Dominion vs Ascension | Which Board Game Is Best?

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Dominion and Ascension are both deck building games for up to 4 players. They are very similar and both have their merits. So, Dominion vs Ascension, which board game is the best?

In my opinion Ascension is the best game between the two. It may not be for you though so let’s look into why. Read on.

Typically this is a fairly weak hand with just a few cards. Then as the game plays the player has the opportunity to pick up cards that will add to their current deck. Thus they build their hand up into something that might win the game.

In this article we will look at each board game, their differences and then recommend which one I think is the best one to get. Both games are deck building games for up to 4 players.

DesignerDonald X. VaccarinoJohn Fiorillo, Justin Gary, Brian M. Kibler
PublisherRio Grande GamesStoneblade Entertainment
Release Date20082010
Playtime (m)3030
Dominion vs Ascension | Which Board Game Is Best?

Table of Contents

  1. Dominion
    1. Action
    2. Buy
    3. Clean up phase
  2. Ascension: Deck Building Game
    1. Heroes
    2. Constructs
    3. Monsters
    4. Buy
    5. Play Construct Cards
    6. Defeat Monsters
    7. Draw
  3. Conclusion


In Dominion you are a monarch and want to build your own dominion by claiming pieces of land controlled by lords and so increasing your control. This is effectively represented by the cards in your deck and is your dominion.

As you pick up cards they could be villages, smithy’s, merchants and militia to name a few. These will be added to your deck and are called kingdom cards and are different for each game played.

Dominion has 26 kingdom decks in the base game. There are several expansions and they have additional kingdom cards that can also be used. Basically, you pick 10 decks that you want to play with from the ones available.

There are set options of decks in the instructions to make it easier to choose.

There are also 7 decks of base cards. The 7 decks are made up with decks as shown in the table below.

Number of cards to use
Number of players2 Players3 Players4 Players
Copper CardsAll but those in player decks
Silver CardsAll but those in player decks
Gold CardsAll but those in player decks
Estate Cards812
Duchy Cards812
Province Cards812
Curse Cards102030

Each of these in their own deck laid out in the center of the table. The base cards do not change and are the same for each game. The number of cards can vary depending on the number of players.

There are also Victory card decks in the Kingdom decks. If you choose to use these then you only use a certain number of cards in the deck depending on the number of players. 8 for 2 players and 12 for 3-4 players.

The 10 kingdom decks plus the 7 base decks make up the supply and are placed in the middle of the table where everyone can reach them. Players will draw cards from here depending on the cards in their hand.

Players draw 10 cards at the beginning that become their deck. Each deck will consist of 7 copper cards and 3 estate cards. A rather modest dominion to start with. They will then draw 5 cards to their hand to begin play.

When it is a player’s turn they will be able to play cards from their hand. The player turn has three phases: Action, Buy, and Cleanup.


In the first round no one will have an action card as they have fixed decks so this phase is ignored. Action cards are marked with the word Action at the bottom for easy identification.

To play an action card you announce it to the other players and place it down face up in front of you. Then you follow the steps on it.

If you have an action card you can choose not to play it.


In this phase you can play Treasure cards. These have a value that allows you to buy other cards from the supply. Each card in the supply has a cost in the bottom left hand corner that denotes how much the player needs in treasure to buy the card.

A player will take the treasure cards from their hand and place them down face up in front of them. This will then allow them to add up the number of coins they have and buy a number of cards. The cost of these should not exceed the total they have laid out in treasure cards.

You should note that you do not literally spend the treasure card and so lose it from your deck. The card remains there and will be used again in future draws. We’ll come on to that in the clean up phase.

Clean up phase

Once you have completed the previous phases it is time to clean up. This basically means that you take the remaining cards in your hand and the cards on the table that have been played. Now put them in a discard pile.

If you want to keep the cards you didn’t play in your hand a secret. You can hide these under the cards you played.

Now draw 5 new cards from your deck. If you don’t have enough cards to draw 5 then take your discard pile, give it a good shuffle, then place it on the bottom of your deck. Now you can draw 5 cards from the top.

In this way you reuse your cards and get random hands each time.

So, that is the three phases of a player’s turn. Once complete the turn passes to the player on the left.

There are two triggers for the end game. These occur when a turn ends and:

  • There are no more cards in the Province pile.
  • Any three or more supply piles are empty – this could be kingdom cards or base cards.

The Estate, Duchy, and Province cards all have Victory points on them. The player with the most Victory Points wins.


Simple to learn
Easy to play
Great variety
Clear simple endgame scenario


Not particularly exciting
Don’t stay the same throughout the game

Ascension: Deck Building Game

You are one of the few warriors who can defeat Samael the fallen god. You are competing against your opponents to defend the world. You need help and so call upon Heroes and Constructs to battle and defeat foes.

Successful battles will earn you Honor points and the player with the most Honor points will defeat the fallen one and be crowned as godslayer.

Ascension differs from Dominion in that it has a central deck opposed to Dominion having 17 decks laid out in front. Ascension does have 3 decks laid out for Heavy Infantry, Mystic, and Cultist card decks.

The central deck is placed face down and 7 cards are drawn and placed face up in a row. These cards can then be picked up by players. This gives each player a choice of 10 cards to pick up: 7 random and 3 static.

In the original the cards are laid out in an I shape as shown below and the main deck is placed above the discard pile. The discard pile is known as the void where cards are banished if they are discarded or defeated.

Ascension deck layout without board
Original Layout

In the latest version there is a board that can be used where the Cultist, Mystic, and Infantry go. On the left of the board you can place your draw deck. To the right there is a space for 6 cards to be placed face up. On the end of this row there is a void space for banished cards.

Ascension layout on board
Board Layout

Underneath the row is an honor pool to keep the honor that is yet to be collected.

Each player starts off with a set hand of 8 apprentice cards and 2 militia cards. This is similar to the starting hand in Dominion and as the game progresses you will get the chance to pick up cards to strengthen it.

In Ascension there are three commodities called Runes, Power, and Honor. Runes are a monetary currency that will allow you to buy other cards. Power increases your strength and allows you to defeat monster cards.

You will win by getting the most honor points at the end of the gamel. Depending on the number of players there is a limited amount of honor stones to draw from. Drawing the last honor stone indicates the endgame.

PlayersHonor in Pool

There is a balance between picking up cards to give you Power or Runes to buy better cards.

4 factions exist within the game to give a bit of flavor and to tie some of the cards together. For example the Rocket Courier X-99 allows you to pick up another card of the same faction and play it immediately.

There are two types of honor tokens in this game. Large red tokens are worth 5 honor points, whereas the smaller clear tokens are only 1 honor point.

There are two types of honor tokens in this game. Large red tokens are worth 5 honor points, whereas the smaller clear tokens are only 1 honor point.


Heroes can be recruited to your deck in order to fight against Samael. You can play as many heroes from your hand as you like. Each Hero card has a power that can be added together. The sum of the power can then be used to defeat one or more monsters in the line.


These cards are the tools at your disposal, such as weapons and machines. Once played they stay out during the whole game and come into effect during each turn.


The minions of Samael are cards that can be defeated using power cards from your hand. Once defeated these cards give you rewards that include honor points.

Now we understand the cards that are in the game, let’s take a look at the game turn.

The player will draw 5 cards from the top of their deck to play in their hand.

They can then play cards to increase your runes, power, honor, or pickup heroes and constructs, or defeat monsters. You can play your cards in any order.

Any cards taken from the central row must be immediately replaced from the central draw deck.


The player can now play any cards with Runes. Cards with runes in your hand can be played to allow you to buy one or multiple cards to the maximum cost of the runes you have in play.

Each card you buy from the central deck is then placed in your discard pile and becomes part of your deck. It is not used during this turn unless stated otherwise by another card in play.

Play Construct Cards

If you have a construct card in your hand you can play it. Do this by putting the card face up in front of you. This then comes into effect for the rest of the game or until it is banished to the void.

Defeat Monsters

Using Hero cards or any other card with power you can sum the amount of power together. Use this power to then defeat one or many monsters in the central deck. Defeated monsters are then placed in the void and any rewards taken.

Hero cards are then placed in your discard pile after use.


Once cards have been added to your deck and monsters defeated you place all played cards except constructs into the discard pile. Now draw 5 more cards from your deck.

In the same way as Dominion, if you don’t have enough in the draw pile to pick up 5 cards. Then shuffle the discard pile and place it on the bottom of your draw deck.

The endgame is triggered by a player taking the last honor stone from the pool. It is important that the same number of turns is taken by each player during the game. So the game will end once the last player in the round has finished their turn.

For example, if you are playing a 4 player game and the person who started second takes the last honor stone. Then players 3 and 4 will get another turn before the game ends. Player 1 will not get to go again.

Players 3 and 4 will still be able to earn honor. If they do then you can use some of the unused honor stones to keep track of this. There is a value of 150 honor stones included in the game so there will always be 50 stones hanging around in the box.

Add up all the honors each player has, including the honor in their decks. The winner is the person with the most.


Easy to learn
Easy to play
Draw deck different every turn
Changing deck adds variety
Factions add depth to gameplay


Limited strategy due to randomness
Some dislike the graphics


Well that is about it for Dominion vs Ascension. Which board game is better is a close call as they are both so similar in the way they play. They are both very accessible and easy to learn and play.

With Dominion you can develop a strategy as the cards that you build from are the same 10 from the start. This is both a strength and a weakness. It allows you to develop a strategy and go with it. On the flip side it means there isn’t much variety during the game and this can lead to it being a bit more dull.

Similarly with Ascension you have the amazing randomness of the central deck which changes every turn. This makes it very difficult to develop a full on strategy as you need to react to the latest card available. Again on the flip side though it makes the game more interesting and allows for some great reversals and changes in plans.

This is probably the biggest difference between the two and so I think it comes down to which you would prefer: more strategy and a bit more boring or more reactivity and creativity.

The themes on these games are pretty different. With Dominion about expanding your domain and gathering the most villages and pricipalities. Whereas Ascension is more saving the world by battling against evil.

Both games are a bit thin on story and so the theme is pretty much the frame around which the game is played. So it really is not a factor in choosing which game is best for you.

Unless you particularly don’t like all that fighting or growing a principality sounds really boring.

Ascension is the newer game and seeks to address some of the issues that Dominion has. However, whilst it does this really well it does introduce some cons of its own.

Also, if you want to play a deck building game solo then Ascension will be the one for you. It is 1-4 players and there is a solo mode that is quite challening.

For me though, I think I enjoy the randomness and having to constantly think and change plans. Dominion vs Ascension: For me Ascension is the best board game between then two.

If you enjoyed this article then perhaps Ticket to Ride vs Catan will be of interest. Find out which one of those I think is the best. Or perhaps take a look at the 11 Best Legacy Board Games 2022.

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