iOS Buzz: Ascension, Elder Sign

As previously reported, I got an iPad for Christmas.  So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk a bit about a few of the games I’ve been playing.

image by VGG user sbszine

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer was first published in 2010 as part of the deck-building revolution.  It was designed by Robert Dougherty, John Fiorillo, Justin Gary, and Brian M. Kibler, and was published by Gary Games.  The iPad version was produced by Incinerator Studios.  The designers took sensibilities learned in years of tournament play for Magic: The Gathering and applied them to the genre started by Dominion.  It’s probably unfair to say Ascension is a Dominion clone – certainly there are similarities, but Ascension added its own flair to the genre.

Gameplay is very simple.  Everyone starts with the same starting deck, as in other DBGs.  In this case, you get eight apprentices and two militia.  These are representative of the two types of currency in the game – apprentices give you Runes used in acquiring new cards, and militia gives you Power that can be used to defeat monster.  Before your turn begins, you’ll draw a hand of five cards.  You can then play all of your cards in order to build up enough Runes or Power to buy or defeat something.  Three basic cards are available throughout the game – a mystic, which costs three Runes and gives you 2 more Runes to spend when it is played; Heavy Infantry, which costs two Runes abd gives you two additional Power when it is played; and the Cultist, a monster that requires two Power to defeat and gives you one Honor point.

As the game progresses, you may also want to gain or defeat cards in the center row.  There will always be six cards in the center row, drawn from a shuffled up deck of all the cards in the game.  This is the primary difference from Dominion – rather than having a set of cards you can always choose from, you’ll have to take your chances with only six cards that are available (nine if you count the always available cards).  Each card shows its cost in Runes or Power.  Cards purchased with Runes go in your deck, while Power cards are banished to the Void, and are thus out of the game.  Most monsters have special effects when defeated – generally, you get immediate Honor points, and possibly extra Runes or Power for the turn, as well as the possibility to mess with the center row, your deck, or your opponent.  Cards in your deck have special effects that only apply when played.

The game continues until a set number of Honor points have been depleted.  These are handed out when you defeat monsters.  After the game is over (with everyone having had the same number of turns), you count up your Honor points, plus Honor points you may have gotten from cards in your hand.  The winner is the one with the most points.

iOS version in progress – VGG image by VGG user celiborn

The iOS version of this game is pretty slick.  The interface is very user friendly, and it comes with the best tutorial I’ve seen.  It’s very easy to use, with legal plays highlighted.  Cards can be double-clicked to be examined more closely.  There are capabilities for multiplayer games, though I’ve only been playing against the AI so far.  You can also purchase the Return of the Fallen expansion to add some variety to your experience.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is an app that I would highly recommend anyone to get.  However, it seems to be a game that I wouldn’t necessarily like in its physical version.  There’s just too much bookkeeping between the Runes and Power tracking, and I think the randomness would frustrate me more in what would most definitely be a much longer experience.  I know the designers are trying for some kind of storyline with the game, but I’m not really trying to follow it.  I like the deck building aspects, but the game seems like there’s not enough variety for me to truly enjoy the analog version.  On iPad, it takes 10 minutes, and I can live with that.

So, in summation: Ascension is a great app for iPad, get it.  On to the next one:

image by VGG user greatsage

Elder Sign: Omens is the iOS implementation of Elder Sign by designers Kevin Wilson and Richard Launius.  Published in 2011 by Fantasy Flight, this dice version of Arkham Horror was previously covered here on the blog.  In the game, you are heading a group of investigators going into a museum in order to stop an Ancient One from being unleashed on the world.  The game is cooperative, but the iPad version is more of a solo experience.

The game works like this.  On an investigator’s turn, they select a location to try and complete.  They could also go to the entrance for healing, items, or other stuff.  But if they go to a location, there will be a certain condition they’ll need to complete by rolling dice (here called conjuring glyphs).  After you roll, you look to see if any of your results match the conditions on one of the tasks.  If so, you’ll add the dice to the task then roll again.  If you cannot complete a task, you’ll have to discard one die and try again.  There are various items and clues you can use to add dice, or change die rolls.  If you complete every task associated with the area, you win a indicated reward, which could be in the form of trophies or items.  If you fail to complete the tasks before you run out of dice, you will suffer some sort of penalty – lose stamina, sanity, monsters appear, the chaos track advances…bad stuff.  You’ll then move on to the next investigator’s turn.

After every fourth turn, midnight will strike and bad things will happen.  This generally takes the form of the chaos track advancing and/or monsters appearing.  The game continues until one of three things happen: all investigators are either dead or insane (from losing all their stamina or sanity); the chaos track reaches a certain point (12); or you collect a certain number of Elder Signs (14) to defeat the Ancient One.

A Secret Gathering – image by VGG user chaosjenkins

The iPad version seems to be ideal for the format, and I almost wonder if the game wasn’t created specifically so FF could have an iOS game.  Everything can be done with just a tap or a swipe, and it all works very smoothly.  My biggest complaint would be the lack of variation.  For example, you get a picture of the new character every time the scene changes.  But that’s it.  I would have liked a summary of where they stand in terms of health, sanity, trophies, items, etc.  You can click on your character to see all that stuff, but it would have been nice to be automatically reminded without having extra clicks.  Also, there is only one Ancient One included in the app – Azathoth, the guy who destroys the world immediately if awakened.  There are several Ancient Ones in the analog game, and a final battle for most of them.  Not Azathoth – if you get to 12 chaos, you lose.

Another problem I have with the implementation is that it’s not extremely newbie friendly.  The game is not hard to pick up, but there’s no real in-game help to explain terms.  There are several videos (viewable on YouTube) that explain the basics, but nothing to walk you through play as with Ascension.  Still, the game is challenging enough.  I’ve only managed to win twice.  It’s another example of a game I seriously doubt I’d like in its analog form.  But I’m glad I have the app.  I’d recommend it.

I’ll drop into the blog with more iOS reviews as time goes on.  It’s a good filler for when times are slow for new releases (as they are now).  Thanks for reading!

*images for this post were taken from VideoGameGeek

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