As recently evidenced, some people just can't deal with deck-building card games – or their players. But Ascension: Chronicle Of The Godslayer may be just what they need: an easy-to-learn and self-contained original designed by former Magic pros. The only thing going against it is the title, which looks awfully like Gameloft's take on El Shaddai.
Two to four players face off over a central row of six cards and, beginning with a deck composed from the most basic types, take turns to collect better cards and strengthen their subsequent hands. The object is to destroy enemy cards and win Honor Tokens. Singleplayer serves to introduce the basics well enough, but in multiplayer Ascension goes far beyond these: the games can be quick and brutal slugfests, or tense and drawn-out economic battles in which one devastating blow could end them. The simple win condition gives focus to early scramblings, but soon the real tactics emerge – juggling resources, playing cards in the right order, and of course remembering what cards you've played already.
The one problem for iPhone players is that the design is heavily geared towards iPad users – the entire board is on-screen at all times, so on smaller devices reading the cards entails a lot of zooming in and out. The size definitely makes things awkward, and Ascension isn't exactly an aesthetic triumph, either, though this judgement will largely come down to your taste or otherwise in beardy fantasy archetypes.
When the cards become familiar enough to make zooming a thing of the past, Ascension flowers thanks to its speedy and unfussy online integration. A simple game to learn, it's one that builds into rich and complex battles, big and small. It probably won't impress the airhead in your life, unfortunately – but that's what iPint's for.