Board Game Night: Star Realms

I had a wonderful board game night last weekend. I wanted to write about some of the games I played, and enjoyed. As I’ve only played each of these games one or two times, These won’t be full reviews, more “first thoughts” articles. So these will be short and sweet, but not necessarily in depth. 

Star Realms by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle is a fast paced two player deck building game. Each player starts with the same ten card deck and draws and plays five cards each turn, buying new ship cards and attacking their opponent to reduce their Authority score from fifty to zero. 

Players use trade to purchase ships from the middle of the table, where five cards are turned up to make a trade row. Each time a card is purchased, it’s put in that player’s discard pile, to be shuffled into the deck again, next time you run out of cards to draw. Ships played from your hand are discarded at the end of your turn, while space stations (cards in landscape, rather than portrait), stay active on the game field until they are destroyed. 

There are four deck colours in Star realms, each with a different play style. When played in different combos, these colours balance beautifully together. Cards of the same colour may synergise with one another, giving them bonus effects. So as you play you’ll want to focus your deck as much as you can on two colours. Though this might prove problematic if your opponent is using the same colours. And even if they’re not, you’ll have to decide if you want to buy a card just so they can’t have it, even if it’ll mess with the streamlining of your own deck. 

Towards the end of the game, if you’ve built your deck well, you’ll be able to play far more than your five cards, as card buffs and synergies let you draw more. You’ll have damage stack together to put towards devastating hits against your opponents, and be fighting for the win by the skin of your teeth. All three games we played, could have been one by the other player if they’d had just one more turn, so it can be a tight game, but is extremely rewarding. 

Just about the only gripe with Star Realms that I have is the default system for counting “Authority” which inevitably gets referred to simply as HP by us. The game comes with a mini deck of cards with various numbers on them (1,5,10,20), and when you take a hit, you’re supposed to discard and rearrange the deck so it holds only the value of your current HP. This is a very clunky way to keep score, so we found ourselves just using the calculators on our phones to keep track of it. So keep that in mind. Even a sticky note and a pen would be less clunky than the cards to track this. 

In the end Star Realms is a game that is easy to play and gets more fun as you learn what each deck and card does. The games are relatively quick, and it was easy for us to play three times in a row (we would have played more if the rest of the group weren’t ready to move on). It comes in a conveniently portable little deck box and is easy to teach to others, with fast 20 minute rounds. It would make a great entry level deck builder game for folks unfamiliar to the genre, but is streamlined and balanced enough for folks who are more experienced to still find it enticing and fun. It’s a great, affordable two player game, and you might want to check it out. 

You can find out more about Star Realms here: 

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