With all the shiny and new board games premiering in every aisle at GenCon sometimes you miss out on a few under-publicized expansions. Here I take the opportunity to review two expansions that caught my eye (for better or worse): Star Realms: Gambit Set and Coup: Reformation.
Star Realms: Gambit Set
White Wizard Games, a production company formed by two Magic the Gathering hall of famers, brings us an expansion to their great deck building game Star Realms. First off I want to clear something up; Although classified as an expansion in the Board Game Geek archives the Star Realms: Gambit Set is actually a collection of two promotional packs previously released then padded with two additional cards especially for the GenCon 2014 release.
The Star Realms: Gambit Set brings in 18 new cards, two new modes of play, and a very small addition to the original game. The 18 cards are broken up into the following; 12 Gambits, 4 boss cards, and 2 copies of a ship made to be mixed into the original deck.
Lets cover the change to the original deck first. We are given two copies of the Merc Cruiser to shuffle in. The card is essentially a cheap high damage ship that is able to become an ally to the faction of your choice when played. As can be expected this leads to the card being immediately bought up upon reveal if possible as it is the perfect addition to any deck build or play style. Outside of being an amazing card for any deck the Merc Cruiser does very little to change the overall playing or balance of the original deck in general. Perhaps this card is more of a preview of things to come in the full expansion of Star Realms.
Next up we have 12 silver bordered gambit cards. The gambits add an interesting element of surprise (and another helping of luck) to the main game. At the beginning of a round you arbitrarily decide on a number of gambits to be dealt to each player. Any player can reveal a gambit and use it at the beginning of the game or during any one of their future turns. Most of these gambit cards are trash effects that provide a one time boost to money, damage, or healing along with a handful of other card manipulation gambits. The only amount of strategy added comes from deciding when to reveal and use your gambit and when to keep it as a threat.
Finally we have the most game altering part of the set, the boss cards. These boss cards allow for both solo mode and the ability to team up with any number of other players (still requiring an additional deck per pair of players). In direct proportion to how many players you have the bosses have an increasingly absurd amount of health or do an obscene amount of damage (depending on your boss flavour of choice). The players all take their turns simultaneously which is strategically very important as it allows you to see and purchase the most appropriate cards for your own deck. Once all players have taken their turn the boss gets to unleash their devastation. Cards from the trade row are trashed (or eaten if you prefer) then a special attack is unleashed based on the faction and cost of the card revealed to take it’s place. These bosses are brutal and unforgiving and any one bad draw could mean the difference between a quick death, or a long and slowly drawn out one.
The Gambit Set adds a few minor changes, but in the end there really is no change to the base game. The Gambits are interesting but not enough to justify the cost of the set. The base set provides enough game and variety enough on its own. I would recommend the set only if you find yourself without anyone to play with and/or have a completionists attitude towards expansions. However the inclusion of the Merc Cruisers makes me hopeful for a full expansion to an already amazing game.