Everything we loved about the earlier games continues in Realms Unraveled, and new multifaction cards make this expansion worthy of attention from both veterans and brand new players.
|Ascension Realms Unraveled||Stone Blade Entertainment||Card Game|
In The Box
One benefit of repetition is that it allows us to improve, and it’s clear that a string of successful releases has only contributed to Ascension becoming a stronger game. Creator Stone Blade isn’t skimping on the packaging, judging by the burly chest that neatly contains Realms Unraveled and all its components. If this is your first exposure to the world of Ascension there’s even extra room in the box for expansions that allow for more than four players. Ascension has always had a design style that stands out among the pack. It’s a bit toward the primal side, befitting the world of spirits and otherworldly characters that you’ll encounter during your battles.
Along with the huge stack of cards and the game’s hefty board you’ll find plastic tokens packed in to represent Honor, the basic currency of any Ascension game. New to this release is a type of card that represents two or more of the game’s key factions. The design and color of each card draws somewhat from a blended aesthetic, and players used to having to decide between one faction or another will find this pretty exciting. There are also Transform cards that are smartly printed in two independent decks; one deck is designed specifically for players using card sleeves. It’s this kind of thoughtful design that really shows the guys at Stone Blade have given lots of time and consideration to making this a game that plays well right out of the box. Along those lines, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the fine manual, which includes 14 oversized pages of well written and illustrated instruction for new and returning players.
How It Plays
We’re of the opinion that are two kinds of players in the world: Those who love deck-building games and those who haven’t tried them. With the variety of games in this category on the market (including the dice-building variety) there’s really no excuse for not having tried at least one of them. Ascension hit our radar not long after the explosion of Magic: The Gathering and the many games it inspired. The basic mechanic of deck building is fine, but having to collect cards and attempting to put together a “perfect” set was never to our liking. The idea of a self-contained game that still provided all the twists and turns of deck building remains the core of Ascension, and Realms Unraveled continues the tradition of adding new elements to keep gameplay fresh.
Each player starts off with an identical set of cards divided between Runes used to acquire stronger cards and Power used to vanquish monsters. Traditionally players in Ascension scramble to collect honor points by defeating monsters and gathering special cards. Realms Unraveled throws in some interesting new twists, one we’ve seen before in the form of Transform cards that are swapped out with a more powerful variation once certain conditions are met. Adding these cards under the right conditions can definitely raise the stakes.
New to this release are multifaction cards, which disrupt the strategy some players used in the past of attempting to build a deck around just one or two types. The additive effects of factions are still here, but it’s much harder to “starve” another player by grabbing up certain factions. It’s also much more interesting to watch how powerful triggers based on factions work once you have more cards in circulation that represent two or even three types. In a nutshell, multifaction cards seem to amplify the impact of using factions, they make faction-based effects more accessible to all players, and they generally accelerate the pace. If you haven’t yet experienced the way Ascension handled deck-building, Realms Unraveled is a perfect place to jump in.
As a fan of Ascension from the very beginning, I love how Realms Unraveled honors all the core gameplay while building in new elements. Sometimes it feels like creators zig or zag with sequels in an attempt to court new fans. Especially if you own earlier games, the multifaction and transform cards will definitely make your time at the table more interesting and still feel in line with what initially drew you to Ascension.
It’s still a great deck-building game and the transforms keep things really interesting. The multifaction cards add a new layer because effects that would previously only matter to one of your cards are now multiplied. The rules are still simple and easy to understand; if you played any of the earlier games, you’ll definitely like this one.