Star Realms Review by Ronny Alexander
Star Realms is an insanely popular deck building game from White Wizard Games. I’ve had a chance to play it about 50 times now and I’m pretty sure I’ll still be playing it 10 years from now.
The overall goal of the game is to take away all of your opponent’s authority (health). You start with 50 authority points, which might sound high, but you will find out rather quickly that one huge combo can take away most of that health.
The ships and bases come in four factions: Trade Federation (blue), The Blobs (green), Star Empire (yellow), and Machine Cult (red). The Trade Federation is great for trade and authority. The Blobs are the most powerful faction as far as direct damage goes. The Star Empire is a very cool faction that allows you to draw cards and make your opponent discard their cards. The Machine Cult is known for scrapping, which is when you trash cards to get a one-time bonus and to thin out your deck.
Each of the factions has a backstory, but it’s more important that you know that ships and bases of the same faction/color can often create some fantastic combos. All you have to do is play two or more cards that share a faction and you will usually get some type of bonus from them.
For example, you could use a Blob Fighter and a Battle Blob to get 11 combat points and draw two cards. Without that synergy, you would not be able to draw any cards. With the synergy, you could potentially win the game by drawing cards that deal additional damage. Pretty cool, right?
When you play ships, you will use their abilities and then they will go to your discard pile. Bases, however, stick on the board until they are removed by your opponent. Some bases, called “Outposts”, have to be taken down before their owners can be attacked directly.
Throughout the game, you will be using the five cards in your hand to buy new ships and bases, attack your enemy and their bases, and heal up when you need to. Every time you take a card from Trade Row, you will be replacing it with a new card, so you are risking giving your opponent great options every time you buy. Of course, you’re also giving yourself new options if you have any trade points left over.
As with other deck builders, every time you buy a card you will be placing it in your discard pile. Once your draw deck has run out, you can shuffle your discard pile and gain all of those glorious new ships and bases you bought.
And that’s pretty much it. You will take turns playing and buying cards until someone runs out of authority points.
One of the best things about Star Realms is that there are a bunch of different strategies at your disposal. You can try to focus solely on faction synergies, or you can try to build up a wall of bases to halt your opponent’s progress and slowly take them down.
It’s also great that you can’t really plan ahead since you will need to see the cards that pop up in Trade Row throughout the game. I get why some people might not like that, but I think it adds some additional tension to the game.
Another reason why Star Realms is one of my favorite deck builders is because there’s a massive amount of replay value in that little box. You do get to know the cards pretty well after 10 or so plays, but I have yet to have a game that felt the exact same as a past matchup.
I really don’t have any major complaints, but one minor issue that you can run into is having a very slow start to the game. Since you start out with a weak deck, you might not have many options during your first few turns. Again, not a big issue.
To me, Star Realms is a game that should be in every board game collection. I’m not even a huge fan of space games and I love this one. You can use it as a filler, or you can fill up your game night by playing a Star Realms tournament (been there, done that). It’s an excellent little deck builder that is portable, inexpensive, and a ton of fun to play.
About the Author: Ronny Alexander of Co-op Board Games
“Co-op Board Games takes pride in finding, reporting on, and reviewing every cooperative game that we can get our hands on. They chose to focus on cooperative games because it seems like the majority of board gamers – new and experienced – enjoy these types of games. Since there weren’t any other sites out there that focused on co-op games, they figured they’d start one!
They usually have 8-10 people play each game, so the reviews you find here will be the collective opinion of the group. Ronny writes up the majority of the reviews and will occasionally share his personal opinions of the games.” – Taken from Co-op Board Games About Page