Star Realms Frontiers Game Review: A fast-paced, shoot-em’-up deck building game

Intro

Few games have been requested to be played more frequently by my son than Star Realms. If your child can read, he/she will love playing this simple, exciting, attack-and-defend game of space war. While it can be enjoyed at a very superficial level by young kids, there are a fair amount of strategic nuances at play that make it an exciting, light-weight card game for gamers of all types. 

Gameplay Overview

Start with a deck of 10 cards (8 money cards and 2 attack cards). Each turn you take the top 5 from your deck and play them to buy other cards from those available, attack other players, restore life points, draw cards, play bases or outposts, and other actions at your disposal. Next turn, take the next five, and so on until there is one player left to control the entire galaxy!

Quick Thoughts

The original game is split into four awesome factions, each with its own strengths and focuses. The blue Trade Federation (my favorite) has an emphasis on life regeneration. The green Blob aliens are strong attackers (often a favorite of kids!). The yellow Star Empire focuses on decreasing other players’ hand strength. Lastly, the red Machine Cult helps you scrap cards to churn through your deck faster. You’ll get a feel for which factions suit you best after playing a few games.

The first several times playing Star Realms, I underestimated the value of bases and outposts…to my detriment! Bases and outposts are so crucial to a balanced approach. The bases are awesome because they often get overlooked (allowing you to reap their rewards for multiple turns!), while the outposts are great protections during each phase of the game. These also allow for the activation of faction combinations which can be powerful tools in the middle and late stages of the game. 

The boundaries for Star Realms expansions are virtually limitless. They keep producing great expansion decks that supplement the original game flawlessly. Here are two great ones to consider adding to your deck:

  • The Coalition: Play as High Director Valken commanding the massive Mech Command Ship bent on taking control of the entire galaxy! Take on two players or another command deck player with these formidable command deck cards. 
SR_Command_Coalition
  • The Union: Play as the uber-powerful Admiral McCready, commander of the Hive and controller of the massive Meganaut ship. 
SR_Command_Union

There are many game modes available which add to the depth and replay value of this game. A classic 1 vs 1 never gets old. You can play a mode where each player freely divvies out hit points or where hit points always go to the player to your right/left. Frontiers also has a really fun co-op mode where you take on a massive enemy together. Each mode forces you to shift your approach a bit to increase your chances of survival. 

Tips & Tricks

  • Find a solid balance between focusing too heavily on one faction and not focusing on any faction. I’ve found that players who have one primary faction with a strong back-up faction tend to do best (Trade Federation is the best!).
  • Do all you can to purchase an outpost as early as you can in the game. They will shield you from those small, early attacks and redirect them to other players. While it may only be 1 or 2 hits each, they can quickly add up!

Scoring & Wrap-up

Overall, as a light-weight deck-building game, I give Star Realms a very high 8.5 out of 10 (between “enjoy playing and would suggest it” and “always enjoy playing it” on BGG’s scale) for the following reasons:

Promoters

  • The faction strengths and weaknesses are well balanced without any one faction being too strong or too weak.
  • The expansions add so much to the original game but don’t take away from its original magic.
  • The artwork is detailed and fabulous. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such epic battle scenes depicted on a single small card.
  • The expansion options are expansive! There are mission card packs, crisis events, scenario decks, and even faction dice.

Detractors

  • While most games are pretty quick, some can get quite long when players are well balanced and have lots of health regeneration cards. The game length variance is quite high.

The value compared to the low cost of this game makes it a no-brainer to me. It’s a fantastic, compact game to bring out to a family gathering for a quick pre-dinner game or to pull out for the cousins to play together. Kids and adults alike can have a ton of fun (even though you may not always understand the motivation behind kids’ choices!). 

Buy Star Realms here!


Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.

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