Ascension Review: A Rise To Mobile Gaming

It's tabletop...for your phone.
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Ascension, a deck building game, also has a digital mobile version for all who seek to play a tabletop game even when they don’t have….well, a table. This is something of a trend for games these days. Rising among the ranks of those that can be played with either such as Ticket To Ride, Ascension proves that it’s smart enough to realize it reaches far more players by also being digital.

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The World of Vigil

Ascension starts players with a nice little story to begin:

The game takes place in Vigil, a world that has been protected for millennia by the Great Seal, keeping the realm free from divine influences. It was put in place after an ancient war with a corrupt god, Samael the Fallen, when it was decided that none of the gods should be able to interfere. But now, the Seal is failing, and nightmarish Monsters that had been forgotten are breaking through. Your job, as a hero of Vigil, is to take your small, ragtag band of Apprentices and Militia, and gather an army powerful enough to lead you to your destiny as the Godslayer, and in doing so, slay Samael once and for all.

I first was introduced to Ascension at PAX East, where a friend had purchased it through Kickstarter. Sadly I never had a chance to play it there, because we were playing a lot of games at the time and there were too many of us to all play Ascension (per the rules). 

However with the iPhone version being only $4.99 I figured why not give it a try?


Your hand starts with 10 cards of eight Apprentices and two Militias. The Militias provide – you guessed it – your Power for attacking. Apprentices provide Runes, which are needed in order to collect Hero and Construct cards that are on the Center Deck of the board.

You also receive Honor by collecting the Hero/Construct cards and by defeating Monsters. Collecting the most Honor wins you the game.

The Center Deck starts out with 6 face up cards. Players take turns using the cards in their current hand (which is always 5 cards to begin with) to either acquire Hero or Construct cards or defeat Monsters. A card in the Center Deck is always replaced by another. 

At all times you have the ability to get a Mystic, Heavy Infantry, and can defeat a Cultist for 1 Honor point.

As for the cards themselves, each type has specific abilities or resources (which are written right on the card). Different cards can help you, and collecting similar cards in your deck can build on that (hence card building!).

The mobile version has obviously a different feel than the tangible game, but on the other hand it’s also easier and quicker to learn as well. For those who are new to deck building games (me), or just tabletop in general this mobile version makes it almost easy and friendly enough even for a casual gamer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Candy Crush (thank god). Yet there is definitely this feel to it that makes it a game I can easily see starting to blur the line.

The iPhone app allows you to play offline and online with other players. You can also adjust difficulty. 

The mobile version essentially does all the hard learning for you.

It glows cards when you can use them, and snaps to the correct areas that they are supposed to be going. You can tap any card to read more about them, and the app will even let you know when you try to end your turn too soon. It also saves all your scores in Apple’s Game Center. 

The combination of cards and multiple difficulty levels means I’m not stuck on something ridiculously hard for no reason but I’m also not ending my game in less time than it takes me to deny Candy Crush requests. 

The graphics for the game are pretty rad in my book, and I love the sketchy feel they have to the characters and monsters. The style of the design reminds me of the Norseman.

So, although I did happen to loose the game I was playing to capture the screen shots for this article (sigh), in the end I’d say this is a win. Even though I don’t have a lot of experience with deck building card games, Ascension does exactly what they claim:

“Ascension is a fast-paced deckbuilding game that’s quick to learn, easy to setup, and packed with endless hours of replay value!”

Ascension Review: A Rise To Mobile Gaming
It's tabletop...for your phone.

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Jamie K
I'm a 29 year old Jersey girl who loves games. I currently work full time, volunteer part time at this awesome non-profit called Amman Imman, and go to school part time. I also train in jiu jitsu. So time isn't quite on my side (unlike that song says). I have been trying unsuccessfully for years to clone myself so I can devote one of me to boring stuff like working and laundry - thus allowing more time for gaming. I'm willing to offer large sums of imaginary money to any who can make this happen.