Designers: Gary Aran, Justin Gary
Publisher: Stoneblade/Ultra Pro
Time: 30 minutes
Times played: 10, with a copy I purchased
The first time I was introduced to a game with card interaction as its sole mechanism it was very early in my board gaming experience as an adult, and the person teaching it to me was so excited about the game (Magic the Gathering) that he had to tell me about every possible interaction, every possible card, every situation it could be used in and how eighteen other cards would be better and then just play cards for me; I quickly became overwhelmed and disinterested in playing this type of game again. Flash forward to a few years later, when I was the only person not involved in a game, so two friends invited me to play MtG. They were both shocked that I had only tried it once and found it too complicated and confusing and one offered to be my “coach” and play as a team. Well, he (Craig Massey – thanks, Craig!) did a terrific job of explaining the game, telling me only what I needed to know at the time and letting me discover some combinations for myself and I was hooked. Deck-building is now one of my favorite mechanics. While browsing new game releases looking for a birthday gift for my husband (also a deckbuilding fan) I came across Shards of Infinity.
The game comes with a deck of 88 cards, 40 starter deck cards (10 for each player) and four character cards. Each player gets the same starter deck of 10 cards and a character card. Your character card includes two wheels that track health and mastery.
All players draw 5 cards from their deck. All players except the first player also start with at least one mastery point (dependent on the number of players). Six cards from the deck are flipped face up and the game begins. Each turn consists of three phases, but before we get to that let’s talk about the cards in that face-down deck. There are 3 types of cards.
Ally Cards can be recruited by paying their cost in gems (upper right corner); you put them into your discard pile. When you play the Ally card, you get the effect listed on the bottom of the card; some effects may have additional conditions that need to be met. At the end of your turn Ally Cards are discarded to your discard pile.
Mercenary Allies can also be recruited, just like a regular Ally card, but you also have another option – you can choose to fast-play the mercenary. To do so you pay the cost of the card and then immediately gain the effect listed; at the end of the turn any fast-played mercenaries are returned to the bottom of the draw deck.
Champions are recruited just like Ally Cards. However, once you draw and play a Champion it will stay in play until it has been damaged or destroyed. You can use a Champion’s ability once per turn; you exhaust it once used and then reset it for future use at the end of your turn.
All types of cards may allow you to amp up the effect if you have a certain Mastery level – doubling your money or your damage, gaining back health etc. The amount of mastery needed is indicated on the card.
The first phase is the Play Phase. Players may do any or all of the following actions in any order:
- Play cards from your hand; any number of cards can be played
- Exhaust played Champions to gain their effects
- Recruit Allies/Champions and put them into your discard pile. You recruit them from the face-up display of six in the middle of the table; cards are replaced immediately when bought.
- Fast-play Mercenary Allies; recruit them from the face-up display of six in the middle of the table; cards are replaced immediately when bought
- Spend one gem to gain one Mastery (only once per turn)
- Use power to destroy Champions,
The second phase is the Attack Phase. You use any remaining power (the red symbols) to attack your opponents; damage may be directed to one or more opponents in any combination. After damage is assigned, attacked players may reveal shields from their hands to prevent that number of damage. Any remaining damage is then inflicted; the damaged player reduces their health by that number of damage.
The third phase is the End Phase. The following actions are taken in order:
- Put any fast-played Mercenary Allies on the bottom of the deck.
- Put any other played Allies into your discard pile.
- Put any unplayed cards from your hand into your discard pile.
- Draw 5 cards.
Play continues until all players but one have zero health and the remaining player wins.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
The components of the game are of good quality; the cardstock is good and the character wheels are easy to use. The game comes in a fairly small box that is just a bit larger than 2 decks of cards.
The rules are well-written and clear; we went from rules to playing in 5 minutes, and we have not had any unresolved rules questions. There is a helpful FAQ at the end of the rules that we did reference a few times, as well as a glossary.
The theme of the game is fantasy, but doesn’t really add to or detract from the game. There is some flavor text on the cards.
How is this game different from the numerous other deckbuilders out there? Well, it’s not terribly different, really. It has one mechanism that I haven’t seen before (the Mercenary Ally), but it’s the same sort of ideas as many other games I enjoy – develop, maintain and enhance your hand for the best card combinations. A game doesn’t have always to recreate the wheel for me to like it, though; I generally like deckbuilders, and I like this game quite a bit. All of the cards have an effect that is freestanding, but building up the right combos of cards to take advantage of the better effects leads to some really fun turns (well, maybe not so fun for your opponent). You can slowly build up your Mastery so you can do more damage or gain more benefits, but an opponent could be taking you down with strong card combinations while you do that, so you have to balance your efforts.
The Mercenary Ally is an interesting mechanic; Balancing delayed gratification with immediate results makes for some interesting choices. I eschewed this strategy at first, thinking it was a waste of money for one use, but that is often not the case – it is an interesting mechanic. If you aren’t drawing the card you need or are in a desperate situation it gives you a way to address it.
In addition, I found the fact that you could learn/teach it quickly and play it quickly to be a positive, too; this would make a good filler that is more game than activity, which in my opinion many “filler” games are.
I do wish the Character cards each had a special power or ability; while the art on them is different, they are functionally all the same.
After our first couple of games our average game time has been 15 minutes with two players, which is great- you can play it again or use it as a quick filler.
This is a solid deckbuilder with interesting choices and definite replaybility. I expect it to see many more plays in the coming months.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:
I love it!
I like it. Tery
Not for me