I can admit to suffering a bit of deck builder fatigue. Dominion took a year of my life away from me and it’s only been the last couple of expansions that I’ve been able to resist buying. I enjoyed Core Worlds, Ascension and more recently DC Deck Builder, but the core mechanics and strategies felt very similar.
I was a bit wary of trying out Star Realms even with endorsements from some trusted advisors. Maybe that is why I was so pleasantly surprised by this quick, head-to-head, sci-fi game. It is a deck builder and does borrow some mechanics from other games, but somehow Star Realms feels fresh.
In Star Realms you command ships and bases from four different intergalactic races. The Blobs deal out heavy damage to other players, the Trade Federation allows to heal a bit of that damage back up, the Star Alliance is all about cycling through your deck and the Machine Cultists allow you thin your deck.
The goal of the game is a simple one, deplete your opponent’s 50 health points before they’re able to snuff yours out. Like Magic The Gathering, your ultimate target is the other player.
The cards in Star Realms have different icons on them that hold value in attacking, buying and healing. Some cards also have an effect if you scrap them (remove them from the game). When playing two cards of the same faction you can unlock a secondary function of those cards. For example a Blob card might deal four damage to an opponent, but played with another Blob card it will deal an additional two damage.
Bases have a permanent effect and they stay in play until they are destroyed. They may add extra money or attack each round and they also provide a faction symbol that can be used to unlock secondary functions on cards. There are normal bases and then there are Outposts. A normal base can be ignored in favour of attacking your opponent directly, but Outposts must be destroyed first before any damage can reach the player.
Everyone starts the game with eight Scouts (worth 1 space dollar) and two Vipers (worth 1 attack). Five cards will be available in the line up for purchase and there is a stack of the very affordable Explorers to be purchased as well.
There are a lot of included variables in the game for more than two players and some seem pretty interesting. I have yet to try it as anything more than a head-to-head, although I’d love to give team play a shot.
Star Realms is a really quick game. It plays in about 15-20 minutes and it’s simple enough that even new players can pick up the rules. My mom beat me her first game! I definitely recommend checking it out. With it’s small size and reasonable price point, Star Realms goes with me everywhere these days!