With my gaming partner-in-crime, Mick from GameTyrant, off to San Diego this week to attend some local toy show that no one has ever heard of, we did not have our usual Thursday night live-stream edition of Save Point – but that won’t stop me from telling you about yet another game this week! Today we’ll chat about Star Realms, a deliciously addictive deck-builder from the folks at White Wizard Games. Let’s dive in.
Star Realms is an interstellar-themed game that consists of a core deck of cards that will be available to each player via a community “trade row,’ along with a starting hand of 10 cards for each player. The game is designed at its core to be played head-to-head between two people, but it also has rules that allow it to be either a solo solitaire-style adventure or a 3-plus player game (conceivably as many players as you’d like, if you have multiple decks of cards – with owning the core set and all the expansions, the most we’ve ever tried is six players). Each player’s starting deck consists of 8 Scouts, which are ships that generate 1 Trade when played, and 2 Vipers, which are ships that generate 1 Attack when played. All cards in the Trade Deck are shuffled, and five are placed face-up in a “trade row” in between the players; these are the cards that can initially be purchased on each player’s turn, along with a never-ending supply of Vipers, which are ships that provide 2 Trade and an additional 2 Attack if you choose to “scrap” the card by putting it permanently out-of-play during your turn (“Scrap” cards are indicated by a small gray trashcan icon at the bottom of the card). Each card in the trade row has a certain cost associated with acquiring the card; on each player’s turn, he/she will draw five cards out of their draw deck, play them and generate the indicated Trade and Attack, and then spend as they see fit – Trade is used to purchase new cards from the trade row, and Attack is used to injure your opponent. Each player starts with 50 health, called “Authority” – the last player standing wins!
In the core game, cards you can purchase fall into one of two categories: ships and bases. Ships play the same as your starting deck, in the sense that they are used during your active turn and then move to your discard pile, where they remain until your draw deck runs out and you must reshuffle your discard pile to make a new draw deck (cards you purchase from the trade row also go to your discard pile initially, before eventually being reshuffled into your draw deck). Bases, however, operate a little differently: these are cards that, when you play them from your hand, remain on the table in play until your opponent can muster enough Attack to destroy them. Shown as a number inside of a shield in the lower right-hand corner of the card, each base can cost a different amount of Attack to destroy, usually between 3 and 6. Bases come in two different varieties: generic bases feature a gray shield and are optional from an opponent to destroy (i.e. if you have a gray-shielded base that costs 5 to destroy and your opponent only generated 3 Attack, he can use that attack directly on your Authority instead), but Outposts feature a black shield with the word “Outpost” and are mandatory for an opponent to destroy, otherwise he/she cannot attack you this turn (i.e. if you have a black-shielded Outpost that costs 5 to destroy and your opponent only generated 3 Attack, he/she cannot attack you or your Authority at all this turn). Most bases/Outposts also have an ability that is allowed to be used during every turn it remains in play (generating Attack, Trade, etc.).
There’s one magical bit left to the gameplay that I haven’t described yet: Ally abilities. You see, most of the cards in the trade deck belong to one of four different Factions: the Star Empire (yellow-bordered cards), the Machine Cult (red-bordered cards), the Trade Federation (blue-bordered cards), and the Blobs (green-bordered cards). Alone, these cards utilize their regular abilities, along with game-specific tendencies for each faction: Star Empire cards can force your opponent to discard a card out of their play hand, Machine Cult cards can let you scrap your lesser cards from your hand or discard pile, Trade Federation cards can let you regain Authority, and Blob cards are the most powerful forms of Attack in the game. In addition to this, many cards have specific abilities that are triggered when they are played at the same time as another card of that same faction, encouraging many players to specifically target a certain faction of card when purchasing from the Trade Row. For example, the Trade Federation ship called “The Cutter” (a fan favorite) gives 4 Authority and 2 Trade when played; if it’s played at the same time as another Trade Federation card (and yes, bases you have in play count towards Ally abilities) then the ship also gives 4 Attack. While you don’t have to plan your strategy around getting cards of the same faction into your hand, it certainly can be a game-changer if your cards do come in Ally combos, which of course is never fully guaranteed in a deck-shuffling game.
With nigh-infinite replayability and an amazing mobile app that makes for a near-seamless gameplay experience online, the folks at White Wizard have absolutely hit a home run with Star Realms. Several expansions exist that can enhance gameplay in a variety of ways but are certainly not necessary for a solid core-game experience. Several fan groups exist online and many live tournaments are held in cities across the world. Star Realms easily earns a CONTINUE from me!
CONTINUE: a game you enjoy so much, you’d opt to keep playing more right away if you could!
The highest rating for a game.
As mentioned above, normally we have a live-stream of us playing this game, done in conjunction with the fine folks at GameTyrant.com, but this week was a week off for the stream – we’ll be back next week, however! We’ll be live-streaming with them every Thursday night around 6:30pm EDT and, of course, keep visiting our site for written reviews of the games we play and much more!
Tony Schaab misses ‘Futurama’ so much that he made himself a best friend out of a silver trash can and has daily internal debates about cutting off his head and sticking it in a jar. A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.