Game title: Star Realms
Designer: Darwin Kastle
Manufacturer: White Wizard Games
I bought Star Realms on a visit to Ecclectic Games in Reading, UK. As you would expect the staff in the shop are keen gamers and very knowledgeable. After discussing my game collection and mine and Amy’s current love for Dominion, we looked at some 2-player deck-builders and narrowed it down to Star Realms and Ascension. Give the different price point of the two games (around £13 and £25 respectively) and Amy’s love of all things space, I opted for Star Realms. The current ranking on Board Game Geek didn’t hurt either, at #54.
Star Realms is a spaceship combat deck-building game. Each player starts with the same deck of 10 basic cards, which have a total value of 8 Trade and 2 Combat. Trade allows a player to buy Ships or Bases from the trade row on their turn, whilst Combat deals damage to an opponent’s Authority or destroys their Bases if this can be achieved in one hit.
Ships belong to four separate factions; Green, Blue, Yellow and Red. Each faction has its own specialisation; Green typically deals damage, Blue increases your authority or provides additional trade, Yellow typically allows a player to draw more cards from their deck into their hand or forces the other player to discard and Red allows a player to streamline their deck by discarding low value ships as the game progresses.
If a player draws two ships of the same faction from their deck into their hand of five then they can use the Ally Ability, which is often a powerful increase to the actions which can be taken that turn eg. bonus damage on a Green card. This means that it is beneficial for players to collect cards of the same faction, meaning that players focus on perhaps two factions per game. In my opinion the factions are slightly imbalanced – Blue and Green seem somewhat more powerful than Yellow and Red in particular. I find myself only buying red when I’m forced to or only have one Trade left in my hand to spend on a Trade Bot.
|The Power of the Ally Ability + The Power of 'Draw Card' = AWESOME TURN!|
Winning the game currently seems to be down to random chance rather than skill, although maybe I am yet to become a skilled player. I find it difficult to control the power of my hand and prevent my opponent from becoming more powerful. The same is true in the App, where I seem to either lose catastrophically in one 40HP damage turn, or win by a significant margin. This said, when playing the physical game, it often ends up much tighter, where the loser would definitely have annihilated the winner on their next turn.
Although I rate the game highly, I do not think its position in Board Game Geek’s rank of #54 is justified. There is no doubt that the game is enjoyable and that there is fun to be had in inflicting some serious damage on your opponent with one awesome hand, however I think it has limited playability. We have played this game many times in the first few weeks of ownership, as well as playing on the Android and iOS app, but I do think I will become bored over time. It’s a quick, fun, 2-player game that is certainly not too challenging and is very accessible.