Much as I love seeing new expansions for Shards of Infinity, each one brings with it a tinge of sadness. This is because the two Garys have already set a limit on how many expansions there are going to be. The only problem is I can’t remember if it’s three expansions or four. So, I will consider this a swansong and hope for a reunion by popular demand. Hope, after all, is the thing with feathers.
Unlike Shadows of Salvation, Into The Horizon is a small box expansion, but do not be fooled by its diminutive size. ITH has some game-changing elements that will make even the most set-in-their-ways strategist reconsider their play…
Ko Syn Wu, Can You Handle This? I Don’t Think You Can Handle This…
Now, about that game-changer: Destinies. Time was when Mastery only served to power up a handful of cards, including the game-ending Infinity Shard. This meant that playing the long game of gaining Mastery to max out your Shard came with the very serious risk of being dog-piled long before this happened. So along came Relics of the Future, which introduced Relics, super-powerful cards that could be put into your hand when you reached 10 Mastery, and which powered up again at 20 Mastery.
The only problem was that you had two to choose from and you could only choose one. A tricky decision to make, but one that could have game-winning consequences. Following on from Relics came Shadows of Salvation, which did not add much to the mechanics of the game but did add the opportunity to play co-operatively and included one super-boy and his dog(s), Rez.
This also added a completely new faction, Aion, who introduced the ability to fast-play any hero, an option previously only available with Mercenary cards. You also had the option to customize your starter deck with better cards for the co-op mode, though there was nothing to stop you from adding a bit of ‘spice’ to your PVP game. This brings me neatly via this ‘bring you up to speed’ side-track to Destinies.
There are 30 possible Destinies in the expansion, all with different effects but all obtainable once a player reaches 5 Mastery. Most of them can be ‘exhausted’ like Champions for a per turn effect, some of them have an instant one-time effect, but all of them have the stipulation that a player can only have one Destiny.
Unless The Card Says Otherwise
There are six available at the beginning of the game, which means that from the start players can begin to plan their strategies around getting these Destinies. One might allow them to increase their Mastery if they play four different factions’ Heroes, so they might go for a mix and match approach in picking up cards. Another might give them extra firepower if they play low-cost Heroes, meaning that they’ll pick up the cheap cards. Then this might all be upset when someone goes for the same card, they’ve set their heart on. Hey, it’s a super-boy and dog eat super-boy and dog world. What it does mean is that playing the same people is going to get shaken up as Destinies change.
Love, Sets, Ingenimex – Coming On Like A Seventh Sense
Now the game that really put the two Garys on the map was Ascension, undeniably, and a good measure of what two individuals annoyed with TCGs can do when they put their mind to it. Shards owe a lot to this franchise for its existence, but the one thing that it didn’t have was something in the deck to beat up due to a lack of victory points to gain. In Shadow of Salvation, we saw big bosses and their minions appear to do battle with your fragile alliance of Shard Masters, but they weren’t to be used in the PvP.
Enter The Ingenimex – Evil (Or Eviler) Versions Of The Five Shard Masters
Now, there are not that many of them but when they do appear they bring both calamity and opportunity. Calamity, because if they make it to the end of the revealing player’s turn, they will take life, cards, Mastery, or a combination of the three. Opportunity, because the player who defeats them (and a player needs to be dishing out at least ten damage to do this) will receive a hefty bonus, be it a chunk of mastery, a free Destiny or a second relic. You can see why they’re rare as they can give a player a somewhat unfair advantage if they have been building up their fighting prowess as opposed to the player who has been working on their mastery game. I think this is a case of ‘test that hypothesis at your leisure’, but it can act as a relief to see them pop up for some players as their tempting bonuses may give them a stay of execution.
I Can Get Some… Satisfaction
As well as the new newness included in this set, we also have 25 new cards spread across the factions which add a bit of mix and match to the set. There are now Undergrowth cards that give you Mastery and damage when they are mostly associated with healing. There is a nifty (and cheap) little Order card that gives you drawing power (natch) and a nice Mastery boost if you have your Infinity Shard to hand.
Also, some standout cards may have been based on the designers or friends of the designers. So far, Only Tom Vassel has been immortalized on a promo card but Duplication Fabricator (a hugely overpowered card for its cost that gives you mastery AND the ability to copy a hero card from the top of someone’s deck – even your own) and J-Chord (a champion card that allows you to fast play hero cards each turn) definitely look like someone’s familiar.
Each faction gets a pretty OP card, though Aion has drawn the short straw when it comes to new cards (only one new card, which is a bit tight), in the shape of new champions. When I say OP, they have the potential to swing a game if powered up. All you have to do is survive long enough to use them…
Bring Me The Into The Horizon
As a mini-expansion, I’d definitely place this above Relics of the Future. That expansion had some nice powerful cards and more potential for deck-thinning, but the Destinies in this really add some variety. My only criticism is that there’s no artwork to speak of on the cards (just text and border) and I like the artwork in Shards.
The Ingenimex are a nice touch and interesting addition to the play dynamic, but as said before there are only five and you can only defeat them with might. With a few more supporting baddies with lesser bonuses and different ways to defeat the Ingenimex, it could really add some meat to the mechanic. Then again, it may distract you from the main course of the game, which is, of course, to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.