DESIGNER: Ryan Sutherland and Justin Gary
AGES: 10 and up
TIME: 30 minutes
TIMES PLAYED: 3, with a copy I purchased
I am definitely a sucker for expansions, promo cards or other add ons to games I already have. Part of it is the collector in me, wanting to have that complete set; I definitely enjoy that set collection mechanic. So, when adding a play of Shards of Infinity to my boardgame tracking app I was surprised to learn it had not one but two expansions I had somehow missed. I like the game, and while it has been a little while since I have played it hadn’t been that long. I read a description of both, but was most intrigued by Shadows of Infinity, which keeps the base game play and turns it into a cooperative game. I was very curious to see how that would work.
You can read my full review of the base game from 2018 here. The basic game play generally involves playing cards from your hand to recruit champions and allies, up your skills, and defeat your opponents, who are your fellow players. The expansion keeps this basic game play, but your opponent is now a Boss and you are working with your fellow players rather than against them.
The base set is required to play. This expansion adds an additional character, upping the max player count to 5, as well as 5 Boss cards and their related attack cards, plus shadow champion cards that are paired with multiple bosses, based on their faction. The game also adds 12 new cards that are added to the main draw deck and some additional cards that can be used to improve your starting hand if you are playing in campaign mode; it is also possible to play the game on an ad-hoc basis, resetting hands at the start of each game.
You set up the game in the same way, with 6 face-up cards available to players to buy to build their hand or use immediately for a one-time benefit. Players start with 50 life and 0 mastery.
There is a book of bosses; you open the Battle Book, which will give you a choice of two Bosses to attack. You read the description of each, choose the boss you want to battle, read their related story and then turn to that Boss’s page to see what their life mastery skills are. You build their deck (the Fate deck) with their Attack cards as well as the champions they are associated with, and you’re off.
The game play is essentially the same, but you add a Boss turn to the rotation. The boss starts the game by taking a turn, although you can opt to skip the Boss on the first turn for an easier go of it. Each player draws a card from the Fate deck and plays it.
It could be an Attack card; the effects are executed and the card is discarded, unless it is ongoing, in which case the player leaves the card in front of them.
It could also be a Shadow Champion; in that case, the player puts the card in front of them. Any Ambush effects are carried out, and then the champion will attack the player who drew it. Damage is dealt first to any champions the player has in play unless the champion cannot be fully destroyed, and then to the player’s character. Players cannot shield against this damage.
Players then take a simultaneous turn. You play your turn in the same manner that you do in the base game; you draw 5 cards, evaluate how much money vs damage vs mastery you get, buy cards, apply damage and gain mastery. However, you now do this while discussing with the other players who is going to buy what card, and how effects can be applied to best benefit the team. You cannot share money with other players, or buy them a card, but you can combine damage to attack Shadow Champions or the boss as a group. If you are playing in Campaign mode you may also choose to apply any healing healing you would gain to another player instead of yourself.
If you reduce the Boss’s health to zero, the team is victorious. You rejoice in your shared victory and read the associated text in the Battle Book. If any player’s health is reduced to zero they are out of the game, and the other players have one final turn to try to avenge their death and kill the Boss. If they do not manage to do this before the start of the next Boss turn, the players lose and read the associated text in the Battle book.
In campaign mode you are, at certain points, given the opportunity to gain new cards for your starting deck. These cards are a definite improvement over the base cards and replace one of them in your hand going forward. All other cards reset at the start of each game. The next time you play you would follow the instructions based on whether you won or lost previously.
You can choose to make the game harder, and there are variants for team play and for playing one-off games instead of campaigns.
My Thoughts on the Game
I am enjoying this game, and have come to prefer it over the base game. If you like other cooperative deck-building games like Aeon’s End you’ll likely enjoy this; while the specifics of play are different, it has a similar feel overall. I enjoyed the cooperative aspect; while I enjoyed the base game, being able to plan with other players about what cards to buy or fast play from the center increased the options available on each turn, since cards turn over faster. This helped mitigate the “luck” effect of the large deck of cards, since having multiple cards of particular factions in your hand can give you greater benefits.
I also liked the Boss battles. Sure, it’s fun to beat up on your fellow players, but having a shared goal and being able to combine damage makes it more enjoyable. Each boss has a brief bio and backstory, adding to the feel and flavor of the game, and they are not necessarily pushovers. However, the story is definitely just flavor, and you could continue to play the game ad-hoc after completing the campaign with no ill effects.
Getting rewards of upgraded cards is also nice, although it has not been as much of a benefit as I would hope as of yet; that may change as we move farther along.
I have also not played this with more than 2, thanks to the pandemic. I feel like the base game shines at 2 players, and this expansion certainly works well at that number. Some of the boss battles would be a lot easier with more players doing damage; you’re adding additional shadow champions in as well, but I don’t think that would be enough to really ramp up the difficulty.
The components match the components of the base game. The tracking bits are of sturdy cardboard, and the card stock is good. The cards have text that denote their different types; since many of the cards look the same it is important to pay attention to the text. I wish the game came with some way to keep the various cards and the players’ hands separated between games; we’ve been using pieces of paper and baggies to keep them separated, but an insert would have been great.
Comments from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson (2 plays): We’ve enjoyed the Shards system… both as a head-to-head game and as a 2v2 (where it is much superior to Star Realms). This expansion adds a co-op mode that worked well. We also like the additional character and cards.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Tery, Mark Jackson
- Not for me…
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