Unplugged: Ascension’s Immortal Heroes enter the fray

December 14, 2012

Releases for Ascension come in two sizes: large four-player sets and small two-player sets meant to compliment the previous large set. Earlier this year the second large entry, Storm of Souls, arrived, and brought several new mechanics to those introduced in the first large-small pair. After a few unfortunate delays, Storm of Souls now finally has its companion set in Immortal Heroes.

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Gaming Unplugged
Author: Various (2007), Chris Ingersoll (2007-2012)
Overviews and analysis of board, card and other analog games.

Immortal Heroes continues the Kythis storyline outlined in Storm of Souls, as the world of Vigil continues to reel from the aftermath of the defeat of Samael in the previous sets. And just like Samael in Return of the Fallen, Kythis himself appears as the “boss” monster (and cover boy) in Immortal Heroes. Conveniently, the Kythis card represents both of the new twists that Immortal Heroes brings to the Storm of Souls environment.

First of all, Kythis is a trophy monster. As before, when a trophy monster is defeated, it goes in front of the player rather than directly to the void. Normally, a player has to banish the trophy in order to gain its benefit, but Kythis is an “ongoing trophy,” which means he bestows his reward once a turn and every turn, sort of like a construct that can’t be destroyed. The other ongoing trophy in Immortal Heroes is the Growmites monster, which provides additional honor for each subsequent Growmites you defeat… and there are five of them in the deck instead of the usual monster maximum of four.

Kythis’ reward, like the effects of many cards in Immortal Heroes, is to provide you a Soul Gem. Soul Gems are a separate stack of cards that represent fallen heroes from the first two Ascension sets. Whenever you acquire a Soul Gem, you take the top card from that deck and have until the end of your turn to banish it for its effect (like some sort of “hero trophy”). The selection of heroes represented by Soul Gems is wide-ranging, from the lowly and despised Mechana Initiate to the powerful Master Dhartha. Almost all of the Gems have two copies each in the deck, with only Master Dhartha and Landtalker existing as singles.

The best way to think of Soul Gems is as random effects. Of the cards that grant them to you, only one does so exclusively, and the rest have gaining a Soul Gem as a rider to another effect that you would probably want anyway but might have to pay slightly more to acquire. All factions have access to them (beyond defeating a specific monster), although the Void has more than the others while the Mechana have slightly fewer as one might suspect.

Speaking of the Mechana, they are continuing their theme of consuming constructs for effects and have picked up a ton of ways to retrieve constructs from the discard pile — including one construct that returns itself while doing absolutely nothing on its own while in play! The other factions are sticking to their usual plans, with the Lifebound specifically exploring their new Unite mechanic a bit more.

Helping the factions out are new Events, again one for each plus one oriented toward monsters. This brings the total number of possible events to ten, but you can choose to have as many as twenty in your deck thanks to the “New Event” cards. These cards go into your deck instead of the actual Events (which in this case would be off to the side with the Soul Gems and other stacks). Normally you would use these in stacks that include more than just the 170 or so cards offered by Storm plus Immortal, but there’s nothing preventing you from increasing or decreasing the frequency of how often a new event happens in your own custom stack.

On the subject of customized stacks, I finally went ahead and made my own, and not for a reason I would have preferred. Inconsistencies in the printings of the various Ascension releases unfortunately continue, and this time the backs of the new cards were noticeably a different shade than the others (lighter/darker… I forget which specifically but it doesn’t really matter). Combined with the slightly larger stock of my first-run Chronicle of the Godslayer cards, I pretty much have to sleeve everything up now. (The fact that some of my official Ascension sleeves themselves have shade inconsistencies is a side issue, but easier to ignore.)

Printing issues aside, Immortal Heroes offers an interesting mix of new abilities for your Ascension experience. I’m not completely sold on the usefulness of the Soul Gems, although they are a good way to sneak additional Heroes into your deck without throwing off whatever ratios you want to achieve. If future releases include additional Soul Gems and I can adjust which ones are present then I might warm up to them more, but they really feel like a one-time thing for now and that kind of gimmick can get old. Events and trophy monsters, on the other hand, are much more likely to return, and I continue to appreciate what those mechanics bring to the table.

As with Revenge of the Fallen, Immortal Heroes is designed to serve as a two-player stand-alone experience in addition to being a traditional expansion. While this is still a neat idea, I wish it were possible to just receive the new cards somehow. I have more honor crystals than anyone could ever need by now, not to mention entire extra sets of starter decks and Heavy Infantries/Mystics. Of course, considering that these small releases only cost about $20, I won’t complain too loudly.