White Wizard has published the card game Richard Garfield intended to make–a game to pass the time while waiting for endless hours in endless lines at endless conventions–Star Realms! Magic:TG no longer holds this distinction due to it’s evolution into a very epic–involved–money-sucking card game which I pay tribute to because it was the first. It literally revitalized the gaming scene. But with the recent innovation of the deck building mechanic being introduced within newly released card games, the idea of coming to the table without a pre-constructed deck of cards–where you actually use game turns in order to add cards to your growing deck (hence, deck building)–card games have been thrust into the limelight again.
I love Star Realms and completely agree with the blogger who praised the game where the goal “is just to kill your frickin’ opponent!” It’s just that simple–and easy! Too many card games–CCG’s and deck building–have more than one goal or victory condition in order to win and Star Realms just goes for the throat! Who needs other statistics like Influence Points, Control Points, Honor Points, etc., to be a factor in beating your opponent when all you need is massive frickin’ FIREPOWER?! Furthermore, the game’s designer–Darwin Kastle–hasn’t filled the cards faces with lots of symbols, icons and microscopic text; streamlining them with a basic 4-symbol format with their meanings being: Trade, Combat, Authority and Scrap. As for Card icons, these too are kept to a basic 4-icon format which are meant for the 4 Factions–Blob, Trade Federation, Star Empire and Machine Cult–represented in the games theme which is: ALL OUT INTERSTELLAR WAR!
Simple design, simple rules, complex strategy, fully addicting and it all comes in a small, compact box filled with 128 cards–everything you need for a 2-player game. You don’t need anything else. And it can be played anywhere you roam. Stuck in an airport? Toss some Star Realms cards around in a session with a fellow traveler while you wait. Is it your lunch hour? Slam a session of Star Realms together with a co-worker who likes gaming as much as you. On vacation? Teach someone Star Realms and take a break from playing Hearts at the beach house. It is a game perfectly designed for the committed, dedicated card flopper as well as the occasional table-top gamer who will play a game to just play a game. What makes it even more genius in design is the fact it is a non-collectable card game and an expandable one if the owner so chooses. This makes the price tag easy on the wallet. Bonus! And absolutely brilliant.
An very important trait for a card game to be successful is it’s theme–especially if it’s a CCG or a deck building card game–and Star Realms fills the bill perfectly by having Interstellar Conflict as it’s base-theme. Cards explode with illustrations of various types of starships and space stations or outposts; drawing the players into its universe with their exciting depictions of battle cruisers, battleships, frigates, corvettes, orbiting battle stations, etc., unleashing their weapons upon their enemies. The artist’s cosmic depictions of war make me think back to my days with the now-dead CCG, WARS:TCG–an excellent card game in its own right. The illustrations are so cool; looking like a Military Sci-Fi novel written by David Weber threw up all over them–colors blasting off the standard card stock like an episode of Star*Blazers. So perfect for a game that’s all about cunning and brute force in achieving a tactical victory.
Pulling the large stack of cards from their box, I quickly separated the 2-players’ Scout/Viper Decks from the 80 card Trade Deck and the 10 Explorer cards. Ever play the deck building game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer? If you have, you’ll recognize the card set up on the table because it’s almost the same which shouldn’t be surprising considering Star Realms designer, Darwin Kastle, had a hand in that deck building card game too. On the right side of the table I placed the Trade Deck–leaving space next it for the Scrap Pile–and the 10
Explorer cards on the left; leaving enough space between them to fill with 5 face-up cards dealt from the Trade Deck to form the Trade Row. Players will pool together Trade Points from the cards they play from their 5-card Player Hands in order to acquire new ones from the Trade Row; adding them to their Discard Pile to be used in later turns when a Player has to shuffle there Discard Pile into a new Player’s Deck. You experienced card floppers know the drill & it’s a pretty basic mechanic when it comes to deck building card games. And an effective one; keeping the card game moving at a quick pace.
Each card represents either a Ship or Base with some of the Bases designated as Outposts; making up the sum of the 80 cards within the Trade Deck. Players start their turns with a starting base Player’s Deck of cards with 8 Scout ships (Trade Points) and 2 Vipers (Combat Points). It is with these 10 cards players acquire the cards available in the Trade Row on the table or deal damage to the opposing player’s Bases/Outposts or their Authority (aka., Hit Points, Life Level, etc.). As players acquire cards, they will be
able to play them in later turns to either: 1.) Play cards from their hands, 2.) Use the Ally/Scrap abilities of in-play Ships and Bases, 3.) Use Trade to acquire new cards from the Trade Row, 4.) Use Combat to attack an opponent and/or their Bases–to paraphrase the Rule sheet. With these options during a player’s turn, gameplay is fast and furious; making it a blast for the experienced card player who wants to take a break from an in-depth CCG like Legend of the Five Rings (AEG) or from the gateway deck building game, Dominion (Rio Grande Games).
I could go on about the mechanics of this game and it’s game-flow but I just want to go back to playing it. I love it so much, I bought the app.; downloading it into both of my tablets, this laptop and my smart phone. People elsewhere in the world must feel the way I do because this rumble-amongst-the-stars card game is being imported to other countries who want to get their hands on it. So between social media and travel, there are many way to get yourself a copy.
To me it is one of the best games to come out in recent years–perfect for both the casual and fanatical gamer alike. It’s design is practically flawless in it’s game play, mechanics and to further add to its brilliance in design, the expandability of it is undeniable. And it has been expanded with the games supplemental set of individual expansion packs found in Star Realms: CRISIS. What I love about the expansion is it’s broken into separate packs which allows you to add cards and their types at your own discretion–frickin’ genius! Within CRISIS, players will find four, pre-set, 12-card expansion packs separated into: Events, Heroes, Bases & Battleships and Fleets & Fortresses; protecting the card shuffling junkie from not going broke with a single purchase–a pain all of us table-top gamers know all too well. I’m telling you, if the stars are right–as I truly believe they are–this compact, portable, exciting deck building game is going to win awards. Lots of them.