lines read: Reward: If you defeat this monster from the center row, gain... Define them in the rulebook; save space on the card. The same holds true for fate, unite, and any other keyword they decide to add (in my very humble opinion).

Conclusions
Ascension: Storm of Souls is a vast improvement over the first expansion of this game, and in many ways improves upon the original. I sincerely think that all three sets make a nice whole. Over time, this may even prove to be greater than the sum of the parts. One can hope that the guys at Gary Games keep this level of quality up in future expansions.

Recommended.

===

* = I adjust the base game rating after I purchase expansions. I do not feel that having an expansion rated, out of the context of the game itself makes much sense. So, I will review expansions, I will not rate them...

I recommend that, when playing, you remove the Avatar of the Fallen, and Samael the Fallen. You may also want to go through the monsters and trim out any that simply do not trip your trigger... after all, no game of Ascension is going to come close to using all of the cards that can go into the center row...
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Gunther Schmidl
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The information is really hidden, but Storm of Souls is intended to be a new base game. Hence the redundant cards. There's also a new transport box for it and its eventual expansion.
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Henry Allen
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Nice review. In your opinion, is this a good set to start with for players experienced with Magic, Dominion, and various board games? Is it 'better' than the first set for someone only planning on getting one set?
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Eric Leath
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The wording on trophy monsters leaves design room wide open in case they do something in the future that doesn't require banishment of the card to gain the reward.
 
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Mercedes (Mandy)
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gschmidl wrote:
The information is really hidden, but Storm of Souls is intended to be a new base game. Hence the redundant cards. There's also a new transport box for it and its eventual expansion.

Thanks gschmidl That's caught my attention knowing it's a new base game, and it's on my wishlist now.
I really like playing it on the Ipod touch and still do (currently playing Return of the Fallen), but I think I needed something more challenging and interesting. Now I'm going to invest in a physical copy.
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K. David Ladage
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KlydeFrog wrote:
Nice review. In your opinion, is this a good set to start with for players experienced with Magic, Dominion, and various board games? Is it 'better' than the first set for someone only planning on getting one set?


If you are going to get only one set -- this is the one to get. But all three as a whole, I think, it play better than any one set by itself.
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K. David Ladage
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Whisperhand wrote:
The wording on trophy monsters leaves design room wide open in case they do something in the future that doesn't require banishment of the card to gain the reward.


If that is the case, I would use another term... the idea of banishing it from in front of you is a "trophy" effect -- this is reinforced by the way the Fanatic works.

Any other mechanic would be something else and I think, in order to reduce possible confusion, another term would have to be used.
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gschmidl wrote:
The information is really hidden, but Storm of Souls is intended to be a new base game. Hence the redundant cards. There's also a new transport box for it and its eventual expansion.
Do you mean that it's not intended to be mixed with the previous two sets or just that it works as a standalone?
 
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Gunther Schmidl
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AstroLad wrote:
gschmidl wrote:
The information is really hidden, but Storm of Souls is intended to be a new base game. Hence the redundant cards. There's also a new transport box for it and its eventual expansion.
Do you mean that it's not intended to be mixed with the previous two sets or just that it works as a standalone?


From what I gathered it's not really intended to mix with the other two since that will dilute the deck so much you might not see the new stuff. It won't break the game, though, it just might be less interesting.
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gschmidl wrote:
AstroLad wrote:
gschmidl wrote:
The information is really hidden, but Storm of Souls is intended to be a new base game. Hence the redundant cards. There's also a new transport box for it and its eventual expansion.
Do you mean that it's not intended to be mixed with the previous two sets or just that it works as a standalone?


From what I gathered it's not really intended to mix with the other two since that will dilute the deck so much you might not see the new stuff. It won't break the game, though, it just might be less interesting.

Interesting -- I've actually been playing it independently mostly out of laziness (not wanting to integrate the decks and bother with all that shuffling) but must have missed that that was actually the intent. Does seem to play pretty well standalone.
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