Archmage: Ascendant – Starling Games – Review

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Matthew Kearns

Writer, Trainer, Midnight Planner

Systems engineer by day, gamer by night. Who knew a trip to GenCon could change things for ya? Wife loves the party games, my boys and I are up for almost anything at least once.

Challenge yourself and your opponents by expanding the possibilities on your journey to taking up the mantle of the Archmage!

Take what you know about the base game and Archmage: Ascendant steps up its possibilities.  Add in new spells for your spellbook, discover the ancient places of power of the Mythic Races, and fulfill prophecies to prove your place as the new Archmage.

This expansion is like four mini-expansions in one represented by each of the modules.  Each of the modules can be used separately with the base game or combined in a variety of ways.

Modules 1 and 2 expand the breadth of your spellbook with new Fundamental and Advanced spells, each with new strategies and rules associated with them.
Module 3 includes new tiles representing the places of power of the ancient races.  The tiles are placed face down randomly in specific locations like outposts.  They have unique Exploration results and rules during the Journey’s End phase.

Module 4 adds in Prophecy cards that provide additional goals when completed add a new means for gaining victory points.

There is also a cooperative play scenario for two players, pitting two mages against the warlord Gideon to wrest control of the lands from his crazed hands.  This scenario can also be combined with Modules 1-3 as well.

The art of Archmage: Ascendant is created by the same artists from the base game.  Once again, lots of unique items and all highly detailed that expands on the world’s mythology.  Thankfully the spell cards have the nice foil finish too.

As always for those completists out there, it will be a must-have.  Otherwise, it isn’t a need unless you want to fully incorporate the game with the base game, even then you still have to swap in/out components to do so.

I debated long between “need” and “want”, but given the approach taken to its incorporation with the base game, I thought it more a “want.” You will want this expansion because the base game could begin to feel repetitive with some of its limitations in variability and that could make this a must-have given that the game is expanded most notably with the Prophecies that provide a new means to gain VP.

To start with, my expectations were off given the description on the back of the game.  The use of the term “module” in most games usually refers to playable scenarios as opposed to just sets of new rules and components.  Personally, I’m not too hip on the swapping in and out sets of components for games; if I want to include an expansion, it’s an all-or-nothing thing for me and I’ll usually leave it that way because I can play all its scenarios that way.

The concept of the expansion should be clear up-front that it contains variant rules and additional components that are interchangeable.  Given that these variant rules are presented in separate little sections, I would have added a concise set of updates and changes if all modules are incorporated at once.

Irrespective of my personal peccadillo regarding the definition and how to use an expansion, the pieces look great, the box is gorgeous, and the updates and new rules are pretty straightforward.