Star Realms is a light deck-building card game that plays in about 20 minutes. The base game is for 2 players but can be expanded for more.
“Star Realms is a fast paced deck-building card game of outer space combat. It combines the fun of a deck-building game with the interactivity of Trading Card Game style combat.” – Star Realms Board Game Geek page
The game starts with a game deck and the ‘Trade Row’ in the middle of the table and each player starts with a 10 card deck made up of Scouts (basic money cards) and Vipers (basic attack cards). The trade row is made up of 5 cards taken from the main deck and placed in a row face up. Players will take 5 cards from their own decks to make up their hand on each of their turns but for the first turn the player going first takes 3.
On each persons turn they will play the cards in their hand in whichever order they want. Cards played will give the player money, attack power, Authority, or various things such as the ability to draw more cards or discard cards. Money allows players to purchase new cards of varying strengths and costs from the trade row to add to their deck. Attack power is used against the other player to lower their ‘Authority’ (health). Cards that provide ‘authority’ will boost your health and keep you in the game a bit longer. By the end of each players turn they will have played or discarded all the cards from their hand, discarded any newly purchased cards, and draw a new hand of 5 cards. If their deck does not have enough cards they simply shuffle their discard pile and form a new deck. Play goes on in this way until one player has attacked the other enough to bring their initial Authority (health) of 50 down to 0. This is basic gameplay.
The game adds more strategy by having four factions represented on the cards. Each card belongs to a specific faction save for the basic cards. Faction cards may also give players bonuses if they are played in the same turn as you have played other cards of the same faction. For instance one card might give you 2 coins, but if you play another card from the same faction it also lets you draw a card. Each faction tends to lean to one type of play, The Federation is a health giving faction, The Star Empire involves drawing cards and making your opponent discard theirs, The Blobs are heavy on attack, and the Machine Cult allows you to get rid of unneeded cards has many star bases to protect you.
Thoughts: First of all I love science fiction and deck-building games so this is already right up my alley, but it’s also a very good game for how quick and light it is. There are many strategies that you can try and different ways to build your deck that it will keep the game interesting for a nice long time. The game is also inexpensive (~$15 CAD) and comes in a small package so you can literally bring it anywhere. If you enjoy games like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering but don’t want to put in all the money to buy card after card hoping to keep up then you will enjoy this self contained game. Out of the box it is a two player game but you can buy another core set or the stand-alone expansion called Colony Wars and it becomes a 2-4 player game with a few different options for play like Free-for-all, teams, and more. The artwork is nice, not mind-blowing but it does what it’s supposed to and looks pretty nice. If you are playing the game often you might want to get a plastic deck box to store it in as the original box may wear out quickly after awhile.
For the Parents:
Violence: There is mechanical combat involved, you play a card and it brings your opponents health down. There is nothing overtly depicted on cards, just space ships and star bases.
Sexual Content: None.