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Star Realms Frontiers

Back in August 2017, I backed this product on Kickstarter as an early birthday present, under the impression it would’ve come in time for December that same year. A handful of delays with design and printing eventually led the EU fulfilment to happen this September.

Was it worth the wait?

Quick recap

I’ve reviewed the original Star Realms on GeekOut before, so have a read here for the game’s mechanics in depth.

In short, you get a starting deck of not-great cards, you use those not-great cards to buy new cards for your deck, with the goal of eventually cycling out the not-great cards so all you draw is straight gas.

The game itself

Since the basics of the game have been covered in the past, I’ll use this space to talk about how the cards in this box compare to the previous two sets.

A new mechanic has been introduced in the form of “Double Ally Abilities”. Previously, faction synergy only required another card of the same colour to activate, however in a self-explanatory way, these new abilities require two other cards of the same colour.

The game now natively supports 4 players, with a respective number of starter decks included. One major change is how a player’s Authority (life) can be tracked out of the box, a massive improvement at that.

Previously the box would include double sided cards with 20/10 or 5/1 printed on them. I never touched these cards due to how clunky this system is; dice/phone counters being a preferable option. Now life tracking is done using two cards, one with digits, one with multiples of 10. These cards have been designed in a way that a multiple of 10 can be aligned next to a digit to represent a player’s total.

The system is similar to using a D100 paired with a D10.

The basic composition of the trade deck included is the same. 80 total cards (20 of each faction) with multiple copies of the smaller, cheaper ships and singleton copies of the more powerful, more expensive ships. Each of the factions retain their preferred playstyle from previous boxes:

  • Trade Federation/Blue focuses on synergy with bases, healing and trade
  • Machine Cult/Red focuses on destroying bases and scrapping cards from your deck
  • Star Empire/Yellow focuses on discarding cards to draw cards and making opponents discard
  • Blob/Green focuses on pure, unfiltered combat potential and card draw

In terms of art direction, it is not only consistent, it is just as impressive. From the organic monstrosities of the Blob to the militaristic sleekness of the Star Empire; every ship and base conveys the identity of its faction in a way that creates flavour without words.

Finally, the box contains a small selection of “Challenge Cards”, printed on oversized cards. Designed for either solo or co-op play, these cards can be used for a sort of Player VS Environment (PvE) playstyle. Each challenge plays differently from the others, with all the information on the rear of the card and in the rulebook included in the box.

Kickstarter benefits

The tier I pledged for Frontiers was one which came with all manner of add-ons:

  • A pack containing the stretch goal promo cards from the Kickstarter campaign
  • A pack containing recent tournament promo cards
  • A “Stellar Allies” pack featuring dual faction cards
  • Some additional expansions which I need for my collection
  • 7 “Command Decks”, one of which is Kickstarter exclusive

The final bullet point is the one I want to elaborate on, as it is a radically different way of playing Star Realms.

With Command Decks, you take the role of a prominent commander within a dual faction pair. In taking this role you get certain benefits which vary from deck to deck, the common theme between these benefits being your starting life and hand size for each turn. Each deck also comes with two “Gambits” unique to their commander, life tracking cards which art to reflect the theme of the deck and an 8-cost ship to add to your personal collection.

One of the best ways to utilise a Command Deck is to play a game mode called “Raid”, which is a 1-VS-Many format. This game mode involves a player assuming the role of the Raid Boss, who uses a Command Deck to give themselves a boost. That said, playing with these decks in simple 1v1 play can diversify the experience along with ramping up the speed of play.

Conclusion

In answer to my earlier question “Was it worth the wait?”.

Yes.

Yes, it was.

It’s hard for me to say what Star Realms means to me at this point, this is a card game I have collected almost every card from (save a few promos from supplemental products). It’s a card game that I always try to carry in my bag due to how easy it is to set up and play.

Rob, Darwin, thank you. The extra time taken for this to get into the hands of backers has led to a fantastically well-rounded addition to an already brilliant game. I know it will be a while before new Star Realms content comes into circulation, but this little box is more than enough to tide me over.

Now to get 700+ sleeves for this massive collection.

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