I’ve loved sci-fi and fantasy since I was a kid and my dad showed me Star Trek: First Contact. (Something about the Borg is just…totally cool.) However, though I happily wandered down the nerdy avenues of movies, television shows, and books, I was completely unaware of the world of gaming–by which I mean tabletop games, not video games. I didn’t have any friends who were into nerdy games. It never even crossed my mind that there might be hours, days, and perhaps even years of entertainment out there in the gaming world. I stumbled into such things completely by accident. Shortly after purchasing an iPod (which I only got around to doing about two years ago) I was attempting to explore apps when I encountered something called Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and became addicted.
Developed by a group of talented, nerdy individuals (including Magic: The Gathering champions Justin Gary, Rob Dougherty, and Brian Kibler), Ascension is a deck-building game of awesomeness with multiple expansions. It is available as both an app–though not all expansions have been released online–and a physical game which can be found at most comic book/gaming stores. The game itself is relatively straightforward, and requires a minimum of two players. When playing using the app, the maximum number of players is set at four, but such rules need not apply if using a physical copy. Each player begins the game with a starter deck, which includes two Militia and eight Apprentices. Apprentices provide Runes (kind of like money; you use Runes to ‘purchase’ new cards) and Militia provide Power (used to murder monsters and slay demons). There are also cards called Constructs, which provide players with certain abilities and bonuses each turn. The goal of the game is to accumulate points, also known as Honor. There is a set number of points in the point pool at the start of the game (again, there are restrictions placed on this limit in the app) and as you defeat enemies and play cards, you gain points until the pool is empty. Your total score is determined by both the amount of Honor you gained from the pool and the value of the cards in your deck, as each card is worth a certain amount of points.
Let me assure you–nerd’s honor–that this game is definitely worth investigating. Perhaps you will acquire the hero Master Dhartha, who allows you to draw three cards during your turn (three whole cards!). You might be able to kill Akam the Genie, who grants you three wishes, or employ the Askara of Fortune to copy a card effect from another player’s deck. My personal favorite is a Construct called the Orb of Nyx, which can be used to completely annihilate all of your opponents.
Side note: Orb of Nyx is a Construct that allows you to gain Power each turn. It also provides you with a Soul Gem every time you defeat a monster in the center row. That might sound like a bunch of gibberish, but basically it means that you are almost guaranteed to win the game, particularly if you are playing an online game limited to 60 points. So…keep it in mind.
Of course, the full glory of Ascension cannot be truly recognized from my ramblings alone. The first game (minus expansions) is available for $4.99 as an app for iPods, iPhones, and other Apple products. Three of the expansions and a couple of promo packs are also available in technological form, though several additional expansions have been released as physical copies only so far and require a trip to the store. I personally prefer hard copies of everything, but be warned, shuffling hundreds of physical cards to play a full game of Ascension is quite an undertaking.
For further useful information, such as a card gallery, full gameplay rules, and other interesting Ascension-related tidbits, check out the website (http://ascensiongame.com/).