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Formerly a PC-exclusive gamer, Kae was introduced to the tabletop world by gateway of the World of Warcraft TCG. Since then, her interests have broadened with her favorite games including Battlestar Galactica, Pathfinder, Lord of the Rings LCG, WarmaHordes, and more. Kae is willing to try just about any game and loves learning new strategy.

Written Review – Ascension : Darkness Unleashed

ascension_darknessunleashed_box

Crystal Energy Shards rained down upon the people of Vigil, and it was seen as a blessing. As the story of Ascension pushed onward, we learn that Erabus, son of Samael and Nyx, who has been trapped in a prison has broken free. The Energy Shards were just the outer casing of the prison that held Erabus all this time, and along with his release come Dark Energy Shards, the pieces of the cell that were closest to Erabus himself! In Ascension : Darkness Unleashed, Heroes have the ability to transform, and Dark Energy Shards bring a whole new ability to the game. Let’s take a look at the latest title by Stone Blade Entertainment!

Darkness Unleashed Stats

Ascension : Darkness Unleashed released in 2013, is recommended for ages 13+, and is designed by Justin Gary. As with the other Ascension titles, the illustrator remains the same, Eric Sabee.

Contents

The box may be small, but holds a lot of cards!

The box may be small, but holds a lot of cards!

Inside the box is a small organization tray that holds all of the materials you need for a 2 player game, save for an actual board. We’re making an assumption that if you’re interested in A:DU, that you’ve played the base games and know how the game is set up without the assistance of the board. The box includes :

  • Rulebook
  • 196 cards
    • 2 personal starting decks, each containing 8 Apprentices, 2 Militias and 1 Energy Shard
    • 33 “always available” cards
      • 1 Cultist
      • 16 Mystics
      • 16 Heavy Infantry
    • 65 center deck cards
      • 13 double-sided transform cards
    • 50 treasure cards
      • 40 energy shards
      • 10 dark energy shards
    • 26 single-sided transform cards
  • 30 beads
    • 15 small clear tokens worth 1 Honor
    • 15 large red tokens worth 5 Honor

How To Play / What’s Changed

In this review, we won’t be going over how the game is played, but rather what has changed with this expansion and how they affect the game. Since A:DU is meant to be played with Ascension : Rise of Vigil, please check out the review for Rise of Vigil for in-depth information on how to play.

In Rise of Vigil, Energy Shards began to appear across the world in the form of Treasure cards. Energy cards allow players to gain 1 Energize point and to draw an extra card that turn. In Darkness Unleashed, those shards closest to the imprisoned Erabus also make an appearance. The same bonus as the Energy Shard is applied, but these come with the keyword “Fate”. When a Dark Energy card enters the center row, players have the option to banish a card from their discard pile. Having this option, even early in the game, provides a nice way to make a deck efficient.

Dark Energy Shards vs Energy Shards

Dark Energy Shards vs Energy Shards

Stone Blade Entertainment used inspiration from their digital game, Solforge, to develop a way to level up cards. This was translated into the new mechanic in A:DU of Transform. Once enough Energy Shards are played, Heroes can transform into greater versions on themselves. When this happens, the original card is removed from play and the Transformed version is placed into their deck instead. Something that was included with A:DU is double-sided Hero cards. If you find swapping cards out to be a hassle, the double-sided cards fix that. It is important to note that players should choose which way they will do this, so that there are no doubles of cards in the main deck.

Transformed Hero once requirements are met.

Transformed Hero once requirements are met.

You will notice that the original Hero and Transformed Hero have different honor point values. At the end of the game, whichever of these is in your deck is the card that is referred to for point calculation.

Thoughts

Even though I missed the use of Events, I enjoyed the Treasure cards that were introduced with Rise of Vigil. Some people, including some at the office, felt that the Energy Shards could provide an unfair advantage in the game, but I really enjoyed the new mechanic, even when I was unable to make use of them.  Though they still appear in A:DU, the Dark Energy cards provide a nice balance. Being able to tune your deck as early as the second turn is valuable. Using them for their Energize use and card drawing is still as powerful as the first Treasure cards we saw, but with that added perk.

ascension_darknessunleashed_centerrow

Dark Energy Shards stacking, giving players many chances to tune their decks.

I really enjoy Eric Sabee’s artwork, because his style becomes more defined with each game. The art of the cards appeals to the artist in me, and I like looking at a card and knowing exactly what game it belongs to. When I think of events playing out in the Ascension world, I see it in through the style of Sabee’s work. In fact, one of the cards I like the most is the Transformed version of Erabus.

I feel that the abilities of some of the Heroes do require a bit more skill in regards to deck building than in this expansion’s base game. Being picky and choosy about the text on these cards makes it a bit more streamlined, and less about picking up a card just for the pile of Treasure cards beneath it.

A nice twist to the game and the story of Ascension is that once defeated, the Monster card Erabus, the Exiled is “saved” and transforms into Erabus, Son of Nyx. Defeating a monster and gaining a powerful Hero is pretty awesome, if you ask me. If a Dark Energy Shard is played the turn that you attempt to defeat Erabus, the Exiled, it becomes easier to defeat him. Why? These shards were the closest to him while in bondage, and their power over him is still strong. I really liked this reasoning.

Erabus, the double-edged character in the game.

Erabus, the double-edged character in the game.

The rest of the game remains the same with the opportunity to kill the Cultist whenever it tickles your fancy with Mystics and Heavy Infantry available for a boost of strength and power. The Dark Energy cards bring some balance but their numbers are few, so while their appearance might be scarce, they can make a drastic difference in the results of a game. Perhaps the Treasure cards of Rise of Vigil didn’t appeal to you, and if that is the case, then this expansion may not be for you. However, if you enjoyed Rise of Vigil, Darkness Unleashed would be a great addition to your game as it progresses the story and introduces the banishing fate of the new Treasure cards. Ascension : Darkness Unleashed runs for $29.99 MSRP and works with all base sets, but is best with Rise of Vigil.

Buy This Game IT Button

Thanks to Stone Blade Entertainment for providing a review copy of Ascension : Darkness Unleashed.

If you're a fan, this is for you.

If you’re a fan, this is for you.

Pros

  • Improved art style
  • Fine-tuning decks is made easier with this expansion
  • Cards in the center row more balanced

Cons

  • Those who disliked Rise of Vigil aren’t likely to be swayed with this expansion
  • Players spend more time making decisions with the ability to draw extra cards.

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  1. Kae’s Top Games of 2013 | Initiative : Tabletop - January 17, 2014

    […] have a large hand of nothing. This game was only made better with the release later in the year of Darkness Unleashed, which introduced Dark Energy […]

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