The ship was huge, blocking out the stars and darkening the sky. It had us in its tractor beam before we knew it was happening. What would they want with a Star Empire freighter anyway? All we could do was wait as the beam pulled us roughly into the docking bay.

Then, before we could even open the hatch to see what they wanted, they blew the door from it's hinges and all these guys in plastic armor came rushing in and started to shoot up the place. Well, shoot up the place might be a bit of an exaggeration since these guys couldn't seem to hit anything they aimed at. But anyway, among all the random firing (and missing), in walks this big guy dressed all in black and wearing a Light Brite and some sort of respirator. The smoke in these halls really can't be good for him... But he just walks up and grabs Paul by the throat and starts asking him questions. How's a guy gonna answer like that anyway? Well, we didn't even know what he was talking about, saying things about plans and something about rebels.

Imagine his surprise when he found out this wasn't the ship he was looking for. They were in the entirely wrong system. Seems they were looking for a galaxy far, far, away.. Thankfully, he let Paul down, wheezed a halfhearted apology and turned to leave. But before he did, he turned back and handed me something. I look down, confused at what I find in my hand. A cease and desist order. A cease and desist order? Who do they think they are? The Empire?

Uh oh, if they force the issue that could really start a war...

  • Players: 2
  • Duration: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Card Game
  • Deck Building

The Gameplay

 

 

 

 

In Star Realms you find yourself in charge of an basic star fleet battling for interstellar dominance against a force identical to your own. Your goal is simple. Generate trade, buy upgraded ships and defensive bases, and blow your enemy from the skies. Of course, they'll be trying to do the very same thing to you.

Setup begins with each player receiving a personal starter deck of 10 cards. Within each deck there will be 8 Scouts, ships which generate trade, and 2 Vipers, ships which generate combat. Trade is used to acquire upgraded and more powerful cards while combat is used to attack the Authority of the other player. Each player receives 50 Authority to start. This is your lifeblood and you must protect it. Once reduced to zero you lose the game.

The cards that can be acquired during the game will come from a shared Trade Deck which is shuffled and placed in the center of the table. From that deck, 5 cards are dealt out face up in a row to the left of it to create the Trade Row. This assortment of cards will contain the ships and bases a player can purchase during their turn, each with their own power or ability. Next, we add the Explorer cards to the end of the Trade Row. An Explorer is a slightly upgraded combination of a Scout and a Viper and are always available for purchase.

With the game setup complete you're ready to play! Determine which player goes first and they draw 3 cards from their deck. The player going second will then draw 5 cards. During your turn you'll play all the cards from your hand and add up their total trade. Using that trade you'll be able to purchase cards from the Explorer stack or the Trade Row. As long as you have enough you can purchase as many cards as you can afford. Any unspent trade is lost. Once a card is purchased from the Trade Row it is placed into your discard pile and immediately replenished. You'll also add up the total combat of your played cards and directly attack the Authority of your opponent. They decrease their Authority total by that amount. To end your turn, discard all played cards (except for Bases - more on this later) into your discard pile and draw up 5 new cards. Play then passes to the left.

As play continues, you'll start gaining better cards with better abilities. You'll also have some options in what cards you can purchase. The available cards are either Ships or Bases. Both Ships and Bases have a wide variety of abilities, everything from drawing cards or forcing an opponent to discard to increased trade, combat, or replenishing some sorely needed Authority. While they have many similarities, they also have some differences. While Ships are sent to the discard pile at the end of the turn, Bases will remain in play and continue to contribute each turn until targeted and destroyed by your opponent. Some Bases, those with a black shield on them, are designated as Outposts, and MUST be targeted and destroyed before attacking its owner's Authority directly.

Finally, we get to the factions. Each card has an icon in the upper left that designates which of the four factions it belongs to. The green Blob specialize in swarming and combat. The yellow Star Empire tend to force opponents to discard. The red Machine Cult like to scrap (remove from your hand or discard pile) undesirable starter cards. The blue Trade Federation is all about Authority gain. While you're free to have a variety of factions in your deck, there are benefits to focusing on one or two factions. That being the ally abilities. While each card has it's own primary ability that triggers regardless of when you play it, playing a second card of that faction also triggers its ally ability. This can be anything from drawing cards, additional trade or combat, to many other powerful combinations.

Players continue alternating turns, each gaining new ships, bases and allies, attacking each other's authority until there's only one left. Choose your alliances well and you may very well rule the star system. Choose poorly and you may find yourself set adrift in it. Can you manage your resources, expand you fleet, and find a way to claim final victory? Or will you fall short and be reduced to wreckage and debris among the stars? The engines are a go, the countdown has started and Star Realms awaits..

Will you be on board when it takes off?

The Grub


Cheddar Starchips


Galaxy IPA


Jello Blob Shooters

Naturally, with a game like Star Realms, we would be leaning towards a space theme for the grub. And space just wouldn't be complete without the stars. In our case, these stars just happen to be made of cheddar. Our Cheddar Starchips are crunchy and cheesy and great for dipping. Big or little dippers if you will? Speaking of stars, where else would you find them but scattered throughout a galaxy? In this case, a Galaxy IPA. A tasty beer from Big Muddy Brewing, Galaxy IPA really blasts off with it's smooth, hoppy flavor. Not to be outdone our Jello "Blob" Shooters prove that there's strength in numbers. These little guys, like Star Realms blobs, are pretty easy to handle in small numbers but watch out when they get together. It's easy to get overwhelmed and if you're not careful it just might be you that's seeing stars!


The Reviews

Dave's Review:

This is one of those games that really took me by surprise. I bought it on a whim one day when stopping by a FLGS on my way home from work. After playing it I was not disappointed. Let's take a look at Star Realms.

As always, we first take a looks at the components. The artwork is well done and each faction really has it's own unique aesthetic look. There's an organic feel of the Blob and the Star Empire ships are brimming with weapons. The Trade Federation's bright and clean ships and the Machine Cults dim, utilitarian feel. The cards themselves are pretty sturdy and hold up well. And that's saying a lot as many times as we've played and they still hold up. I have recently sleeved them though to prevent additional wear but that points more to the amount of play time than the card quality. The game itself comes complete in a small cardboard tuckbox and contains everything 2 players need to play. Of course, our box has seen better days because we take it pretty much everywhere. The rule sheet is easy to understand and they explain all the details of the game. It also comes with multiplayer rules for 3 or more players but to play 3+ you'll need to purchase another base set. The box does also include some cards that represent the 50 Authority each player gets to start the game. Using combinations of 20, 10, 5, and 1 pt cards this method does work, although it's a little cumbersome when it comes to "making change". We found that using one of the many free life counter apps for our phone or iPad works much better and eliminates the need for them when we play.

As for gameplay, Star Realms really delivers. The game is fast paced and the play is intuitive. While pretty similar in play to other deck building games it manages to improve upon those by adding the ability to directly attack your opponent. This opens up another level of play since the end goal is not to amass points like most deck builders but to deplete your opponents Authority, much like reducing life in Magic the Gathering. This of course is fitting since a Pro Tour Magic player had a hand in its development. I for one think it's a welcome change. It speeds up the gameplay and in the end it's more climactic than just totaling points and declaring a winner. Also unlike some deckbuilders, I believe there's more of a strategy involved in regards to what cards you acquire. Since there's a substantial benefit to trying to maintain some sort of faction synergy you'll be looking to not get those powerful out of faction cards but more of the less powerful ones within your faction instead. I like this facet of the game since you'll never know what cards will appear in the trade row and you'll have to adjust accordingly to find the best balance between factions. If there was one minor critique it would be that the game can be a bit swingy at times. Many games will go back and forth and a player will win by a narrow margin, ending in a very close and tense match. But on more than one occasion, due to the random draw of the trade row, players may end up with a very bad synergy by sheer luck of the draw. This usually is paired with an incredible synergy for the other player, resulting in a very lopsided match. Of course, this really isn't the fault of the game but just implies that no matter the skill of a player sometimes it's just luck of the draw that can win or lose a game. But like I said, it's a minor critique and I feel more times than not our matches have been nailbiters. But no matter how many you win, it's always the bad beats you really remember most vividly.

Regardless of that, Star Realms is one of my favorite games. It's quick and extremely easy to teach and play. It's also portable and can go with us everywhere. We've even broken it out for quick plays at restaurants while waiting for dinner to come. Katie was immediately enamored after our first play. In fact, she likes it so much she entered and won a tournament at Gen Con last year to bring home that cool playmat you see in our pictures. I'm extremely happy that I brought home Star Realms. It's easily our go to game when we need a quick fix. Add to that the fact that there's a digital version for PC, Apple, and Android and that's a whole lot of Star Realms. They also just released their Crisis expansion packs adding more ships and bases as well as the new Heroes and Event cards. If you like deckbuilding games I really think you should pick this one up. You won't be disappointed.

I give Star Realms 7 of 10 Vicious Vipers


Katie's Review:

This is one of those games that I would not know what I ever did before it existed, seriously! Star Realms is responsible for rekindling my love of card games and for opening up a whole new genre of deck building games for me. The designers have also spawned an iPad app and thus created a monster. I will admit that this is my go to game for just about anything. Sitting on the couch, let's play star realms. Waiting for dinner, let's play star realms. Sitting on the ... Well you get the idea. I really like this game.

I have very little to complain about this game. Star Realms is a well balanced deck building game for both the beginner and experienced gamer. I do feel that it is a pretty fair game for all levels of gamer and it has great replay value. The art on the cards is well done with the blob faction looking like space themed sea creatures. We tend to not use the included authority counter cards. When we play we tend to use a life counter app or a few d20s to keep score instead. We also quickly put the card sleeves on the cards because we were playing it so much that the cards were wearing down already. See, told you we played it a lot..

I give Star Realms 10 of 10 Blob Destroyers


Looking to pick up Star Realms?

Star Realms can be purchased at Amazon or at your local game store. Ours is the Wandering Dragon out in Plainfield, IL. If you're local check 'em out. It's an incredible place run by some incredible people. You won't regret it!