Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (iOS) Review

After a short hiatus due to my phone (my main drafting tool) deciding it didn't want to work any more, I've left Android behind and returned to iOS. As such, my options for mobile "tabletop" games have risen to a new level. Let's take a look at Ascencion: Chronicle of the Godslayer (iOS edition)!

The Basics
Ascencion is a card drafting game where you buy heroes and kill monsters, with the objective of gaining the most Honor by the end of the game.

This is the play area.
All players start the game with the same minimal deck of cards. Each turn, you draw a hand from your deck and play any combination of those cards to gain Runes (to purchase more heroes) or Power (to defeat monsters). The cards in your starting deck give you one of these currencies each when played but, as you draft more cards into your deck, your tactical options will increase, with cards allowing you to do things such as draw more cards into your hand, acquire more than one point of the currencies for a single card, banish cards to deny your opponents powerful options, or even make combinations off of each other.

Cards that can be purchased are in the middle of the play area. The three cards always available to be purchased/defeated are the Mystic (1 Rune), Heavy Infantry (1 Power), and the Cultist (1 Honor). Then there is the center row, made up of six more powerful heroes, monsters, and constructs (special cards placed in your play area with ongoing effects). Any time a card is purchased or defeated from this row, it is immediately replaced with a new card from the center row draw deck, creating an ever changing set of options.

Here I have 4 Runes, so I can purchase any hero of cost 4 or less.
A round of play consists of the following:

1. Play cards from your hand to gain Runes or Power (or any other special effects).

2. Use your pool of Runes and Power to purchase heroes or constructs (placed in your discard to be drawn and used later, and heroes provide end of game Honor) and defeat monsters (to gain Honor).

Here I have 5 Power, so I can defeat any monster costing 5 or less.
3. Discard any remaining cards in your hand and draw a new hand of five (shuffling your discard pile into a new draw deck if you run out of cards). Play then passes to your opponent(s).

Rounds continue like this until the Honor pool is depleted, at which point any players who haven't played in the round get their turn to attempt any last minute Honor gains, the game ends, and Honor is totaled to determine the winner!

For anyone familiar with deck builders and drafting mechanisms (Dominion, for example), Ascension (iOS) will be easy to pick up, all for the same reasons I believe the learning curve for players new to this type of game will be fairly low.

The iOS version has 4 digital rule books (for the core game and 3 expansions available as in-app purchases) to read if you have never played the game before. The rule book for the core game is 9 pages, only 3 of which are the rules. The other 6 pages are images that break down the anatomy of different card types and the play area (I always appreciate these, since it makes it easier to see what the rules are talking about). Each expansion adds some new mechanic to the game, and the rule books for these expansions are only a couple pages each, so you can begin grasping the new concepts in under 5 minutes. All in all, if you pick up the game and all expansions, you could probably read through the rules and be playing your first game in under 15 minutes.

Double-tapping a card allows you to zoom in. Useful on smaller screens!
Since this is the iOS version of the game, any bookkeeping (tracking Runes, Power, and Honor, replenishing the center row, etc) is handled by your device, speeding up the game and cutting out time spent shuffling decks and maintaining the center row. Also, the system automatically highlights any cards you can purchase in green, and anything you can defeat in red, taking the guesswork out of what options are available to you at any given time.

New players unfamiliar with the text on different cards may be slowed the first handful of games while zooming in (double tapping on the cards) to read them and determine their best options, but after only a few games I remembered most of them at a glance.

I'm not aware of what storyline is in the physical version of the game, but there is little to no backstory here in the iOS version. That doesn't mean there is nothing here for people who like some flavor to their games. A large chunk of the cards in the decks (mostly the heroes) have nice flavor text at the bottom. The only complaint I have about this is the Mechana cards' flavor text is in a difficult to read (albeit cool "hi-tech" looking) font.
Here we have a Cultist being defeated with a spinning flourish of the card.

On a side note, the art on the cards is..... interesting. I'm in the middle ground, as I'm not a huge fan of it, but some of the monsters look pretty cool. Everything is fairly abstract and disproportionate, so no realism but, unless you absolutely hate it, I don't see it detracting from the game experience.

If you have never played a deck building game but are interested, I would recommend Ascension (at least the iOS version, as I have yet to experience the physical game) over the classic entry level deck builder Dominion. Dominion is touted as more fair, since all the same cards are always in the center and available to every player, versus Ascension where a few cards are always available, but the center row changes as things are purchased or defeated.

Being a deck builder, there is very little direct interaction between players, so if you desire more player conflict, I would pass on this. That goes for any other deck builder, for that matter, since they are generally minimal in how much you can directly affect your opponents. However, if you are looking for this style of game, I really enjoyed the theme of Ascension, and would recommend it as a first deck builder to anyone.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hive (Pocket) Review

Have you ever been playing chess and thought, "You know what this needs? Bugs!"? Have you ever wished you could break beyond the bounds of the board and preset positions and do things your own way? Well, Hive *may* be just the game you're looking for!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Flash Point: Fire Rescue Review

The alarm goes off! You throw your boots on, slide down the pole, and hop on the engine, siren blaring... As you near your destination you can smell it first, then you see it: smoke! The engine screeches to a halt and you pile out with your team... 

This is where the action kicks off in Flash Point: Fire Rescue, a cooperative game that puts you and up to 5 other players in the boots of a team of firefighters. Your goal? To rescue at least 7 victims scattered randomly through the burning building before it collapses!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Welcome to the Tabletop Generation!

Thanks for checking out my new blog! If you know me, this post probably won't be anything you don't know. If you have no idea who I am, this will be a quick look at who I am and what I plan to do with this blog.