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Card Game Review: Star Realms

Deck builders are one of the best games to pick up and play over an extended period of time, especially with established companies invested in deck building titles. From DC Comics Deck-Building Game, to the curious Kickstarter-backed title, Barbarossa, there’s a lot of diversity in a relatively niche sub-genre of deck games. Contributor Murray Butler has returned to offer his insights in this Sci-Fi inspired deck building title, Star Realms.

star-realms-logo

Overview

Publisher: White Wizard Games
Game type: Deck builder
Average game length: 15-20 minutes
Price: £18.00 (Amazon Link)
£Free (Steam Version)
£Free (Android Version)
£Free (iOS Version)

Review

Gameplay

For anyone familiar with deck building games like Dominion or Shadowrun: Crossfire, the base gameplay of Star Realms will instantly recognisable. You have a starting deck of basic cards which you bulk up with better cards throughout the game whilst trying to get rid of all the chaff cards out of your deck. After you’ve exhausted your deck, your discard pile is reshuffled and is recycled as your new deck.

Everything about Star Realms’ gameplay is designed to be as simple as possible. Players only need to manage two quantities throughout their turn (Trade and Combat) with the former quantity being used to buy new ships from the Trade Row, a constantly refreshing selection of five cards, and the latter being used to reduce the Authority of the opposing player.
Cards in the game are divided between two categories and four factions. The categories of card don’t affect the game drastically, Ships are discarded at the end of a turn but Bases will remain in play until destroyed or scrapped.

star-realms-ships

The factions are where gameplay starts to get affected and where massive combos can start to snowball. There is a choice between Blob (Green), Trade Federation (Blue), Star Empire (Yellow) and Machine Cult (Red). Each faction has 20 cards each and if two cards of the same faction are in play; they will have a secondary ability that can be activated, this ability normally falls in line with a theme for said faction.

These faction themes can range from disrupting an opponent’s hand to being able to permanently remove a card from your deck, two things that can completely change the tide in a deck builder.

Art

The art style of the cards varies between the factions and works incredibly well with building up an unspoken backstory for any of the cards. Going from bright and illustrious for the Trade Federation, to dark and foreboding to the Blob, jumping to the powerful and dominating Star Empire and ending with the cold and efficient Machine Cult.

Through simple stylistic choices, the art team has excelled in creating an atmosphere for such a simple game.

star-realms-bases

Overall

All in all, Star Realms is an easy-to-learn and relatively easy-to-master deck builder that’s good for short games to pass time and even better for longer play sessions.

As a final point to round everything off, there’s a free digital version of the game available on Steam, Android and iOS as well. There isn’t much difference in terms of gameplay, but it does include online multiplayer and a single-player campaign mode, with surprisingly well designed missions and great challenge conditions, allowing for plenty of replayability.

star-realms-steam

Do you agree with the points I’ve made? Do you personally feel the art style resonates differently or the gameplay is more complex than I make it out to be? Hearing from any of you would be awesome, so please do leave a comment below, or over on the GeekOut South-West Facebook, Twitter or Reddit pages.

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