Ascension: Return of the Fallen: nevermore

, | Game diaries

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious card of Ascension lore,
While I was drawing, nearly losing, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some Great-Omen Raven tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

Guess what’s after the jump

I don’t normally like gimmick cards like the Great-Omen Raven. He lets you draw another card, so he just replaces himself. But the gimmick is that if you can guess the card you’re going to draw, you get three victory points. This smacks to me of Magic the Gathering cards where you flip coins or throw cards in the air and see how they land. Ugh. Instead of balance or gameplay, how about a bit of utter nonsense?

But is that really what’s going on with the Great-Omen Raven? Or is there some balance here?

When you start a game of Ascension, your deck consists mostly of crappy cards called Apprentices. These guys give you a single lousy spacebuck to spend and they don’t count for any victory points when the game ends. But they’re the most common card in any deck, so when your Great-Omen Raven shows up, you just guess Apprentice and hope for the best. Err, worst.

However, one of the most important principles of any deck building game is minimizing the number of crappy cards in your deck. On any given turn, you only get to draw five cards into your hand. There is no card in the game less useful than an Apprentice. Any time you have an Apprentice in your hand, it’s taking up a slot where any other card would have been better. So if you ever have the option to banish one of your own cards, get rid of an Apprentice. Bye bye, Apprentice. Have fun in the Void, sucker. He will no longer take up one of your valuable draws. Because of Apprentices, the counterintuitive option to banish your own cards is extremely valuable. In fact, once you realize that killing your own Apprentices is a wonderful thing, you have mastered what is perhaps the most important principle in deck-building games.

But here’s where the Great-Omen Raven is a weird card. A tuned deck will have almost no Apprentices and instead a variety of useful cards. And therefore there’s no easy guess for which card you will draw. Early on, the Great-Omen Raven rocks. But the longer the game goes, and the better your deck gets, the less value you get from your Great-Omen Raven. He’s never a liability, since he always replaces himself. But in a better deck, he won’t give you those three victory points for a correct guess quite so easily.

Up next: poor Oziah