If you haven’t heard of this marvelous game I strongly advise that you first read our in-depth review of the game, which you can find here.
In the past few months I have been playing Star Realms like crazy. The general consensus among some people is that it’s a luck based game, but I have to disagree. While luck certainly is a part of it, skill and strategic thinking is what decides the overall winner. After having played A LOT of matches, I want to give you some tips and strategies which you should be considering while playing. This strategy guide is intended for beginners as well as more advanced player who would like to refine their deck building and in game strategies.
There are a few strategy concepts which you should be considering during various stages of play. I examined a large pools of matches which I played versus random people online and have come to the conclusion that an average game of Star Realms lasts for about 26 turns. Because of this I would like to divide a single match into three phases: early game, mid game, and late game.
The Early Game – Setting up a strategy
Early game lasts for about 8 turns during which your Authority is still in the 40+ range. This is arguably the most important part of the game since this is when you will be deciding which of the factions you are going to commit to while building your deck. During the early game, the two most important goals which you should be striving for is building up your Trade and scrapping your starting deck as much as possible.
The 8 Scouts and 2 Vipers you start with are the worst cards in the game. What you want to do is get rid of them as soon as possible and by doing that you increase the probability of drawing more valuable cards every turn. Scrapping is a mechanic exclusively associated with the Machine Cult faction, and when activated it allows you to remove a card from the game instead of sending it to the discard pile.
Ideally, you always want to scrap Scouts and Vipers which are located in your discard pile first, but sometimes that’s not possible because your discard pile might be empty. When this happens, deciding what to scrap becomes a little bit more complicated.
A very important tip to remember is that when you want to scrap something in your hand, you should always use all of your draw cards to get as many options for scrapping as possible and then assess what is best scrapped from your hand. In the early game, if you want to scrap a card and there are no viable targets in your discard pile or your hand, or if scrapping would mean that you would not have enough Trade to get a good card, then don’t be afraid to just not use the ability. (Similarly, buying a cheap card may clog up your deck and it’s often better to not buy a card at all.)
Here are some examples of really good cards to pick up in the early game phase: Supply Bot, Freighter, Cutter, Barter World, Recycling Station, Patrol Mech, Trade Bot,…just remember, focus on getting as much Trade as possible and good cards for thinning your deck.
Cards which only provide Damage and Authority gain should be avoided in the early game. Also, a lot of the Star Empire cards which force your opponent to discard cards, while they do sound like a good idea, are really not well suited for the early game. This is because if you force your opponent to discard a card early on, they’re just going to dump a Viper and you’re going to achieve minimal to no advantage.
The Mid Game – Fine tuning your strategy
The mid game is the time to stop focusing on building up your Trade potential and to switch over to focusing on getting more powerful Ships and Bases. This usually starts from turn 8 or thereabouts, when you drop below 40-35 Authority. The Ships you want to buy now should give you the ability to draw more cards, destroy Bases, and have high Damage or Authority gain.
At this point of the game it should become clear which Factions you would do best to focus on; usually they are the ones from which you have the most number of cards, but also it’s good to focus on a Factions from which you have very powerful cards to trigger their Ally abilities as often as possible.
In the early game, if you haven’t been able to get good Machine Cult cards which allow you to efficiently scrap your starting deck, you shouldn’t be getting them at this point either. The mid game is too late for thinning your deck and you should focus on a different strategies like increasing your draw or forcing your opponent to discard.
Mid game is also a good time to start getting those Star Empire cards which force your opponent to discard so that they become available to you in the late game. During mid-game you should have enough Trade to start acquiring some more expensive cards like: Battle Blob, Mother Ship, Flagship, Battlecruiser, to name just a few.
The Late Game – Going in for the kill
Late Game is the time to dish out the pain. Now you can even start scrapping some of the more powerful cards which only give Trade. If some of your cards have powerful scrap abilities, now is the time to use them. Your goal now is to burst fire the damage as quickly as possible and bring down your opponent to 0 Authority to win the game.
Since your opponent has been thinning his deck too, now if you force them to discard cards it means they will have to discard something which is higher value – if your deck is heavily focused on the Star Empire faction, you might even be able to force them to discard up to three cards. A good way to do this is to get Royal Redoubt and a Battlecruiser and combine them with some weaker discard cards like Imperial Fighters.
That’s it for now – I hope this guide gives you some ideas and puts you in the right mindset of building an efficient deck when playing Star Realms. Always remember to not only focus on building up your own deck, but also keep an eye on which cards your opponents are buying to try to figure out which factions they are focusing on. You will be able to use this information against them – for example, by removing cards from the Trade Row which would be well suited to their deck.
Why not share some of your own strategies and favorite cards in the comments below?