Digital Distraction: Ascension


Ascension icon

In May, Cory introduced a new series here at ProfHacker. Digital Distractions are our semi-regular recommendations for that little something to help you take your mind off your work for a five- or fifteen-minute break.

One of my favorite pastimes is playing modern board games as I find it’s a great way to interact with friends and family. But on occasion you might find yourself without a partner to play against. And in that case, a digital version of a board game works great. In the coming months, I’ll share some of my favorite board game adaptations for iOS and other platforms.

Today, I want to recommend you check out the iOS version of Ascension. Ascension is a deck-building game; what this means is that every player begins the game with an identical hand of cards. Each turn, you draw a hand of five cards and use those cards to buy new cards from the center of the table and add them to your deck. Throughout the game, your deck grows and you can start to purchase better cards and create combinations of cards that work well with one another. The game ends when a certain number of points have been scored by all the players, and whoever has scored the most points–both during the game and the cards in their hands–is the winner. (If that doesn’t sound all that clear, this video review of the game and its mechanics should help.)

What sets Ascension apart from other deck-building games–yes, it’s an entire genre–is that the cards that you can purchase from the center of the table are constantly changing. Since there are only two or three copies of a card in the deck of 100+ cards, if another player buys the card you want on their turn, you might not see it again during the game. The result is a game that is tactical rather than strategic and that has proven maddeningly addictive to me as I’ve played it more or less nonstop for the last three months. I keep trying to see if I can perfect a better strategy with whatever cards I get to choose from.

But beyond the interesting and multiple paths to victory, Ascension has become my go-to distraction because I can play a game in 5-7 minutes. If I were playing with the physical copy of Ascenscion, a single game would be at least twice that time, just because I’d shuffle my cards so regularly. For this reason, Ascension is a game that I actually prefer to play digitally.

Ascension has a pretty good AI that will take you a while to learn to beat, but you can also play against friends or random human opponents through Apple’s matchmaking service, Game Center. (You can challenge me if you’d like.) Games against live people use a variable chess clock, so they can be over in as little as 20 minutes.

If there is any knock against Ascension, it’s got to be the artwork. While it matches the fantasy / magic theme of the game, it’s busy and just doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

The interface for Ascension

Still, I can deal with the art, and I’ve got more than my money’s worth out of the app and the three expansions to the game that are available as in-app purchases.

I am, of course, aware that you might not want or need any distractions as the semester is about to get underway again. But I wanted to cover Ascension this week as it is currently on sale for $0.99 (regularly $4.99) until Thursday, 23 August 2012. What’s more, all three expansions are on currently sale for $0.99 apiece, which saves you another $5 if you were to buy them all. There’s a whole lot of game in here for $3.96. In fact, I’ll buy the first person who follows and @ replies me on Twitter a copy of the app.

Do you have favorite board or card games that you like to play on a portable device? Let us know in the comments!

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