I highly recommend Shards of Infinity to fans of the deckbuilding genre.
Publisher: Stone Blade Entertainment
Designer: Gary Arant, Justin Gary
Artist: Aaron Nakahara
Game Type: Deckbuilding, Hand Management
Initial Year of Release: 2018
Age Range: 10+
Expected Playtime: 30
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
The infinity engine was a marvel of human accomplishment and engineering. It had the ability to warp reality and was abused extensively for 1000 years right up until a slave uprising managed to blow it up. Shards of the device rained on the planet and destroyed most of civilization. Four distinct successors to humanity have survived and seek to gain mastery over the shards of the infinity as they reshape reality to reform the infinity engine from the fragments. War between the factions is inevitable and only one will ultimately harness the godlike power of the infinity engine.
Wraethe focus on dealing direct damage. Undergrowth play off each other to utilize Unify power, life gain, and special effects. Homodeus specialize in champions that grow off each other to provide benefits every turn or opponents have to assign damage to destroy them to keep up. Order offer utility through mastery of the shard, card draw, or even using the best part of the other factions to make breakthroughs in mastery called Dominion.
Shards of infinity is a deck building game with direct player attacking. Players use their starting decks to add new cards to their discard pile that they will draw later. Players will use gems to recruit new cards, power to attack enemy champions and players, life gain to regenerate health, gain mastery, and use shields to protect themselves from incoming attacks. Cards that can be recruited come in 4 factions with 2 main types. An Ally is a card that is put into a play area when used and is placed in the discard pile at the end of a turn. A Champion is a card with a health pool that can be directly attacked but stays in play until destroyed by an opponent.
As the title suggests, players are incentivized to gain mastery over the infinity shards. As players gain mastery, many cards become more powerful. Two of the starter cards scale up to be some of the best cards in the game as mastery is improved. It is unusual in a deckbuilder for any of the starter cards to be important things to keep and even have entire games hinge upon. The shard reactor gives more gems to purchase cards with while the infinity shard itself pumps out increasing levels of damage until a player reaches complete mastery (30) and gains infinite power upon playing the infinity shard.
The most unique feature of shards of infinity is the introduction of mercenary allies. These allies can be fast played from the center row but then they are returned to the bottom of the center deck at the end of the turn. Mercenaries can still be purchased normally the fast play is just an option available. Another unique mechanic is the shield resource that allows players to reveal the card from their hand when being attacked to reduce the damage taken.
It is a deckbuilder! It is made by the makers of ascension. That already had me excited right from the start. I was a little turned off by direct player assigning damage as it might make strange multiplayer interaction. I was surprised when I went to pick it up that it was an under $20 price range.
The artwork and large player portraits with life and mastery wheels were a great touch to making the unboxing exciting. Players are instantly engaged as they pick their player card.
The new digital app by Temple Gates Games is absolutely stunning. It is visually appealing, has solid music, and the development team has made continually great changes during the beta. They have been the most responsive developers I have ever met. They have enhanced quality of life through interface changes, setting options, and end of turn reminders for remaining options.
Game Build Quality
For a low priced game, Shards of Infinity has some really surprisingly good components. Player portrait cards with wheels are a very nice addition to the game. The Ultra PRO playmat is sold separately but is just such a wonderful resource and enhances the table presence a lot.
The digital app is announced as having a higher price tag than I would have expected for such a cheap game. I have played an absurd number of games on it, so I still recommend it more than any other digital game app I own. The speed of play, quality of experience, online play, and an AI with some usefulness are great. Together, these features all show off that Temple Gates Games make the best digital apps out there.
Aaron Nakahara has done an excellent job bringing to life the factions of Shards of Infinity. Each faction has their own unique twists to the artwork. The overall tone of the artwork is very vibrant and colorful with some advanced techno-tones to the order faction in particular.
As a two player heads up duel, Shards of Infinity is quick and exciting. There are so many strategies to explore and different ways to win. Players can build up their life sustain, champion abilities, and rush for a mastery victory with an infinite power spike from their infinity shard. Players could also rush banishing their cards and only having power cards left.
These rush strategies leave no room for deck improvement as the game progresses. They have little need for improvement if they are blasting away at their opponents life pool turn after turn. The other player will crumble under heavy fire without even the opportunity to use their more powerful recent purchases. I cannot get enough of the depth to the game strategy available with the mercenaries to fast play life gain, to trigger unifies or dominions, or just gain that extra power boost.
As a multiplayer experience, it is insanely tense with choosing the targets for your damage. You try to keep anyone from gaining a clear advantage over the other players. A very unique experience is when one player attacks the person who went before them and has most of the damage blocked with shield cards… Then the next player to go knows not to target that same player with strong shields and blows up someone else.
Age Range & Weight
10+ is a good rating. Shards is slightly lighter than most deck building games so it delivers a relatively low weight and fast speed game.
Parents should note it does feature direct combat between players. This means you don’t want multiple younger participants if they are going to have hurt feelings when they are targeted by the other players.
I highly recommend Shards of Infinity to fans of the deckbuilding genre. It is easy to get in a few fast plays in a row. Most matches have a tense ending as life gain, damage dealt, and shields in hand get to the tipping point where any particularly good or particularly bad hand could mean the end.
For a two player game, I have no hesitation in putting this high on my favorites list. In multiplayer, collusion and kingmaking can be problems if the group doesn’t self-regulate well. Check out the Shards of Infinity expansion, Relics of the Future, rulebook for some multiplayer variants playable with just the base. These variants fix many of these potential issues if your group experiences any problems.