Hello everyone, Ben Lundquist here.
This past year I introduced you to a new game that I designed, “You Gotta Be Kitten Me!” and later this year you will get to play the next expansion of Ascension that I had the honor of leading, Ascension: Valley of the Ancients. Today, however, I am here to talk about a new way to play Ascension with Ascension: Alliances.
Look, I really like Ascension. I was hooked on the game before ever getting the opportunity to work on it. However, as someone that enjoyed playing with multiple friends, there was something that I always felt was missing from the game: team play. Team play more than just the ability to work with a friend and enjoy the experience together. It brings about a lot of emotional points in the game that I wanted to be able to share with another player.
Have you ever acquired a card in the Center Row and then replaced it with a heartbreaking card that you knew would make it into your opponent’s deck? Have you ever made something so awesome happen in a game that you wanted to give high fives to people sitting next to you, only to see the look of resentment on their faces?
Alliances was created as a way to tackle all of those concerns in a fast, friendly package.
So, how does Alliances gameplay work? You and as many as seven friends can form up to four teams, with each team consisting of two players. When your team gets a turn, both players on that team take a simultaneous turn. You cannot combine your resources to acquire cards or defeat Monsters, but you do share the same Honor pool. One of my favorite additions to the Alliances system is that you and your teammate may acquire or defeat cards in any order you choose, meaning if there aren’t any cards in the Center Row you are interested in, your teammate can help you flip into them!
By introducing a team format to Ascension, the experience of working together and investing more into another player’s turn is a natural benefit. The first game we played of “Team Ascension”, before it became “Alliances”, was exactly what you’d expect. You sat catty corner to your teammate and there were new cards that could benefit your teammate and cards that would hurt both opponents. It was definitely fun, but it brought forth some unexpected issues.
Collaborating with your teammate wasn’t as fun as I hoped with that implementation and it was difficult. Having to talk in code in order to not give away too much information, while planning out what you and your teammate would do in advance could stall the game. In addition, it lacked the right amount of comradery.
That’s when I decided we should try sitting next to your teammate. This decision would allow you to share information, plan ahead a little less, and give easy access to high fives. In this switch, we also decided to try a shared turn because…why not?
By sharing the turn, there were some interesting things that we could test. The ability to move the Center Row for your teammate was very appealing, playing cards that would give your teammate bonuses for the turn could be new design space, and comboing specific cards together with “Ally Unite” was a very exciting idea.
In addition to the advantages that a shared turn offered, we also introduced a new card type: Banners. Banners let players use their resources in order to purchase a card that benefits both members of the team. To acquire a Banner in the center row, a player must pay the cost for one side and the other player must pay for the other side.
If you get a chance to make it to Origins, make sure to check out the US Championship tournament and try get your hands on the first copies of Alliances! It will be on sale for only $9.99 and comes with an exclusive Ascension deck box.
Not attending Origins? Don’t fret! Ascension: Alliances will be available nationwide in July. So, whether you get the game early (or a touch later), I hope you are as excited to play Alliances as we were to make it!