This week sees us reviewing Star Realms: Frontiers by White Wizard Games, a million dollar Kickstarter campaign to reboot the classic deck-building duel game, Star Realms. I loved playing Star Realms both physically and digitally in the app, so much so I backed this game when it went to Kickstarter.
I love backing Kickstarters, even from well-established companies, as I love to be part of the community helping to bring new creations to life and of course the exclusive rewards that come from that investment.
Players: 1-4 Ages: 12+ Game Time: 90 mins*
Star Realms: Frontiers should really be thought of as the next generation of the Star Realms franchise. It retains all the same core features of a deck-building duel but now includes enough starter cards to enable truly epic multi-player battles.
Another development introduced with this excellent extension of the Star Realms franchise is the introduction of a cooperative mode of gameplay where players can face off against one of the many automa scenarios, which even allow this to now become a solitaire game too.
So, it's a deck-building card game for 1 -4 players (or more) with a target audience of ages 12 and up. The age range feels about right to me. Although, as there's nothing too complicated, I'd say suitable for 10 and up personally.
*Play length will vary and while the box suggests 90 mins, it is a conservative estimate if you ask me as once your familiar with the mechanics and the card effects you can easily get a 2-player round done in around 30 minutes.
Star Realms Frontiers is a fairly standard deck-builder where you start off with a standard deck of 10 'starter cards' that are split between vipers which cause damage, and scouts which give you trade power. The objective of the game is to defeat your opponent by dealing enough damage to them to reduce their 50 starting health to 0. To do this, you will need to acquire better cards from the trade row. Each card has a cost listed in the top right and when purchased, unless stated otherwise in card text, will be added to your discard pile when you purchase it. Just like most deck-builders.
Star Realms Frontiers is a fairly standard deck-builder
The cards fall into three types:
Explorers - Explorers are a basic improved version of the scout starter card.
Ships - These are the main cards with become part of your deck
Bases/Outposts - These cards when played remaining play until they are destroyed. A players outposts must be destroyed before that players life can be targeted directly.
All cards are aligned to one of the four factions within the game. Any player can have whatever mix of these factions within their decks as they choose, but some cards get more powerful ally abilities when multiple cards from the same faction are played in your turn. Each faction has its own focus, which cover the most popular mechanics of most deck-builder games:
Blob - The Blob faction has no special mechanics but instead focuses on massive amounts of damage and destroying cards from the trade row.
Trade Federation - The Trade Federation focuses heavily on trade power and healing.
Machine Cult - Machine Cult cards usually allow players to destroy cards from their deck.
Star Empire - Star Empire focus on 'milling' by causing other players to discard or cycle their own deck.
The big difference to most deck-builders, as mentioned in the overview, is the introduction of the eight automa scenarios that allow you to play this game cooperatively or even as a solitaire game.
Lastly, while I've only reviewed the core box of Star Realms Frontiers here, there were lots of other mini-expansions from the Kickstarter campaign to enhance the gameplay further, including less generic starter decks which come with some new basic factions cards already and can add another dimension to your gameplay.
The card quality seems pretty much the industry normal, which leads me onto a consistent and regular gripe I have with many games.... The box isn't designed with card sleeves in mind. It is a snug fit, but if I'm going to use this game regularly then the cards will start to fray and get damaged without some form of protection, which then means that it won't fit back in the box. Please a plea to all game designers think about card sleeves (...and not just as an extra for those who buy everything, I still want room in the base game)!
That being said, the box itself is very compact. It has no spare room in it, which makes this very large game fit into a very small box making it very transportable.
I love the artwork, which has a consistent design to the original and keeps the theme solid throughout the game.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about the production of the game is the thought that has gone into making sure that everything that has come before is compatible, meaning you can swap in or out any of your previous Star Realms products to expand the deck. Indeed you could even expand the player count by adding additional copies of Star Realms core products such as the original base game or Colony Wars . While the one box only allows four players, you can keep adding more without issues too to make for an epic game.
If you like deck-builders, then you'll probably like this one too, as it it honours what is becoming the standard pattern for such games. It's not too complex, which makes it good for a collection starter, especially when you consider how diverse the game becomes due to the addition of the automa scenarios.
While it may not get the perfect score with just a 5/6, it is only personal preference holding it back as I do like my big-box games. I'd certainly recommend this game to anyone.
Your friendly DoaLG rules lawyer
George E Ohh