Ascending Empires [Gamers Alliance Report]

[Review first published on Gamers Alliance Report Spring 2012 Issue]

Sci-fi is one of the great gold veins where designers and publishers dig out endless games. In the last years I was impressed by many good titles. Eclipse, Race for the Galaxy, Battlestar Galactica, Earth Reborn, Claustrophobia, Galaxy Trucker, Alien Frontiers are all in the BGG top 100 joined by a new edition of Dune (renamed REX), Nexus Ops, Cosmic Encounters, the long awaited Merchant of Venus and the never ending Twilght Imperium. Finally, there are other titles of great success but with a narrower audience like High Frontier, Eminent Domain (also reviewed this issue), Space Empire 4X, Sector 41 and Ascending Empires, the game I’m going to review today.

Ascending Empires, as designed by Ian Cooper, is a particular game that combines strategic/tactical rules with dexterity – finger flicking to clarify. Of course, the master of the genre is Crockinole (ranked 34 in BGG’s top list). Pitch Car and Catacombs are racing and fantasy interpretations; Ascending Empires brings the genre into space!

Up to 4 players race in a new galaxy to colonize new worlds: building colonies, cities, and research facilities. Everything looks like a normal science fiction title except for the fact that starships travel in space by flicking. No dice, no rolls, no cards. The randomness is all in the “not so easy to predict” results of the flicking movements.

The map is filled with holes where planets are placed: each planet is characterized by a color (orange, grey, purple and brown) corresponding to a different technology. The planets are randomly distributed on the map according to special set-up rules that vary with the number of players. The idea is to get a random but homogeneous distribution of the different colors. In the beginning, the planets are placed face down.

Every player starts with two starships and six soldiers. Starships are used to move soldiers from home base to the planets and to fight other starships and/or planets. Soldiers are used to conquer planets and are needed to build colonies, cities and research facilities. Soldiers moving into the space are “transformed” into starships and starships landing on planets are “transformed” into soldiers. The amount of starships and soldiers you can have in play during the game is limited by your supply so you have to plan carefully.

During your turn you can take an action from the five possible: recruit, mine, move, build and develop.

Recruiting is easy. You can move two soldiers from your supply to a planet you already own (where you have already a soldier and/or a facility). Mine is also simple. Move two/three soldiers from a planet back to supply to score one/two victory points.

With a move action, you can use two movement points (MP). You need an MP to flick (move) a starship, an MP to launch (remove a soldier for a planet and put a starship from the supply in the orbit of that planet), an MP to land (remove a starship from the orbit of a planet and put a soldier from the supply on the planet). Landing is the only way to get a unit onto a new planet and then be able to recruit/build on that planet.

The build action allows you to replace a soldier with a colony, a soldier and a colony for a city or two soldiers with a research facility. The soldiers are moved back to the supply. There are two rules that have a big impact in the building strategies and, overall, in the game flow: first of all you can NEVER have more than three objects (soldiers, colony, city, research facilities) on a single planet and you can have only a single planet with two research facilities.

Read the full review on Gamers Alliance Report Spring 2012 Issue

DesignerIan Cooper (I)
ArtistChechu Nieto
PublisherZ-Man Games
Year Published2011
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(49 voters)
Playing Time75
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(7 voters)
Language DependenceSome necessary text - easily memorized or small crib sheet
(10 voters)
CategoryAction / Dexterity, City Building, Civilization, Fighting, Science Fiction, Space Exploration
MechanicFlicking, Set Collection, Tech Trees / Tech Tracks
FamilyAdmin: Better Description Needed!, Mechanism: 4X, Mechanism: Finger Flicking Games
Primary NameAscending Empires

Infos courtesy of More Infos.