Hello Ascension fans!
It’s Ben Lundquist again and the last time we spoke, I introduced you to Ascension: Alliances. If you haven’t played this fun, team-play set, I highly recommend you do so!
After you’re done checking out Alliances, I’d like to share details about our newest set, Ascension: Valley of the Ancients! This set marks the twelfth full Ascension expansion and the first one I had the opportunity to lead design.
As a baseline, I like to keep things simple. I don’t mind branching out and trying more complicated ideas, but there’s something about simplicity and elegance that always draws me in. When working on a game that has already released ELEVEN expansions, not only has the majority of simple space already been taken, but the target audience is going to be the more sophisticated Ascension gamer.
These caveats posed an interesting question: “How do we come up with something simple, but also appealing to long time fans?”
As we identified different ways to answer this question, one thing remained constant: I wanted a new way of interacting with my opponents. This desire revealed a new, simple design space, while also doing something that would appeal to the core portion of our audience.
This gave birth to a new Ascension concept: Temples.
In Ascension: Valley of the Ancients, acquiring and controlling Temples is one of the most important parts of the game. Temples begin the game uncontrolled near the center row and never go into a player’s deck. Once acquired, a Temple goes into play immediately and behaves much like a Construct, with one important exception:
Your opponent can steal it.
Adding the ability to steal a Construct from your opponent opened up a new design space for the game. Players can now actively interact on any number of turns during a game, increasing the overall tension as you race your opponents to the finish line.
To make the Temples tug-of-war feel balanced, we needed to find a clear, familiar method to ensure players had fun with this new mechanic. This paved the way to a new resource in the game: Keystones.
Keystones are the…ahem…key to acquiring a Temple. There are many ways to gain Keystones: from Monsters to Constructs to Heroes. When you gain a Life or Death Keystone on your turn, you also gain access to the corresponding Temple. In other words, if a Temple is located in its designated space near the Center Row, you acquire it. However, if your opponent has a Temple, you steal it!
Clearly, Keystones play an important role. However, during this set’s design, I also wanted to introduce a pair of new, faction-specific keywords to game. Lifebound has always been associated with “Unite” and I felt it was time Enlightened and Void received similar treatment. This gave way to Enlightened’s “Serenity” keyword and Void’s “Echo” keyword.
Serenity is a new keyword that will appear on a select number of Enlightened cards. Since Enlightened is the faction with the most card draw and causes you to frequently shuffle your deck, I thought “serenity” would be a good keyword for the faction. It really hits the flavor mark, since being peaceful and having a clean mind fits the faction very well.
In addition to Serenity, we have “Echo” as a new keyword for Void players. This type of effect was introduced in previous sets and we really enjoyed what it brought to a dedicated Void deck. So much so that we have decided to make it into a keyword that will show up more frequently.
A special thanks to the rest of the design team. This project looks a lot different than it did when we started and that is due to an amazing team collaborating with one another. Without them, this finished product would not exist in its current form. Thank you Justin Gary for pushing me to try new things. Thank you Gary Arant, not only for sharing your feedback, but for also asking the right questions and helping me understand my own. Jason Zila, thanks for quickly identifying the less fun play patterns and suggesting good ideas to compliment the better ones. Ryan O’Connor, thanks for conceiving and creating such an awesome world and direction for the themes our audience gets to explore. Lastly, thanks to all of you for being loyal fans and making all of this possible.
I had a great time designing it and I appreciate this opportunity to share my ideas with you!