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Kevin Wenzel
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Ascension’s Storm of Soul’s

Now Honey Siren wants you to go check out this review in it's full glory at http://www.2d6.org/2012/03/ascension-storm-of-souls/ with pictures and all the embellishments.

1-4 players
Quick games around 30 -40 (a little more with 3 or 4 players)
Solitaire option works and is fun.
Components:

This is the stand alone third expansion of the Ascensions series. What is very noticeable from opening the box is the brand new board with the cultist and other card fronts actually printed on the board. Last time it seemed odd that there was a space for just one card. The cards themselves look more like standard playing cards with a proper weight and matt finish. The original decks of cards were a little stiff with very plastic looking exterior, and a very shiny unnatural feel to them.

The game plays much like the original, and so your probably wondering is this expansion worth the purchase price? Well if you haven’t gotten into Ascensions series before now and have been sitting on the side lines thinking of trying your hand, this is by far the best starting point for a new or curious gamer. They have honed the game down to a more consistent efficient version, and built in some more some exciting mechanics into the game play. Even the artwork is only getting better and the scratch art design is very unique to the deck building genre.

Ascensions through the years the arguments for liking and disliking:

Some people feel this is a straight forward deck building game. The subtractor would continue to complain that the game is simple and that it lacks playable strategy. All you are doing is a simple case of buying the best exposed cards out on the central row. The Subtractor would continue to explain thus this is a simple game of luck and you’re a victim of the fate from the draw deck.

Then my response is then why then is it so fun? I equate it to be like gambling or playing poker. You are hedging your bets that you can build a deck that will allow you to form stunning combos and chains of buying and destructive power. Players have the choice of smashing your dreams because there are plenty of cards out there now to banish something of values off the playing field and thus taking it out of your reach. You weep for the loss of the perfect combo, and have to change plans accordingly. What also adds depth to play is how you alter the central fields, when you buy something in the central row you replace it with another card immediately. This opens you up to buy or fight choices in order to clear the board so you can pick or choose cards to compliment your deck with your remainder of points in your hand. Thus, you must spend wisely so you have to decide to purchase what is on the table, or hope that something better will come your way while you buy low costing cards to opening up the possibilities.

This is expansion is by far a better starting point then going back to the original game. First off each group Life bound, Enlightened, Void, and Mechana are more cohesive then the original and work much better when staying in one field of study. This provides the player a good argument to keep buying one type of card to build a mono deck because they make more interesting combinations and bonuses then usually playing a multi-disciplinary hand of cards. Unite is another fun mechanic which increases bonuses for players that manage to put down in the same round matching like heroes. You would have to say this is a good thing.

New Mechanics

The game continues with the newer mechanics introduced in the last expansion like fates an effect when the card first hits the central row and causes an immediate effect.

Storm of Souls keeps building on good ideas and introduces four new elements this time around.

First off is Trophy which is an effect when you kill some monsters you can keep them in front of you and use a onetime special ability later in the game. They usually consist of giving you more destructive or buying power. Also some allow you to draw more cards and so on.

Another new mechanic is Events which is a card that has a global effect that influences all players in the game. Currently there is only one card per each disciple and monsters. They have slightly different effects.

Hedron Rising: is the Mechana event and cause all constructs to be Machana constructs
Rise of the Cult: Cultist and fanatics have +1hit and +1 honor
Arha Rising: The Enlightenment Event when you are forced to discard you can bring one back into your hand.
Void Rising: Once per a turn a player gets an extra honor if they defeat a monster in the central row.
Ogo Rising: Life bound event where the first Hero played is consider a life bound hero as well.

Fanatic is a new monster type. This is for all those people that thought a cultist was not enough. This poor guy is a little harder to hit and has a trophy effect. You can keep him and use him to purchase the event card that is currently in play thus rendering the global effect useless and giving you only a special new trophy effect. I won’t go into them now but you can imagine what they might be.

The final mechanic is a new term called “Destroy”. Destroy allows you to put constructs you currently have out in play, and discard them for a positive effect. Destroy also then allows a lot of constructs that have a benefits when first being played to be used for maximum effect.

Solitaire Play:

Storm of Souls continues on the Solitaire rules that were first introduced in the last expansion Return of the Fallen. Cards always enter the central row from the left and (after you’re done playing your turn) then Nemesis gets the last two cards on the right side of the center row. If he pulls a monster he gets the point value in honor and if it is a hero or construct he collects them for points at the end of the game always ignoring the written text of the card. Most games were real close in point spreads and you might find it a hard fight trying to minimize the damage that the nemesis gets from the right side of the table. Unfortunately, ever so often the game deals an unfair onslaught of cards and monsters and you have little or no control on what goes to the Nemesis collection of points, but these types of game were few and far in between.


The Good:

Almost everything in this box would be considered an improvement over the original game. Gamers who have played “Ascension” before, and liked it would certainly want to consider this purchase. Also if you’re new to “Ascensions”, and have been thinking of buying the game Strom of Souls this is a great entry point into the series. Replay ability is pretty good and combining this game with the original or other expansion allows you to expand out to six players.

The Bad:

There isn’t much bad here. If you don’t like deck building games then try before you buy. It is certainly a different kind of beast because you’re allowed as much destruction and purchasing power as your cards will allow each turn. In the case of this game greed is good, and should be an ongoing mantra in every Ascension player’s philosophy.

Conclusion:

This game reminds me of a story told to be me by a Welshman on my travels. There were two tourists traveling in the western coast of Great Briton. They stumbled onto some coastline where they found an old abandoned quarry, and while exploring the realized that the place was full of adders. Scared for their lives that they might be struck by the snakes they raced to the local small town and entered the pub. There frantically they told their story to the locals. Finally an old wise man quietly sipping at a warm beer turns to address them. “It is not the adders you should worry about, but the subtractors”

Storm of Souls is a welcome friend to the Ascension's franchise. It has gone far into creating fast paced and satisfying game play. If you’re even a little bit curious now about how good this game might be it is time to scratch that Ascension’s curiosity.

~Kevin Wenzel
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Chris G
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FrankConner wrote:

First off each group Life bound, Enlightened, Void, and Mechana are more cohesive then the original and work much better when staying in one field of study. This provides the player a good argument to keep buying one type of card to build a mono deck because they make more interesting combinations and bonuses then usually playing a multi-disciplinary hand of cards.

Good review - I'm looking forward to see this expansion hit the iPad as I think the iPad version outshines the card version for speed, portability and actual play-ability.

But the quote is one I wanted to comment on. There is some depth to the strategy as you get a better understanding of the cards. But the randomness of the card availability means I never really feel like I can plan a strategy it is largely a case of buy the best card you can. The learning portion comes into effect in that the most expensive card is often not the best one.

There have been many a game where I wanted to go for a Life Bound strategy to seldom see Live Bound cards come up. (Life Bound could be subbed for just about any grouping). Beyond some rare stretches I think you pretty much have to play a mixed strategy every time. I'm curious how this version of the game has changed that.
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Kevin Wenzel
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That is always he risk Chris. For instance when I play solo I tend to go enlightenment when I can't buy life bound. That way I have a drawing mechanism to get through my deck to get at more lifebound. This of course is a personal preference of play. I rarely buy void or Machana unless the right cards come up and that is my only option.
 
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corey shannon
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Depending on draw the different strategies work out (in my head) like so (pre-SoS):

- Heavy Power deck, buy heavy and void when possible. If monsters flip game will end quickly and the honor pool will win it for this deck.

-Lifebound and Enlightened decks. Decent purchase power, slow but consistent honor. Mix of card total and honor pool win with this on a moderate length game.

-Mechana and rune deck. Great purchase power for other mechana. Honor almost all from card value. Wins longer games with more cards seen. The cost per honor on mechana is incredible.

SoS is great to me that it changes this up. Mechana can actually pound on monsters if you want. Overall the only faction that remains mostly the same to me is Void.
 
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Jim McCollum
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I agree with you all, but one thing is that I think the value of certain heroes changes over the course of the game. If you can get some of the void heroes early, they can be really good, no matter what other disciplines your cards come from, because thinning your deck is so good. A good void deck reminds me of the chapel decks in Dominion.

I felt like SoS fixed many of the issues I had with the original game and the first expansion, mainly through making the disciplines play differently and making it easier to end the game through fighting monsters or getting honor with lifebound heroes. In the original game (even with expansion) I felt like forcing the mechana+card draw+runes strategy was pretty hard to beat if the player could banish cards from the center row. Now, I think the fast strategies are better. I also think mechana became more dynamic too, a bit weaker, but more fun overall.

Essentially, SoS is awesome and a huge upgrade over the original game in pretty much every way.
 
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