Race for the Galaxy Review

Designer: Thomas Lehmann

Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 30 minutes
Price (approx.): 30 Euro    
In a distant future we have expanded far beyond our current boundaries. Our technology is much more advanced than it is now. We’ve discovered new worlds, seen strange organisms, found rare elements and on some of our expeditions we’ve seen hints of an advanced alien race. Abandoned ships, planets and writings that we cannot read.. What does it all mean? Are they friendly. Are they hostile?
Overview:
What you get for your money:
A lot of cards! 114 game cards, 36 player action cards, 28 victory point tokens, 4 summary sheets and the rules.
How do you play the game:
In Race for the Galaxy every player tries to build a galactic civilization consisting of worlds and developments. The worlds will produce goods and these will be consumed by people or machines. You will explore new places, develop new technologies or ideas and settle newly found planets peacefully or by force.  The player who does it all best, wins the game.

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How does it all work?
All cards are put in the middle of the table in a big stack. Available victory points (12 VP per player) are put together. Every player starts with a start world in his tableau (the area where the cards you play are placed) and 6 cards. Everyone discards two of these cards and the game begins.
The focus point in this game is the selection of the action cards. Every player chooses one each turn. There are five phases and every phase has a specific action, hence action cards. The first phase, Explore, has two action types/cards. The second phase is Develop. The third is the Settle phase. The fourth phase is the Consume phase with 2 actions/cards and the fifth and last phase is the Produce phase. These phases are dealt with in this order.
When a player chooses a specific action, everyone will perform that action, but the player that chose that action will get a bonus.
What are these actions you talk about? Ok, let me tell you, but I will explain it in reverse phase order if you don’t mind.
Produce. During this phase, world produce goods. There are four types of goods (in four colours): Novelty goods, Rare elements, Genes and Alien technologies.  And there are two world types: Normal worlds and Windfall worlds. Normal world always produce goods if they can in this phase. Windfall worlds produce goods when they are settled (I’ll explain later). If you choose Produce as your action, one of your Windfall worlds will produce a good if it can.
Consume. This is when you must consume the goods you’ve produced for victory points. There are two Consume cards. One where you, if you chose it, get twice the points you would have. The other benefit/ card, is one where you can trade one good for cards, before you consume goods for points.
Settle. Here you may settle a world. Your bonus is you’ll get a card when you’ve done so. Every world has a cost and it is worth some points. When you settle a world peacefully, you have to pay the cost with that amount of cards from your hand. You can encounter a hostile world that you want to settle. Your civilization, then , must have the same or more military power than the card costs. When you settle a Windfall world, it will immediately produce a good.
Develop. During this phase, you develop technologies. Development cards also have a cost and are worth points. You can only develop them by paying its cost in cards. There is one special type of development: the 6-cost development. These developments give you end of game victory points. The benefit you’ll get when you choose the Develop action card, is you have to pay one card less.
Explore. This is when you will draw new cards from the stack. Every player draws two cards and keeps one. There are two Explore action cards. The first one gives you a quantitative benefit, namely, you draw three cards and keep two. The other gives you qualitative benefit; draw seven card and keep one. Importantly, your hand limit is ten cards.
Remember, phases are only dealt with if one or more players chose the corresponding action card(s). A round ends when each selected phase is dealt with and then everyone chooses a action card again.
Worlds and developments will give you all kinds of benefits during the game.  Like, +2 military power, -1 Rare element world settling cost, take one card after you’ve developed and look at one more card during the explore phase.
The game ends at the end of the round in which: the victory points run out or one or more players has 12 cards (world/developments) or more in his tableau.
Then everyone counts their victory points from tokens, worlds and developments and the end game points from the 6-cost developments.
The one with most points wins Race for the Galaxy.
Review:
Theme
This is a tough one. When you look at the individual card powers, the title, the picture, all go hand in hand. Like the card New Military Tactics, it gives you +3 military, but you can surprise your enemy only once, so after that attack you’ll have to discard this card. The Galactic Engineers, they have a lot of knowledge and they can just squeeze a little more out of the goods and some worlds (+1 card when trading and produce on a windfall world). A Tourist World; tourist only consume, a lot (2 goods  are worth 3 points). I’ve just picked out some cards, but there are many cool cards/ card powers that fit the theme (developing, expanding your civilization) well. 
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But this is such a fast game, that when I play it, I don’t really pay attention to the theme. I don’t really feel like I’m building up a civilization. Yes, I’m settling worlds and I’m developing all kinds of cool stuff, but during play they are just cards with symbols and numbers.
Yes, I’m expanding, but I’m expanding my card tableau, not my ‘empire’.It’s more a game of mechanisms.The individual components are quite thematic, the whole game doesn’t always feel that way.
Gameplay
Many people think this game is difficult when they see it and probably when they first play it. There are lots of icons, numbers and colours and I understand the game is daunting.
Let me tell you this. I don’t think this game is very difficult to play. Race for the Galaxy is difficult to teach (even by the rulebook), that it’s why the first one or two plays (maybe three) will be slow and feel heavy. There is a lot of ground to cover, but while the icons may seem confusing at first, they are very well done and explain almost everything. When there is an icon that is unique or rare, there will be a small text box that will give a short explanation. 
Plus, there’s this giant player aid that will help you a lot.
In Race for the Galaxy keep this in mind: build the best engine, choose your action cards wisely and keep your options open.
All the cards interact with each other in a very clever way. You’ll have to choose those cards that interact with others in your tableau, so you can do more with less effort. 
The start worlds give you a ‘starting’ strategy, but the 6-cost developments will provide you a more definitive strategy. If you don’t get the right cards, then you’ll have to adjust and fast. The game really feels like a race, either for points or to be the first to have a full tableau. There are 6-point cards that will point you to one of the two and ones where you need to try to have a bit of both.
It is a very ‘multiplayer solitaire’ game. There is no direct interaction in this game. Three things you’ll have to pay attention to regarding your opponents. What type of civilization are they building, so you don’t want the same cards from the stack. How fast are they settling or consuming, because you need to keep up. Don’t forget, it is a RACE for the Galaxy. Lastly, you have to, sometimes, guess which action card you opponents may choose, so you don’t have to choose that card (if you don’t need or want the benefit). 
 
Race for the Galaxy plays well with every player count, but I prefer to play it with two players. It’s quick, it’s small, but it brings a lot of difficult decisions. A lot to think about, many paths to victory. Every game you can try something else.
Yes, there is luck of the draw, but you can reduce that by settling and developing the right cards, with the right powers.
Looks
The illustrations are quite nice. Every card type has an unique one. Every player colour, also has a different set of player action cards, with different races on the back. That ‘s a cool detail.
The icons are clean and clear, but they do ruin the illustrations a bit.
Although, I think, the cards are beautiful when you look at them one by one, when they are placed on the table in everyone’s tableau, I don’t think it looks very special.
Quality of the components
I’ve played this game many times. The cards are shuffled quite a lot and, yes they show a little wear, but not that much. So the card quality is really good.
The cardboard tokens are decent, player aids fine.
Fun
I love this game! It is one of the nicest games I have ever played. I immediately must say I’ve played it mostly with two. With four, I think the game is quite nice, with three it is fun, with two is at its best. Great.
It packs so many decisions in so little time. It can be frustrating when you don’t get the cards you want, but when your effort pays out and you’ve built this great card engine that gives everything you want, it is most satisfying.
OK, there is little player interaction. You are building your own little civilization. You don’t attack each other. You don’t trade with each other. If you want direct confrontation, play something else (or buy an expansion).  
Listen, it may take a couple of plays to learn, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t stop playing it. Don’t let the icons frighten you. They won’t bite..

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One thought on “Race for the Galaxy Review”

  1. there is a lot of talk on boardgamegeek and other reviews about the difficulty of the icons. So i skipped this game because of that. But i got interested again and after seeing rahdo runthrough i didnt found it that difficult. So i bought it and just played it with a friend, who knew nothing about it. Maybe its because we are experienced gamers by now but we had no trouble playing it. Some cards needed soms referencing and you have to keep track of the extra bonuses some cards give you. I agree with your review, my thoughts exactly. Maybe if your totally new in boardgaming then this isnt the place to start but if you want to invest some time in a good card game then i think rftg is a good one!

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