Iddy Approved: SolForge

My health is quickly draining away as fallen heroes on both sides of the conflict litter the battlefield. My trusted ally, Tarsus Deathweaver, who has been providing bonuses to attack and health to my party, was vanquished by the relentless Zimus, The Undying, a powerful undead soldier who earlier dispatched my female cleric in flowing white robes. The tension mounts as I know Zimus will be the death of me soon. I shift my attention to the diminutive Arboris Dragon, who has been quietly accompanying my party. He plots his next move and sends a Glowhive Siren to block Zimus’ next charge. The crafty Arboris knows her death will not be in vain. As Zimus splits the Siren in two with his mighty battle axe, her life force grants me and the party new life. Arboris absorbs this life and swells to enormous size and now towers over the battlefield. My pulse rises as I cast the perfect spell for such a moment, and it grants the mighty dragon the power to breakthrough all defenses. Even the legendary champion, Oros, the Chosen with his majestic two-handed sword is not enough to fight off the dragon’s onslaught. Arboris unleashes a devastating attack to vanquish my foes. I take in the outcome of the battle, and exhale. It was a close call for this group of adventurers but more glory awaits. There is always another foe to conquer.

Forge-&-DragonAt the moment, I’m not sitting around a table playing Dungeons & Dragons with a group of friends. I’m in the passenger seat of my wife’s car as she is driving us to a family gathering, and she is quite annoyed with the fact that I’m buried knuckles-deep in my iPhone playing a deck building game against a stranger.

Welcome to SolForge.

SolForge first came to my attention around the time I interviewed Justin Gary about his previous brainchild, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. I had gushed about that game after playing it at Gen Con in 2011, so when I heard Mr. Gary was working on another game – I totally dropped the ball and did not back the Kickstarter.

I was a fool!

Considering I have been playing SolForge on a daily basis for the past few months, the magnitude of regret I have for missing out on the Kickstarter is considerable. Let me explain why.

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Ego Check: Justin Gary, Creator of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Last Spring, my Twitter feed became slowly infested with #Ascension tweets. I was busy playing in two Dungeons & Dragons campaigns at that time and did not know what the hashtag meant. But one thing became clear; people were having a great time playing a specific game called Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. My first exposure to Ascension came at Gen Con 2012, where I was able to play the game at the Gary Games booth. As someone who only played a few rounds of games such as Magic: The Gathering and Dominion, the game play was familiar enough to quickly grasp the rules. I played several games of Ascension at the booth and soon after returning home from Gen Con, I bought the iOS version – I’ve been hooked ever since!

Ascension Immortal Logo
Recently, I learned that Gary Games – the company that launched Ascension and its numerous Expansion Sets – is now Stone Blade Entertainment. The company is in the process of releasing a new game, SolForge, and I was able to communicate with the CEO of Stone Blade Entertainment and creator of Ascension and SolForge, Justin Gary. In the interview below, I pry into the development of his self-contained deck-building game and how it is both similar and different to the Magic: The Gathering behemoth. I inquire about the mechanics of Ascension and how they have evolved throughout the expansion sets. He also discusses the collaboration with Dr. Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering, on their new game, SolForge.

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions. Diving right in, I became hooked on Ascension after playing it for the first time during Gen Con 2012. The game felt more alive and interactive than previous deck-building games I’ve played like Dominion or Thunderstone. How much of this was purposeful during your design process?
Certainly game variance and excitement were some of the key goals of designing Ascension. One of the problems I always had with games like Dominion, is that once the available cards are determined, there is very little excitement and drama left in the game. Every game of Ascension is different and card valuations change dramatically based on when they are revealed and what your opponents are playing.

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Game Night Blog Carnival (Gen Con 2012 Edition): Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Welcome once again to the Game Night Blog Carnival hosted by Roving Band of Misfits. It has been some time since my last review. For those of you new to the site you can visit their site for more information about the blog carnival initiative.

I have mentioned on numerous occasions that I primarily play Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. While I thoroughly enjoy 4th Edition, I know I am missing out on many great gaming experiences in various formats. One of the formats I have not experienced often enough is tabletop games. In the past month or two, I have enjoyed playing Ticket To Ride on my iPhone, which is a port of the tabletop game of the same name. It is a fun game that features competition between 2-5 players. It made me realize there are wonderful gaming experiences to be had away from roleplaying games like D&D. During Gen Con, I was able to take advantage of several great game demonstrations that were available to test and consume.

While at Gen Con, I played the following games for the first time, Dominion (and later Dominion: Prosperity), Settlers of Catan, Kingdom Builder and Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. I saw how similar Dominion is to Ascension (and vice versa) and it reminded me of when I played and reviewed Thunderstone. All three games – and I’m sure many others I have not played – work off similar principles and mechanics. Of the three, I found Ascension to be the game I thought about most after I finished playing it. My friend and I came close to buying Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer but decided neither of us would be able to travel home with it. Besides, I had already reached my limit for buying merchandise at Gen Con!

Enter the slick Ascension application for the iPhone, which allows you to play the first edition of Ascension for a $4.99. The app also allows you to purchase the two expansions (Return of the Fallen; Storm of Souls) and additional Promo Cards for a few extra dollars each. The app has a solid tutorial that teaches the basics of the game, and there are routinely open games online to join 24 hours a day. Two-player games last approximately 10 minutes (when both players are actively playing back and forth) but games can also be played asynchronously over the course of days or weeks. It is addictive.

Let me repeat.

Addictive.

Below, I write about why I find Ascension so engaging and discuss my initial foray into playing against random people online – and the beatings I suffered as a result.

Continue reading “Game Night Blog Carnival (Gen Con 2012 Edition): Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer”