Archive for the ‘Card Games’ Category

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Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

October 28, 2010

A quick look at my favorite games will reveal Dominion close to the top, and the vast enjoyment I’ve gotten from that game has made me want to try out some of the other entrants to the field of deck building games.

Ascension looks to be, on the surface, a slick evolution of the genre.  How does it stack up?

RULES SUMMARY

Each player is given a 10 card deck similar to Dominion’s starting deck, containing Militia and Apprentices which provide you with the two types of resources in Ascension.  Militia provide you with the military strength to defeat monsters while Apprentices give your deck some early buying power for cards which will go into your deck.  However, instead of a random setup which remains static throughout the game, Ascension has only 3 fixed stacks (two of those upgrades on your starting deck cards) and one large center deck of mixed monster cards which you defeat for various rewards (including victory points) and hero/construct cards which go into your deck and give you points at the end of the game in addition to various in-game effects or resources.

The third fixed card, the Cultist, is a single card which won’t ever be taken, but remains on the table as an option for the Militias and Heavy Infantries in your hand if you don’t have enough power to take down a Monster in the center row.

The large center deck is shuffled together and 6 cards are dealt to the middle of the table, forming a “live draft,” if you will, in which the current player immediately refreshes the empty space left after buying a card from the middle.

Victory points are collected in the form of Honor Tokens in addition to those counted on cards in your deck at the end of the game.  These tokens can be gained by defeating monsters on your turn or through some Hero or Construct effects.  (Constructs, unlike Hero cards, are played to the table as permanent supplements barring any adverse effect your opponents may trigger to  make you discard them until you can draw them again.)  Once the Honor Tokens run out, the game is over.

GAMEPLAY ANALYSIS

Unlike Dominion, there is no restriction on how many things you can do during your turn.  If you have the resources, you can keep defeating monsters and buying cards until you’re spent.  In one sense, this simplifies the game immensely, but I miss the slight amount of depth which is lost here.

Similarly, the game feels very streamlined because of its drafting mechanism of the six cards in the center.  Ascension has been called fluid and tactical, and those descriptors are very apt.

The added luck can be troublesome, however, and at times, frustrating, especially if you’ve geared up for Monsters and they don’t happen to be showing up in the mid- to late game.  Killing the cultist repeatedly seems a poor consolation prize in those instances, and particularly inefficient.

Part of this is because of the large deck which is necessary to provide variety to the game.  But I found myself wishing for more control in playing Ascension.  I must say I wondered how the game would differ if it split up the Center deck into Monsters in one stack and Heroes/Constructs in the other, and gave players the options to pull from one or the other whenever they have an opening in the middle.

Inevitably, the game will draw comparisons to Dominion.  How do I feel about the two side by side?  Honestly, for me, this is no contest.  I much prefer the deeper gameplay and sense of control in Dominion.  Ascension plays better as a 2-player game for me than 3-4, simply because the more players you have, the more the luck of the center draw can affect the game.  At least with fewer players, your opponent may not snag that card you need which gives your deck a bit more synergy.

In Dominion, the synergy is much easier to come by, and Dominion plays as well with 5-6 as it does with 2 (especially in our group which suffers very little down time due to extremely fast play, but your mileage may vary).  I find myself missing that kind of synergy in Ascension which is only achieved in a much narrower percentage of games than Dominion.  Ascension’s areas where it beats its predecessor, its quick and easy setup and its richer theme (arguably), are not enough to ever make me want to play it over Dominion.

RATINGS

Components/Presentation: 6/10 – I, for one, really like most of the artwork on this game, though the cards seem to be the opposite of robust.

Theme: 6/10 – Fairly standard dark fantasy world that may become more fleshed out with expansions.

Mechanics: 5/10 – The game rarely leaves me with the feeling that if I’d played better, I may have won; rather, I get the feeling that if the right cards had come up on my turn, I may have won.

Replayability: 6/10 – I’ll be interested to see where the expansions go and if they will compound my issues with the game (more cards in the center deck will seemingly make synergistic decks more difficult and further increase the probability that one card type is very under represented.)

Fun Factor: 7/10 – Ascension is breezy, light fare which is fun in a mindless sort of way, given the lack of control.

Overall: 6/10


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Race for the Galaxy

February 27, 2009

Race for the Galaxy is a card game for 2-4 players that plays in about 30 minutes with 2 players, 60 minutes with 4 players.  Designed by Tom Lehmann with a recommended age of 12 and up.  Published by Rio Grande/Abacus Spiele.

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Ticket to Ride: The Card Game

February 16, 2009

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game is based on Alan R. Moon’s smash success boardgame series.  Ages 8 and up, 2-4 players, and playable in about 30 minutes.

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Saboteur

February 6, 2009

Saboteur is a light card game by Amigo (published by Z-Man Games in the U.S.).  Game design by Frederic Moyersoen, playable with 3-10 ages 8 and up in about 30 minutes (although this is definitely a more the merrier type game).

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Iliad

February 5, 2009

Iliad, published by Asmodee, is a card game for 2-6 players and based on Homer’s epic poem.  pic2294811

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