Star Realms is one of those deckbuilding games I talked about in an earlier post. It is a very fun little game that has many of the common deckbuilding traits but also has some unique features that make it stand out from the crowd.
As the name implies, Star Realms has a sci-fi theme instead of the usual fantasy fare, which is a refreshing change. It’s a very compact game, just a regular card-sized box about 3 inches thick. It comes with everything you need for a 2-player game, but can be easily expanded.
The big difference between Star Realms and many deckbuilders is that instead of trying to rack up the most victory points, you’re actually trying to take down the other player. Each player starts with 50 hit points (the game calls them “authority” but whatever), and the game ends when one player reduces the other to 0. Having HP eliminates that whole “don’t know who is winning” issue deckbuilders can have, because you can always see how many HP you and your opponent have left. It also adds a sense of urgency to the endgame; instead of just piling up points lackadaisically you have to really monitor the action and do whatever it takes to win as the game winds to a close.
There are two types of currency in Star Realms, money (officially called “trade“ ) that is used to buy cards, and attack points (called “combat“) used to attack the other player with. There are also some cards that allow you to increase your HP, but healing isn’t a very big factor in the game. Cards come in two flavors: ships, which are discarded after being played, and bases, which stick around after being played and only go away when the enemy destroys them. Bases are nice because (most of them) produce something for you every turn, and some of them, called “outposts” provide an additional benefit: if you have an outpost in play your opponent must attack it first before you or any non-outpost bases.
As normal, players start with a 10 card deck, 8 ships that provide money and 2 that provide attack points, and draw a hand of 5 cards. Each turn consists of playing your 5 cards, buying new cards, and attacking your opponent. The cards you can add to your deck have a nice variety of abilities, including making your opponent discard, scrapping cards (i.e. starter cards to make your deck stronger), drawing more cards, destroying opponent bases, and more.
One other thing that really adds to the depth of the game is factions. There are four factions (I have no idea what the names are, I just call them by the 4 colors: red, blue, green, and yellow). Some cards have a faction power that will only activate if you have another card of that same faction in play. So if you play a green card that has a faction ability and you have another green card in play, even a base, the faction power activates. Obviously gathering up cards of the same faction can be beneficial, although you won’t always be able to.
Each faction has somewhat of a specialty to it, such as drawing cards, healing, or attacking. Between the specialized colors and the fact that each player has hit points, the game ends up feeling a bit like Magic the Gathering where both players are drawing from a common deck (deckbuilders are often compared to Magic, usually erroneously, but here it’s a pretty decent comparison).
Overall it’s a very fun game. I haven’t gotten the chance to give it that many reps yet, but I’m eager to continue playing it. Some of the things I really like about it are:
- The accelerated pace – Most deckbuilders start off slow, with a gradual buildup before until the middle or end of the game, when things really get going. The individual cards in Star Realms are pretty potent, so games get going in a hurry, and consequently don’t take long. A game might take only 15 minutes or so, a far cry from a typical deckbuilding game.
- The low cost – You can pick up a copy on Amazon for around $14 and that gives you everything you need to play, including cards that keep track of your hit points.
- The easy expandability – Want to play with more than 2 players? Just pick up a second set, shuffle it in, and now you can play with up to 4 players. Nifty! And the game even includes official rules for multiplayer games that look really fun, like 3 on 1, teams, and free-for-all. Can’t wait to pick up another set and try some of those out.
It’s a great, cheap, fun game that you only need one other player for. If you are interested in deckbuilders and want to try them out this would be a great one to start with.
Thanks for reading!