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   Available at your Local Games store for about £30.00 (though there are a couple that appear to be exactly the same version advertised on Amazon at £88.00+ and £95.00+)

ASCENSION: REALMS UNRAVELED (Stoneblade Entertainment) is a new expansion / stand alone full game version of the Ascension: Deckbuilding Game, which was originally published around 2009/2010 under the title Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. It is a fast-paced deck-building game designed by Justin Gary along with Rob Dougherty, and Brian Kibler the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Champions with art by Eric Sabee. (There is a free electronic version available here).

Players already associated with the Ascension game will know what to expect and how to play so will appreciate the new additions/updates to the rules and the latest versions of the cards and artwork. Players who have picked ASCENSION: REALMS UNRAVELED to be their first introduction to this deck building game system or indeed to the genre of deck-building itself may well find themselves a little confused to begin with. ASCENSION: REALMS UNRAVELED is basically a card game with a board. It is for 1-4 players, though like many games of this genre it is best played with two or possibly three players. As a solitaire game it offers very little by way of a challenge, though it is a very good way to introduce yourself to the game and learn how to play; just take your time understanding what is meant, or what you can assume, by the rules - they are a tad grey in places.

The board is an unnecessary inclusion but it does look good and has some remarkably excellent artwork, though basically it is just a means of keeping the card display and the draw pile tidy. The preamble story about Adayu being a benevolent protector of the five realms and now in need of saving from the horrors of his nightmarish imaginings by reuniting the realms. What this actually has to do with defeating Monsters, Cultists factions and Constructs to gain Honour points is an unsurity but this is the essence of the game and, with friends as opponents it's quite an interesting indulgence.

The Rules are in a 16 page glossy booklet that vibrates with exciting artwork, game ideas and many examples of play, and of course the How To Play mechanics. The booklet is set out in a quite unusual manner in as much as it begins as expected with the Contents List followed by the Setup but then it details and describes the card types and their uses before explaining the way to play, thus you know what the cards can do before you know where/when to play them. This isn't totally unusual but in this case I think it is a little confusing, especially to someone coming new to the game. I played Ascension when it first came out but although I have played several deck-builders I haven't played Ascension since, and so I was virtually a new player when I began to play this version.

I took my own advice and having read through the rule booklet completely I sat down to play a game on my own. At the near-end of the booklet there are rules for solitaire play but, they are in my opinion, not particularly complete. As a solo player you set the game up in the same way you would for a multi-player game with very few exceptions, these being mainly the number of Honour point tokens available and the fact that you are not playing against a thinking intelligence or even a potentially complex or complicated artificial intelligence. Basically you spend (discard) cards to the value or above (no change given) of the card or cards in the Display or from the Mystic and Heavy Infantry or Cultist (the Cultist is never taken and just gives one VP for 2 Power). The cards you buy/defeat go to your regular Discard pile whilst the cards you spend go to a separate discard pile, only being added to the regular Discard pile when you have finished your turn and have dealt yourself 5 cards to form your hand for the next turn.

Normally, ie with more than one player, when you remove a card from the Display a new card is drawn from the Draw stack and immediately placed into the vacated position. In the solo game when you take a card from the Display all the other cards are slid down from left to right (away from the draw pile) and the new card joins at the far left. When you end your turn your opponent (the game's Artificial Intelligence per se) takes the two cards to the far right of the Display. If any of these is a Monster the A.I. is given the Reward in Honour points. If it is any other card it is placed in a face down stack opposite you until the end of the game.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

  

The cards you defeat/buy eventually work their way into your hand where they will, when played, give you Power, Runes or Honour; exception Monsters which give you immediate Honour points and are then discarded to the Void. Some cards, Constructs, when played stay in front of you and give their effect every turn. Most of these are Transform cards that when you fulfill their needs are flipped over (or replaced) to give you a better effect or the same effect and another advantage. You are always building your deck from the basic cards available or from the Display, you never attack your opponents because, in the spirit of the game's story you are all working towards the same end. To defeat (or buy - it's easier to think that you are purchasing these cards for your deck) the cards on the Display you have to equal their cost in Runes (silver triangles with a number in their centre) or if they are Monsters, with Power (Red strength symbol). In this game there are no cards that require a number of each type, Rune & Power, though there are Constructs which give you both.

In both the solo and multi player games you begin with 10 cards, 8 Apprentices and 2 Militia, the same personal cards for each player. Your own deck is shuffled and you deal yourself 5 cards, leaving 5 face down as your personal draw pile. A display of six cards is placed face up on the table, drawn from the top of the draw pile and the Basic cards Mystic, Heavy Infantry and the singular Cultist are positioned side on to the display; the cards in these three stacks are always available, at least the Cultist is, the other stacks can be exhausted as they are defeated (hired).

The draw pile is made up of the Centre cards plus 25 Transform cards. There are two sets of Transform cards in the game, one set of 25 cards which are double-sided, showing the side to be transformed and on the reverse what they transform into, and a second set of 25 cards that show just the Transformed side of the card. The idea being that you can play with the double-sided cards, flipping them over when the transformation takes place, or, if you use card sleeves, you create two 25 card decks in sleeves showing the front and reverse of each card. You set the reverse (transformed) cards to one side and swap them over when their front sides are activated. The rules say you put them aside until the end of the game but this is not the case - you need to (at least we consider it is best to) swap out the double-sided cards as necessary.

  

When you play deck building games you generally follow a simple set of rules and this is no different. You have a preset personal deck of cards (aforementioned) and you begin by using these Basic cards to obtain new cards, with various effects and powers, that can be added to your deck. Shuffling them into the draw pile and drawing a set number of cards to your hand which you have to use in your turn, discarding any that remain and then dealing yourself a new hand. Slowly your personal deck expands and you find that there are times when you are still drawing the original personal deck cards which, of course, are a lot less potent and useful and are thus clogging up your hand. Thankfully there are cards in this game that allow you to remove cards from your hand and/or discard pile out of the game. ASCENSION: REALMS UNRAVELED ends when the last Honour point token has been taken and all players have had the same number of turns - it is still possible for players to earn additional Honour points, you just have to take note of these and add them to the players final total of tokens.

In the Solo game the Cult add the total of Honour they have collected as tokens to the number of Honour points available on the cards they have in their stack and the player does the same. In all games if there is a tie on points then the player in the tie closest to the First player (including the First player if they are in the tie) loses. Also in the Solo game you are aiming to get the best cards for yourself and are able to see, even manipulate to a point, the cards that the Cult will get. When you play against someone you have to be more careful as to what you leave available on the Display for the other players, thus you do have some kind of player interaction, though basically you are not so much an antagonist to the other players. In truth you are pitting your planning, deck-building and mental skills, along with some luck, against similar abilities of your opponents.

  

Constructs are very important to defeat because they stay in play once they reach your hand. These usually give you extra Power, Honour or Runes, the "money" of the game, and can be flipped to become advanced versions of themselves which are even more powerful. When we first played (without sleeves) we used the double-sided Transform cards but ensured when they came into play we put them front side up. When it came to Transforming them, instead of just flipping them over we found the necessary card amongst the 25 transform cards put aside at the beginning of the game and used that instead - removing the double-sided card from the game. When you have completed the scoring take a few moments to put the cards back into their respective decks and groups, it makes it so much easier for when you next play.

My thoughts are that this game is fun to play with opponents, not so much solo though it would work very well as a computer game where you are up against computerised opposition.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015