The Hungry Gamer Reviews Shards of Infinity (App Version)
Before I begin, I was provided with a download of the IOS app in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid review.
If you would prefer to see the video review, check it out below.
Board game apps often get a bad rap in this hobby. The purists among us will argue that there is nothing that compares with actually being able to hold the cards or meeples and play them, or place them however you choose. You can’t really play the game if you are not touching it. Others will argue, that if an app is going to do all of the accounting and math for you then that is a win. Personally, I see both sides of the squabble.
There are some games out there that I almost exclusively play via the app (Lords of Waterdeep, I am looking at you), and others that I play via the app but prefer to use the real version (What up Sentinels, and everything on TT Simulator).
Recently I was given the chance to review the new Shards of Infinity app, and man am I glad to have had the chance. Now, I have never played the physical version, nor had I played the physical version of Ascension (which is very close in style, feel, and mechanics). So I can only comment on the app, not whether or not it is “better” than the physical version.
There are TONS of how to play videos and reviews out there so I will not be spending much time explaining how the game is played, rather I this review will assume that you have an understanding of how deck builders work, and I will talk about this game in comparison to Ascension, as it is so close. If you are not already familiar with Ascension, my apologies.
So what do I think?
We will be spending the bulk of our time here. This is a very good app. Period. I think almost all of the interface on this app is done just right. From the layout, to the clarity of the images, the animation. It is easy to get into the game quickly. I have one quibble here, but more on that below.
The game play takes every thing that was good about Ascension, and it improves upon it in every way. Instead of competing for points, you are actively trying to kill the other player, and you now have a resource that is will directly attack them, rather than just the random monsters in the middle. This is a great change, it really ups the stakes of the game to me.
This game also introduces a third resource (four if you count health as one), which is mastery. This is also where the game gets its name as each player also has a shard of infinity, which, if you get up to 30 mastery becomes an instant win card. This mastery resource also allows you to power up your cards, so it is something that really becomes part of the strategy. I like this additional complexity, it opens up a completely new type of strategy.
The game also introduces champions. These champions become your entourage, and they give you bonuses each round until an opponent kills them. This is another great addition to the game, and again it ups the strategy as you have to decide is it worth it to kill the champions, or just to continue to wail on the other player.
The last new thing, from Ascension, is the addition of the Mercenary cards. When you purchase these cards you have to make an immediate choice. You can recruit them to your deck as per usual, or you can immediately play them and gain a resource to be used that round. This is, in my opinion, the best addition to this game. Not only are you getting the instant gratification of using the resource, but you are culling your deck at the same time, because if you choose to use them right away the card does not go into your discard pile, but rather it is discarded from the game.
Clearly this is a game where you are gathering all kinds of resources, and damaging various cards on multiple opponents. In other words the accounting required in this game could very quickly add up, however, since this is an app version all of that is taken care of for you, and thank goodness it is. I do not have any desire to try to keep track of all of that, there is a lot to this game.
The art. I am just not in love with it. It is well done, but to me it all feels a little generic. Now that said, there are tons of people who love it, so this one might just be me.
Then there is the tutorial. It works, but I would have preferred a game where it actually walks you through how to play, and explains what is happening. The way this tutorial is structured is it is a couple mini lessons which very quickly explain to you what each of the resources is, and how they work. To me this is not as effective as having it all explained in the flow of a game.
I only have one complaint with the game, and that is that when you play your champions, or when another player does rather, they are pretty much hidden away. You have to open up another section of the screen to see them. Now I am sure this was for space and clarity of gameplay, and the app does remind you that the enemy has champions that you could be attacking, but this just seems clunky to me, and every time the reminder pops up I feel like a dummy for having missed that.
Bringing it all together
This is an excellent app. There is no way around it. The game is an improvement in every way over Ascension, which is clearly a predecessor to it. There are new resources and new mechanics that make the game a lot of fun. The app itself is an excellent implementation of the game. I am not a huge fan of the game art, and I think that the way the champions are included on the screen could be improved upon, but these are minor things. This is an app that I will be playing regularly.
Shards of Infinity…you mean like infinite? I would need infinite time to read all that!
*This is a very good pure deckbuilding game
*New mechanics and resources make for a much more strategic game than its closes relative Ascension
*The app integration is almost flawless
*I would like a more comprehensive tutorial, but it is adequate
*The app is an excellent way to get your deckbuilding fix quickly, and is how board games should be digitized