Interview: Gary Games’ Justin Gary talks Ascension

July 15, 2011

Snackbar Games’ resident unplugged writer, Chris Ingersoll, talked to Gary Games founder Justin Gary about Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer‘s development, expansion and future plans.

Snackbar Games: First off I wanted to say that Ascension was my Unplugged Game of the Year last year, and it wasn’t even close. I haven’t taken to a game like this since Race for the Galaxy.

Justin Gary: Thanks a lot man, I appreciate that. That’s really awesome. We’ve been really stoked by the response Ascension has received.

SBG: What about this deck-building style of game made it interesting to you?

JG: The genre really fascinated me as soon as I saw Dominion. As you know, we all have experience with collectible/trading card games like Magic: the Gathering. The experience of trading card games like Magic is fun, challenging, and rewarding, but a huge expense. The deck-building genre let me put that experience in a compact format, in one box as opposed to my entire life savings. It’s the best intersection of the traditional board game world and the collectible gaming world.

SBG: Plus there’s the ease of expandability, I’m sure. How many more expansions do you guys plan to put out for Ascension, and do you have a tentative release schedule (e.g., one a year, two a year)?

JG: We currently have designs on the third and forth expansions, with a story arc tentatively planned through six, plus miscellaneous add-ons. We’ll keep it up as long as there is interest. We don’t have a set schedule; when we think it’s good, that’s when it goes out — not before. The next set will hopefully be ready in time for the holidays.

SBG: Will future expansions be stand-alone playable like Return of the Fallen?

JG: They will be stand-alone; the next will be a large set, about the size of Chronicle of the Godslayer. We have a sort of “block” design in mind that will alternate large and small releases, with those “blocks” being essentially self-contained to keep things manageable.

SBG: Which brings me neatly to my next question. With Return of the Fallen combined with Chronicle of the Godslayer (and a few promos), the Portal deck is currently a little over 170 cards, which is at least five inches tall when sleeved and already quite the chore to shuffle sufficiently. Will future expansions address this?

JG: Ideally, future expansions will allow you to customize your pool. While you could combine every card we put out, we don’t really recommend it for just that reason. We’ll also have suggested lists for different play experiences, and we hope that players will do the same on their own. We envision it as either “play out of the box” (sets 1 and/or 2, sets 3 and/or 4) or “customize decks”.

SBG: Finally, I have a couple of questions that are more or less specific to, or at least triggered by, Return of the Fallen. First of all, was it my imagination or were these cards much easier to sleeve than those printed in the base set? Did something change in the printing process?

JG: (laughs) Not your imagination! When we first produced Chronicle, the printers included a specific type of gloss that made the cards just slightly thicker than normal. That has been corrected and all future releases will be of the correct glossiness/thickness.

SBG: That’s good to hear. My other observation is that one card (Adayu, the Chosen), allows players to acquire or defeat a card without paying its cost, and specifically includes that reminder text. This is in contrast to cards like Reclamax or Serpentcall, which allow players to acquire a card in the Void but do still require the cost to be paid. Should/will Avatar of the Fallen, from the base set, receive reminder text errata to distinguish it from these newer cards (and have the simpler “unbanishable” keyword while you’re at it)?

JG: The templating rule we’ve adopted is that “acquire” (as seen on Avatar of the Fallen and Cetra, Weaver of Stars) is free, but “acquire as if in the center row” implies that you have to pay the cost. We’re trying to get it as clear as possible, and we admit that it is a fine distinction, but our templating is consistent.

SBG: Is there anything else you would like to add before I let you go?

JG: We’re really excited about Return of the Fallen; it’s the culmination of a lot of groundwork established for Chronicle but which was cut for streamlining purposes. We’re also really hyped about our iPhone app (a free trial is available in the App Store). I give Dominion a lot of credit and really enjoy the game, but it can take a while to set up and take down; one of the main philosophies behind Ascension was to make the deck-building experience as streamlined as possible. The iPhone app is really perfect for what we wanted to do with Ascension.

Thanks to Justin for talking to us! We’ll be sure to keep an ear out for future updates.