Ascension: Storm of Souls is not truly an expansion game but an alternative way to play Ascension. I say this to indicate that its set of cards functions primarily as a replacement deck for the original cards familiar in Chronicle of the Godslayer up to and including different Mystic and Infantry Cards. However, while it naturally begs comparisons with the parent game it can be experienced on its own terms. For this reason, it will be reviewed as an independent game as opposed to described as an expansion.
The game, in terms of the story’s chronology, is set in the chaos after defeat of the Fallen God Samael.
[Edit Note]: Since the release of this game, it has been updated to allow combination of CoG and SoS. It is now being considered an expansion by iPBG.
The gameplay works on the same principles and structures of the original game set, so the real question is what gets introduced that is different from what you’re already familiar with. Firstly, Storm of Souls introduces the concept of ‘destroyed‘ as distinct from banishment. In common parlance, destruction means you discard the card, and banishment removes it from your deck. Destruction is primarily applied to constructs and other cards that remain in play.
Storm of Souls introduces area effects, that is a card will be drawn that outlines an effect that affects all players. Specifically, there is one for each of the four different factions, being Arha Rising (Enlightened), Ogo Rising (Lifebound), Hadron Rising (Mechana), and Void Rising (guess) and each reflects the theme and style of that faction. There is also one monster area effect called Cult Rising. Each will have a continuing effect and each will have a contingent effect that is triggered upon the banishment of a trophy monster (see below). For example the continuing effect of the Arha Rising allows you, whenever you discard a number of cards, to recover one of them back into your hand.
This brings us to the second major mechanic, being trophy monsters. When you defeat a trophy monster, it will be held in your tableau much like a construct. At certain points, you can banish your trophy monster, which will trigger its secondary effect, and any contingent effects of the area effect card. To facilitate this, a new permanent monster is introduced alongside the cultist, being the fanatic, which is a slightly more difficult monster that can be banished solely for the purpose of creating a nominal trophy monster to trigger.
I will not comment about the general implementation of the game, because aside from a few minor tweaks from the original game it is much the same. Of course, considering that this game is a multi-award winning game it probably more suggests there is not that much to improve on. They have introduced a new background music for the Storm of Souls, and you can set the game theme to represent any one of the current three versions of the game. The artwork, though not universally liked, is consistent with previous iterations of the game (undoubtedly the same artist), and this I commend.
Something that is noticably missing is the option to integrate the Chronicles of the Godslayer and Storm of Souls. The physical game can be combined with the original to suit a game with players of up to four to six players (thereby being an expansion). For this option to be taken to its logical conclusion, the makers would have to allow an option for six players. Undoubtedly, this would be undesirable for most people who are wanting to play the game with the quick delivery the iPad offers. Nevertheless, you’d imagine that this would be an option for a four player game, but this does not seem to be the case. However, you can combine Storm of Souls with Return of the Fallen.
I will say, that some of the new mechanics aren’t as directly intuitive as the general base rules (at least I found this to be so). However, it will only take you perhaps a single game to get used to it. Additionally, I found I had to pay a bit more direct attention to the game because it’s much more easily to inadvertently end your turn or under utilise all your options in a given turn.
9/10: Storm of Souls takes all the benefits of its precedessor and gives the existing strong entry a fresh new twist.