Ascending Empires is an unusual game – not because it’s about space exploration, advancing the power of your civilization and combating other players – but because the method of moving your spaceships around is by flicking them.
It has a big board that pieces together like a jigsaw, so you’ll need a decent-sized table. Everyone starts with their own player board that has a summary of your turn options, and is also a way of keeping tabs on how your civilization is developing – you can improve various aspects of your gameplay and make yourself more powerful by building ‘research stations’ on your occupied planets.
You can also build colonies, and (subsequently) cities, and these score you points at the end of the game, especially if you spread them far and wide and don’t sit tight, defending a particular corner.
But the game also rewards combat, and you can pick up victory points during play by destroying the other players spaceships or planetary settlements. The unique aspect of the game is the flicking though; trying to keep your spaceship on the board is the first stop in this dexterity adventure. Further down the line you need to get close enough to planets to ‘land’ on them, and close enough to your opponents to blast them into pieces! – Get the latter wrong, and you’re a sitting duck…
If the idea of flicking stuff around doesn’t seem quite grandiose enough to fit in with the space-opera theme, you should first think about how funny it’ll be watching your opponent flick their spaceships clear off the board and into dust. Secondly, be aware it is very possible to win the game despite being utterly rubbish at flicking, as Joe can testify. Ascending Empires rewards strategic thought, and merely being the top flicker in your household may not be enough…
Ascending Empires will start peacefully, but almost inevitably will descend into battle at some point. Not for the easily disheartened, but tense situations have the potential to be either brutal or funny. Or both.
Once you're up to speed on what you're trying to do, Ascending Empires is a fast-moving game.
It's not a game that demands deep thought, but there is a level of strategizing.
Young children may not grasp the strategy immediately (it's a deeper game than first appears) but the flicking aspect can be a great equalizer.