The Tao of Gaming

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Posts Tagged ‘Shards of Infinity

Shards of Infinity — Relics of Future Past

with 3 comments

I’m not in the pure “Expansions are usually bad” camp, but this expansion appears to be bad.

  1. Many new cards are cantrips that may do nothing or have a decent effect. As cantrips, they are usually OK to purchase, But the sheer number of them (30 odd) dilutes the great cards and now a player getting an early banisher (etc) just wins. (A cantrip to play is not a cantrip to buy, after all). Purchase fear (“What if I buy an OK card and a great card appears for my opponent to buy”) goes way up.
  2. There are new cards that key off which hero you have. (“X, but Super-X if you are <some guy>.”) Which just benefits that guy. Again, totally random. Ooh, I got two of my cards out and the opponent got none. Even if he bought my two cards, he likely did that as denial.
  3. The really good idea is that each player has two champions. When you get to 10 mastery (or any time after that) you can recruit one of them into your discard pile, and the other is gone forever. Fun, not-random, gives the race to 10 more meaning. And the champions are powerful.

Overall this expansion is an (anti-)testament to Tom Lehmann’s concerns about variability and deck dilution in card games. I’m giving it a few more plays before I pull the new cards and just try with the champions.

Initial Rating — Bleargh.

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Written by taogaming

February 2, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Reviews

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More Shards of Infinity Thoughts

I’ve played 50 more games of Shards since my earlier strategy guide, so more thoughts.

Bloating

If it takes your deck 1-2 more turns to cycle than your opponent, you are losing (ceteris parabus). There are a few reasons.

  1. If you have a great card, you get it less often.
  2. If you have the same number of undergrowth cards, they’ll unify less often.
  3. If you have a dominion effect, it will happen less often and you’ll have a greater variability of draws (assuming you have the same percentage of each of the three clans).
  4. Once you get to 30 mastery, you are waiting for your shard. This is a subset of #1, but it happens surprisingly often.

Note that bigger decks may not cycle slower, due to cantrips, Data Heretics, and what not.

Mastery Explosion

Our games have gotten faster, but the mastery wins have leveled off because we often explode faster. We don’t value Shard Abstractor as much, but Fungal Hermit has grown (because of the healing, a Fungal Hermit will often save you from dying) but also because we build decks that are capable of snapping up any mercenary that gains it and using Omnius, The Architect, Giga Source, etc will be able to grow very quickly. Once you get to 10 mastery, your cache wardens now become cantrips, so they hit more often. Also, at this point you likely know who is goign to win the master race, and it devolved to the “I must win fast” vs “I must survive”. The survivor will often stop purchasing non defense and will get mastery every turn. In fact, when you get to 15 mastery, you can often gain 2-4 a turn. (It’s certainly possible to get 10+ mastery a turn, we’ve done it a few times).

Portal Monk (vs Reactor Drone)

Portal Monk is fine, but I’m definitely on the “it’s OK, don’t need to ban” side. While Portal Monk is fine, earlier on I’d rather take Reactor Drone (which is just $3) because you can burn a mercenary. Portal Monk can grab great cards (Zara Ra, Furrowing Elemental, Venator of the Wastes, Optio Crusher, Crypto Fist, Zeta, Omnius) for less than Reactor Drone, but the mercenary thingis a big deal.

I did mention that purchasing power is great, and bloat) dilutes it. Reactor Drone gives a big boost to power. Sometimes there’s a great $4-7 card and it sits for a few turns until someone can muster it up. Sure, portal monk would grab that card (assuming its not $7), but Reactor Drone also tends to get a decent payoff when it hits.  I do think that this and Kiln Drone are good purchases.

Other Minor Thoughts

  • T1-2 banishing your blaster via one shot instead of buying the banish card seems like a reasonable play.
  • Wraethe Skirmisher ($1 for 2 or 6 damage) is actually a really good early purchase. Undergrowth Aspirant ($1, heal 3 damage 5 with unify) is also good. The TaoLing got 2 each on T1-2 and only a few other cards and that damage (min 7 each time through the deck, but the potential for 21). Even though I got 2 early banish cards I was killed pretty fast.

 

 

Written by taogaming

November 29, 2018 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Strategy

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Shards of Infinity 3 Player

Played a few 3er games, using the rule that all damage (and destruction effects) hit both opponents (you assign for each) to make no kingmaking. Just a few games, but some thoughts.

  • If I thought early beat down was effective then … vhojha moi!
  • Therefore shields are much better. Cryptofist monks were in high demand.
  • Going last feels much worse, for two reasons:
    • There are often 2-3 good cards in the initial offering, so getting second pick is reasonable. But you will get a worse card much more often.
    • You are always a turn behind on getting beat down.
  • I’d suggest start player rotates each round, except…..that would do weird things to shields (at some times, a shield would protect you for two turns). As a practical matter perhaps the last player should get three mastery instead of two (which gives them a shot of getting to five on T2, prior to playing their shard reactor), or 2 mastery but starting at fifty three life (unable to go above fifty once you drop to it).

I would definitely suggest that 4 player with teams of two that Players 1 and 4 should be teammates.

Despite the early beat down propensity, one game ended with the TaoLing knocked down to 1 Life, at 13 Mastery facing an opponent with 20+ life and the ability to do at least one damage next turn …. The TaoLing played a few cards, then dropped Omnius the All Knowing to draw two cards and earned five mastery for Dominion. He bought  master and earned one from a card, then played Ojas to copy Omnius twice, which put him at 30 mastery with his entire hand in his deck, save one card … his Infinity Shard.

So he bought the cheapest cards available and luckily (for him, not so much me) a Data Heretic showed up and he burned it to draw the Shard and win one of the best comebacks I’ve seen in any game in a while.

Written by taogaming

October 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Reviews, Session Reports

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Too Many Words about Shards of Infinity

This article covers my evolving thoughts about Shards of Infinity. No doubt there are better players, but they appear to not be writing, so it falls to me.

Caveats

  1. I have only played two player, and only with the TaoLing. Group think is possible.
  2. This strategy applies primarily tor duels. I suppose for 3 player I’d play the variant where you damage all opponents (to prevent kingmaking) and with four player you could do teams. I have no specific insight into those games.

Definitions

  • Early Game — Until someone has approximately 10 Mastery.
  • Mastery Victory — Winning by doing infinite damage (requires thirty master).
  • The Offering — The cards available to buy.
  • Recover — Put a card from discard into play
  • Unify — An ability that only triggers if you’ve already played another card from the same faction (or can reveal one from your hand). I sometimes refer to this a double-teaming or doubling up.
  • Dominion — A power that can only trigger if you’ve already played (or can reveal) at least one green, brown and purple card. (Only Blue cards have Dominion powers).
  • One-shot — to buy a mercenary for a single immediate use instead of putting it into your deck. (Also “Burned”)
  • Cantrips — Cards that draw a replacement card after playing.
  • The Bonus — A cards secondary ability that only triggers at a certain mastery level.

Healing vs Damage, and the ‘tone’ of the early game

As we’ve gotten better, the game ends earlier. Fewer mastery victories, many more victories when both players were around 10-15 mastery. Initially I felt guided by the Star Realm inspired “Wheel of Dominance,” (healing beats damage, damage beats deck thinning, thinning beats healing), but Shards modifies this in subtle ways.

Healing and Mastery gain beats damage in the long run … negate your opponents attacks and win the race to 30 mastery, then you’ll win. But ….

There’s more damage available than healing. You start with 3 damage per deck cycle, and no healing. Most Wraethe (Purple) cards damage, none heal. Some Homo Deus (Brown) champions damage, none heal. Order (Blue) cards neither damage nor heal. Only Undergrowth (Green) provides healing, but also a fair amount of damage + heal.

Star Realm’s “Wheel” is an unbalanced tire. You do have ‘indirect’ healing. Shields (which Order does provide) block damage, unless you draw them at the wrong time.

Champions also absorb damage, getting killed. (Usually this is the attacker’s choice). There’s a mild negative synergy between them. Shields + Champions can work, but I can track a few shield cards (or the recover a Champion cards) and decide where to assign damage accordingly. (Although sometimes its just a guess).  But the cost is mild. Mostly I try to buy good cards, and ignore the implications.

Given two types of “pseudo-healing” cards you might say healing balances damage, but I just don’t believe it. We’re now quite keen on buying a Nil Assassin (a two cost, five damage Wraethe Mercenary). On the first two turns, that means your deck is now doing 8 damage/cycle and cycling every 2-3 turns. If you just stopped buying cards (and used your money for one-shotting mercenaries), you’d kill your opponent around T13-15. Assuming you didn’t get a second damage card.

Obviously your opponent will try to stop you (or damage faster) but this means that if you see lots of damage on the opening board, you’ll be hard pressed to get to thirty mastery.

If the initial offering shows healing and mastery and banish (and no damage), then you are likely to see a Mastery Victory.

If your opponent ignores damage for healing, try to buy mastery gaining cards (and healing) and only get enough damage to smoke enemy champions. But in general, kill kill!

Some cards swing both ways  (Healing yourself and damaging your opponent). If you are both in the 30-40 range then healing 3 and damage 3 is better than just damaging 4 or 5, and roughly equivalent to damaging six. There are breakpoints, of course. In the very early game healing can be wasted.

Mastery

Apart from mastery victory, bumping up in mastery has a nice bonus in that there a good number of bonuses you can earn. In particular, a fifth point earns another $1 each time through the deck. At ten points there are a fair number of cards that trigger bonus effects. Cards that trigger at higher levels have increasingly good bonuses, such that for many decks getting to 20 mastery is practically as good as 30.

But Mastery isn’t actually required to win. (In particular if your opponent opens with Venator of the Wastes (the only card that “drains” mastery) you can just ignore mastery and try for a fast win. (This happened in my last game. I won with 3 mastery, only because of turns where I had nothing else to do with my spare $1, so I’d buy it every now and then in case I could get to 5 Mastery to earn the extra $ for the Shard Reactor). If you are sure you won’t get to 30 Mastery, it could even be right to banish your Infinity Shard (for a more damaging card, of course).

Take advantage of the free form turn order

One fun aspect of the game is that the turn order is free form. You can sometimes gain a small advantage by buying a card before playing actions (to get it in before the reshuffle, or use a recovery card on it, or to trigger a Unify or Dominion power). Don’t just blindly follow the ABC’s of Dominion. The ability to buy cards before actions means that cards that recover are quite reasonable purchases (if they have OK other powers) even if you don’t currently have any cards worth recovering. On the next time through the deck maybe there will be a card you can buy.

One Shots

The tension of one-shotting is between a single benefit right now and getting that card in your deck forever. Sometimes its obvious because its a break point — you need two mastery now (to trigger a bonus) or a few extra points of damage to nuke an enemy champion or just a bit more life to survive until you draw your shard.

But often there’s no tension because you really don’t want that card in your deck. If your opponent has bought heavy damage to win before your Healing +Mastery Victory, adding damage to your deck is counter productive. It slows down your healing and mastery cards. You want some damage (maybe to kill a champion) and you’d like to deny it to your opponent, so you one-shot it. But you’d buy healing cards.

Similarly, your opponent may one-shot healing cards (to deny you and get a bump without slowing down his faster pussycat strategy).

Deck Size

There’s not much banishing (trashing, etc) in Shards, but plenty of pseudo-banish. Over ten percent of the cards are cantrips, and a quarter to a third are mercenaries (which can be one-shot). You can  power for a mastery (once per turn). Which means that decks can grow slower. Unlike Dominion’s Chapel, most banish cards trash only a single card (in hand or discard pile), but its reasonable (particularly with some offerings) to decline a purchase, because:

  1. It slows your deck down
  2. You risk revealing a great card you can’t afford. Many strong cards cost $3 and if you buy a mediocre card the next player may win the jackpot. (This is my problem with Ascension style games in general, and it bothers me a little in Shards. Since Shards plays much faster, I just label it as ‘strategy’ and move on).
  3. You don’t want to dilute your purchasing power.

Cantrips

Cantrips are almost always worth getting. They don’t take up hand size (since they draw a card afterwards), so they don’t dilute your deck. They make it easier to Unify and reach Dominion. If you always bought available cantrips, you wouldn’t be going far wrong. But there is a downside: Shields. Shields you draw in the middle of your turn are worthless. (However, since most shield cards have another effect or are themselves cantrips, its not a huge loss). If you purchase many shields, its possible that a mining crystal (etc) will hurt your overall chances and cost you 8 points of shield each time through the deck.

But that’s a rare thing. In general, buy them.

Purchasing Power

Your starting cards are the 7 Crystals ($1), The Shard Reactor ($2, increasing to $3/$4 at 5/15 Mastery), the Blaster (1 damage) and the Infinity Shard (2/3/5/∞ damage at 0/10/20/30 Mastery). This means that you have $9 at the start, split 5/4 or 6/3. You’ll probably want to get a little bit more money. If you just buy 4 damage/healing cards (not cantrips) your deck quickly drops from $4.5/turn to  $3.2/ Cards cost 1-7, with a big ‘bulge’ of three cost cards (just under 1/3rd of the cards cost 3). Average $4 a turn, you can get a three cost card and a mastery. With $3, it’s either/or.

Every non-money card cantrip lowers you density. You’ll naturally have variance … the Shard Reactor will be worth $3 pretty fast. And a $1 turn is just a mastery (or one of the rare $1 cards).

It’s possible to go full damage and banish out all your money (possibly keeping the shard reactor) and hope to win by KO. Once your deck falls under the $3 average, that’s not a horrible idea (assuming your opponent isn’t out healing you). Big Money can also work. The $7 cards are a mixed bag, but $7 is also two $3 card plus a mastery.

Unify & Dominion

Technically only the Undergrowth has Unify (as a power that triggers if you’ve played or can reveal an undergrowth card), but the Wraethe and Homo Deus also have some bonuses for other cards.  But the Wraethe/Homo Deus bonuses turn out to be pretty spotty. And the Undergrowth not only has many more Unify cards, but a large percentage of Cantrips. Its much easier to get 2+ undergrowth cards when your hand size is effectively 6 instead of 5. As a practical matter this means that a “mono-green” deck (as much as you are able to purchase) can roughly go up against a mono-purple. Purple has more damage but Green has a high swing.

The Order’s Dominion strategy doesn’t require as much as you might expect. You can easily get a few green cantrips (never bad cards) and pick up some purple for damage and/or banish. a Korvus Legionnaire is Homo Deus card and can recover a champion (which may or may not be H.D.). So you can naturally have a deck with 2-3 good cards of each faction and then possibly get Dominion bonus.

Now — it does require effectively 4 cards (assuming your Dominion card is not a champion), so its going to be tough to do, even with a cantrip or recovery. To really trigger a Dominion effect you are likely going to need to get about 7 cards. That’s not a huge barrier (given cantrips), but its not something to really expect. But, typically you get 2-5 mastery for Dominion, so if you can setup a deck that can reliably hit that (maybe once per cycle) it will speed you towards a mastery victory. But in general I evaluate cards assuming that I won’t earn dominion often. It’s a fluke-y bonus in most decks.

Champions, damage breakpoints, and who to damage

Champions have a lot going for them. If they never die, then they don’t count against your deck size, and they increase your effective hand size (except that previously played champions don’t count for Unify &/or Dominion). All of which means ….

You need to produce enough damage to kill a champion or two every now and then. Three damage is enough to get rid of nuisance champions, but that means getting a bit lucky with your starting cards, so reasonably you’ll want at least one more damage card.

Letting champions live gives your opponent a long term advantage.  Whether to damage your opponents champions or just go for the kill depends on your long term strategy (healing+mastery kills champions). Also consider if your opponent can recover champions, how soon it will be towards the reshuffle, and how many shield cards your opponent has (that you haven’t seen). Sometimes its totally a crapshoot — kill the champion and you’ll find your opponent sitting on his recovery. Don’t kill it? That’s the turn he had a big shield. It’s a card game, but you can play the odds.

Champions defense number is a psuedo-swing value (like a shield that will usually work). Damage they eat is damage you don’t. BUT … if you also have shields then that somewhat cancels out. This is definitely an area that’s fuzzy.

Card by Card

Format: Name ($Cost, #in deck, Ally or Champion (defense)  or Mercenary, which is a one-shottable of ally)  [Effect. #M is a bonus that triggers at a mastery level] — Commentary

The Wraethe

Almost every wraethe card packs a punch, and they also have a monopoly on banishing effects, with a splash of mastery gain.

Wraethe Skirmisher ($1, 3x, Ally)  [Gain 2 damage, or 6 if there is a Wraethe in your discard pile.] — Two damage isn’t great but six is good. This card can often take advantage of turn order to buy a Wraethe card, then hit for six. Will be good in a focused Wraethe deck, obviously, but often a decent finisher card. Buy it, and then buy another wraethe when you use it. If these come up together, purchasing two (or all three) is brutal.

Nil Assassin ($2, 3x, Ally) [5 damage]. — Often burned as a one-shot, but a solid addition to any deck. This is 10% of a KO!

Shadow Apostle ($3, 3x, Ally) [2 damage and banish a card]. — A solid addition to any deck, assuming its early game. Banish and a spot of damage to help with champion-control.

Shadebound Sentry ($3, 2x, Ally) [3 damage and recover a mercenary]. — As mentioned in Recovery, buying this card on T1/T2 is fine, even if there aren’t any mercenaries. Often on a later turn you can buy a good mercenary, then play the Sentry to recover it. There are some great mercenaries in the deck, the ability to use them twice per deck cycle (if a bit lucky) is nice. If you have a really heavy card-throughput deck this won’t be useful (since you don’t discard played cards until the end of the turn) but overall this is usually worth buying.

Umbral Scourage ($3, 3x, Ally) [+1 Mastery and banish a card]. — Did I mention that the 3 cost cards are good? Assuming you don’t suffer an early KO, this will do wonders for your deck, but you’ll have to survive to mid-game.

Li Hin, The Shattered ($3, 1x, Champion(1*))  [Tap for 1 Damage, Li Hin can’t be attacked with damage]. — While not really a cantrip, he effectively doesn’t take much deck space since he’s nigh invulnerable. So you’ll only need to pay him once. Yes, only one damage, but over the course of the game it adds up. And if you get any cards that combo with a champion in play (like a Kiln Drone) it will always trigger.

Aetherbreaker ($4, 2x, Merc)  [4 Damage, 10M: 4 additional]. — Lots of cheaper cards are better (more damage or banish effects), but once you get out of the early game 8 damage is significant.

Fao Cu’tul, The Formless ($4, 1x, Champion (4)) [Tap for 2 Damage, 20M: Double all damage]. — In many decks, Fao makes it possible to KO even a high health opponent at 20 mastery. It’s relatively simple to get 10-15 damage, then double it, which is often a finishing move (or enough damage to get close). (In particular, if your opponent is going heavy healing and mastery, you may be able to drop one or two other damaging champions and have them survive a turn). Two damage a turn isn’t bad, but if its early he’s a six-swing play (assuming your opponent won’t want you pinging him for 2 a turn), so reasonable. And as the game goes on …

Scion of Nothingness ($5, 2x, Merc) [3 Damage + 2 for each Wraethe in your discard pile] — Very underwhelming, even in a focused deck. After a reshuffle this is worse than a Nil Assassin. Often one-shotted at the right time (or to deny an opponent in a big-purple deck).

Zara Ra, Soulflayer ($5, 1x, Merc) [4 damage and 1 mastery, 10M: Banish two cards] — A great card, solid damage, mastery gain and the ability to banish two cards will kick in pretty fast. This hits pretty much everything in the wheel of dominance except healing, so it works in most strategies. Even if you aren’t going pure beatdown, you’ll need some damage to clear out champions.

Zen Chi Set, Godkiller ($7, 1x, Champion(5)) [Tap for 3 damage and recover a Wraethe card] — Expensive but good. Eight swing, and if he stays alive you can recover a card every non-reshuffle turn (and even then you may be able to buy, recover).

The Undergrowth

The Undergrowth have the most unify powers. Sure, some of the Wraethe cards give bonuses for having a wraethe in a discard pile, or recover them, but the undergrowth and chock-a-block with it. They are also helped because they have a fair number of cantrips, which means a mostly-green deck can often play 3-4 greens in a turn. While they don’t have as much damage as the Wraethe, they do have a fair chunk of healing, so are a decent match for an all purple deck. They have good swing,

Undergrowth Aspirant ($1, 3x, Ally) [Heal 3, Unify for 5 damage] — Seriously good for a single dollar. Heal 3 isn’t great, but that stops the starting damage of your opponent once through, but if you unify you also do five points. Not to say this is a great card, but since so many undergrowth cards have unify, this is often worth picking up just to trigger their unify ability …. which means its also an eight point swing for this! Compare it to….

Spore Cleric ($2, 3x, Merc) [Heal 4] — For one more point of healing you lose the possibility of five points of damage. This is often one-shotted. (Sometimes just to trigger a unify/dominion card, with the healing incidental)

Le’shai Knight ($3, 3x, Ally) [3 Damage, Unify for +3 damage] — A solid damage card, but again the Aspirant is any 8 points swing if unified, and this is only 6. Again, often one-shotted.

Thorn Zealot  ($3, 2x, Ally) [3 Shield, Draw a card, unify to destroy an enemy champion] — Three shield is solid, not as good as three healing. This is a decent enough card to get just for the shield, since it’s a cantrip. It effectively means you get an extra chance for the unify power to trigger (for this or another undergrowth). Destroying a champion is a nice unify power.  Which means that even if its very early and the opponent has no champions, its not bad, and it can be monstrously good in a mostly undergrowth deck.

Fungal Hermit ($3, 2x, Merc) [+1 Master, 10M: Heal 5] — If you can survive the early game (and a heavy-green deck has a bit of healing) this can help power you towards a mastery victory.

Shardwood Guardian ($4, 3x, Ally) [2 Damage, draw a card, unify to heal 6] — “Sherwood Forest” is a cantrip for damage, but a swing of 8 (assuming you unify). Great card.

Ojas, Genesis Druid ($4, 1x, Ally) [Copy a non-champion card, 20M: Copy it again] — This can get gross. There are plenty of great cards, and this can be a game breaker. But in a non-banish deck we’ve seen it forced to copy Crystals. A very swingy card but if you have any banish this will likely be great, even before you get to 20 mastery.

Ghostwillow Avenger ($4, 1x, Merc) [4 Damage, 15M: Destroy all enemy champions] — Situational, obviously. A player with lots of champions will likely burn it (if possible).

Additri, Gaiamancer ($5, 1x, Champion(5)) [Tap for 2 Damage + 2 for each other Undergrowth ally played this turn] — Decent. He can have some big turns, which means he’ll get killed fairly often. Since 7 of the 22 undergrowth cards are cantrips, he gets into double digits from time to time. Also, the only undergrowth champion, so if you are looking to go Dominion, snap this up (along with Korvus Legoinnaire) even though he’s low damage.

Furrowing Elemental  ($5, 2x, Ally) [Heal 4, Draw a card, and if you are at 50 life gain six damage] — Basically a 4 healing cantrip. It’s rare that the damage kicks in. This card can be gross if you get it first turn, since you may draw it before an opponent is capable of doing four damage. Unless your opponent has forgone damage, a four healing cantrip. It’s always better than not buying it (actually, that’s not true if you have shields, but usually) but there are often better cards to buy (and gain a mastery with your leftover money).

Root of the Forest, ($7, 1x, Merc) [Heal 10, Unify for 10 damage] — Look, a twenty point swing is big and even if you don’t unify, heal ten! Also, this is one of the reasons that the Shadebound Sentry speculative opening is good.

Homo Deus

Most factions have a champion or three. Homo Deus has nine. For reference, there are 88 cards in the deck, 22 of each faction. They are also the “big money” faction, with over half their cards (12/22) providing money. They have no unify powers, but they do have a few champions that get more valuable with other Homo Deus champions in play.

Kiln Drone ($1, 3x, Ally) [$2, or $4 if you have a champion in play] — $4 is big. With that one card its easy to luck into a $7 card (if one is available) or a solid card + a mastery. If you have a few champions (or Li Hin, or Korvus Legionnaire) you’ll often get the full value for this. But $2 isn’t bad, and this is a $1 card.

Mining Drones ($2, 3x, Ally) [$1 and draw a card] — A cantrip crystal, see above.

Primus Pilus ($2, 1x, Champion(6)) [Tap to draw 2 cards if you have 3+ Homo Deus champions on play] — When he’s big he’s great, but there are only nine H.D. Champions. Often this is just a dead card. But if your opponent has many H.D. champions, you may have to buy this and then hope to banish it.

Korvus Legionnaire ($3, 3x, Ally) [2 Shield, 2 Damage, Recover a champion] — Like Shadebound Sentry, worth getting early because it may let you recover a champion later on. Even if you don’t, two damage and two shield is OK (not great). A swing of four if you didn’t have any other shields. If you happen to get a Wraethe/Undergrowth champion, this card is 2/3rds of the way to Dominion by itself! When your opponent has Legionnaire you should (as a general rule) stop trying to kill champions and just focus on killing them. There’s nothing more annoying than doing 8 damage, using five of it to kill their champion, and then see them flash this to shield two of the remaining three and then return the champion into play. Far better to have just pounded them for six. The Legionnaire is enough of a game changer to make it a decent speculative purchase….

Reactor Drone ($3, 3x, Ally) [$3] — Basically your big money strategy. More stable than a Kiln Drone.

Numeri Drones ($3, 2x, Champion (5)) [Tap for $1 and put the next Homodeus Champion you buy into play] — These are … interesting. They are crystals ($1) …. but they stick around. If your opponent kills them they’ve basically shielded you five damage. And if not, then you get the money multiple turns. The putting a Homodeus champion into play … well, 10% of the deck is H.D. Champions. If your opponent is trying heal/mastery these guys can be amazing, which is why you always want to have at least a little damage.

Venator of the Wastes ($4, 1x, Merc) [4 Damage and your opponent loses 2 mastery if you have a champion in play] — The only card that can reduce mastery in the game. Often this isn’t about the final race, but keeping someone below 10 or 15 for an extra turn, and four damage is a big enough burst to be worthwhile in most cases. Expect this to go pretty fast, or get burned. Ironically if you buy this early your opponent can often recover by just going for a fast beat down and ignoring mastery. A very swingy card who can change the game by appearing at the right/wrong time.

Evokatus ($4, 2x, Champion (2)) [Draw a card when you play this, Tap for 1 Damage per H.D. champion] — He’s fragile, sure, and he doesn’t do much damage or take much to kill. But he’s a cantrip so who cares if he dies? Absolutely don’t target this guy if your opponent has a Korvus Legionnaire….

Optio Crusher ($5, 2x, Champion (4)) [3 Damage, 10M: +2 Damage] — A solid brawler. Usually he’ll eat a Wraethe card for you, so this effectively makes him a seven point swing, nine once you are 10M.  But if you get a lucky turn or two where your opponent only does a few points of damage, he adds up.  And 10 mastery can happen pretty fast. Again, a Korvus helps you out. Your opponent will anguish over killing this or eating 5/turn.

Drakonarius ($6, 1x, Champion (2)) [Tap for 6 damage, cannot be attacked if you have General Decurion in play] — Uh, OK. Six damage is nice, but this guy is a creampuff. (On the other hand, eight swing). Sure if you get another single card in play he’s immune, but that is specific. If you already have Decurion, then he’s an easy purchase (or if you have a Numeri Drone, sure.)

General Decurion ($7, 1x, Champion (7)) [Tap for $3, 20M: Copy the effects of all Homodeus Allies you play or have played this turn] — Look, this guy is $3 that will often attract 7 damage right away. If you get to 20 mastery and can then copy a few Drones for extra money, cards great! The rule for all the $7 cards is “If you can get them, its probably not a bad idea” but this guy is glorified reactor drone. But still, you may get multiple turns, he has synergy with cards, etc. He’s good.

The Order

Look, there’s a reason the Order cards are blue. They are Dominion cards. Metagaming effects. Mastery. They aren’t damage or healing. I keep seeing that they are ‘broken’ but you can load up on too many of them and lose easily enough.

Order Initiate ($2, 3x, Ally) [Gain $2 and 2 mastery if you’ve made Dominion] — These can be great, if you started early banish you’ll want to get these to replace some crystals at extra money. Grab a few cantrips from undergrowth and dominion isn’t that hard. But you have to have it when you play them, which means you can’t use their $2 to one-shot the last thing you need. If you aren’t really threatening Dominion, you’d prefer kiln drones for the shot at $2 extra or the Mining Drones. I do buy these if I have banish effects, because a) I’ll be banishing crystals and need the money b) my deck will be much closer to dominion-density.

Cache Warden ($2, 2x, Merc) [Gain 1 Mastery, 10M: Draw a card] — These get snapped up (or burned, if its early or the buyer is desperate right now) right away. Cantrips starting in the mid game, so good if its a low-damage start. A trap in a high-damage game.

Giga, Source Adept ($2, 1x, Champion (4))  [Draw a card when you play this, Tap for 3 mastery, but you must have dominion to use it.] — (aka “Gigasaurus”) A two cost cantrip that may get you 3 mastery? His only downside is to make your shields slightly worse. This card feels undercosted, and I can see why people complain about the Order. But there’s the opportunity cost of buying him. If you get this and your opponent gets an Umbral Scourge (for example) by the time you are threatening to score a dominion he’s banished 2-3 cards and gotten that much mastery. But if the offering is weak and there’s no opportunity cost, snap him up.

Shard Abstractor ($3, 3x, Mercenary) [+2 Mastery] — This is burned surprisingly often. 2 Mastery is fine, but you won’t get it until your next time through the deck, and banishes or cantrips are fighting for position. But this is a solid opening card, aiming not necessarily for a mastery victory, because even 10M gives you lots of options for cards.

Data Heretic ($3, 3x, Mercenary) [Draw two cards] — A thread on BGG calls this the best card in the game. That may be an overbid, but not a gross one. A six card hand makes unify and mastery easier. It makes a big money turn easier to snatch up a great card. It helps your damage get towards a breakpoint. One standard deck archetype is the small deck that cycle most every turn. Of course it can be wrong to buy it if the game is close to the endgame when you might want to boost your mastery that final oomph or burn that last damage, but as an opener or mid-game card? Great.

Systema A.I. ($3, 1x, Champion (4)) [Tap for 1 Mastery, 20M: Draw two cards] — Certainly great if are at 20+M. Early on. Well, this is basically a half shard abstractor that will soak some damage. Fine. (And yet another reason why Korvus is a great speculative card).

Portal Monk ($3, 2x, Ally) [Recruit a card of cost 1-6 for free, 15M: Put it into hand instead of your discard pile.] — Another card that I see in ‘best card’ lists … but I’m not sure. Deck bloat is a real game killer. Even if you already have 15M, there are times when you just wont want to put a card into your hand. (i.e. The offering doesn’t have a cantrip or anything you like). In those cases, your hand size is negative one. And early on the opportunity cost of getting this, waiting for it to cycle, then getting a card, then waiting for it to cycle … ugh. Sure, this can be great, you could luck into a great draw, and if you got early mastery bonus, it may definitely pay off. But unlike Data Heretic, this is a high variance card.

Command Seer ($4, 2x, Ally) [5 Shield, $2] — Perhaps I’m overly down on this, but we almost never buy it. I think that is wrong. $2 isn’t horrible, and 5 shield is great. But in practice I always want to buy something else, like

Cryptofist Monk ($5, 2x, Ally) [8 Shield, Draw a card] — Now that I think about, the card you will draw will often be a crystal, which means that perhaps I should take the Command Seer more often.

Zetta, The Encryptor ($5, 1x, Champion (5)) [5 Shield, Must be attacked before you and the other champions] — A pure damage sponge. Against a heavy attack deck, he’ll stop 10 damage (five as a shield, and five since he must be attacked first). Against lighter decks that can’t always muster 5 damage, he may keep some of your other wimpy champions alive an extra turn or two. If you are both forgoing damage and are in straight race for a mastery victory, he’ll slow you down. (Cards like this are part of why Thorn Zealot is an OK purchase. A 3 shield cantrip could blossom into a “Oh, let’s kill Zetta” moment … even if you aren’t going to kill your opponent, you slow his deck down].

Omnius, the All-Knowing ($6, 1x, Merc) [Draw two cards, Dominion for 5 mastery] — A Data Heretic that may explode for five mastery. Very good card, but very expensive. (If this is on the board then getting a Portal Monk or a Reactor Drone to try and snag this after your reshuffle is worth contemplating). If you already have a few cantrips and/or banished a few cards this isn’t that difficult to hit Dominion with.

The Grand Architect ($7, 1x, Merc) [Gain 5 Mastery] — Surprisingly, this is often burned, because five mastery now usually trumps 10 mastery later.

Written by taogaming

October 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Strategy

Tagged with ,

A rather big month of gaming

In the last month, I’ve played:

Written by taogaming

September 3, 2018 at 9:37 pm

Shards of Infinity

On my fifty-by-fifty geeklist entry for Star Realms, several readers suggested Shards of Infinity.

I picked up a copy about a week ago. Shards of Infinity approximates Star Realms rules and feel, but improves the experience in several ways (my review of Star Realms):

First — “Mastery”. Players start with no mastery (the 2nd player gets a bonus as a balancing mechanism), and can buy one/turn. Naturally cards can give Mastery, but more importantly some cards provide bonuses if you have a certain level of Mastery. The most important of these is the Shard of Infinity (which is a starting card) which does two damage base. If you have ten Mastery, it does three damage instead. At twenty Mastery it does five damage and at thirty, it does …. infinite damage.

While there are a few cards that reduce your opponents Mastery (slightly), it tends to ratchet inexorably upward, and is a big ‘bomb,’ that adds a few flavors to the game:

  • Since you don’t need a card to appear to buy Mastery, you’ll have some turns where your choice is great card costing X, or a lesser card(s) costing X-1 and another Mastery
  • Without cards, you only purchase one Mastery a turn (max), but your starting deck averages three damage every other turn. That goes up with Mastery and many, many of the cards you can buy do damage. So there’s a tension between getting thirty Mastery while avoiding losing. If one player is obviously winning the Mastery race they may stop trying to damage their opponent and just buy healing cards, and a loser may stop buying mastery and just try to build up an attack deck. Ditching mastery frees up money, and often its not clear who is winning.

Second — Mercenaries. These cards can be purchased normally, in which case they are put in your discard pile. But you can just use them once (and then they are replaced in the “available cards” deck). There is a little less trashing in SoI than Star Realms (I think), but the ability to use an effect once (right now!) without bloating your deck provides options. A card that may not be worth taking up a slot in your deck (like, just ‘heal four’ if you are trying to beat your opponent down quickly) may be worth using once, while also denying it to your opponent.

Also, many cards have a kicker ability if you have already played a card of that faction (or the three other factions), so a timely mercenary may give some oomph. (You can also mix your card play and purchase order, as in Star Realms).

Some minor improvements:

  • There are still bases (called champions) but almost none force your opponent to attack them before targeting you. They may still be worth killing, of course (to get their ability off the board, since many do damage, or provide mastery, or money), but its up to you. That, coupled with the fact that you cannot go above your starting health means that it is tough for either player to build up a massive defense. (And infinite damage is always lurking in the future).
  • There are some cards that you can reveal from hand to shield against an attack (they have a shield icon), which also makes the choice to kill champions (and let a weak attack that may be fully shielded) or just send all damage at your opponent another tough choice.
  • The card quality is much nicer, both in terms of thickness and art.
  • There are player tokens that track health and mastery. They look nice, but I have trouble reading my own, much less the TaoLings, so we just use poker chips.

Theoretically, this plays 2-4, but multiplayer would be weird. You can attack whoever you want, so I suspect that whoever jumps out to a perceived lead will get beat down, and its a diplomacy and perception game. That may be fine, but I think the two player game is likely purer.

This will likely be appearing on my fifty-by-fifty list in the next month or so.

Rating — Enthusiastic. and has also dropped my rating of Star Realms to Indifferent (as this has strictly improved on it).

Also, I think I have under one hundred hours of targeted gaming to finish my fifty-by-fifty list, and I’m trying to dedicate at least a few hours a week towards it, so it appears doable.

Written by taogaming

August 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with ,