Does this digital adaptation show the mastery required to make it a classic?
Shards of Infinity is a deck builder through and through. You start your game with a set of under powered cards, purchasing upgraded cards to add to your deck hoping that these will work well together to enable you to win the game, either by eliminating your opponents or via mastery of your shard. Anyone who has played deck builders before will be immediately at home with Shards of Infinity so the question is, does this game do enough to separate it within the genre?
As with all deck builders, you are looking to improve your deck of cards so that with each play through of your deck you are using more and more powerful cards; Shards of Infinity is no different aside from one small addition. Within Shards of Infinity you are working towards building up the 3 currencies within the game; shards which you utilise to purchase cards from the shared card row, combat which allows you to attack your opponent, reducing their hit points from 50 with the hope of vanquishing them before they vanquish you, and mastery which allows you to win the game should you reach 30 points and then draw your Infinity Shard, as well as providing upgrades to your cards once you reach certain thresholds. It’s this area of mastery which gives you the opportunity to win the game in more than one way which is different to classic deck builders which normally have only one win condition, either collecting VP or defeating your opponent. Providing a mechanic which allows for players to win even when completely over matched makes for some fascinating games, one player racing to deplete VP while the other rushing to collect mastery points and hopefully draw their Infinity Shard.
The cards available within Shards of Infinity are all reasonably standard fare, each providing one or many from these 3 currencies as well as allowing you to heal, draw more cards, remove unwanted cards from your deck and recycle cards from your discard pile. Within the base set for Shards of Infinity there aren’t any cards which are ground breaking or that will be unusual for anyone with any experience of games within this genre however there are still plenty of opportunities to create a deck which plays well off itself, be it drawing more and more cards each turn, building up to a powerful attack once every 3 turns or speeding up mastery production. While there’s opportunity for deck synergy, the fact that currently only the base set is available without any expansions means that before long you will be building your deck using tried and tested methods and will long for the variety that expansions give. While this is a criticism of this Shards of Infinity app, it is also a criticism on the genre of deck building as a whole and thankfully there are already plans afoot to bring an expansion to Shards of Infinity which will be a welcome introduction.
Shards of Infinity has the same slick presentation style we see from all of Temple Gates Games, the user interface is slick and simple; for those of you who have played Race for the Galaxy you will recognise everything here. The artwork in the game is a faithful reproduction of that which is found within the physical game, and although for me it is a pretty generic sci-fi theme, it’s bright and colourful and will appeal to most. The interface is handled with a combination of dragging and clicking and works very well on devices of all sizes and I haven’t had any issues reading, clicking or dragging cards around even on my smaller phone. Overall it’s a solid looking and feeling app with my only disappointment being with the artwork of the game itself and nothing to do with the app implementation.
When it comes to play options Shards of Infinity has both offline pass and play multiplayer and online multiplayer against strangers or friends who can be added by using their registered email address (which I’m not a huge fan of and I’m glad this was updated within Roll for the Galaxy to be using friend code rather than my email address). Solo players can play against up to 3 AI players of varying difficulty. As we’ve come to expect with all of Temple Gates Games, the AI opponents are exemplary, providing a stern challenge even at the medium difficulty. As a development studio, they have a near perfect run of providing tough and interesting AI opponents which is one of the reasons I find myself playing their games far more often than other titles and one of the reasons I feel comfortable playing Shards of Infinity solo rather than having to search out online opponents.
All in all, Shards of Infinity is a solid deck builder; despite the generic theme and current lack of expansions it’s still a lot of fun to play. While longevity will suffer until expansions are added, the fact that the AI provides a firm opponent means that I am still able to play Shards over and over again. The addition of the mastery mechanic does something to add a little bit of something extra to Shards of Infinity however I would have liked to have seen something which went a bit further to provide more of a fresh take on the genre (see Mystic Vale and it’s card crafting mechanic to see what I mean here). Despite all of that Shards of Infinity is a quick, enjoyable and replayable board game app that fans of deck builders will find hours of entertainment in. If you’re looking to get into the world of deck building games then you can’t really go wrong with Shards of Infinity and I’d recommend it, especially in light of how few games in this genre we have on the digital tabletop.