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Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Rebels vs. Imperium by Zeb rss

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Zeb Larson
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"I like Rebels vs. Imperium, but I don’t necessarily like what it does to Race for the Galaxy." That sentence probably most closely expresses how I feel about this expansion. It brings in good ideas and cool cards, but they further upset the balance of the game by making some strategies more effective than others. I would like to emphasize that this is simply my own opinion, as my dislike of aspects of this expansion comes from preferences in play style, and others may like the changes more than I did. I'm writing this after dozens of playthroughs, which I guess means that I got my money's worth. However, before writing this, I also separated everything except the goals from the main game and back into the expansion box. For reference's sake, we added the first expansion to the game and thought "This is it. The game has gotten to that sweet spot."



What does the expansion add? 41 new game cards, an additional set of action cards to include a sixth player, new starting worlds, new goals, and a track system to manage the strength of one’s military. There are a few new powers assigned to cards, such as an exploration power that allows you to combine your "explore" cards with your regular deck or a conquer power that is important to gameplay. Certain developments and worlds grant players the ability to "conquer" military worlds from other players if their military strength is high enough. Doing so places the world in the conquering player’s tableau. There are some additional tweaks to solitaire play here as well which I never used, so I can’t comment on whether or not they’re a welcome addition.



What works? Well, I’d be lying if I said some of the new cards weren’t extremely fun. "Galactic Developers" is my favorite starting world, simply because being able to draw a card every time develop is played is amazing in the early game. Paired with "Interstellar Bank," it’s a powerhouse while being incredibly versatile. The other starting worlds are powerful for a military approach, and in fact, they all seem to focus on military. The new goals are always a welcome addition, as they give some needed balance to the 6-cost developments and high point value worlds. The one for Uplift is actually badly needed. Maybe this is just me, but I've always felt like a gene world game is tricky to pull off. The cards that benefit the gene worlds are a welcome addition.

Regarding the conquer mechanic, I actually like it more than some of the reviews and comments I have read elsewhere. It is difficult to pull off, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I don't believe that making RFTG a wargame with cards would be a good thing, and easy conquest would really upset the game balance that exists. I see it being more useful in big games where there are several military and non-military players, but still, it's fun to have around. The fact that you can only conquer other military worlds is also nice, as it doesn't penalize players who adopt a non-military strategy.



So what don't I like? The new cards make it far too easy to go heavily for military or an agressive develop strategy. Simply put, in however many dozens or hundreds of games I've played, I don't think I've ever had a game where "Earth's Lost Colony" or "Old Earth" made a better pick than "Galactic Developers." Some starting worlds, I believe, are objectively worse than others, and that's not good for game balance. A produce/consume build isn't that efficient anymore because the number of consume cards hasn't done a good job of keeping pace with the number of military cards. Furthermore, a military player with the "Improved Logistics" card will just Zerg-rush you with worlds and end the game before you can really get moving. It's hard to acquire the developments that give you the big points for consuming, as they're a bit hidden in the deck now, and when you're focusing on just one resource, it's damned hard to find.

A typical three-player game that I went with would go something like this. We'd each draw two starting worlds and choose one. Invariably, at least one of us would go with a military build (and not uncommonly two of us, given the number of military worlds or how easily Damaged Alien Factory can help you go military). The third player, seeing this, would either take Galactic Developers, Alien Factory or a card that would let him rapidly generate cards. Woe betide him if he had one of the original starting worlds that wasn't New Sparta. Out of all of those games, played until 2 or 3 AM, I only ever saw a produce/consume for VPs build work once, and that was because the player started with most of the cards he needed in his hand AND the two of us had gone military and ended up splitting the pot, so to speak. Military was commonly the winning approach, though Galactic Developers was a regular winner by virtue of the fact that it was good at everything.



For that matter, some of the components seem unnecessary. The game includes a track for measuring the strength of your military. Remember how I mentioned that conquer comes up infrequently? Well, toss the track, because you'll never use it enough to justify keeping it in the box. When you only see a conquest every third or fourth game, you toss the unnecessary pieces and just do the math if and when conquering comes up.

Eventually, my house got sick of this iteration of the game.. We agreed to box up everything except for the goals and leave it on the shelf. I might consider taking some of the 6-cost Gene developments, because I think Gene needs a shot in the arm, but aside from that, I'll leave everything else where it is. It's a good expansion that nonetheless spoiled a good balance. I got my money's worth, but now I'm done with it.

In short, if you played the game with the first expansion and were satisfied with game balance, don't add this one. It felt like an upset to me. Others may like the changes, and I don't think that they're necessarily bad. They just weren't what my friends and I were looking for.
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Igor Sangulin
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Re: My Thoughts on R v I
Thanks for good review.

Yes, things you don't like are common to many players. Just for the record - Race for the Galaxy gets new life with drafting rules (look in original game rules), especially if you feel that some strategy is overpowered.

Also 2-player advance rules makes game much more dynamic (although not possible if you play it as 3-player game).
 
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Zeb Larson
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Re: My Thoughts on R v I
I do like the drafting rules quite a bit.

It's also true that my criticisms are largely from the perspective of three player games. I always liked it most with 2 or 3 players, though it certainly has its merits for larger games.
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