This is my favorite ascension set ever made.
Publisher: Stone Blade Entertainment
Designer: Justin Gary
Artist: Eric Sabee
Game Type: Deckbuilding, Hand Management
Initial Year of Release: 2014
Age Range: 13+
Expected Playtime: 30
Number of Players: 1-4
Theme and What is it?
The faction realms of Vigil have been thrust into chaos as the deific protector Adayu loses his mind. The suffering throughout Vigil’s history was too much for him. As the realms combine, new powerful heroes step up to confront the nightmares materializing from Adayu’s tortured mind. The popular world of Ascension is back to bring some fresh mechanics and extreme synergy to the deck building world.
In addition to the normal Ascension deck building mechanics, Realms Unraveled features multi-faction heroes and transforming cards. When certain cards are in your hand or construct pool, if you play the triggering factions you can upgrade these transform cards for a big effect. A notable feature missing from this set is construct destruction. When a player gets a construct played in this set, it stays in play forever no matter what.
The final new feature is multi-unite. Other ascensions offer a bonus when two lifebound are played in the same turn if the unite keyword is featured. Realms unraveled gives all factions some heroes that get more powerful for EACH additional hero played in that same faction.
This is my favorite ascension set ever made. It is very friendly to new players as the synergies of each faction explain themselves and there is no direct player to player attacking. The nature of multi-unite really rewards a consistent deck build giving players tough strategic choices between enhancing their own builds or denying key cards to their opponents.
Game Build Quality
The game comes with a folding board, a main deck, some ever-available purchase cards, and starter decks. The honor crystals look great and are so much better than punch board tokens. The developers were nice enough to consider players who sleeve their cards offering double sided transform cards as well as a silver bordered normal set.
NOTE: The purple (extra) honor tokens are not included in the game, the ascension honor pouch comes in the collectors edition, and the Ascension Sleeves with carrying case are sold separately.
Art by Eric Sabee has always been a hit with my friends and this is some of the best. The art is at its smallest a series of straight and curved lines that in aggregate make wonderful images. I like the overall effect generated and the entire game just looks right on the table. Imagery in Ascension hits many themes but most invoke some level of mysticism.
Turns at the end of the game can have some highly exciting combination plays when all the long term investments start to pay off. Like all deck builders where players start with the same deck and have a competitive pool of shared cards to work towards, Ascension games get their fun from the series of small decision points that lead to these big final turns.
Age Range & Weight
13+ seems higher than a game this simple to play deserves. I cannot think of any child unfriendly thematic elements that suggests it needs to be any higher than a 10+ rating. This is a lighter weight and faster paced deckbuilder than many others in the category but doesn’t lack depth of strategy and skill.
I log more plays of ascension than any other game. The thing I see most when I am introducing Ascension to new players is their confusion on what set to buy. At the time of this article the 15th Ascension set is about to release and most players (myself included) think the best place to start in any series of games is at the beginning. Not in this case. The base set of Ascension was around the origin of deckbuilding and sets up the core mechanics. It has some fun elements but lacks the polish and excitement of the later sets.
Each Ascension set is a stand alone game. Realms Unraveled is my recommendation as the place to get immersed in the world and see what the ascension play experience is all about. If you enjoy Realms Unraveled, you will like the other sets for a variety of slightly different reasons. Note that the base set of Ascension is free on mobile app stores and the other sets can be purchased as downloadable content.