Every year, the team at Stone Blade Entertainment has expanded their award-winning Ascension deckbuilding game with a new base set meant to be both a complete standalone experience as well as a supplement to existing sets. Last year’s large set, Storm of Souls, introduced the concepts of trophy monsters and events to the base Ascension experience. Trophy monsters are still around for this year’s set, Rise of Vigil, but events have been supplanted by another type of card that exists in the deck without actually taking up slots in the center row: treasure.
All treasure in Rise of Vigil are Energy Shards. Each player’s deck begins with one, in addition to the usual mix of Apprentices and Militia. Additional treasure will come from the center row as usual, but as a reward for defeating or acquiring other cards. When a treasure is dealt to the center row, the next card is dealt on top of it until a non-treasure card is dealt. Whoever acquires or defeats that card also acquires all of the treasure beneath it. Energy Shards are worth zero honor points at the end of the game, but you will still want as many as possible in your deck.
Fortunately, your deck will never be bloated for having worthless Energy Shards, as each one allows you to draw an extra card when played. But, of course, that is not their only function. Every Energy Shard you play also provides one energy, and if you achieve thresholds of energy indicated on the “energize” ability on various cards you get additional benefits. Some cards only work when sufficiently energized, but they are rare. Many games played using the cards from Rise of Vigil will be determined by which player has been able to collect the most energy.
And really that might be the biggest problem here. Of the one hundred cards in Rise of Vigil’s Center Deck, there are only about a dozen that do not reference energy or treasure in any way. It would be fair to say that this whole edition revolves around these treasure cards, to the point where integrating them with the previous two years’ worth of cards would probably feel awkward. The rules contained in Rise of Vigil say to include thirty Energy Shards in the center deck for every large set (100 cards) and twenty for every small set (65 cards), but the ideal mix is probably more dependent on the number of new cards put into the deck. Don’t let the fact that there are only 60 Energy Shards included in the box deter you if that’s what you really want to do; I’m sure more will be available for purchase from Stone Blade’s online store before long.
Due to its emphasis on energy, Rise of Vigil games are going to be even more swingy than usual. If you are constantly denied opportunities to acquire treasure, the odds of you winning drop dramatically as the cards you move from the center row will be far less effective than they are for your energy-rich opponents. And of course if their cards are performing better than yours, it probably stands to reason that they will be better able to pick up more treasure when the opportunity arises. You can see where this is going.
Overall, I find myself less enthused by Rise of Vigil than with previous Ascension releases. The gameplay is still as solid as ever, but the shift in focus has diluted it. Previously it was best to specialize your deck towards either runes or power, but now those two paths have to take a mutual back seat to grabbing as much energy as you can. Perhaps the follow-up small set will change this, possibly by the addition of treasure that aren’t Energy Shards, but until then I will be treating Rise of Vigil as a separate entity.
As a stand-alone set, Rise of Vigil includes enough material to support up to four players (plus two additional starter deck Energy Shards). This includes honor crystals and the usual board; the latter is as unnecessary as ever and if you’re a fan of Ascension at all you probably have more than enough of the former, but these are the sacrifices that have to be made for the release to stand on its own. In this case that might actually be a blessing.
Ascension: Rise of Vigil retails for $40.