Ascension: Drawing Cards

Sep 06 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I’m still playing Ascension a fair amount, and still trying to figure it out. I went through a big “trash your cards” binge, and in general that’s clearly a good idea. I had a game recently, though, where I managed to get a bunch of cards that let you draw more cards: after five or so rounds, I had two cards that let you draw two cards, one that lets you draw three cards, and as the game went on I got a few more that let you draw a single card. (And I also got a card that lets you draw two cards and banish one.)

In fact, such a high percentage of cards in my hand let me draw other cards to replace them after playing them that, as the game went on, I ended up going through all of my hand (or almost all, maybe all but two cards in my hand was a little more realistic) in most of the rounds in the second half of the game.

And, as you might expect, I steamrollered my computer opponent—I could buy or (usually) kill whatever I wanted every round, so I ended up with high value card after high value card. If I’m remembering correctly, the final score was 104 to 52, which is a ridiculous total and a ridiculous margin of victory.

Clearly I can’t count on such luck at the start of the game; but at least now I realize the potential when the possibility appears. And it’s yet another reminder of the value of dense hands. In fact, I’m thinking now that I should experiment more with not buying cards even when I have the opportunity to do so: yes, I’ll lose a few victory points in the short term by doing that, but the density benefits could easily outweigh that.

What I don’t have any feel for at all is how to balance profit versus capabilities. In general, I lean towards purchasing power rather than killing power, but ultimately killing monsters is the easiest way to rack up victory points, and they have the advantage that they don’t clog up your hand. Something to work on…

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Aug 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I wanted a board game to play on the way to Def Con, so I got a copy of the iPad version of Ascension. Which certainly did its job of amusing us while traveling, and I’ve dipped into it a reasonable amount since then. (Zippy has had several achy nights recently, and Ascension is a nice way to pass the time while cuddling with him.)

I’m still trying to figure it out, though I’m slowly getting better. For a while, it seemed like I had a greater than 50% success rate playing against one AI but a worse than 33% success rate playing against two AIs; this suggests to me that I’m okay at executing on a fixed long-term plan but not very good at adapting to changing circumstances? (Both because you see fewer cards in a larger game and because more changes on the board between turns.) Recently, though, my success rate on matches against two AIs has increased; part of that is that I understand Mechana Constructs better (I’ve started to think of them as monsters that you can beat with the non-attack currency), and also maybe I’m getting a bit better at dealing with different scenarios in the start of the game? Or it could just be luck of the draw…

I’m still trying to figure out the start of the game, though: I like 5/3 starting hands much more than 4/4 starts (and the difference seems more pronounced and more banal than the difference between 4/3 and 5/2 starts in Dominion), and in particular I’m not at all comfortable with either being flooded with Heavy Infantry or with avoiding them and leaving points on the board during the opening. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with trashing cards from my hand (these days I generally actively seek out cards that let me do so, possibly more so than is wise), but I’m not very good with cards that let you trash something on the board.

That latter bit also relates to an effect of playing on the iPad: I don’t pay nearly as much attention to what my opponents are up to as I do when playing games with physical cards. Definitely a drawback, though it got a lot better (when playing against humans) when we changed our seating arrangement so we could all see the machine instead of passing it along a row.

Glad to have bought it, glad to have it around, but right now I’m thinking I like Dominion a fair amount more. But, sadly, there’s no iPad version of Dominion, so I’ll make do with what’s available.

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