by A.J. Coltrane
Star Realms — A space-themed deckbuilder available either as an android app or as actual physical cards. The full app version is $5. The base set of cards runs around $15.
Like Dominion, the object of Star Realms is to build an efficient deck from a selection of cards available on the table. You can buy Outposts, Bases, and different varieties of ships, each of which provide some combination of offense, defense, buying power, life restoration, or deck thinning.
In contrast to Dominion, you and your opponent start the game with 50 life (“Authority”). The winner is the last player with Authority greater than zero.
An example of a ship that might be available for purchase, the Ram:
The Ram costs 3 “Trade” to buy. (The number in the upper right corner of the card.) It does 5 damage. The green circle on the card indicates that the Ram is also part of the Blob faction — if other friendly Blob faction are in play the Ram does an additional two damage. Finally, the Ram can be “trashed” (removed from the game) at a gain of 3 Trade.
Pictured next is an Outpost — War World. A big advantage of outposts and bases is that they stay in play until destroyed, in effect thinning your deck. They also provide some measure of defense.
War World costs 5. It does 3 damage unless it has an ally in play, in which case it does 7. It also has 4 defense, and must be destroyed by the opponent before they’re allowed to damage you.
The app is free to play. Spending $5 upgrades the game to include harder opponent AI options and turned-based asynchronous matchmaking. (In other words, your opponent sends a move, then you log in and play your move, and so on.)
I’ve played both the over-the-table game as well as the online app. The games go fast, and while it’s not quite as “deep” as Dominion, there’s still plenty of strategy, lots to learn, and there’s always the possibility for making a big stompy combination to win the game.