Ascension X: War of Shadows

1-4 players, Competitive, Deck Builder/Card Game

Designer: Gary Arant, Justin Gary

Artwork: Aaron Nakahara, Eric Sabee

Publisher: Stone Blade Entertainment

Overview of Gameplay/Win Condition

In Ascension you start with a small deck of cards that are the same for all players. Throughout the game you will be spending “Runes” that are displayed on the cards you play to acquire more cards for your personal deck. This will differentiate each player’s deck as the game progresses. You can also spend attack power to defeat monster cards to gain Honor. Honor is your ultimate goal in the game, after all the honor is acquired from the honor pool the game ends and the players calculate the total Honor acquired from monster kills and card acquisitions. 

Disclaimer as I am super new to Ascension and have only played the original, first release of Ascension before playing this version. So I’m not privy to all the other versions or how they play on the table. I can say however I really enjoy the time I have put into this version. The above description is how the original plays and with this version it uses the same above description but also adds a day and night mechanic. What that means is that as cards are drawn out and added to the board each one will either have a sun or a moon icon on it. Whichever dominates the board, meaning whichever has more than the other, is the current active actions. So if a card has some ability that actives with the Sun, that ability only works when there are more sun cards out and vice versa. It’s a fun mechanic and the board is setup so you can easily determine which is which other than just by looking at the cards themselves. 

Setup/Takedown

Setup is pretty quick and super easy as you just slap down the included board and place the required card decks in the posted spots on the board. The longest bit of time would be the shuffling of the main draw deck but that’s not uncommon especially in a deck builder. Takedown is even easier as you just place the card decks in the respective spots in the box and voila! Not any tokens to mess with other than the included plastic Honor tokens which look like little red and clear gems. 

Components/Gameboard

The components quality is fine throughout. The plastic tokens are nice and look really cool and the cards a pretty nice to the touch. They are not the highest quality I’ve seen but the thickness is decent. Of course I would have preferred a linen finish so they wouldn’t slide around when stacked. The gameboard itself folds out for play and actually looks really nice on the table with the design of the art on the board. I mentioned earlier that the board had a way of confirming which cards are sun and which are moons. This is done by the track that you place the cards on, each card spot has a “Sun” spot and a “Moon” spot and you just slide the card up or down on the space to show either spot. This makes it super easy to see which side dominates. Also it looks really cool.

Box/Storage

The box is nice and compact and does include a good insert! The insert is pretty basic but it does its job well in holding everything together even when stored on its side. The cards have slots to keep the different decks separate from each other and the board lays folded on top to keep them in place. It fits very snug so there is no room for movement once the lid is put on. 

Visual Appeal /Theme

I’m still pretty new to the Ascension universe so I’m not sure how the theme of this particular release fits with the whole but I can say I really enjoy this one. I love the look of the sun and moon cards and the way the mechanics work to accommodate them. Like you will see more angels and stuff on the sun side and more “dark” creatures and stuff on the moon side. But it’s not all separated by good and evil like that. There are a mix of different creatures and card effects. 

The artwork on the cards is just fantastic as well. It is one of the main factors that drew to me to this particular deck builder game over others such as Dominion. I just loveeee the artwork on the cards as everything is so unique and well done. Of course that is just me and mileage will vary on your preference of art. I highly recommend doing a quick google of Ascension art to see if it tingles your tastes.

Rulebook/Length

The rulebook was pretty straightforward. I think it helps a ton that the game is not complex what so ever to learn and teach. Heck the original game is SO simple to learn but honestly even with the added sun and moon abilities this game is like right there on the simple to learn scale. If you are worried about a complex game, don’t be frightened by this. Now that said, there are some decently deep strategies that can be employed once you get the basic game play down. There are cards that synergize off each other and combos that can be made with other cards. So don’t let the simplicity of learning it keep you away from a decent card strategy that is found within. 

Table Talk/Fun Factor

If you like deck builders then this is a no brainer for you honestly. If you have never played a deck builder and have no clue what that even means then this would be a great intro to the genre as this is basically the very epitome of what a deck builder game is. As for me, I love most deck builder games in all shapes and sizes so I have had a ton of fun playing this one as well. If you are playing with others you will find the table talk is actually pretty common even though you are focusing on your own deck throughout. Each player will snatch cards from the row on the board and this WILL affect the other players, especially if you were eyeing a particular card. More so with this version as that will change the day and night activity on other cards that can be played.

Optimal Player Count/Replayability

This is a game that I felt is fully fun with 1 player or up to the 4 out of the box. The solo variant is surprisingly fun even though it seems so simple. You see in a normal 2-4 player game the players will take turns collecting cards from the row and defeating monsters. Well in a solo game after every time you take your turn, you will then remove the 2 far right end cards from the row and place the non-creature cards in a pile and reward any creature cards the amount of honor listed on the card. This simulates another player collecting cards and defeating creatures and really makes the game strategic for you! So you need to start looking at those end cards to see just what the AI will gain at the end of your turn. Also once those 2 cards are taken, the rest of the row slides down to the right. So cards are always being taken, it’s a risky time to be alive. 

Final Thoughts

As far as a pure Deck Builder game goes, this is a great selection. I have whipped the game out multiple times to just try my hand at defeating the solo mode and have had a blast every time, the games are always so close! By itself it’s good but eventually you will want to buy more versions of Ascension just to spice up your deck with more abilities and events etc. But as this version stands the day and night mechanic works very well and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Deck Builders.

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