A rare peace leads to the discovery of a tempting new realm. How will you tap into the power of the Dreamscape? A stand-alone expansion to the Ascension deck-building game.
|Ascension Dreamscape||Stone Blade Entertainment||Card Game|
In The Box
Experienced players will understand how an Ascension expansion works, but if you’re new to the game rest assured this is a great place to jump on the ride. Ascension doesn’t actually have a “core set” as much as it has many sets you can combine with others seamlessly, to allow for more variety and larger groups around the table. Up to four players can enjoy Ascension: Dreamscape right out of the box and there’s even a solitaire variation. Our first impression after unboxing Ascension: Dreamscape was that it maintains the unique design style of previous games, from cards to components to the board.
That board! In the game’s lore this expansion marks a unique turning point, so the dark colors have largely been replaced with a bright, mystical glow and metallic highlights. Cards mesh well into those from other sets, with the exception of a special deck we’ll explain in greater detail, the Dreamscape. Another unique aspect of Ascension: Dreamscape that’s directly related to that special deck is a new type of currency called Insight. Unlike Runes and Power that each player accrues on a use-it-or-lose-it basis each turn, Insight sticks around once earned. It’s a powerful twist to the gameplay, and the tokens representing Insight are also extremely cool. Insight comes in increments of 1 and 5, molded from clear plastic in a roughly spherical shape with lots of facets. Like a beautiful little plastic gem! Just as we’ve enjoyed the other plastic tokens for Honor–also measured in steps of 1 and 5–the new Insight trackers are genuinely fun to look at, earn, and hold in one’s hand.
A small detail to note about this set is that the box itself isn’t designed in such a way that you can use it to store other sets. Cards are packed into a plastic insert that just holds everything you’ll need to play Ascension: Dreamscape and not much else. This was the only ding for us in a set that otherwise screams, “Flawless victory!” Part of the joy of playing Ascension is that each major release is complete and highly playable as a standalone, while also serving as the perfect leaping-off point for those interested in building a larger collection. It would be great to see the storage design reflect that, at least so each box could hold up to two full sets. As we said, this is just nitpicking and wish-list kind of musing, not a real flaw.
How It Plays
The core gameplay of Ascension remains unchanged through a rich history of releases, and provides a kind of deck-building mechanic that players of Dominion and other similar games will immediately recognize. You’ll start with a weak deck of cards that have no real value at the end of the game, but can be used strategically to purchase more powerful cards in the game’s early rounds. This starting deck generates Runes and Power that respectively help you recruit heroes or defeat monsters. New to Ascension: Dreamscape is the addition of three starting cards, drawn from a random sampling of five you’ll be dealt from that Dreamscape deck. Think of these as a private and special deck only you can access. Cards here aren’t technically yours until you buy them, and the currency for doing that is…you guessed it: Insight. Seasoned players of Ascension may be thrown at first by this new mechanic, but it reminded us of the “side decks” common in a Collectible Card Game (CCG) like Magic: The Gathering.
Much like the strategy behind a side deck, cards you choose and then acquire from the Dreamscape help you tweak and tune your main deck of cards. One of the things that limited strategic gameplay in previous Ascension titles was the randomness of draws from the Center Deck. That randomness is still present, but the Dreamscape allows players to protect cards from opponents and only buy those that support their strategy. Lest you think Insight is only good for buying Dreamscape cards, it can occasionally be leveraged for other effects within the larger game. The Dreamscape is divided into exactly the same factions, heroes and constructs you’re familiar with, plus something called a Vision. These are a bit like the Event cards of previous sets, or like an instant, one-time effect card if you’re coming from experience with a CCG.
Ascension: Dreamscape is well balanced and adds a great new mechanic that will reward experienced players without so much complexity that it might turn off or confuse those new to the world of Ascension. We continue to be impressed with the consistency of this series and it holds steady in our opinion as one of the best deck-building franchises out there, and one of our go-to games for any occasion. If you’re completely new to Ascension we’d say this is a terrific set to start playing right now. Combining this with previous sets works great, and the only downside is that you may see Dream cards less often without some tweaking. Luckily there’s a huge community of players out there who’ve thought these problems out and have solutions, also one of the great things about getting into the Ascension game series.