By Marisa Alexander / July 13th, 2017
During high school, a few friends regularly brought their collections of certain card games. These included Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Cards Against Humanity, and standard playing cards for games like War. I never played, but I did watch during study to pass the time as they were very intriguing. I did play card games occasionally, but it usually only amounted to custom Uno. However, my experience highlights that card games are primed as a riveting social experience. Yet, more and more card games have been making the shift to online services, be it competitive or social. Rio Grande Games’ Race for the Galaxy is one such example.
The goal in the game is not so much to compete against other players directly, but to build the most prosperous empire. During a standard game, each player chooses a phase during which they get a bonus. However, all chosen phases occur for everyone. As such, everyone will explore, be allowed to develop and settle, consume, and produce. Once anyone reaches twelve played cards, the game ends, and whoever has the most victory points wins the game. Victory points can be earned, as indicated by the hexagon, by developing, settling, or consuming resources via card powers that remove resources during the consume phase.
During my short excursion, the concept was interesting, but the game did feel rather inactive in many areas. Since all chosen phases occur, either one of two outcomes happen, one good and the other bad. An ability to predict what phases might occur in order to perform the highest amount of actions or phases becomes meaningless, since you might as well be able to do actions when prompted. Then there is the issue of how card effects are displayed. All cards convey effects via icons, so while cards are easier on the eyes, the icons themselves do not display effects well enough. Thankfully, simply right-clicking explains everything.
However, the game provides enough variety that planning cards and effects out to produce victory points feels rewarding. At one point I became an economic powerhouse, constantly earning victory points and cards to build and settle whatever I wanted. Also, there is the strategy of trying to end the game early to keep your lead, or stall a bit to try and get ahead if you have the most cards played but are behind on points.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to enjoy in playing the game via Steam. As hinted before, I think card games are at their best when played with friends, unless they have a competitive focus like in Hearthstone. While functionally the game is fine, it lacks long term interest. After around ten games you would have basically seen everything the cards have to offer. Even so, Race for the Galaxy is useful as a zen game.
Right now, there are three expansions, with one available by default. You can purchase the two others as of right now. However, the game’s online implementation is missing the latest two for the physical version. By default, you shouldn’t feel underwhelmed in terms of card amount, which is good. Right now, Rio Grande Games’ has an idea that could be expanded on, as the concept itself is rather interesting.
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