First Look – Ascension: Dreamscape

Hi everyone! Glad to be back to announce another set of Ascension. I can’t believe we’re rolling our ninth set, Dreamscape! It feels like just yesterday when we debuted the game at Gen Con in 2010. 8 sets, a lot of cool cards, a new look, and a lot of fun games of Ascension later, here we are. If you’ve been with us since the beginning or you’re just picking up the game now, thank you for the tremendous support.

My name is John Fiorillo. I’ve been working on Ascension since the very first set and, although I’ve only been design lead on some of the sets, I’ve had a hand in each of them in one way or another.

Rewind to 2010. We had just launched Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (now called the Ascension Deckbuilding Game). With an overwhelmingly positive reception and some good buzz at the convention, we sold out of our first print run very quickly. With reprints on the horizon, we knew we would have to start working on an expansion. Even before we designed Return of the Fallen, we knew we’d want to bring back some of the stuff that got cut from Chronicle.The  Fate mechanic was actually in the first set for a while, but we cut it toward the end of development to keep things simpler while players got used to the resources and basics of the game.

After Return of the Fallen released and included most of the cut mechanics from the first set, the question on our minds was “What’s next?” I thought I’d try my hand at designing the next set to shake things up a little. I knew I wanted to really add something to the game that highlighted the best aspects of Ascension. The initial goals were:

  1. As much as possible create situations where cards in the center row meant something very different to different players.
  2. Reinvent the way Mechana Constructs worked to give them a new and different spin.
  3. Give players something that provides a little direction early in the game to create more interesting decisions during the first few turns of the game. Looking for synergy between the cards in your deck and the cards you can add to your deck is what a deck builder is all about.
  4. Make it a little deeper than the first 2 sets that showcased the engine and basic mechanics.
  5. Make it fun!

Point 5 goes without saying, but I like to make sure to remind myself of that simple and obvious rule constantly when designing games. However the other points were a little trickier.  I thought I had a really great idea for something that would give players some direction early on and help to change the value of cards for players as early as turn 1. Not only that, but it added a fun mini game to the experience. I immediately got to work and was super excited to play games with the team the next day.

The idea was that you would do a “booster draft” of a subset of cards before the game starts. Those cards would be available to only you and secret from everyone else. You could buy or defeat the cards in front of you as if they were in the center row. There were some really cool heroes and monsters,  and even some cool cards I called “Dream” cards that really pushed you in a direction or strategy early on in order to acquire them.

The mechanic had a ton of potential, but after months of play testing the cards and enjoying them, we ended up scrapping it because it didn’t feel quite right. I had mostly given up on it, but always thought about ways it could be improved or tweaked.

TL;DR: This set was a LONG time in the making!

Fast forward to last year, when I started thinking about design direction for Dreamscape. Rise of Vigil was one of my favorite sets to work on. The energy cards made for some big moments and gave the set a lot of replayability. I really enjoyed playing with it and wanted to bring it back somehow, but with a twist. As much as I loved the set, I know some players could feel like it’s a little swingy and random. We know that not every set of Ascension will appeal to every player. We try to give them all a unique identity and aim at a slightly different audience so that every different kind of Ascension fan has something to enjoy.

As a follow up to Dawn of Champions, which had a very high-variance mechanic with rally, I thought it might be nice to swing the pendulum back in the other direction with a more calculating mechanic. I started by creating a file that was a more consistent form of treasure than energy was.

One of the more frustrating things that could happen in a game of RoV was not getting any energy and watching your opponent have all the fun. So I started with a rule that once a treasure card entered the center row, each player would get 1 “gold” and then the player that acquired the treasures banished them to gain 1 gold for each. This made sure that the resource was something everyone would participate in to some extent.

After playing a few games, we realized that we could just cut the treasure cards and make them sort of like fate. Gold became insight and got a fancy new icon. And the Dreamborn were… uhm… born.

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Whenever a Dreamborn card enters the center row, each player gains 1 Insight.

Whenever a Dreamborn card is acquired, the player that acquired it gains 1 Insight.

You might be thinking at this point. “Great. I get an Insight. Big whoop. Why do I want it in the first place?”

BOOM!

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The major change that was made to the cards players get at the beginning of the game was that instead of Runes and Power to acquire, they now cost something completely different – Insight!

Dreamscape introduces a whole new game zone to the game called… you guessed it! The Dreamscape! Here’s how it works.

From the rulebook:

“The Dreamscape is a set of cards players have access to during the game. Unlike Center Row cards, each player’s Dreamscape cards are purchasable only by that player. These cards are purchasable during the game with a new resource called Insight.

At the beginning of the game each player is dealt 5 Dream cards from the Dream Deck from which they will choose 3 that they wish to add to their Dreamscape. The remaining two cards remain hidden from other players and are shuffled back into the Dream Deck. Set the Dream Deck aside for easy access during the game.

Each player has their own Dreamscape that should be placed face down in front of them. Players may look at the cards in their Dreamscape at any time, but it should be hidden from everyone else. Players may purchase cards (using Insight) from their own Dreamscape during their turn at any time they would normally acquire cards from the center row.

Insight is gained whenever a Dreamborn card enters the center row or when a player acquires a Dreamborn card.  Some card effects also allow you to acquire Insight. You do not lose your insight at the end of your turns, rather it persists through each of your turns until it spent.”

One of the cool things about having these cards hidden and always having access to them is that we can make cards that really shine in certain decks, but are terrible without the right support. Brainstorm Sentry is something you’ll know you can buy from turn 1, so you might start buying some constructs you wouldn’t normally have purchased while you’re secretly building up insane amounts of power! And other players won’t even know what’s happening until it’s too late! Muahahahahaha!

Another neat thing we can do with the Dreamscape is have cards with alternate costs that are hard to pull off but have an immediate, huge impact on the game. These types of cards would normally just sit in the center row forever and clog things up. If a powerful card like this shows up late, players can’t really plan around it. Knowing about these goals from the start of the game makes it more realistic to pull off.

This has turned into a new card type, available only in the Dream Deck, called Visions. Each vision has a huge impact on the game *IF* you can pull it off.  For example:

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How many games can you pull that off!?

Go check out Ascension: Dreamscape and find out for yourself.

Thanks for reading. I hope you all enjoy the set.

John Fiorillo

 

Ascension Origin Story

Lead Designer Justin Gary wrote an article about the origins of Ascension to celebrate the release of Ascension: Collector’s Edition Year One. The article originally appeared in an issue of Meeple Monthly, but we’ve got a pdf version of the article below.

Read the Article Here!

You can get updates about the latest Meeple Monthly on their facebook page or by asking your local retailer about getting new issues of Meeple Monthly!

Ascension: Dawn of Champions Now Available!

New Dawn Product shot

Ascension: Dawn of Champions is available now! The newest entry to the Ascension franchise introduces Champion cards and faction-specific Monsters, bringing you a new exciting way to play.

Ascension: Dawn of Champions establishes a brand-new Rally mechanic, allowing you to acquire or defeat additional Heroes and Monsters of the same faction, which bolsters your rank as long as you remain loyal to your faction’s cause.

Continue your reign in Vigil! Purchase Ascension: Dawn of Champions here.