Ascension is a massively multiplayer game of the Ascension of Humanity from the dawn of civilization to an evolutionary new state of existence. Your rule over your own people is absolute, and you control their destiny, but you are not alone. Other rulers of other kingdoms have their own plans. Interact with Messenger and Chat; engage in brutal wars, create and encourage trade and the flow of ideas, bargain and barter. Be the soul survivor or the first to Ascend to a new consciousness. You must master your way through the ages and a plethora of technologies and cultural improvements.
Each real world day you may make up to ten turns in isolation from the other players. Some events happen each turn; others each real world day. Your Kingdom initially consists of one settlement (a city).
Cities are the base component of the game. When you no longer own a city you lose the game instantly. You begin with one city and may conquer and claim the cities of your opponents. It is wise to capture a least a few cities early in the game or it will be difficult to acquire the resources necessary to defend your Kingdom from others. Of course, that is what everyone else is doing, too!
From your cities you can train military units and build cultural improvements that enable your cities to function better. To capture cities, send your armies to attack them. If you defeat all the city's defenders, the city is yours! At the beginning, you have no contact with other cities, but after the first day of gameplay, you will discover up to 4 cities bordering your own.
As you learn new technologies, your cities are able to build new and wondrous cultural improvements. Each improvement aids your city in some way (as labeled), such as increasing population growth, higher revenues, better defenses, faster training rates, et cetera.
As you learn more and more technologies, you are granted knowledge of more advanced types of military units to train in your cities. Your units' capabilities are available from the unit view screen, accessible from your city menu under military. Keep high defense value units in your cities to defend them (remember than some cultural improvements aid in defense of your cities, increasing the strength of your defenders). Use high attack value units to attack foreign cities and expand your kingdom. Better units cost more to train but are well worth it. Each city is limited as to how many units it can hold - exceed that number and no new units will be trained. A city cannot train new units if the number of existing units in the city exceed half the population value for the city (e.g., a size 12 city cannot train military if it already hosts 6 military units).
The resources of your kingdom are managed to support building of cultural improvements in your cities, training of military units in your cities, taxation, and pursuit of new technology. You can specify the percentage of your resource to be applied to each area, in 10% intervals, from Taxation on your Advisors menu.
Warfare breeds from base instincts to possess what others have first. In Ascension, warfare provides an ideal route to expansion of your Kingdom in the early years but slowly becomes more difficult as the game progresses. While wars exist between kingdoms, battles are fought over cities. To engage in a war, select units from your city (from the military, list your units, select one, then select Attack) and then select the city to attack. Your unit is moved from your city to engage the enemy between Days. Multiple units can attack a city - in fact, multiple kingdoms can attack a city. Attacking units engage defending units one at a time. The attack value of the Attacker is compared with the defense value of the Defender with modifiers for city defenses, and a random result is compared to the probability of success. The losing unit is destroyed, the winner move back on the queue. If all defenders are eliminated, the last unit to win claims the city. Any attackers from other kingdoms are returned to their kingdoms. All attackers from the same kingdom move into the newly captured city. By default, captured cities build nothing and train militia until told otherwise by their new masters.
Diplomacy is a sometimes subtle weapon, but a powerful one. You can negotiate your political standings with other Kingdoms bordering your own. A strong political alliance can bring welcome trade rewards, increasing your Kingdoms production rates, but can also entangle your state with theirs, preventing you from going to war freely and efficiently. You cannot attack the cities of kingdoms you have established Peace (or any higher alliance) treaties with. While it takes two to forge an agreement, it only takes one to downgrade it, but you must wait for a day to complete before the effects of your actions are realized.
There are multiple way to win Ascension. One way is total and complete annihilation of everyone else. Allies cannot win a combined victory this way (there can be only one!).
The other way is to ascend from the current state of humankind to a higher level and there are two technologies paths to choose from, both requiring completion of the ultimate cultural improvement: ascension! Both require knowledge of most of the technology tree but present philosophically different outcomes for humanity to pursue. The ascension technology must be realized as a cultural improvement in one or more of your cities to win. Once you start building it, everyone else is told about it - including which kingdom and which city, so be prepared to defend yourself!