What is it? More Ascension
The deets: 2-4 players, 30min
Designer: Gary Arant, Justin Gary
Publisher: Stone Blade Entertainment
Just like Dominion, Ascension has a lot of expansions. Ascension X: War of Shadows is the tenth game with Ascension in the name (that’s the X), and much like the other Ascension expansions, it keeps the core gameplay the same while adding a new twist that forces players to discover new strategies and new ways to play.
If you haven’t played Ascension, it basically invented the single-card-row scheme for buying new cards for your deck that is oh so common these days. You start with a deck of lame cards that give you Runes (money) and Strength (combat). You’ve got a hand of five cards. On your turn, you play however many cards you like, resolve their effects, buy new cards from the trade row, fight monsters in the trade row, discard, draw, shuffle, etc.
War of Shadows adds a new dynamic of Day and Night. Each card is tied to one of those, and whichever side has the most cards in the trade row, that’s what time it is. If there’s equal numbers of each card, it is neither day or night, but stuck in some sort of weird twilight.
Day heroes, constructs, and monsters often have some ability that only resolves when it is day, and Night cards have effects that only trigger if it is night. The catch is, if you buy Day cards, you’re reducing the likelihood that it will be day, and same with the night. This creates a brand new dynamic that forces you to carefully consider your purchases, and watch what the other player(s) are doing. They buy a lot of day cards? You might want to try and make sure it’s night. Banishing cards from the center row is now ever so important, as it’s the only chance to get rid of cards while trying to shift the time in your favor.
Other than that, it carries with it the trademark pace of Ascension games, the unique art, and the heavy factor of chance. If you’re new to Ascension, though, you might not want to jump in with this expansion. The rules aren’t complicated and it is a standalone – you don’t need the original to play – but the extra layer of day/night requires a different kind of thinking and can easily frustrate newer players.