Try the two-rows Ascension variant

The next time you play a non-digital edition of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (or any of its followup titles), give this simple variant a whirl. My local Ascension-fan friends taught me the game this way, in fact; I tend to agree that it makes the game more interesting, without wandering far from the core ruleset.

The new rules are these:

  • At the start of play, deal out the center row of six cards as usual. Then deal out another row of six cards above it, giving you a two-by-six grid of cards. (Yes, this won’t fit neatly on the game board. You may have noticed by now, however, that the board actually doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay experience, so consider keeping it folded up and in the box.)

  • The lower of the two rows is “the center row” referred to by the usual Ascension rules, as well as all on-card text. That is, all the usual purchasing, monster-slaying, and banishing occurs in the lower row alone; the upper row is untouchable.

  • When a player buys, defeats, or banishes a card in the lower row, instead of replacing it from the draw pile, immediately slide the card directly above it down to replace it. Replace the resulting gap in the upper row with a card from the draw pile.

That’s it. Everything else about the game proceeds per the usual rules.

Once you start playing, you should quickly see the implications of this simple change. “Knowing the future” for every center-row card, even only one draw in advance, adds a rich layer (literally!) of strategy where the original ruleset depends more on chance. You will see opportunities to grab a card and then immediately snag the one that will replace it — and, later, you’ll hesitate to get a plum card for yourself because you know it’ll give your opponent the chance to gain an even sweeter prize.

Do give it a try — and if you happen to know where this variant originated, please comment, so that I can add due credit to this post.

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