It seems like a revolution has come to boardgames with the invention of the iPad and iPhone. Several different boardgames have come out for the iOS and it seems like more are being announced daily. Ascension was one of the first games to come out for iOS devices. Recently they released the expansion for Ascension on the iOS called Return of the Fallen. If you are a fan of Ascension, then picking up Return of the Fallen is a no-brainer. However, if you’ve never played Ascension, is purchasing this in the expansion a good deal? Let’s find out.
Ascension could be compared to Dominion, in the fact that both our deck building games. However, that’s where the similarities stop. Ascension features two different resources, power and runes. Power is used to defeat monsters, while runes are used to purchase cards to go into your deck. Three cards are available to you at all times: the Cultist, the Mystic, and the Heavy Infantry.
Six different cards are also available to you in the center row. These cards come from a single stack, and they are instantly replaced once the card is removed from the center row. These cards are either Monsters, Heroes, or Constructs. Heroes and Constructs are purchased using runes and go into your discard pile. Once Constructs are played, they stay out and you get their benefit each turn. Heroes can only be used during the turn they are drawn on. Monsters are defeated using power gained from the cards in your hand.
The goal of Ascension is to have the most Honor at the end of the game. You gain Honor through defeating Monsters and acquiring cards. Each of the Hero and Construct cards have an Honor value as well. Honor tokens are gained by defeating Monsters. The number of Honor tokens are available at the start of the game, depending on the number of players. Once the Honor tokens are gone, the round is finished so that everyone has the same number of turns. The Honor is counted and the person with the most Honor wins.
When Return of the Fallen was released, it contained all the cards for two people to play, but it could be combined with the original Ascension set, Chronicle of the Godslayer. The iOS version of Ascension handles this beautifully. On the player selection screen, two small icons represent Chronicle of the Godslayer and Return of the Fallen. One or both of these can be selected to determine which decks are used. If Return of the Fallen is chosen, only a two-player game is available. If you play Chronicle of the Godslayer or both decks, you can play up to four players. You need to have at least one human player, but you can play it in a pass-and-play fashion with multiple people, and you can also assign AI players with two levels of AI.
The other major change in Return of the Fallen was the Fate cards. When a card enters the center row with Fate text on it, then the text must be obeyed. The text ranges from things like everyone putting a Construct into their discard pile to replacing the cards next to the card that was just placed in the center row. These Fate cards add a new element of randomness to the game.
Once you get past the starting screen and to the actual game, the format is laid out brilliantly. The six center row cards are laid in the middle of the screen. Below that is the play area where you lay down the cards you want to play. Below that is your hand, your deck, and your discard pile. Above the center row are the Mystics, Heavy Infantry, and Cultist cards, the number of Honor tokens available in the game, the number of Runes and Power pooled, and the area for the Void where defeated monsters go to. Above there shows the AI and their stats like Honor points, number of cards in their discard pile, and a log of what they played.
All of the cards are represented with the exact artwork and layout of the original game. I was afraid that it would be difficult to read the text on the cards, especially on the iPhone. However, you can double tap on any card and it will expand to fill the screen. Then any text on the card is easy to read, even on the small screen.
Interacting with the cards is intuitive. To play a card you drag it to the play area or hit the “Play All” button. Cards that can be taken or defeated are highlighted. In general, Heroes and Constructs are highlighted in green and Monsters in red. To claim a Hero or Construct you drag it to your discard pile. To defeat a Monster, you drag it to the Void.
While you will probably play Ascension often without sound, Playdek has given Ascension a very mysterious soundtrack to go with the game. It matches the artwork well. You also hear plenty of clanging as you clash with Monsters and acquire Heroes. It’s not distracting and enhances the gameplay, but you won’t mind playing it on mute either.
The game plays quickly, and you can set how fast the game speed and animations go in the Options screen. Other options available are turning on and off the music, sound effects, and cultist screams.
The AI has two levels of difficulty, and each AI player can be chosen individually. However, the AI does seem to be fairly beatable and I would have appreciated another level of difficulty in the AI.You can play Ascension online though. It’s a nice option for when you are tired of the AI
If you have been curious about Ascension but weren’t ready to pay the price for the actual board game or don’t have any local friends to play it with, the iOS version is a great option to play it. Because it plays so quickly, you can get a game in at a fraction of the time. If you already have the original game, then just get Return of the Fallen. If you haven’t, I would try out the original game first, but don’t be surprised if you get hooked enough to get Return of the Fallen.