While I like board games I am not as big a fan of the genre as some people. When I do play a board game I tend to play games with cards in them and this makes me a bit of a fan of deck-building games like Ascension, Marvel Legendary and the like. That said, I’ve never really seen the appeal of Dominion.
Quite some time ago I saw Star Realms but before I could make my mind up about buying it it was sold out and has remained so since then. Luckily it came out for the iPad so I have been able to play it digitally and play it I have. I am, as of this writing, playing my 99th game and despite that apparent wealth of experience I have hit a plateau in my gameplay that has me stuck on on the same “level” of multiplayer ranking for the better part of two weeks.
In the digital version of the game one progresses along levels by winning a number of games equal to the next level. I am on Level 5 and I need to win six games to progress but with the ascension to Level 5 it brings the added complication that your lost games count against you. And this has lead to my current stagnation. For every game I win I invariably lose one and so my progress forward is being pulled back by my own defeats.
There is a definite random element to the game that plays havoc sometime with one’s plans. A recent game went by without me being able to purchase any of the cards that cull out the less useful adds in your deck for example. In another game I kept on drawing the same two card combo that dealt an immense amount of damage to my opponent and quickly ended the game. The random element in the game works both ways.
But despite the clear and ever-present amount of randomness in the game there is a definite strategy and the purchases you make each turn clearly do impact your gameplay and ability to succeed. I rarely now get beaten by a wide margin and many of my games end with my opponent beating me by a few points or with me only needing one or two more points to win myself. It is this keen edge of failure that is keeping me enthralled by the game and working on bettering my strategy and gameplay.
What differentiates Star Realms from other deck-building games is the direct combat against an opponent as well as the often bewildering amount of choices one has to make in a game to effect the best strategy. The hallmark, for me, of a good game is when it makes you, as the player, have to think about your options to succeed. And choices in Star Realms have immediate and long-term impacts that have to be weighed before making a choice. Scrapping cards in the game can give you immediate benefits but deprive you of resources later on. Purchases often have to be balanced between combat and trade and even on how cards will combo with other cards in your deck.
Normally a series of defeats as I am currently suffering from would turn me off of a game but I am still playing Star Realms on a daily basis because I can see the results of understanding of the game and its dynamics allowing me to become a better player. Just not good enough to consistently get past Level 5. But I will soon.