Wise Wizard Games
Play Time: 20-30 Minutes
Star Realms is a deck building game that has been around since 2014. With a unique theme, short games, and consistent support via expansions, the game has stuck around and is now a fixture in the deck building genre. In late 2021, Wise Wizard Games released a new box set that includes the core set, the gambit set, and a lovely board that allows for both competitive and cooperative play. This makes the game more accessible than ever, giving a new generation of players the opportunity to see what all of the hype is about.
A Brief How To Play
Setting up Star Realms is a relatively quick process. Each player starts with the same 10 card deck that consists of 8 scout and 2 viper cards. They are also given an authority card (Which tracks the player’s health) and sets their authority to 50. The trade deck is shuffled, placed in the middle of the table, and five cards are laid face up to create the trade row. Both players draw their starting hand, then the game can begin.
Play is fairly typical of deck builders. During a player’s main phase they can play the cards from their hand which provide a variety of resources. Trade cards provide currency to buy from the trade row, combat cards allow for players to damage their opponent’s authority, and authority cards restore the turn player’s authority. Most cards have abilities that can vary from active abilities that allow the player to draw cards to static abilities that are always in effect.
Ship cards tend to have their own health that must be depleted in a single turn by combat cards. Players can also use base cards that have their own health in addition to more broad, lasting effects. After the main phase ends, players discard their ships, then draw a new hand for the next turn.
The first player to reduce their opponent’s authority to 0 wins.
Pacing and Interactivity
Games of Star Realms are shockingly fast. Deck builders aren’t exactly the longest games out there, but even for the genre, Star Realms plays quick. Games will often end around 20 minutes in, and it’s this fast pacing that makes it so appealing. Players can play two or three games of Star Realms in the time that it takes to play a single game of Tanto Cuore or Clank!
Star Realms is also not a very friendly game since the objective is to eliminate other players. It’s highly interactive and as far as “a game of solitaire” a deck builder can be. There are no victory points to tally up, and while there are many strategies for defeating your opponents, players don’t need to get bogged down in finding optimal ways to generate points. Simply find a way to reduce your opponent’s authority to zero and execute it.
As a result, Star Realms feels like a great entry level game for those who are interested in the genre. Sure, the game has a high ceiling when it comes to skill level and strategy, but it is one that just about any player can pick up and enjoy. The rules are light and the games are quick, which is the perfect recipe for getting many games under a beginner’s belt.
As expected in this genre, turns are fairly short, especially in the beginning. Late game strategies can lead to long turns as skilled players pull off ridiculous combos, but a turn never overstays its welcome. While there is plenty of room for strategizing, there are only so many options in front of a player at any given moment. Players are less likely to experience analysis paralysis here, thus making it feel great to play for everyone, even the players who are waiting for their turns.
Despite the simplicity, there is still a great amount of depth in Star Realms. Four distinct factions are represented among the cards with different play styles that synergize well together. There are even combinations between factions that work quite well. This system and the variety of ships and bases ensure that there are many approaches to playing Star Realms.
To add to the longevity, there is a cooperative mode that allows up to four players to work together and take on an AI threat. Despite coming in a modest sized package, Star Realms is set to be entertaining for many hours, even without all of the expansions that players can add to the base game.
Theme and Components
Star Realms works nicely thematically, with great art and gameplay mechanics that mesh well with the theme. It’s easy for a game to lose personality when all of the art is space ships, but Star Realms avoids this with the distinct style of the four factions. Putting together a group’s identity and how the ships are used lore-wise is entertaining.
The card quality is standard fare, with solid components that won’t wear out too quickly. The board that is included in the 2021 box is certainly nice for keeping everything neat and organized. It’s a nice touch that makes the table look pretty while staying accessible for new players.
Star Realms Is Great For Fans Of…
Obviously Star Realms will appeal to deck builder fans first and foremost. It successfully streamlines the experience while still retaining a lot of the depth that fans of the genre want.
Those who want a game that is specifically about players beating each other will also get tons of mileage out of Star Realms. It’s a game that lasts as long as the players allow it to, making it flexible for different player types.
Finally, anyone who wants some nice spaceship designs on the table won’t do much better than Star Realms. It’s a great looking game that will appeal to science fiction fans.
Star Realms is a fast-paced and strategic game that is perfect for anyone wanting a more exciting type of deck builder.
Pacing and Interaction
Theme and Components