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Star Realms: Frontiers» Forums » Reviews

Subject: What’s really in the small box? rss

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Quick background: I did not play the previous Star Realms and Star Realms: Colony Wars. I also did not play other iteration such as Hero Realms and Cthulhu Realms. Hence, my review will not include any reference or comparison to the titles mentioned earlier.

I have some experience playing deck-building games but I have to say that Star Realms: Frontiers (SRF) has to be one of most value-based games out there. At $19.80 price point range, you will hardly find a game that has:

thumbsup Minimal setup: Just take out the cards and start playing. 5 minute tops.
thumbsup Consume minimal playing space: A small coffee table will sufficed, as there is no board/ play mat. You can buy one but it is not necessary.
thumbsup Small storage: You can just bring it anywhere and it can fit in sleeved cards as well (barely).
thumbsup Solo mode: This is the reason I skipped the previous two Star Realm games, as there are no solo mode. You can play solo by trying to beat 8 scenarios that have very different feel and mechanics. Half of the scenarios make used of the new faction decks (Ie: Blob, Automatons, Empire and Trade). In these scenarios, you are playing against an AI that imitates normal player actions. In the other scenarios, you are playing more like a player versus environment (PVE). These scenarios are more creative in design and keeps the gameplay fresh. One of my favourite is the tentacle scenario.
thumbsupCo-op mode up to 5 players. You can also choose to play the 8 scenario co-operatively and the difficulty will scale according to number of players.
thumbsup Competitive mode up to 5 players. It’s not just a 2p game but you can play 2p vs 2p or a free for all which will bring me to the next point.
thumbsup Plenty of official modes and variants: One thing I like is that there are many different forms/ variants listed in the rules you can try up to accommodate different style or preference of play.
thumbsup Adjustable difficulty: In certain scenarios, you can adjust the difficulties to ease you through the game. For example, you can take 2 turns before the boss’s actions.
thumbsup Adjustable length of play: You can always adjust the authority level (Ie: health) of the boss or yourself to make the game go longer or faster.
thumbsup Balanced strategic depth + random risk taking: As with most deck-building games, SRF offers plenty of cards that will reward risk taking. An interesting aspect introduced here is that there are 4 asymmetrical factions powers you can build on but every player starts with the same starting cards. Certain cards provide you “ally” abilities if you combo with a similar faction card. That rewards deck specialisation towards certain factions. There are also certain cards which allows you to scrap less useful cards (Ie: Scout, Viper and Explorers) from your deck so you less useful cards to draw from. The game also encouraged you to diversify your deck as ally ability normally capped out at 3 cards and you can play 5 cards. Others can always block by taking/ scrapping the cards you want your specialisation strategy becomes too obvious.
thumbsup Good artwork (excluding standard non-scout, explorer and viper ships). Especially if you like spaceships and aliens.

SRF is a very good filler game for me:
1) As a solo filler game: I will easily rate this as 10. Its fast, east to setup and plenty of variability.
2) As a co-op filler game: I will rate his as 8 or 9 as most cooperative session tends to prefer longer/ strategic games such as Arkham Horror: Card Game or Robinson Crusoe.
3) As a competitive filler game: Around 8 or 9 as there are faster and more fun games such as 7 wonders.

If you like heavy games, SRF will not offer that satisfaction and depth as game mechanics factors fast gameplay. The rules are simple to teach and you can pretty much grasp all the mechanics in a single play. Your subsequent sessions will be experimentation of card combos and timing. It's a very good gateway game for me to heavier fares such as race for the galaxy.
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