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.
3 thoughts on “Recommended Game — Star Realms”
Personally, I improved a lot more with the in-person play than with the application, as players can kibbitz about strategy, etc. One thing worth mentioning that the online app has is the ability to view your opponent’s discard pile and draw stack. Very helpful info if you have multiple games and forget who’s been doing what since your last move.
I’m very tempted to purchase some of the expansion packs for the table-top version, just to see how they mix up the gameplay.
I feel like the base game has enough replay value that I’m inclined to wait on the expansions. Maybe they’ll get cheaper. If not, it’s a good price for a holiday gift to me.
I received the expansion sets yesterday, plus some promo cards that came with the storage box.
The Heroes expansion is a set of purely scrappable cards. They are all one-use cards that invoke Allied abilities without really bringing anything to the table. Frankly, they seem pretty useless.
The Events expansion is more interesting, as they come into play immediately upon hitting the Trade Row. Pull one into the Trade Row and you apply the text, such as “Scrap everything in the Trade Row” and “Everyone gets 6 Authority”. Since they’re also one-use cards, they don’t change game balance much.
The Fleet and Bases expansions have actual ship and base/outpost cards, some of which are high-powered but most of which are variations on existing, low-power cards.
The Gambit expansion is different, in that a certain number (you decide) of Gambit cards are dealt out to players at the start of the game. These are also scrap-only cards that you can bring in for one use in one turn.
The Promo cards I received were Mercenaries (ships and bases) which are unaligned but, like the Mech World, will ally with anyone.