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Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Star Realms

Star Realms is a quick little deckbuilding game, designed for two players, but expandable for more. It's basically Ascension with a sci-fi theme, if you're familiar with that game, but at a fraction of the price (Star Realms retails around $15, although it's currently sold out and the secondary market is filled with inflated copies)

In Star Realms, you start with a deck of 10 cards - 2 Vipers and 8 Scouts. Each Scout generates one currency when played, and each Viper generates one attack. You draw five cards a turn. Once you play a card, it goes to a discard pile and eventually gets reshuffled back in. You use currency to "purchase" more cards - adding them to your deck, and you use attack to...well...attack your opponent.

One of the most basic and common upgrades is the Explorer ship. There are always multiple Explorer class ships available for purchase. They cost two currency (as seen in the upper right corner under the glare), and generate two currency when played. In addition, you can "trash" the card (removing it from the game entirely) to generate two attack as well. This is shown by the two attack next to the trashcan icon at the very bottom.

The majority of the cards for purchase fit under one of four factions. Each faction of cards plays a little different. You can mix and match as you please, but many cards have additional bonuses when played at the same time as cards of the same faction. For example, the Blob Fighter below generates three attack on it's own, but if played with another Green card, it also lets you draw an additional card.

Whereas most of the cards reflect spaceships and are played, used, and discarded, there are also space station cards, that are represented horizontally. Station cards remain in play until destroyed, so the Recycling Station below would generate one currency every turn, or allow you to discard two cards and draw two more. The "four in a shield" on the bottom right reflects it's hit points - if your opponent hits it with four points of attack, it is destroyed and sent to the discard pile, although it'll get reshuffled back into your deck eventually.

The goal of the game is to reduce your opponent's life total to zero. Each player starts with 50. By using attack points, you can reduce your opponents life total, although your opponent can also heal themselves through various cards as well. They include cards numbered with 1, 5, 10, and 20 to help keep track of life, but I much prefer pen and paper or phone's calculator than flipping through cards.

Star Realms is a quick, fun little game if you like these "deckbuilding" games. There's nothing really new or groundbreaking with it - most in the genre is the same. But the price point ($15) is low enough on this one that if you get a few play throughs of it, it's paid for itself. It also fits into a small deckbox, so is easily stored in your car's glove compartment to pull out when you just have a few minutes for a quick game.

I wouldn't pay the inflated secondary market prices for the game ($50 on Amazon as of today), but when it's reprinted, it's a great buy at $15. I hope to play a few games of it at GenCon this year!


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