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Star Realms

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White Wizard Games
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Number of Players 2
Playtime 20 Min
Suggested Ages 12+
Designer(s) Robert Dougherty, Darwin Kastle
Publisher White Wizard Games

Star Realms is a deck-building spaceship combat game by Magic Hall of Famers Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty (Ascension Co-founder).

Star Realms is a quick paced deck-building card game of outer space combat. It mixes the fun of a deck-building game with the interactivity of Trading Card Game style combat. As you play, you make use of Trade to obtain new Ships and Bases from the cards being turned face up in the Trade Row from the Trade Deck. Use the Ships and Bases you acquire to either generate more Trade or to generate Combat to attack your opponent and their bases. When you knock your opponent’s score (called Authority) to zero, you win!

The game consists of:

  • One 80 card Trade Deck
  • Two 10 card Personal Decks, consisting of two Vipers and eight Scouts each
  • 10 Explorer cards
  • 18 double-sided Authority cards for keeping score
  • One Rules Sheet
  • Each card in the 80 card Trade Deck is a Ship or a Base belonging to one of four factions: The Trade Federation, The Blobs, The Star Empire or The Machine Cult.

Trade Federation:
In the distant future, the more traditional governing bodies of the human race have been replaced with corporate leadership. The earth and its surrounding colonies are ruled by a collective of corporations called the Trade Federation. The Federation’s policies are primarily focused around trade and growth, but especially in profit and prosperity for those at the top of the corporate ladder. While they prefer to deal with other star realms with trade and diplomacy, they have a large defense branch dedicated to protecting the Federation’s trade and other interests.

The Blobs:
These mysterious creatures are the first alien life forms to be encountered by the human race. Most of the initial encounters consisted of human colonies being completely destroyed. On the few occasions that a Blob ship was recovered somewhat intact, the only biological remains found inside have consisted of a gelatinous mass, thus leading to the moniker, “The Blobs”. While for the past several years all encounters between humanity and the Blobs have been extremely violent, there is currently some limited trade between various Blob factions and some of the more daring human traders. The Blobs are best at producing massive amounts of Combat and at removing undesirable cards from the Trade Row.

Star Empire:
The Star Empire is made up primarily of former colonies of the Trade Federation. These colonies were on the outer fringes of the Federation. Not only did they feel used by the corporations, but they believed the Federation failed to give them adequate protection from the Blobs. As a result, one ambitious colonial governor was able to unite several colonies into an independent empire under his control, one with a strong military, both for warding off the Blobs and for discouraging the Federation from trying to take back their lost colonies. The Star Empire is a combat oriented faction that draws lots of cards and forces the opponent to discard cards.

Machine Cult:
A cluster of industrial mining worlds were completely isolated from the Trade Federation by the Blobs. With the threat of annihilation by the Blobs always present and no contact with the rest of human space, these worlds were forced to take drastic measures. Soon a cult of technology arose, focused on advanced technology, robotics and computerization to create strong defenses and a powerful military that belied their relatively small population. Since their leaders believed their salvation lay with technology, technology soon became their god and their religion. The Machine Cult gains most of its power from being able to remove undesirable cards from your deck and from having a large number of Bases designed to protect your Authority from attack.

Playing Star Realms:

​When you play Star Realms, you will be able to acquire and use Ships and Bases of any of the four factions. However, many cards have powerful Ally abilities that reward you for using Ships and Bases of the same faction together.

As you get cards using Trade, you place them into your discard pile, to be later shuffled into your personal deck. When you draw Ships, you do what they say and they get put into your discard pile at the end of your turn. When you draw a Base, you play it face up in front of you and can use its abilities once every turn. In addition to Combat being the way you reduce your opponent’s Authority to zero and win the game, it’s also useful for eliminating your opponent’s Bases. Some Bases are referred to as Outposts. Your opponent’s Outposts must be eliminated before you can use Combat to attack your opponent’s Authority directly.

Star Realms is easy to learn, especially if you're familiar with deck-building games, but it’s a game that can take time to master. Every time you play, the game is filled with various strategic decision points. Should I get the best card for me or the best card for my opponent? Should I focus on taking cards of a specific faction or on taking the best card available? Should I be focusing on getting more Trade or more Combat? Should I attack my opponent’s Base or attack their Authority? These are just some of the many decisions you'll be faced with. New players needn’t agonize over these decisions just to play, but as they become more advanced players, they will find this depth of strategy leads to great replayability.

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