Deck-building games get deadly.
With recent surges in the popularity of board and card games, the game play mechanic known as deck-building has spread like wildfire. During the average deck-building game, cards you draw from your own personal deck offer either power on your turn or points at the end of the game. You will use currency produced by the cards in your hand to choose and buy upgraded cards for your deck. Also during the typical deck-builder, you will upgrade to better versions of cards you already have; and you might find yourself making an active effort to expunge cards from your deck that have fallen behind the curve. You will cycle through your deck many times. Luckily, the digital versions of these games do the shuffling for you. Once the condition has been met to end the game, you will count your points to see who won. The creativity players use when choosing which cards go into their deck is what makes playing deck-building games so much fun.
Star Realms, available in a free version for iOS, brings an interesting twist to the deck-building formula. You aren’t trying to win by accumulating points, but rather by eliminating all of your opponents. Each player starts with 50 Authority, the life points of Star Realms. If you use enough combat points to remove all of one opponent’s authority, they lose and are removed from the game. The last player, or team of players, standing wins the game!
You start Star Realms with a deck of ten cards. They are composed of eight trade ships and two combat ships. Most ships and space stations you’ll come across offer three types of resources. These are trade/currency, combat points that add to a pool of total combat you possess for the turn, and authority/life. Each time you play a ship, it performs all of its main abilities. Your starting cards either add $1 or 1 combat point. Then at the end of your turn, all ships you played go into your discard pile along with all the ships and space stations you purchased.
There is a randomized resource deck which reveals a row of ships that you can buy during your turn. You can perform any number of buys as long as you have trade points available. At the beginning of the game, you will be looking for ways to efficiently use your currency to build up your deck and pepper your opponent with the little combat damage you possess. Depending what the center row has, you may want to hone in on one type of resource or card type.
Space stations, or bases, play a special role. They stay in play and rejuevenate their life points at the end of every turn, unlike ships which go to the discard pile after they are used. These are similar to enchantments from Magic: The Gathering, where they are persistent and usually activate on your turn. During your opponents’ turns, they can expend the same number of combat points as your station has life points to disable it, sending it to your discard pile. Certain space stations, called outposts, must be disabled before its owner can take any damage that turn.
Other types of cards to look for are allies. If you acquire cards that have a special colored border, they belong to a faction. Allies are cards that share a faction type. Inevitably, you will come across faction cards that activate once another card of that same faction enters play. Space stations can have a faction as well, making them very strong in this game, granting tons of bonus abilities. A mechanic to look for on cards are abilities that scrap the card itself from your deck permanently while granting a bonus ability when timing is crucial, and cards which remove other cards from your deck in general.
Star Realms plays initially like your standard deck builder, with the clock counting down to the end of the game being the authority of you and your opponents. While playing the game, there will be a lot of tempo changes that you will need to adjust to. Many times, you will realize that the chase to the end game is under way when it’s already too late for you. If you enjoy deck-building games, you will probably enjoy the change of pace and the reliance on a different type of resource to trigger the end of the game. If you play with your significant other, take note that this is the most competitive type of deck-builder there is, so be prepared for post game confrontations or victory dances.
You can play Star Realms for free on iOS, but you get many more features if you pay for the full version of the game. You get multiplayer online battles, pass and play with a friend next to you, a fully unlocked campaign mode, and much more! The iOS game adds some stylish sound effects and onscreen notifications that allow you to stay on top of the action at all times. There are a few different ways to play your cards, which give you the freedom to play methodically or a faster game at your discretion. Overall, Star Realms is a great video game adaptation of the deck-building phenomenon which incorporates great PVP space battles.