ByMichael Haynes, writer at
I'm part lawyer, part professor, and full gamer. Gamerfy Your Life!
Michael Haynes

Hey there, board game fans! Just discovered the deck-building game, Ascension? Or maybe you’ve played the base set, Chronicle of the Godslayer, and are itching for more.

Perhaps you’re intrigued to learn more about this game after reading a review of its newest expansion, Gift of the Elements. No matter how you got here, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed with choosing which among the eleven available sets to buy next.

You’re in luck, as I’ve got a preferred set order to serve as your map through the always-changing world of Ascension.

Portable Options

Before we get started, you should know that you can buy the digital versions of the entire Ascension collection on and combined for just about the same price as one physical set (except for Gift of the Elements, which will likely be available later this year).

The app version of the game plays smoothly and offers a decent computer AI. You can also pass around the for live multiplayer action or connect to opponents using Apple’s Game Center.

Each mobile version of 'Ascension' costs between $2 and $4
Each mobile version of 'Ascension' costs between $2 and $4

The app is a great way to test out sets before you buy them. It’s also worth purchasing digital versions of the physical Ascension sets you own, just for extra practice and fun on the go!

Method behind the madness

When determining the best order to acquire Ascension sets, I tried to be as objective as possible. I based all of my assessments on the first set, Chronicle of the Godslayer. Pick this set up first, if possible.

All of the other expansions use the basic rules introduced in this base game; by nature of being the initial game, Chronicle is the simplest. It provides the foundation for players to quickly learn the new rules in any other Ascension set.

My rankings consider the complexity of each set’s additional rules compared to Chronicle and the amount of skill needed to effectively play the game. For example, sets that add additional resource management components are considered to be more complex than sets that offer more variance and luck factors.

All sets use the same Militia and Apprentice base cards
All sets use the same Militia and Apprentice base cards

Ultimately, players have personal preferences and varying skill levels. Every Ascension game can be played on its own, although the first six sets (in release order) were designed to be played in two-set “blocks” (ex. Return of the Fallen is designed to be played with Chronicle of the Godslayer).

Theoretically, you could mix all of the expansions together for one giant and very weird game — this is easier to do on the iOS app than with 1000+ physical cards.

The List

1. Start with Chronicle of the Godslayer. It’s the main game and exposes you to Ascension in its purest form.

2. Return of the Fallen – It’s the first real expansion, a small set, and designed to be played with Chronicle of the Godslayer (making the first “block” of Ascension sets). It adds one main new mechanic (Fate) that provides a tiny amount of variance to the game.

3. Gift of the Elements – The newest Ascension expansion plays very similar to the base game, adding only two primary mechanics (Infest and Empower) and a rarely-used secondary mechanic (Transforming Events). Gift can be played independently, but also plays well with Chronicle of the Godslayer.

Ascension: Gift of the Elements
Ascension: Gift of the Elements

4. Storm of Souls – This large set is designed to be played as a new stand-alone game or paired with Immortal Heroes. It has more Event cards than Gift of the Elements, and gives you a latent ability from some defeated monsters.

5. Immortal Heroes – This smaller set is made to play with Storm of Souls (the second ‘block’ of Ascension sets, in release order), as it expands on Storm’s mechanics. Immortal Heroes adds Soul Gems – a separate deck of randomized "use-it-or-lose-it" abilities that are earned by playing certain cards.

6. Dawn of Champions – This large set has cards that belong to more than one faction (e.g. a Lifebound Mechana Construct, or a Void Monster) and the high-variance Rally mechanic that lets you acquire or defeat certain cards for free. Play this set on its own. Play note: for the physical version, I removed the Champions cards from the game to make the game less luck-based (they cannot be removed on the versions).

Ascension: Dawn of Champions
Ascension: Dawn of Champions

7. Realms Unraveled – Although this set was released before Dawn of Champions, it’s worth waiting to play Realms after Dawn. Along with multi-faction cards, Realms has transforming cards and a Multi-Unite mechanic that requires additional tracking and concentration. Dawn and Realms play well together, although each is a great stand-alone game.

8. War of Shadows – This large set is designed to played as a stand-alone game, and does not really work well with other expansions because of its Day and Night mechanic. Each card has either a Night or Day mark, and the side with the most cards in the center row determines how the game is played. Many cards cost a combination of runes and power to acquire, adding a new level of complexity to resource management and tracking (colored dice can help). This is one of the most unique Ascension sets, and my personal favorite.

Ascension X: War of Shadows
Ascension X: War of Shadows

9. Dreamscape – This large set adds a new Insight resource that players can earn to acquire special Dream cards. Dream cards have powerful effects, and come from a deck separate from the normal game components. This addition makes the game more complex to manage but provides more opportunities for strategy. Dreamscape is designed to play independently, as other sets will dilute the ability to adequately generate the Insight resource.

Ascension: Dreamscape (iOS app screenshot)
Ascension: Dreamscape (iOS app screenshot)

10. Rise of Vigil – In physical form, this large set (and its companion set, Darkness Unleashed) has the most complicated play logistics. The new Treasure Cards are placed underneath other cards when they are drawn from the main deck, and there is an additional resource (Energy) to track. Cards have additional abilities that trigger when you have certain amounts of Energy.

11. Darkness Unleashed – This small expansion, designed to be played with Rise of Vigil (forming the third Ascension “block” of sets, in release order), intensifies Rise’s mechanics with Energy cards that have Banish effects. Another level of complexity arrives through cards that transform when certain Energy levels are attained.

Fun no matter what you play

No matter what order you take, all of Ascension’s sets are fun and provide unique, strategic gameplay. The game rewards experimentation, and that includes tweaking with the starting Honor count and mixing different sets together.

The app makes it easy to smash all the expansions together! (iOS version shown)
The app makes it easy to smash all the expansions together! (iOS version shown)

Whether you’re playing the first set (Chronicle of the Godslayer) or the newest set (Gift of the Elements), you will have an enjoyable experience.


What Ascension set is your favorite?


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