I’ve bought a copy of this game myself.
The game: Shards of Infinity by Gary Arant and Justin Gary. The game is published by Ultra Pro in 2018.
Elevator pitch: A dueling deck-builder from the makers of Ascension, Shards of Infinity is Star Realms with couple of new twists.
What’s in the box? Fairly small box features bunch of cards and four very large life trackers, which are small boards with two dials that are used to track Health and Mastery totals during the game.
The cards are of decent quality, and fit in the box sleeved (at least when you toss the insert and use thin sleeves). The life trackers are big and clunky and make it a fairly tight fit, though.
What do you do in the game? Just try to beat your opponent by reducing their Health to 0. You can do that the traditional way, beating them with attack cards, but you can also collect 30 Mastery and then play your Infinity Shard for infinity damage, which means an instant win.
The game play is very standard duel deck-building: there’s a row of cards where you can buy, the cards feature money, damage and healing power, you can play your whole hand out and buy as many cards as you want and so on. If you’ve played Ascension, Star Realms or Hero Realms, you already know the rules.
There are couple of new features, though. Mastery is one of them. You collect it from cards and can buy one Mastery for one money every turn. Mastery improves some of your cards: there are cards which do better things if you reach certain Mastery thresholds. That is new and interesting and while it isn’t used as much as I had hoped for, it still spices up the game well.
There are also Mercenary cards: some cards are marked with a red frame and when you buy one of those cards, you get to choose. Either you buy the card as usual and it goes to your discard pile, or you play it immediately, gain the effect whatever it is, and then put the card to the bottom of the common draw deck. This adds an extra layer of decision, especially later in the game where you may find it unlikely to see a card you buy in action anymore.
Shards of Infinity does the basic deck-building well and adds some new touches which may or may not be improvements, but at least they feel fresh and interesting for now.
One part where Shards of Infinity does nothing is multiplayer game. There are no specific multiplayer rules in the box, it’s just basic free-for-all. That I’ve always found really boring, and so far I’ve only played Shards with two players, and that’s how I expect to play it in the future.
Lucky or skillful? I assume there’s some skill to the game – you definitely can make bad moves in this game – but I expect the skill differences between players to be fairly small. I don’t think you can be really, really good in this game. That’s fine, and pretty much par for the course. You buy from random six card set, there’s not much planning you can make.
Abstract or thematic? There’s some backstory about shards of infinity crystals or whatnot, but it doesn’t really make any difference to the game play, so I haven’t really bothered with it. The art is mostly fine, that’s good enough for me in a game like this.
Solitaire or interactive? It’s a duel, so yeah, it’s interactive. One thing Shards removes from the basic deck-building game template is discard cards, though: you can’t make the other players discard cards. That’s interaction I don’t miss.
Players: 2–4. Like I said, there’s nothing special to the multiplayer game, so for me this is mainly a two-player game.
Who can play? The age recommendation is 10+, which is fine. Even younger kids can probably play, and it’s easy to give some assistance where necessary, as you always play all your cards every turn and the way you play them doesn’t often matter.
What’s to like: If you’ve enjoyed other similar deck-builders, you’ll like this for the new features it introduces. It runs smooth, and games rarely drag on like they sometimes do in other games.
What’s not to like: Pretty much a two-player game. While the game does offer some new twists to the deck-building game, it’s really quite close to the standards set in other games.
My verdict: For background, I’ve never really cared for Ascension, but I’ve played probably a four-digit number of Star Realms games on iPad and have played almost hundred games of Hero Realms with my son. So, a new game in the genre is in town? Sure I have to check it out.
I came in expecting to at least enjoy the game, and I did. It is a fine game, plays fast and smooth. There’s less stuff in the cards compared to Hero Realms (I know, I counted it), which leads to faster turns and smoother game play. Especially in Hero Realms, the games can drag sometimes; that is yet to happen with Shards of Infinity.
Me and my son have decided to make this game an entry on my 50×50 list, and to try to get it there in record time, which means 50 plays in less than 88 days. Shouldn’t be too hard, and that should tell you we quite like the game.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Shards of Infinity gets Suggest from me.