The Rise of Ascension

For a long time Carcassonne has sort of been the crown gem among board game apps for the iPad. With its intuitive interface, crisp graphics, and well-implemented multiplayer ability, it was pretty much the model held up for game designers to emulate.

Now there’s another game in that same realm: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.

I have only played a physical copy of Ascension once or twice, and liked it well enough. It’s a “deckbuilding” game, where players begin with a set deck of a few cards and gradually acquire more powerful cards with which to get more cards and so forth until the end of the game, when the final decks are compared.

Ascension differs from its rivals, Dominion and Thunderstone, in that the pool of cards in each game doesn’t change, just the way they come out. There are two types of power, one of which gives you fighting strength to defeat monsters and one of which gives you “money” to acquire more cards. It’s a fast, fun, and pretty straightforward version of this kind of game.

On the iPad, though, it absolutely shines. The screen is well laid out, with all the information you need at hand. You can easily look through your deck, discard pile, and other areas. The artwork is straight from the game (and is of a style I kind of like). It has a well-done tutorial that teaches you how to play the game in no time at all. It’s just a stunning, slick production.

You can play against an AI, or pass and play, but the real star of the show here is multiplayer. It’s fantastic. It’s integrated through Game Center so that you don’t have to create yet another login and re-add your friends. It’s asynchronous, so you can take your turns while waiting for the bus and then later on check to see if anyone has made theirs. However, you can also play in real-time with online opponents. Yesterday I took my turn in a game against my buddy Sean, who happened to be online playing at the moment, so we finished out the game right then and there. The effortless switching between real-time and asynchronous is so nice.

In fact, on at least two occasions, I’ve sat at a table with other people, each with their own iPad, all playing in the same game. It’s exactly like having a physical copy of the game right there and playing it “for real”.

The only thing it’s missing is some kind of leaderboard and a chat feature, but those aren’t dealbreakers for me.

Ascension the card game was something I liked well enough and was willing to play but was in no rush to own. Ascension the iPad game is a must-have that I simply can’t stop playing. I currently have about 18 different games going, and it’s only been available for about a week now.

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2 Responses to The Rise of Ascension

  1. T. Derscheid says:

    The leaderboard is just going to get gamed by people who game those things. Is this available for Android yet?

  2. David Thiel says:

    I had my first chance to play the physical game (with the expansion) a couple of weeks, and loved it. Honestly, I like it better than Dominion or Thunderstone.

    You are absolutely right about the app. I was gobsmacked by it. It looks gorgeous, and the touch controls are terrific. Dragging screaming Cultists into the Void is a hoot!

    My only beef is that the expansion set isn’t yet available! I’ve already played so many games of it that I’ve seen the same cards a little too often.

    A chat function would be appreciated. Sean and I were playing several games “live” the other night, but I had no way of telling him that I was going to have to go to bed!