Ascension: Dreamscape is a game by Justin Gary and John Fiorillo, published by Stone Blade Entertainment. It is for 1-4 players but can be played with 4-6 players using team play. It can also be combined with any of the other Ascension games to allow up to 6 players to play. In this game, players will start off with a loyal group of untrained followers but will acquire heroes and constructs to aid them as they battle evil monsters of every shape and size. The player that can achieve the most honor in battle will be declared the winner.
To begin, the board may be placed on the table if players choose to use it, however it is not absolutely necessary. I will assume that it’s being used for the sake of this review. The Heavy Infantry, Mystic and Cultist cards are placed on their respective space on the board. Each player is given 8 Apprentice cards and 2 Militia cards. These cards are shuffled and players then draw 5 cards for their starting hand. The remaining cards are placed face down in front of the player. The Dream cards should be shuffled together. Each player is then dealt 5 cards. They will then choose 3 of the cards which will be placed face down in front of them. The remaining 2 cards are returned to the deck and the deck is shuffled again. The Dream deck is then placed face down near the board within reach of all players. The cards for the main deck are shuffled together and placed face down on the corresponding space on the board. The top 6 cards are flipped over and lain out on the open spaces in the center row. 30 Honor tokens are placed onto the Honor Pool space for each player. The first player is chosen and play now begins.
On a player’s turn, they will play cards from their hand to gain Runes, Power, Insight and Honor. Runes are used to acquire heroes and constructs. These cards are placed in the player’s discard pile once acquired. Power is used to defeat monsters. When a monster is defeated it is sent to the void, which is the name for the main deck’s discard pile. The player then gains a reward, usually including Honor tokens. Insight is used to acquire cards from the player’s dreamscape, the 3 cards that the player chose at the beginning of the game from the dream deck. These cards can only be gained by that player. A player may play their cards in any order of their choosing by simply playing the card face up and announcing it’s effect. Every time a card is bought from the center row, a new card is drawn from the main deck to replace it. If a Dreamborn card enters the center row, every player gains 1 Insight. Also when one of these cards is acquired by a player, they will also gain 1 Insight. When a construct card is played it remains in play to be used by that player each and every turn. These are not discarded at the end of the player’s turn. Once the player is through playing cards, gaining heroes and constructs, defeating monsters and acquiring dream cards, they must then discard all the played hero cards and any cards remaining in their hand to their discard pile. The player then draws 5 new cards from their deck. If the deck is empty or runs out of cards, the discard pile is shuffled to gether and a new draw deck is formed.
As stated earlier, this set introduces the new dream deck and the new Insight resource. Since the Dream deck and Dreamborn cards have already been covered earlier, I won’t repeat that information here. The main thing to understand is that unlike the other resources, runes and power, Insight comes in the form of little orange tokens that are not lost at the end of a player’s turn. This resource can be kept until the player chooses to spend it.
The game continues until the last Honor token has been taken. Once this happens, the game ends at the end of the current round. That means that the last player that started the game will be the player to end the game. Honor may still be gained but must be taken from any leftover tokens in the box. Players add up the number of points beside the Honor symbol in the bottom left corner of each card along with the Honor tokens that they gained during the game. The player with the most Honor points is the winner.
This game is full of some of the most beautiful looking cards. There are 35 new Dream deck cards that highlight the new Insight resource. The main deck has 98 cards. There’s also mystic, heavy infantry and the cultist card, as well as enough starting deck cards consisting of apprentices and militia for 4 players. The beauty and design of each card is simply amazing. The artwork continues to get better with each new set of Ascension that comes out. There are also the large red and small clear Honor tokens that are a staple to the Ascension game world. What’s new is the large and small orange Insight tokens. These remind me of the Precursor Orbs from the old Jax & Daxter video games. Just like the Honor tokens, these are made from plastic. The only bad thing is that with them being egg shaped, they tend to roll around a bit more than I’d like. However that’s only a small gripe and they look great so really, I’m not complaining. If it’s too annoying you can always grab a small bowl, clean ashtray or one of those plastic trays that come with the game, Abyss. It’s pretty much whatever floats your boat. For me, the design is still cool. As for the board, WOW! It really looks great. There are several designs from the cards that are reprinted on it. Sure, there are those people that may find it to be a bit cluttered looking but I really like the design and find the extra artwork to be fun. It’s definitely unlike the previous boards that were included with the earlier games. You’ll either love it or hate it. For me, I love it. Heck, I love all of it. This is just a really great looking game, period.
9 out of 10
The rulebook for this game looks amazing. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The book begins with the very thematic story behind the new set. Everything then transitions into the new aspects of the game. There’s a page consisting of a breakdown of the new vision cards from the Dream deck. From there we get into the setup for the game including a full page look at set up. The following pages showcase the Hero, Construct and Monster cards in the same style as the Vision cards. The next couple of pages breakdown how to play the game. Let me just say, the look and design of the book is great. Everything is thoroughly covered in great detail. It’s easy to read and understand. There’s also a page of frequently asked questions followed by a glossary of game terms. The last page consists of gameplay variants for 4-6 players using team play and also solitaire rules for playing solo. As I’ve said, I couldn’t be happier with the rules. There’s nothing inside this book that should give you any trouble. Old players can pretty much check out the first couple of pages for the new mechanics and cards and move on. New players will want to check out everything. Either way, a great looking book cover to cover.
9 out of 10
For those readers unfamiliar with my reviews, let me just say that I’m a big fan of Ascension. That said, it should in no way color your enjoyment of the game. Now then. I love this game. You didn’t really think that I’d say anything different did you? I love the idea of the Dream deck/Vision cards. I really like having certain cards that my opponents can’t buy. They are just for me. You can sort of tailor things to your way of playing by looking at what options are available from the Dream deck cards you draw at the beginning and then going from there. With such a huge stack of Vision cards available, it’s very unlikely that you will wind up playing the same game twice. This leads to having a huge replayability factor. I really liked the added depth of having another resource available to purchase new cards with. What’s even better is being able to hold on to those Insight tokens until you really need them instead of losing any left over resources at the end of your turn. The game works great with every number of players, including solo. Of course, the magic spot has to be 2 players, in my opinion. Just like with Magic the Gathering, this game works best in a duel type format. Regardless of how you choose to play it, it’s a great game that you’ll find yourself wanting to play over and over again.
9 out of 10
Ascension: Dreamscape is a light weight deck building game that is great for both old and new players alike. The game can be played in around 30-40 minutes. Using 4 or more players may tend to increase that time frame by another 10-20 minutes. The artwork on the cards and board are really great. Some people may find the board to be too busy due to the extra artwork but I personally like it. I really like the new polished look of the cards themselves and the new mechanics are really fun. Clean up is easy since the new Dream deck cards all have a gold outline making them easy to pick out. Fans of any of the Ascension games will love to add this to their collection. Fans of deck building games and Magic the Gathering will also find this game worth picking up. I really enjoy everything about this game and find that it’s super easy to play and even easier to teach. It works great with any player count including solo but it really shines as a 2 player game. I highly recommend this game. It’s a great game for new and old players alike.
9 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Stone Blade Entertainment at their site.