Star Realms by White Wizard Games is a fast-playing deck building game using the “Center Row” mechanic also used by the popular game Ascension. The game was launched via a very successful Kickstarter and is now seeing a steadily increasing popularity in Boardgamegeek due to it’s combination of affordable price, quick gameplay, interesting decision-making, and confrontational nature. This game was tailor made for me; I’ve toyed many times in the past with developing a deck-building confrontational space-themed game, so even though I missed the Kickstarter finding that one already existed was quite exciting. I really enjoy Rune Age which has a similar confrontational deck-building style, as well as Ascension which uses a very similar Center Row mechanic. After a few plays I can tell this game is a solid gem and one that I’m happy to review and recommend.
Part of the elegant design of Star Realms was the decision to make cards the only component, which allows the game to sell in a tiny deck box and at the incredibly low MSRP of only $14.95. The base game only supports 2 players, but 2 base games (raising the price to $30 MSRP or roughly $20 from online retailers) allows up to 4 players at once which is still a very low price point for the amount of gameplay you get.
The 118 cards in each copy of the game are broken down into 2 10 player starting deck cards (8 scouts and 2 vipers for each player), 10 neutral and always available Explorer cards, 18 cards that can be used to track Authority totals (basically life counters) and an 80 card Trade deck used to populate the center row. The cards in the Trade deck all belong to 1 of 4 factions, with each faction having 20 cards total. The physical card stock is acceptable but I did sleeve mine due to all the shuffling involved; fortunately they are standard trading card size so easy to find sleeves for.
The card art is vibrant and colorful, with a slightly stylized look that suits the feel of the game just right. While this sort of art is very much up to taste, I enjoy it. It is all from the same artist and so has a consistent style. The card layout uses symbols to describe the most common abilities, with text used for the few cards that have more complex abilities. It’s quite easy to tell at a glance what most cards do, which is nice since you are constantly evaluating new cards as they appear in the center row. Overall the design of the cards is nearly perfect and does much to improve the experience of the game while also keeping it easy to teach.
Personally I don’t use the number cards provided to track authority, I prefer to use a counter of some kind such as the Threat Trackers from the Lord of the Rings LCG or just a pad and paper. However the cards are a nice thing to have as they allow the game to be transported and played with just cards alone. They are also kind of necessary to make the game complete in the box so I can understand and appreciate their inclusion even while I choose not to use them myself.
Players play starship cards to (more…)