7 things about life I learned from the game Ascension – Part 4

26 01 2013

4. Get the bigger picture and consider your options before you make commitments

Although there is no limit to the “actions” you can play on your turn in Ascension and the cards in your hand can be played in any order, players who understand that there is a best way to utilize the cards they have available based on the order they play them will have a distinct advantage. Sometimes referred to as “order of operations,”  there is a certain sequence you should play out your actions when deciding what to do on your turn, which makes the right thing to do more clear and can sometimes transform an average turn into a power-play. What you are essentially trying to do is get visibility on what your really have to work with before you start partitioning out your resources. To use another money analogy, Imagine that you have 50 dollars but you also have a bunch of sealed envelopes with money inside. Before you hastily spend the 50 dollars, wouldn’t it be smarter to open all the envelopes so that you know how much funds you really have? If you did, then you might find that you have funds that allow you to make a more significant purchase. Likewise there is a flipside to smart spending: You wouldn’t commit your purchase to the first thing you come across that matches those funds; you would probably shop around and evaluate a few potential options to make the best use of your funds. These basic principles are very easy to carry over to Ascension; make sure you have done all you can to reveal what your true options are before you contemplate what to do. Acquiring the best cards is a matter of both having the resources and making the cards turn up when you do.

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Even one rune can make a huge difference in the quality of the card you buy. Make sure you aren’t selling yourself short!

An easy thing to remember is to always play cards that give you free draws first. By playing any cards that cause you to draw before any others, you’ll have the full scope of your hand’s potential for that turn. Always make sure you get as many cards into your hand as you can before you make the commitment of discarding any. It’s a terrible feeling to have mindlessly thrown away an apprentice and later in the turn realizing that it could have made the difference between a 6-rune and a 7-rune buy.

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Always play cards that give you free draws first to get a better idea of what you should throw out when  you play cards that require you to discard or banish.

There are certain cards that have effects that are effectively random. These should also be resolved earlier in the turn (but after free draws) than later, so that you can be aware of the effect that you actually receive and can integrate that info into your plan for the turn. Remember that soul gems must be used during the turn they are gained but they do not have to be used immediately, therefore you can hold off on playing them until you have more information on what you are able to do.

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Make sure you activate your “random” effects early to know what you have to work with. Certain effects can drastically affect what you are able to do on your turn so know about them earlier rather than later.

After you have gone through the previous steps you can now move on to the next source of information; the center row. There are various ways you may be able to affect the center row and fish for the potential purchase/monster that you really need. As mentioned, half of being able to purchase/defeat valuable cards is having those cards appear in the center row, but you can improve your chances of having such a card appear if you have ways to get cards flowing through the center row. Always be mindful of the fact that even though there are only 6 cards in the center row at a time, often you are not limited to those 6 cards. Remember that some cards have a Fate effect that appears when they appear in the center row, and unlike other cards that are played you cannot “save” the effect for later in the turn; it occurs immediately.

High priority banishes:

-Cards that can harm you directly, such as Sea Tyrant and Noxious Soul that you are unable to defeat

-Cards that your opponents want and you probably cannot afford/use

Lower priority banishes:

-Cards that nobody wants

-Cards that your opponents want that you may be able to afford/use

Another thing that you can do to increase your options is to use your “secondary resource.” Except for very focused decks later in the game, you will rarely have a hand exclusively made up of runes or power. In such a case you can use your “weaker” resource to try and clear cards out of the center row to try and reveal a good pick-up for the better resource that you hold. Power is generally more favorably used this way since the cards aren’t added to your deck; there is usually never a reason not to kill a monster in the center row if you are able. Similarly, if there are no monster cards in the center row don’t default to beating up the cultist multiple times; try to make a few rune purchases first and a powerhouse monster just might show up.

Finally, as a last resort you can purchase cheap cards from the center row one at a time with the hopes that something more powerful and worthwhile for your remaining funds will appear. Just remember to be careful about buying too many cards that contribute to deck dilution. There are several cheap 1-rune cards that can be bought safely since they provide draws and do not contribute to dilution, such as Arha Initiate and Hectic Scribe.

Once you have addressed as many elements of uncertainty as possible, the necessary path becomes more clear. Having the best information that you can have when arriving at those decision points will direct you towards the optimal things to do and help you make informed decisions that create the best opportunities.


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