Relics of the Future is the first expansion for Shards of Infinity, the small-box deck-building game from Stoneblade Entertainment and Ultra Pro launched back in spring 2018. Designers Gary Arant and Justin Gary teamed up once again with artist Aaron Nakahara to create 32 new cards that integrate fully with the contents of the base game.
What does Relics of the Future add to the game?
For a small expansion, Relics of the Future adds a heap of new gameplay to Shards of Infinity. Front and centre are the eight relic cards – two for each faction leader. When a player hits 10 mastery, they can add one of their character’s relics to their deck. Each pair of relics – one defensive and one offensive – is powerful and ties in mechanically with the leader’s faction.
In addition to the relics, the expansion provides players with 24 new centre deck cards: six for each faction. Each group of six contains a set of three weaker cards that combo with the faction’s mechanics, two more powerful cards that provide additional effects when played by the player with the corresponding leader and one new, powerful Champion.
Finally, the game’s rules pack in all sorts of new ways to play. The most interesting is the solo mode, which we’ll look at in this review. There are also rules for a three-player free-for-all, two vs two and a new ‘health auction’ that provides a way for players in any multiplayer mode to determine the first player by bidding health points.
Impact of the Expansion Cards
The combined effect of all the new cards is that each faction has a much stronger identity and picking your leader is now a meaningful choice. All of the new cards become much stronger when played in on-faction decks, having minimal impact on their own. In addition, the relics all fit their faction’s strategy, becoming much less effective when used in isolation.
It’s fair to say that the impact of the expansion’s cards is more strategic than mechanical. The actual flow of the game is more or less unaffected; even gaining the relics doesn’t require you to do anything substantially different; just hit 10 mastery and add them in. It’s easy to mix the cards in and get playing without needing to learn a load of new rules.
However, the strategic differences are noticeable. In the games I’ve played, I’ve noticed that the winner is always the player who has the most coherent deck, usually involving a smooth engine of one or two factions with a clear strategy. This was often true in the base game, but I’ve felt that the gap between the winner and loser has tended to be more pronounced when adding Relics in.
On a less tangible level, I have to say that these cards add in a lot of fun. It feels great when you get to add a relic to your deck and even better if you get to use it. The mastery mechanic is even more meaningful and creating a well-functioning deck is a great feeling. The downside to this is that bad decks feel worse. If you’re struggling to build a coherent pool of cards while your opponent is going off, you’ll know about it. Far from being a significant negative, however, this element of the expansion simply adds a level of importance to the competition for centre-row cards.
Is the Solo Mode any good?
The solo mode is, for me, the most significant rules variant introduced with the expansion. I played through it a couple of times in preparation for this review and was pleasantly surprised. As a player, you play pretty much the same as normal, though your starter deck has a small boost in the form of a weak faction card that corresponds with your leader.
The Nemesis, as your opponent is called, faces you down with centre row cards. They draw a card off the top of the centre deck, get a bonus if it matches their leader’s faction, then activate all matching faction cards in the centre row. Damage and mastery work the same, drawing cards adds mastery and gaining gems banishes centre deck cards. They also don’t get faction keyword bonuses (like Inspire and Echo) until mastery level 15. They win by getting your HP to 0, hitting a mastery of 30 or by running out of centre deck cards.
In my two games I won once with a strong combo deck and lost once to the Nemesis gaining 30 mastery. In both games I felt like I was on a legitimate clock, with pressure to build my deck as strongly as I could to have an impact before the Nemesis reached its end game.
The solo mode certainly lacked some of the interaction and player-against-player give and take that makes the multiplayer game so special, but it retained all of the cards’ mechanical properties and encouraged thoughtful deck-building. While I’ll still prefer to play Shards of Infinity multiplayer, the solo mode is very well-designed and I’ll happy have a game or two to get my deck-building fix.
Final Thoughts on Relics of the Future
If you like and own Shards of Infinity, Relics of the Future is a must-have. Its price point is so low for the amount of great stuff it adds to your game. The new cards are fun and make an impact, whilst the new game modes are worth exploring. I’m yet to try the higher player count variants or the health auction, but from reading the rules they look balanced and interesting.
Arant and Gary have smashed the design of this expansion, with well-designed cards that are once again brought to life by Aaron Nakahara’s excellent art. Relics of the Future is everything I wanted from Shards of Infinity’s first expansion.