The next big thing in deckbuilding games is on the way: Star Realms. Star Realms is a simple, one box deckbuilding game designed by Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Famer and Ascension co-founder Rob Dougherty. The goal of the game is to reduce your opponent’s “Authority Points” (life total) to zero. The way this is accomplished is much like a Magic Booster Draft, wherein you build your deck by taking cards from a shared pool by spending resource points (trade) generated each turn, then shuffling these cards into your deck to draw and use at a later point, in a manner very similar to Ascension or Dominion.
There are four factions in the universe of Star Realms, each with unique playstyles and backstory. The first is the Trade federation (no, not that Trade Federation), the ruling body over the mega-corporations that govern a majority of the human colonies. In-game, the Trade Federation-aligned units generate a large amount of trade, meaning that they can buy a lot of units, or more expensive units, earlier in the game. The faction is also very good at gaining Authority (lifegain). The downside is that Trade Federation units have weak combat stats, so you’ll have to draft outside of the faction to win quickly.
The second faction, the Blob, are a hostile alien race that appeared and quickly took over many of the Trade Federations systems. In-game, the Blob are focused almost exclusively on attack power. This aggressive mindset is roughly analogous to Red Deck Wins strategies in Magic; there’s a strong opening, but careful balancing in your deckbuilding must be exercised because without resources you can easily be eclipsed by an opponent who is thinking more long term.
The Star Empire faction formed when a group of outer colonies decided to break off from the Trade Federation after the Trade Federation responded too slowly to the Blob attacks. They differentiate themselves from the Federation with a higher attack power and the ability to force your opponent to discard cards from their hand, severely limiting their resources. However, as with the Blob, they are not very good at generating resources of their own.
The final faction in the first release is the Machine Cult, a group of humans left behind in Blob-occupied space who have turned to extreme use of automated technology to survive. Their units make heavy use of the scrap mechanic, where you can exile a unit from your deck to get an added bonus on top of what it already does. This can be useful in the mid to late game, as you can scrap your weaker units to improve your odds of drawing stronger cards the next time you shuffle your deck.
We here at Geekenstein were able to play a round of Star Realms at PAX, and we had a lot of fun with it. I focused on drafting an aggressive Blob/Empire deck, and was able to employ a successful beatdown strategy, even through David’s discard-heavy Imperial assault. Playing the game once, I was able to see how deep Star Realms has the potential to be, and I can’t wait to get a hold of it and learn the intricacies.
Star Realms is currently in Kickstarter and has achieved its goal at the time of this writing, but every bit of extra funding helps, and it’s a great and helpful way to pre-order. Otherwise, keep your eyes out for it on store shelves in December. Also check out our interview with Rob Dougherty.