I’ve always loved card games from way back when I’d play euchre during my lunch break in high school. I tripped into Magic: The Gathering when it was in Beta (yes, I’m THAT old!) and over the years the hubby and I have snatched up various card games for our collection. We’ve collected the Living Card Games and the Collectible Card Games but you can never have too many card games…
Which is why when I picked up a copy of Star Realms on a whim at our local game store I was excited to see how it worked – the space theme hooked the hubby from the start and once we broke the pack open and got going… well let’s just say that within hours we’d planned to get the expansion packs and I downloaded the digital app.
Star Realms is a deck-building game for two players – it’s our second one, after Valley of the Kings. What that means is that you start off with a basic set of cards and add in more cards from the game as time goes on. You build your deck and recycle cards back into play over turns. AEG did a great job with Valley of the Kings and I thought I’d never find a more fun game… until Star Realms!
The objective is to reduce your opponent’s Influence (or hit points as the gamer in me demands it be called) from fifty to zero. You can place obstacles in the way like outposts or bases but these can (and will!) be destroyed as your opponent puts more powerful cards into play.
The game was designed by ex-Magic players and it shows with the balanced factions. All four factions are equally balanced in my opinion and offer bonuses and minuses for players. Since you’ll likely end up playing two or three factions to build your deck up it’s great to have them all mesh well with each other.
You start off with a small deck of Scouts and Vipers which will deliver you money for purchasing more ships or bases and Vipers who deliver attacks. As the game goes on there’s an option to remove some of them from play so that you can whittle your deck down and make it more compressed and stronger without the starter cards. Some cards give you back Authority and deliver punishing blows if you have more than one ship with the same faction in play. Others are bases and outposts that protect you from direct attacks from your opponent. Outposts must be destroyed first, however, and then you can deliver remaining damage to your opponent. But given how powerful some bases are you might choose to take them out.
Your play area has five cards in play for you to purchase along with a set of neutral Explorer ship cards. This allows you to pretty well be able to afford anything no matter how bad your draws are in the start of the game. As time goes on cards move out of play into your decks and also may be discarded by certain cards who will strip them out of the game.
Star Realms plays fast, is fun and has great artwork. I’ve noted before that to me artwork is a necessary piece for a game to be successful – I have no doubt that most of M:TG’s success is because of the faboo art. You can have a great game mechanic but if the art sucks you’re not getting my money.
Star Realms already has expansion packs out but you can enjoy the game with just the starter deck. There is an option for more than two players (if you get another few decks) but it’s a great game for just two players and one you’ll want to play over and over again as you experiment with different alliances and the base abilities.
The game support for this is also fantastic. Aside from being able to download the rules and excellent website support you can get the digital version for free and learn the game that way. If you want to pay for an upgrade you can play against other players online or you can keep it as a resource for yourself for free – it includes a card gallery and you can always go back and redo the tutorial if you need a refresher or aren’t sure about the rules.
I highly recommend Star Realms for anyone who loves card games and loves a fast portable game. If I had a complaint it’d be that some of the card stock is a bit flimsy and card protectors may become necessary if you’re a vibrant shuffler like I am. But that’s a little negative and easily balanced out by the fun gameplay and addictive nature of this game.
If you see this one – grab it and get ready for hours of gaming fun!