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Review: Star Realms

What is it; A new deck building game made by another group of magic: the Gathering pros. This one has a sci-fi theme and is a lot more confrontational than others though. And it has an app that’s playable on basically everything that isn’t Linux.

Great, what does that mean: it’s a game like Dominion or Ascension or Puzzle Strike but you’re trying to kill your opponent instead of getting more points than them. It still has a lot of the deck building conventions, you start with a deck fo ten cards split between money and the second resource of the game, in this case combat. You buy things from a changing center row and use combat to kill your opponent and their permanents, in this game called bases

Scaling;2-6 players. I’m given to understand that you need an additional copy of the game for each pair of two players due to component limitations. Looking over the multiplayer rules they seem to be more robust than other deckbuilders so going above 2 doesn’t seem as bad. Also given what the game focuses on, my main complaints about other deckbuilders with more than two people are structurally ameliorated with downtime being less of an issue.

What’s great: This game is simple. In a vacuum i think this is the easiest deck builder to teach someone completely new to the genre and they won’t implode on their first play. The allied mechanic means that it’s closer to building a specific deck or archetype compared to a generic pile of goodstuff cards. A fair amount of the ‘awesome stuff’ factor has been shifted to beating down your opponent, so turns play out relatively quickly barring analysis paralysis problems.

What’s interesting:  The first player advantage is mitigated by the first player only drawing three cards. A lot of cards can be trashed/banished/scrapped as it’s called in this game once they’re in play for an effect. The first tweak is partly needed cause you can’t use a tiebreaker system but also makes me wonder how well it works compared to different life totals on an academic level. The second aspect is a neat element of lenticular design. The value of those abilities is going to change depending on your understanding the game.

What’s not so great: While the sci-fi setting is different, the most that can be said about the flavor is that it’s better than Dominion. While the overall game is fairly resonant, the individual cards and factions are first and foremost  a demarcation of mechanical abilities. Not only that, but there’s a fair amount of bleed that makes a fair number of cards little more than generic role fillers.The allied mechanic is strictly linear.

App stuff: The app is fine. It does everything a certain level of competence that’s acceptable. It does everything you want and it’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that it’s become so popular.* My main two gripes are in the campaign and the online play set up. The campaign is fine for the most part, but suffers from having too many scenarios stack the deck against you instead of playing around with the rules for interesting gameplay. The online play set up suffers from no timed option, which means i can’t just make a game and have a guarantee of playing it out then. In addition, finished games wont’ clear for days and the personal info page is a tad threadbare. On the positive side though, it’s “play all” button won’t play cards that require you to make a choice so you can’t trip yourself up.

overall: 4/5.  I debated between a 3 and a 4 for this one. At the bare minimum it’s good enough that i actively want to play it; it’s mechanics are solid and the games themselves are fun. A few of my complaints are little more than aesthetic gripes and the deeper problems are things that can be addressed with expansions.

Feel free to comment, next week is another mystery post for both of us, so that’s exciting. Till next time

*The Ascension Online fiasco and the dearth of new content for the game for ~a year didn’t hurt either.



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