Over the past week or so I've posted a few videos over on the Gaming Nexus YouTube channel that go into details about the Ascension deck building game, in particular how to play, as well as the Gift of the Elements and Alliances expansion. Now that I'm caught up with the articles I've already written, it's time to take a look at the latest expansion called Valley of the Ancients. I've also made a video for the channel on this set, but I'll go into a bit of detail here as well.
Valley of the Ancients is a full set, meaning, like Gift of the Elements, you don't need any other sets or cards to play; everything comes in the box. This set brings in two new keywords, one that we saw in the previous expansion Alliances, and a new resource called Keystones. Keystones are the central point of Valley of the Ancients as they are used to acquire a new card type called Temples. At the start of the game there are three Temples placed below the center row: The Temple of Life, Temple of Death, and Temple of Immortality. The first two can be acquired by spending a specific keystone (Life or Death) which is generated from a card you played that turn, but the catch is it can be acquired even if an opponent already has it; you’ll spend the keystone and then just move the respective temple over to your side of the table. The Temples of Life and Death each have their own ability that comes in two parts and requires spending the specific keystone for that temple. The first part is the same for both: acquire the Temple of Immortality. The second is different between the two temples, but if you already have the Temple of Immortality in your possession, you can still spend a keystone to use the second part of the ability.
As for the Temple of Immortality, it has probably one of the most powerful abilities that I’ve personally seen in the game so far. When it’s in your possession, once per turn you can name a faction (Enlightened, Void, Lifebound, or Mechana), then when you acquire a card in the center row of the faction you named, if the card that replaces it from the center row deck is of the same faction, you can automatically acquire it without paying its cost. That is actually pretty powerful, especially in the early going as your resources are still kind of limited and you may not be able to generate that many runes yet for the more powerful cards. Much like the other two temples, the Temple of Immortality can be acquired even if your opponent already has it; just take it from their side and put it onto yours.
As for the keywords, one that we’ve previously seen is Unite. In Alliances, the Ally Unite ability would go off if our ally played a Hero card that was the same faction as the one we played with the Ally Unite ability. The standalone Unite ability works practically the same way, but since it doesn’t involve an ally in this case it’ll go off when that player plays a hero of the same faction. As for the two new keywords we have Echo and Serenity and they both deal with the discard pile. Echo abilities will occur if the player has cards in their discard pile that share a faction with the card that has the Echo keyword. On the other hand, a card with Serenity will have special effects that will go off when the player has no cards in their discard pile. Keep in mind that since cards go directly into your discard pile when acquired, you may end up turning on Echo abilities or turning off Serenity abilities during the turn.
The final thing to note with Valley of the Ancients is a new black border with lightning that some cards have. These cards will have effects that are active while they’re in the center row and will usually relate to how a card is acquired. For instance, the Mechana Construct Tyranyx, the Pillager has two special effects, one of which says you can spend Power as well as Runes to acquire it from the center row. Another, Alosyan Guide (Lifebound Hero) says that when you acquire it and if you’ve played a Lifebound Hero that turn, you can put Alosyan Guide directly into your hand instead of your discard pile.
Sadly I haven’t had the chance yet to play this with my friends as our work and personal schedules have created some conflicts recently when it comes to gaming, but I do like the concepts in Valley of the Ancients, especially the temples as they give another way to interact with the other players. If you’ve only played the base set, interactions with the other players is pretty limited to possibly destroying their constructs due to certain effects. Gift of the Elements brought in Infest so you can place (normally useless) monster cards in your opponents' decks. The temples in Valley of the Ancients brings forth a new way to interact with your opponents by actually stealing the temples that they may already control and the game itself becomes more than just a fight to gain the most honor; they’re now a fight to control the temples. If you’re looking to pick up an Ascension set and don’t want just the base set, I’d say give Valley of the Ancients a try.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.