Each box of Star Realms allows two players to play. The more Star Realms decks you have, the more people can play. If you’ve played Dominion, this is very much like the gameplay; it’s a deck-builder game. Each player starts with 50 Authority (life) points and is dealt 10 cards, shuffled (composed of 8 scouts – for buying more cards and 2 Vipers – for attacking opponents). In the middle of the players, 5 cards are revealed from main deck that is available for purchase. Each player draws 5 cards and continues on to the Main Phase.
There are three main phases of the turn: 1) Main Phase, 2) Discard Phase, 3) Draw Phase. The Main Phase allows the player to purchase other cards, use cards to attack, gain life, or scrap cards. After all actions are completed, the cards are discarded and the player draws up 5 cards again from their own player deck.
This continues on till one player has depleted all Authority points from all players and that player is the winner.
The entire deck is composed of 4 different faction cards (Blob, Trade Federation, Star Empire, Machine Cult). The main difference and the core mechanics of this game that differentiates it from Dominion or other deck builders that I know of is that a lot of the cards played have an engine building mechanic that work together with other cards of the same faction that activate ally abilities. Each faction card has a main ability that is executed when played, but some of the cards have what is called an Ally ability which is also listed on the card. The only way for the Ally ability to be executed is if another faction card that has the same ally ability symbol is in play during that turn. For example, the more Blob faction cards you have played, all the Blob faction cards that have an ally ability can be executed. This is where the strategy comes into play. You want the benefits of having the other faction cards because each one has its own strengths, but you also don’t want to fill up your deck with random amounts of each factions which makes it harder for you to synergies your cards at hand. Also there are base cards available which act as a defense for your authority points. There are regular bases and outposts. Regular bases are always active once played or until it is destroyed. The same goes for outposts. However, outposts are forced to be the target before an opponent can make an attack against you.
When I first saw this box, I completely disregarded it for its size and cover and thought maybe there’s really nothing to it, and I’m not a huge sci-fi fan. But after hearing about all the buzz it’s gotten, I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately for me, when I decided to go get the game, it sold out and was out of print so quickly. I had to wait till they came back in stock. Luckily for me, there was a game app that you can play on your iPad or iPhone that can be quite addictive and it plays really quickly. Also a great practice for you to get to know the cards and gameplay even more. Eventually, I got my own copy of Star Realms, and bought two more later when they were on sale so I can play it with more players – up to 4, 6 players evenly.
It comes in such a small box, it’s great for traveling too. Dominion is a great game, but I also find the set up tedious. So if you need a quick fix for a deck-builder game, this one really takes the cake. This game also won the Golden Geek Award for Best 2 Player game and Best Card game in 2014 (as seen on boardgamegeek); and won the VideoGameGeek Award for best Indie and Mobile/Handheld game in 2014. Just from all the awards they’ve won can prove what a success the game has been. So even though I don’t really like sci-fi themed games (I have very few sci-fi games I own), I did make an exception on this, and the game itself goes beyond its sci-fi plastered theme on it.
There’s nothing really to say about the components or storage. There’s nothing but cards in the box and a sheet of instructions. The artwork however is colorful and fitting for the game. The instructions are simple and well illustrated. If you become a fan of Star Realms, you can spruce up your game through the Star Realms Sleeves and Large storage boxes (if you have more than one deck of Star Realms). I own 3 and I have it stored in one of the bigger Star Realms storage boxes, and it comes with dividers that have some artwork on it. Star Realms has also come out with a few expansions which is great for replay value.
I’ve played this game up to 8 players, and I find it too long. I have yet to play it with 6 players. 2 and 4 players seems to fit just right in. The one minor complaint I have is that if you’re playing with experienced players and you have a few that are new to the game, I find it has a tendency to be a bit unbalanced. Since 2 players each play on a deck of Star Realms, if everyone is seated to where, beginners purchase on one deck, experienced on another deck, and so on… the experienced players may already know what’s best to purchase, and the cards on the market keep moving along and getting purchased whilst for other players, getting new cards on the market might open up slower since they are purchasing from a different deck. It’s not a huge deal, but for some people it may seem a little unbalanced.
Another complaint I have is that even though this game is affordable at first, having to add expansions, I can only imagine it getting to be a bit more costly than I want it to be. If you add an expansion to one deck, and you decide to play with more players, you will have to purchase more expansions for your other decks. I have the expansion for one deck, but I don’t know if I’m willing to pay more to add it to the other decks. I guess, I’ll just stick to two players with the expansions. And I’ll keep the other two decks for four players.
This is not my complaint, but the game does require attacking other players. I don’t mind me some good attacking games, but if you’re not the kind of player who likes player elimination, this might not be for you.
Oh yes. The game hasn’t gotten old yet, and I’ve played it a few times, and I’m still willing to break it out if I need to introduce someone to some deck building game. And as I mentioned before, the game has come out with a few expansions.
Overall, this is a small game with a lot of fun and interaction with other players. If you’re a Dominion fan and also enjoy sci-fi themed games, and still don’t have this game, just stop reading this and go get yourself a copy.