Guardians is the most interesting expansion yet or, at the very least, the most complicated. There’s a good deal more to keep track of here than in the previous I’ve reviewed/played (Fantastic Four and Paint The Town Red), but the result makes for a much more dynamic and exciting experience. Though Guardians has my favorite team-up in the five heroes used for an expansion thus far, I would recommend starting off with one of the other two first as a stepping stone given some of the mechanics vary so wildly from those and the base game. Experienced gamers should have little issue jumping in after a few hands, though I’d still recommend the ramp just the same.
So what’s new? Artifacts and Shards. Let’s talk about Artifacts first. Rather than being a specific type of ability like those introduced in previous expansions like focus or wall-crawl, Artifacts are powerful cards which remain in play after coming out – think of it like attaching a piece of equipment to your character – which grant specific bonuses. For instance, Rocket Raccoon has an Artifact allowing him to gain a Shard (more on those in a second) every time an Ambush effect or a Master Strike effect is resolved. Drax has a knife which grants one attack/combat per round. Things like that. These effects stack, making your heroes powerhouses with the right combinations. Now Shards are handled in the form of tokens you place either in a pool or on certain cards, these tokens used as bonuses to grant an extra attack/combat (or, with use of a specific card, recruitment) in a one-time-use capacity. You acquire them either through cards or attacking enemies with Shards on them, these also granting bad guys a bonus. Once in their possession, players can hoard Shards in an effort to unleash super attacks, which becomes a necessary strategy when dealing with mega Masterminds like Thanos.
Speaking of Thanos, dude is a monster. I mean, the Titan of Death should be a monster, though I found him an easier opponent than Galactus mainly due to his Master Strike attack being less limiting. Thanos’ villain group are the Infinity Shards which are acquired by players after defeating them and used as Artifacts which also grant bonuses of their own. His attack power is twenty-four, a disgusting number up-front, though for each Infinity Shard in front of the player (and Infinity Shards should not be confused with plain-old Shards), his power is reduced by 2. I’ve had a tendency to get him down to around eighteen or sixteen, and though it can still be tough to reach those larger numbers, that’s where the token Shards come into play. Thanos himself can gain Shards, which boosts his attack making him even more difficult, but the same rules apply. He’s tough, but not mega-tough. Sound strategy and planning can beat him where, again, Galactus, can just ruin your day with a string of poor draws.
The other Mastermind is the Supreme Intelligence of Kree who, I’ll be honest, I don’t know. The only Kree I’m even familiar with is Ronan the Accuser thanks to the Guardians film. This guy is all about buffing himself through Shards, both in his Master Strikes and the Kree villain group he leads who have a number of Ambush effects, all of which grant other Kree characters and the Mastermind Shards. I didn’t find him, or them, too troublesome. Both matches were blowouts, come to think of it, though part of that was luck on my part getting some powerful cards right out of the gate. Gamora – one of the Guardians – has an Artifact which grants two Shards per turn, and allows you to spend five Shards to get ten power, which is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb attack for one card, and from there it’s a swift march to victory.
So heroes. Starlord, Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and Groot. Drax I find to be the least useful, which is a little surprising, he a hybrid support/attack character with a balance of around 70/30 on that. Maybe I just played him incorrectly every time, who knows. The others are all more balanced toward a specific style, and I’m curious to try them in matches outside of the Guardians Masterminds and Schemes, as I have a feeling they’re a free victory given how much of a wrecking ball they can become. I’m also curious how well the heroes will work when split, and whether it will be a pain to use Shards and Artifacts when only dealing with one character rather than five. Perhaps it will just result in a small boost with less item management than putting them all together.
The Guardians expansion is good. The games have lasted the longest out of all others due to the Schemes and difficulty curve of them, with the exception of some unlucky run-ins with Mysterio. Turns also take a little longer as a result of needed planning between turns as you juggle Artifacts, Shards, and card combinations. That’s not a complaint, just something to be mindful of. I sound like a broken record between these reviews, but Guardians is another must-have for Legendary fans. I’d still ease in if it’s your first, and especially with younger players, but the result can feel more like a traditional Collectible Card Game at times over a Deckbuilder due to the mechanics, which is a plus in my book. Scratches that itch just enough.