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In Race for the Galaxy, players build galactic civilizations by game cards that represent worlds or technical and social developments.

Each round consists of one or more of five possible phases. In each round, each player secretly and simultaneously chooses one of seven different action cards and then reveals it. Only the selected phases occur. For these phases, every player performs the phase’s action, while the selecting player(s) also get a bonus for that phase.

For example, if at least one player chooses the Develop action, then the Develop phase will occur; otherwise it is skipped. In it, each player may simultaneously select a development from his hand of cards to build. After revealing the cards, each player adds his development to his tableau of cards on the table and then discards cards from his hand equal to its cost. Each player who chose Develop discards one card fewer as his bonus.

Explore allows a player to draw cards and select which of them to add to his hand. Settle allows a player to place a world in his tableau. Some worlds produce goods, represented by face down cards, when Produce is selected. These goods can be discarded for victory points or sold to add cards to the player’s hand by selecting Consume. With cards, players can settle new worlds and build more developments, gaining both victory points and card powers that provide advantages in certain phases.

The player who best manages his cards, phase and bonus selections, and card powers to build the greatest space empire, wins.

The winner is the player with the most victory points.

User Reviews (50)

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Novice Reviewer
Novice Advisor
Baron / Baroness
101 of 109 gamers found this helpful
“Complexity And Fun Of A Boardgame In Your Pocket”

Race For The Galaxy is so complex and fun that at times you’ll feel like you’re actually playing a thousand-piece board game – but it always fits in the pocket and is perfect to pull out at a cafe or throw into the backpack. In RFTG, players build civilizations by developing technically or socially. Some worlds let players produce goods for consuming, victory points, or other benefits.

Being a card game there is almost no actual setup other than to deal out the hand, pick starting races, and get going!

At the start of each round, players pick one of seven roles which align to the phases in which the round will progress (this is done secretly and all at the same time). When a player chooses a role, it activates it for the round (otherwise it will not activate). The player also gets a bonus for selecting the role. This is similar some other notable games such as Puerto Rico and San Juan.

There’s a lot of opportunity for different strategies in this game and it was very well tested before release – players can go for the slower tech tree approach or the fast win. When a player reaches the required number of Victory Points, the game ends.

A great game for avid/power gamers as there is a bit of a steep learning curve. If you’re looking for a fantastic game to play at a moment’s notice, this is the one for you. If you like strategy games with space themes, this is the one for you.

Gameplay: 4/5 – Solid mechanics, lots of opportunity for individual’s strategy
Fun: 4/5 – Great space theme, lots of variety and opportunity for different feeling games
Replayability: 4/5 – Games are always a bit different, different ways to win
Learning Curve: 2/5 – Not for casual gamers, the learning curve makes it tricky
Tilt: 5/5 – Personal favorite game and so I have to move the Tilt up all the way
Total: 3.8/5

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Reviewed My First Game
83 of 90 gamers found this helpful
“Symbolic manipulation for the win.”

Two to four players, one to six with the expansions.

About an hour to play, less with experience.

Race is a machine-building game, my favorite kind. You build inertia by the cards you play until your unstoppable juggernaut slams into the immovable force of your wife’s luck.

Each turn you secretly choose a phase to play. These are revealed simultaneously and occur in phase order (somewhat like Citadels). Each phase you perform all the actions on your cards that match that phase. They generally give the person who chose them a minor benefit (somewhat like Puerto Rico, it’s spiritual parent). Over the course of the game you’ll be playing cards (colonies and developments) which give you VPs, and acquiring and using resources for more cards or VPs.

Strategies in Race are legion, but mainly fall into two categories. One approach is to drop colonies and developments as quickly as possible to end the game before anyone else can get started. The other approach is to take your time building up a machine that generates victory points in piles, and end the game at your leisure.

The former strategy (quick) is supported by several mechanics. The only real resources in Race are cards themselves. You discard cards to colonize or build developments and you use cards to represent resources ready to be used. This places a very real limit on the number of cards you can actually play over the game. However, there are several ways to “cheat” cards into play. First, the military. Taking a colony by force requires only military strength, with no discarding. With the right starting planet (these often form a major part of your strategy), you can play a colony per turn and just ride off the other players’ need for card draw. Second, some cards grant discounts for playing colonies and developments. This has a chicken-and-egg problem, but if you see the right cards, works rather well.

The latter strategy (slow) also provides major benefits. The Consume phase is your best friend: generating both cards and victory points (often both at the same time), you can use this phase to keep your engine running and lock out the usually resource-starved military player across from you. Since the number of cards you can play is limited, you’ll need to make good decisions as to what abilities you need, but this is a great strategy if well-executed.

My favorite thing about this combination of strategies is that it creates a great tension, even when your only real influence on the other players is your choice of phase. Each turn, the quick players are wondering if they’ll be able to finish the game before the slow players really start to get going, and the slow players need to decide if they should play that acceleration card or the one with better Consume abilities.

Immediately upon breaking this game out, everyone is struck by the symbols (somewhat like Bang!). The entire game is predicated upon evaluating these symbols, often several on a card. While some can’t handle it (I have to learn another language?), I’m a big fan. These symbols are both easy to read (after the first few rounds) and precise. What do I do this phase? Read across my cards to immediately find out. How many cards have Consume: Trade abilities? Instantly visible. How many cards do I draw in the Explore phase? Count across. While not for the faint of heart, good player aids and graphic design should make this a non-problem for most groups.

A brain-burner with simultaneous action, straightforward effects that are complex in combination, good for any number supported: Race is one of my favorite thinking games. Shame I can’t make my Dad understand it.

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Amateur Reviewer
62 of 69 gamers found this helpful
“Extremely fun (once you figure it out)”

Race for the Galaxy is a deck building card game with an emphasis on strategy. Your goal is to build a galactic civilization using a variety of space-themed cards. Each game you will play up to 12 cards onto your “tableau” and then count up the amount of “victory points” you received. You win by having more victory points than everyone else.

The game is split up into phases, but not every phase is played during every turn. The phases are: explore, develop, settle, trade, consume, and produce. If you’ve ever played Puerto Rico or San Juan, these phases will make more sense. Each turn starts by selecting the phase you want while the other players do the same. On each turn, every phase that was selected is completed by everyone. For example, if you all picked “develop” then that is the only phase you will play that turn. The phase you choose gives you a bonus, so it’s not always best to rely on other people to pick the phase you want to play.

A typical turn usually has some form of the following: taking cards from the draw pile (explore), playing cards into your tableau (develop/settle), placing goods onto worlds you’ve settled by placing cards face down from your hand (produce), and consuming goods you’ve previously placed to draw more cards or score victory points. The diversity of the cards and their respective powers is that makes the game so strategic and deep.

The cards are well designed but can be confusing to understand. Each card has the powers listed on the left side, referencing the specific phase in which that power should be used. The effect of these powers are explained on the cards using symbols. This symbol system, while very helpful, can be like learning a new language for someone new to the game. They give you a reference mat for all these symbols, so it helps to have that handy (especially for some of the more confusing card powers). The artwork leaves a little to be desired as well.

Race for the Galaxy has tremendous replay value because you will almost NEVER play the same game twice. Your strategy will be dictated by the cards you are given – and there are a lot of cards (especially if you add in the expansions). You may decide to build a civilization with all of one type of power and try to get that power bonus every turn, or you may decide to save up your cards to build really expensive worlds. The game is well balanced for different strategies. There are times where you and someone you’re playing against will have opposing strategies but still manage to end up with almost the same amount of victory points.

The most difficult part about playing Race for the Galaxy is learning it for the first time. This is especially hard if you haven’t played games with phase-selection and deck building. Once you get past this hurdle you’ll find that it’s a very deep game which offers a diverse experience every time. The artwork and symbol system could use a makeover, but it does the job as is. It gets a 9/10 from me.

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Critic - Level 4
Advanced Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
60 of 67 gamers found this helpful
“A Race Up the Learning Curve”

Race for the Galaxy is a relatively heavy card game from Rio Grande, but once a player gets his head around the game, it offers a fairly deep play experience in a relatively short amount of time.

The driving mechanic in the game is role selection, a la Puerto Rico. Players have cards representing six different phases of a game turn wherein the players can draw cards, build up the empire in their tableau, and produce resources for points, cards and other bonuses. Each player selects a phase in secret and reveal their choice simultaneously. Each revealed phase is carried out in a pre-determined order, with each player allowed to play the phase, but the person who selected it getting an additional bonus. Any phases not selected by at least one player is not carried out at all that turn.

A brilliant aspect to this card game – and one that it shares with its spiritual sister, San Juan – is the way it handles the money, resources and buildings found in a board game. In Race for the Galaxy, the cards act simultaneously as the buildings in your territory, as currency in your hand, and as resources to be harvested for various gains. This means that on any given turn, you are deciding which cards you want to build, and which cards you will have to sacrifice in payment. There are a lot of other aspects to this game that give you various tactical and strategic choices – such as military, various types of goods, windfall profits – too numerous to mention in this short review. But at its base, Race is about choosing which phase to play on a turn, and which cards to hold or spend in the short term, to further your long-term strategy.

The game has a few points which are a mixed blessing. One primary issue with the game is the large number of rather cryptic icons up and down the card. Learning these icons represents something of a barrier to entry, but they are important to learn, because they serve as a good substitute for loads of card text, and because they are consistent and organized by phase, a learned player can tell at a glance what his various cards do for him. Also, while there are several winning strategies, each player must build with the cards he draws from a large common stack. Some cards he desperately wants may be far down the deck, or in the hands of a sly opponent. For some, this means a lack of true strategic planning in favor of turn-by-turn tactical play. In my opinion, there is a fair balance of both, whereby you can look for cards that have a compound effect when paired with others, but you have to be flexible in developing your long-term game in the context of your short-term assets.

This game maybe a little too heavy for the faint of heart, but for an avid gamer who is not afraid to invest the time to learn, I think he will get more out of the game than the time and energy put into it.

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Intermediate Reviewer
Gamer - Level 3
48 of 54 gamers found this helpful
“Dynamic Adaptable Card Driven Strategy Game”

In Race for the Galaxy players are racing to achieve the preeminent civilization by settling planets and gaining technological developments. The winner is decided when one player has at least 12 developments and planets in play or a set number of victory point chips have been exhausted; the player with the most victory points wins. Each turn players secretly select which action they are going to perform, then simultaneously reveal their selection. Each action selected will grant an action for all players during that phase, with an additional bonus to the player who chose the action, so players must carefully consider not only which bonus they want on their turn but what actions the other players will choose. The actions vary from drawing cards, developing a technology, settle a planet, trade goods, consume goods, and produce goods. Actions are activated in the same order each turn (drawing first on through production) regardless of who played what; in this fashion there is no “first player”. The cards in Race for the Galaxy function as either a planet or development, a good produced on a planet, or currency; this will force players to consider their options each turn based on the cards in hand, deciding which will be used to pay for the others, and this is not always an easy choice.

Each planet and development are worth victory points at the end of the game, but some planets allow you to consume goods for victory points. Other planets allow you to consume goods for more cards. Some planets can only be conquered with military might, others can simply be settled by paying its cost in cards. Some worlds produce goods, some produce goods and cards, others just produce cards. Both worlds and developments have special powers that activate only during certain actions, so players must carefully choose how to use their planets and developments in order to obtain more victory points than the other players.

With the variety of planet and development powers and the dynamics of the action choices made each turn, Race for the Galaxy tests a player’s ability to build a strategy on-the-fly, and then adapt and refine that strategy as the game progresses. Players must always be aware of how their action choice will impact their opponents and work to maximize their own gain.

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My First Favorite!
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful
“A learning barrier - that you NEED to cross!”

The iconography is a big barrier. I boggled at the instructions every time I opened the game for a year. I finally watched a video and played through a learning game online, and man, was it worth it. This game has a LOT of fun and fast gameplay packed into a half hour. It always leaves me wanting a little bit more.

In Race for the Galaxy, the players are using the same deck of cards for multiple functions: to play for their face value effects (basic value and card-specific powers), to pay for those played cards, and drawing the same cards face down from the deck as goods produced by the played cards.

In this game you are exploring space (the draw deck) and settling planets (and building technological developments,) then using those planets to produce goods or points. The game ends when a certain number of victory points are earned, or twelve cards are played (settled or developed) by a player. That’s where I always mess up.. I start building an empire, with this great megalithic economic engine.. and lose the game because it is a RACE for those victory points, not a heavy civ building game.
In this game each player starts by selecting a role or action card from a set of possible actions. These are in a small seperate deck, and it contains cards for a couple ways to explore the deck, to settle a planet or build a development, to produce goods on your settled planets, or to turn those goods into more cards or points. Expansions add the possibility of direct military conflict. Everyone selects an action card, and everyone will get to perform that action, but the person or person who chose the card will get a bonus. Only the actions that are chosen are played. This is part of the difference between the apparent difficulty of the game and the actual difficulty. Despite the number of icons and such, and the fact that there are spaces on each card for each phase or action (mostly unused, put still with a marked space for that phase) you are usually only dealing with a couple of symbols on your whole set of played cards at any time. And the icons are pretty logical, once you have the basic vocabulary down, you can decode them visually.

With the expansions, you can play solo, too, which is a big attraction for me. It’s not as satisfying as multiplayer games, but still is more value for your buck.

Anyway, once learned, this game is a fast romp and well worth the difficulty of getting into. Play with someone who has played before, or noodle about with the online implementation, which you will have to search for.

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I'm a Player!
45 of 51 gamers found this helpful
“Great game of strategy and tactics for 2-4”

I read lots of reviews before purchasing this game. I knew that if I could get people to play the game, I would enjoy it immensely. But, I worried that it would he too difficult to teach, and that. Those with short attention spans would never give the game a try.

Surprisingly I had none of those issues. The game has been well received by my gaming group. Perhaps more surprisingly, it has become a favorite 2-player game for me and my wife.

When I first read the rules I was pretty lost. I convinced my wife to play through a shortened “practice-game” referring to the rules often. We used the “your first game” rules and that went a long way to bolstering our confidence with the game. After that we played a fee real games and other than a few small misunderstanding with the rules, everything fell into place.

In our first few games there seemed to be a runaway leader problem. First she won by more than double, then me, then her, etc. I was concerned that the game boiled down to just luck of the draw. We later figured out that because of the inflexible way we were playing, it basically did.

At game’s beginning your strategy is going to be biased by a “start-world”. In order to not be completely at luck’s whim, you’ll need to adjust your strategy based on the cards you draw, and what your opponent does. For instance, if you had planned on a heavy produce-consume strategy, but the produce phase helps your opponent more than you, adjust your strategy and let them play produce.

There are lots of strategic options in the game, each with ts own advantages and pitfalls. Sometimes more important is just making wise tactical choices with the cards you have available to you Right Now.

The key things I like about the game are:
* simultaneous action selection keeps play fast and minimizes downtime
* Interesting player interaction rises from the fact that everyone participates in every phase selected, but the selectors get a benefit
* Lots of strategic options: Build worlds or developments fast before other can get enough points, crank out an efficient produce-consume engine, build up military power so you can settle for free, go for card synergies in regards to powers granted or points earned.

Pure awesome in a box full of cards!

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Gamer - Level 2
44 of 50 gamers found this helpful
“Step up from San Juan”

San Juan and Race for the Galaxy are very similar games, mechanically. Each round, each player selects one role (producer, trader, etc.) and then all players perform the actions associated with that role; the player who chose the role receives an extra benefit. In Race for the Galaxy, the role selection is done simultaneously while in San Juan it is done in turn order. In both games, cards have multiple uses: they are played to a tableau to build plantations or settlements or developments; they are used to pay for the buildings being built; they are used to produce goods on plantations/settlements which are later traded in to get still more cards back into your hand. The object of both games is to build out 12 cards in your tableau and have the highest combined score resulting from those 12 cards. Both games involve hand management, choosing which cards to hold onto for building later and which cards to spend for building now.

Essentially, they are the same game with different themes. San Juan, however, is much easier – it has a lower barrier to entry (the cards have explanatory text in English, whereas Race has a system of icons/hieroglyphics), but less variety, less depth/fewer strategies. San Juan is not a gateway game, it’s got too many rules to be that, but it is a good gateway into Race. Race is the “step up” from San Juan. But, if you’re not likely to play often, or with the same people, I would advise going for San Juan over Race – the barrier to entry for the latter can be enough that you may never get to play.

I actually find I connect more with San Juan, Race can be a bit overwhelming. I find, right or wrong, that I tend to enjoy a game a bit more if I have a good enough understanding to compete well and win frequently. I can do that in San Juan – I’ve never won a game of Race. The trouble with San Juan is that the strategies, once learned, become rote. It’s still enjoyable to manage your hand and make the decisions on which cards to keep and which to spend, but at a certain level, these really aren’t “decisions” any more – if you’re playing a certain strategy then certain “decisions” become dictated/automatic. There’s more going on in Race, more ways to win, so this sense of putting the game into “cruise control” doesn’t happen as it does in San Juan. But, then, I’ve played San Juan over 100 times, using the AI, and I’ve only played Race a few times. Perhaps, once I’ve crossed the century mark with Race, I’ll have the same feeling of “cruising” through the game….

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I Am What I Am
37 of 42 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Race for the Galaxy – The Game That Gave Emperor Palpatine The Idea ”

I’ve often thought that the science fiction genre was underserved in board gaming, and the games that do exist generally take several hours to play. I know we have games like Twilight Imperium, Ad Astra, and others, but I don’t always have an hour or five to try to take over the universe. What can I say, I’m a megalomaniac on a schedule. Well, luckily for sci-fi gamers, Rio Grande Games has put out a fast-playing card game that takes a novel approach to empire building, Race For The Galaxy. This game has body counts on a galactic scale, malevolant aliens, evil empires, noble rebels, and everything else associated with the sci-fi genre, but it only takes 20 minutes to determine the fate of the galaxy.

The game components include about 150 cards which are made up of action cards, world cards, development cards, and some extra cards for a 2-player advanced game. Further, there’s some nicely detailed summary sheets, a well organized and easy-to-read rulebook, and about 30 little chits to keep track of your bonus points. All components are of quite good quality, but the real stars of the game are the cards themselves. The art is breathtakingly well done, and the theme is smashingly adhered to throughout the game. I like the art reasonably well with most of the Rio Grande Games I’ve played, such as Mystery of the Abbey and El Grande, but this game really stands out as the best looking game they’ve ever made. It is simply outstanding. The illustrations are truly above and beyond what I expected, looking at the outer box, and it is so well organized, regarding the icons and information on the cards, that this is just an amazing card game.

The basic concept of the game is that the players are attempting to build up their galactic presence, scoring points for settling planets, overtaking military targets, and enslaving indigenous life forms. Now, while there is no specific verbiage in the rules calling you the Emperor of this spacefaring race, because I am a bit on the devious side I decided that players would be known as “Supreme Leaders of the United Terrestrial Systems”, or SLUTS, for short. It was either that or “Darth”, and I’ve heard that title is getting a little played out.

Anyhow, the game starts with the players receiving two starting planet cards and a hand of six random cards, of which one starting planet and two cards of each starting hand is discarded. Players are also dealt 7 action cards each, and these cards are identical to all other players’ action cards, aside from the color which represents their player color. Finally, each player then plays their starting planet in their tableau of cards on which you build an empire, discards the two excess, and the game begins. This tableau is essentially each player’s area where they place cards that have been scored and are active in the game.

As SLUTS, players select an action card, simultaneously playing the cards so that everyone’s selection is secret until the reveal occurs. There are seven unique action cards, which allow a game phase to take place that turn, meaning that if no player takes one of the actions, that phase will not be available to anyone that turn. This very clever mechanic forces you to look at your opponents’ tableau and note how many cards they have in hand throughout the game to guess which action they will select, causing them to potentially aid you while retaining your ability to select an action that will not be beneficial to your fellow SLUTS. Further, since all selected phases of play are available to all players, the player who actually chose an action to play receives a bonus for playing it, whereas other players may still use the abilities but are limited in how they can utilize them. Finally, the action cards are persistent in your hand, so once the turn ends you collect the card you played for future use in subsequent turns.

The seven action card abilities really come down to five types , the first being the two Explore abilities, which allow you to draw seven cars from the deck and keep one, or draw three cards and keep two, respectively. This ability is useful early in the game, but as your burgeoning galactic empire grows, you will have a multitude of avenues to grow your hand. It is also wise to remember that you have a hand limit of ten cards, so management of your hand is quite an essential ingredient to being effective SLUTS.

The third is the Develop ability, which allows you to place installations into your tableau by discarding the amount of cards from your hand that is indicated on the installation card that you’re looking to develop. These installations grant you varied powers, such as reducing the cost of developing new installations, providing you with bonus point chits if you meet certain requirements listed on the card, or increasing your military value. Many of these installations also carry a victory point value, so developing them also increases your total score towards being the dominant species in the universe at the end of the game when cards in your tableau are scored.

The fourth ability is the Settle ability, which is similar to the Develop ability in that allows you to play a card to your tableau, but instead of developing installations, you’re settling planets and establising colonies. Some of these planets are production worlds that will produce item cards such as Alien technologies and Novelty goods that can be traded for cards and bonus point chits, and some planets are militarily significant planets that require conquering. All of these planets generally have a victory point value printed on them, just as installations do, and thus these planets are another path to the righteous and glorious rise of your empire.

The one caveat to the normal use of the Settle ability is that military worlds are conquered rather than settled, and thus instead of discarding the proper amount of cards from your hand as you would to settle a production world, you simply need to have a military score equal to or greater than the defense score listed on the planet you’re trying to subjugate. Although you only need to declare that you are invading the world and subsequently adding it to your tableau, I prefer to envision a planet being glassed from space by dreadnaughts bearing massive batteries of high-order particle beam cannons, firing undulating streams of white hot plasma, resulting in the inhabitants being charred beyond recognition, their history and culture utterly destroyed. Maybe I’m just too imaginative, but the art on the cards really brings out the sadist in me.

The fifth and sixth abilities are the Consume abilities, which allow you to trade items for new cards or utilize these items to trade for bonus point chits and other special abilities derived through cards within your tableau. The Consume:Trade ability allows the former, and the Consume:2X ability not only allows the latter, but if you were a player that selected that action, your scoring of victory points can be doubled. The Consume:Trade ability is the most often utilized method of taking new cards into your hand, and the Consume:2X ability is one of the only ways to acquire the scoring chits, which increase your overall victory points. This is a key element of the game, as once the starting chit pool, which totals 12 chits per player, is exhausted, the game ends. It bears mentioning that if anyone selects a Consume action, unless you choose the Consume:Trade ability, you are forced to consume all of your items within your tableau using any card powers granted by cards in your tableau, which can stymie your plans to trade the items for cards at a later time with the Consume:Trade ability.

The final ability is the most pedestrian of them all, the Produce ability. This simply allows you to place item cards on each of your planets that produce goods, and this is done by taking a card, face down, from the draw pile and setting it on top of each of the production worlds in your tableau. The type of item produced is static, and based upon the type of world you have banked. As such, some planets produce expensive goods that provide you more cards than the less expensive goods, forcing you to really think about what you want to produce down the road when selecting planets for settlement or invasion.

As noted before, the game ends at the end of the current turn when any player takes the last of the victory point chits, but the alternate climax of the game occurs when any player places their twelfth card into their tableau. Some developments have variable victory points depending on the conditions listed on the card text, and as such you must do a hair of math to make sure to score yourself properly. You simply add your chits in hand to your installation and planet scores, and the player with the highest score truly becomes the “Emperor of the Known Universe“, or “Head SLUTS”.

Things I Absolutely Loved Beyond Compare:

*The game’s art is superb and draws you into the battle for supremacy in the universe
*With the varied cards and mechanics going on in the game, replay value is ridiculously high
*The speed with which you can rule as the One True God-Emperor makes this a game you can play two to three times in an hour
*There are currently 2 expansions in existence, “The Gathering Storm” and “Rebel Vs. Imperium” which provide you a boatload of new options and special abilities, as well as “The Brink Of War” expansion which releases soon
*At $23.00, this game is an outstanding value
*The space required to play and the small box size make this the perfect coffee shop/bistro game, playable anywhere, anytime

Things I Found Mildly Annoying:

*The learning curve with the symbology is a little steep, but playing one game through will be enough to make you proficient and hook you like crack…forever
*The game was not packaged with a laser pistol, blaster rifle, or lightsaber


This is an extremely fun game, and completely surpassed my expectations. The card art is incredibly immersive, and the simple, yet effective, mechanics make this a far deeper game than I would expect from a twenty minute takeover of the Milky Way. Two words define how I feel about this game: BUY IT.

4.75/5 Stars

To learn more about how to crush the galaxy under your anti-gravity boots, head to Rio Grande Games’ page:

And if you want to play it solo, for free, here’s the fan-made game download for both PC, and surprisingly, OS X:

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Rated 10 Games
Intermediate Grader
49 of 56 gamers found this helpful
“Puerto Rico in Space”

Race For The Galaxy is a card game in which players build worlds and create developments in an effort to garner the most victory points.

This is a game that seems difficult to play, but ultimately, once you realize that everything you need to know is on the cards, it becomes quite simple.

Much like Puerto Rico, this game has players choosing “roles” each turn. One key difference here, however, is that players are choosing from five different game phases. Everyone plays the selected phase, but the player selecting the phase gets certain advantages. Sound familiar?

Another difference in this and Puerto Rico is that more than one player can select the same phase, and no one knows what phase the other players are selecting until after they are chosen.

Learning how the cards interact is where the strategy lies. Is it worth getting more cards in a given turn, or is it better to produce more goods? This can be an agonizing strategy that leads players to pick their roles. And, since buying planets and developments requires players to discard cards, the choices can be brutal.

This is a fun game with a very high initial learning curve. However, I tend to think players actually over think the rules. The included handouts layout the turns and the card symbols (which can make little sense at first). The rest is on the cards themselves.

You shouldn’t need to consult the rules after your first play. Unless you are over analyzing it. Which can happen.

I am eager to try this game with expansions.

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Book Lover
Video Game Fan
36 of 41 gamers found this helpful
“A Race Everyone Should Run”

Race for the Galaxy is a card game for 2-4 players in which players attempt to earn the most points through settling worlds, developing technology, and producing and selling goods. The game features a unique turn structure and fast card play once players are acquainted with the mechanics.

Setup is pretty quick with this game. Give each player the action cards for their colors (removing the two-player only cards if necessary), randomly deal each player one of the starting worlds, and shuffle all of the other cards (including remaining starting worlds) together into a communal draw pile. Finally, place the appropriate number of victory point chits in a pile (12 X number of players) and deal each player six cards, of which they will choose four to keep. Boom. Done. You’re ready for turn one.

Race for the Galaxy has a unique turn structure in which each player chooses one of the five possible turn phases (Explore, Develop, Settle, Consume, Produce) or two phases each in a two player game. Every player performs the associated action once (drawing cards, playing planet cards, producing or consuming goods, etc.), but each player gets a specific bonus on the phase they selected. If multiple players choose the same phase, it still only happens once, but each player that selected that phase gets the bonus. These bonuses include drawing additional cards, playing cheaper developments, and the like. Players settle most planets and play developments by discarding a number of cards equal to their costs. Some planets are military planets that must be conquered based on your military strength. Military strength is an ability granted by some planets and developments, along with other important abilities like producing and consuming goods, which often nets you additional cards or victory points. Once all of the selected phases have happened, a new round starts and everyone does it all over again until one player has 12 planets and/or developments in play or all victory point chits have been taken.

Learning Curve
For some people, the learning curve can be quite steep. That’s because the game uses a unique iconography system for each of the abilities on the planets and developments. Once you understand the basics (black circles are planets, red ones are military planets, numbers in hexagons are VP, etc.) it seems pretty logical for the most part. For instance, an eye with a one on it next to phase one means you get to look at one additional card on the explore phase, a hand holding a card with a number means you draw that many cards on that phase, a color next to consume or produce means it consumes or produces that color of goods, etc. For people who have a hard time with it, the publishers included a player aid for each player that has a key for the abilities. Everyone in my group picked it up pretty quickly after a couple of turns, but people often talk about how people have gotten overwhelmed by the iconography, so your mileage may vary. Other than that, it’s basically just a matter of knowing what to do on each phase of a turn (which is also listed on the player aid if you forget).

I really like the art on most of the cards, but there are a couple of issues. First is that, though the cards feel like the stock is of standard thickness, the rigidity of the stock seems pretty flimsy. I immediately sleeved the cards because I was worried that they would start to wear out quickly. I didn’t actually try playing without sleeves, though, so I could be 100% wrong on the durability. The cards have a nice coating on them, though.

The other problem is the insert. Without some sort of after-market tinkering, the cards will just loosely float around the box, which isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but I do wish it stored more securely.

Overall Judgment/TL;DR Takeaway
This game is amazingly fun. Play progresses very quickly, especially once everyone has a good feel for how the turns progress and what the symbols on cards mean. There is also a surprising amount of depth for a game that plays so quickly. There are multiple strategies to pursue (get an economic engine going to consume your way to VP, boost your military to conquer a bunch of planets for VP, etc.) and a lot of difficult decisions along the way. While there isn’t much (i.e. any, really) player interaction, you do need to pay attention to what your competitors are playing in case they will be competing with you for similar cards or if you could shut them out of a particular important card to their setup.

In the end, this is one of my favorite games. It’s certainly enjoyable with three or four players, but I find the advanced two player rules (each player playing two actions per turn) provide for the most fun experience, at least in my opinion. Really the only thing holding it back is the lack of interaction, but that’s a minor complaint given how good everything else is.

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El Dorado
I'm a Gamin' Fiend!
Rated 100 Games
35 of 40 gamers found this helpful
“That Learning Curve...”

I finally tried this out since the gf and I have been looking for good two-player games to play. I wasn’t totally sure about this one since space and sci-fi isn’t my biggest preference for theme. But I had heard that the mechanics of the game were great and it was worth a shot.
I was also warned that there was a steep learning curve….

Oh, that learning curve! I feel like the entire first game we played was hand-held the entire way by the reference cards (which were extremely helpful) and the rulebook (which I found convoluted — one of those that introduces specific rule details in the ‘overview of the game’ section). Every little thing we did and every new card we discovered had to be double checked against the reference card. Thankfully those were well laid out and helpful for most of the numerous icons that we encountered. (Although there were some icons that were never decoded in either the reference cards or the rule book. We ended up guessing or ignoring them.)
It really felt like we weren’t quite playing the game ourselves, but rather being coached and guided by the rules. More of a tutorial situation than actual gameplay.

Despite this, I could see a very well constructed game underneath it all. And I appreciated the simplicity of the cards (once you finally figure out what everything means — which I assume takes a while). Overall, it wasn’t particularly my cup of tea. But I would definitely be willing to revisit Race for the Galaxy at some point. I feel like that pull (even for a non-sci-fi guy) is what makes it a good game and a standby for most people.

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I'm a Real Person
36 of 42 gamers found this helpful
“If you can get by the barrier of entry, you'll find something wonderful.”

The game is called Race for the Galaxy for a reason. When sitting with veteran players a game will take maybe about half an hour, as players…race…to gather as many victory points as they can before the end game is triggered.

Everything is in the cards–they work as money, resources, and the planets and developments that you will lay down in your tableau to try and build an efficient mechanism of card interplay to crank out victory points. There is a system of iconography on the cards that is designed as a means to quickly evaluate a card’s powers, but it is this iconography that drives a lot of people away from the game.

Race is one of the first games I bought when I got into the hobby because it had a scifi theme and I’m a sucker for card games. I had no one to play it with, and so I also bought The Gathering Storm to try the solitaire version out. The game takes dedication to learn, and I had the dedication. I poured over forum threads learning about rules and card interactions and basic strategy. And then there were some great fan computer programs that let you play against others (and solo). I quickly racked up over 200 plays.

To me Race is a puzzle. You are given the pieces (your opening hand) and you have to decide how they will fit into your tableau. If not, you have to find pieces that will. Sometimes the deck just won’t work with you, so you have to scramble, but because of the speed of the game and the number of viable paths you can take with certain card interactions, it rarely feels like there is nothing you can do to be competitive.

I lucked out in finding a group that plays Race. I don’t play as much as I did when I first got the game, but Race is something I will never say no to. It will take some work to get good at it, but once you do it’s a great game to play.

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I play orange
35 of 41 gamers found this helpful
“A sci fi card game with hieroglyphics. ”

Race for the galaxy is,at its heart, a tableau building game with a strong sci fi theme. Similar to other games in the genre (like 7 wonders) it pits players against each other in a bid to quickly and efficiently build the most impressive space faring civilization.
Each round the players will choose one of several possible options. They will draw cards (explore), play a development card, settle a planet, sell resources (for points or cards), or produce resources. The game is fairly quick moving with little downtime as players choose and play their action simultaneously. Another mechanic that helps ,is that although players will gain a benefit from their choice, each other player also gets to take this same option.
Race for the galaxy plays equally well from 2 up to 4 players. Since there is very little direct action between players (no attacking) it really does feel like a race. Players must use the cards in their hand to pay the cost of the item. This means cards are the actions you take as well as the resources you use to pay for them. This can lead to some agonizing choices as you are often forced to discard the cards you want to pay for others.
In addition to building your tableau you also can earn victory point chips. This is mostly done through selling resources between your various cards. Many different strategies are available as cards can give discounts to other cards, some can increase their worth with different combinations, or let you draw or play additional cards.
The game continues until one player has a dozen cards on their tableau. This adds some interesting choices as you have to decide between playing a lower value card or saving for a larger point item. Do you focus on earning vp chips or a military option to conquer planets for free. There are many possible roads to victory.
I would not recommend this as an introductory game due to its complexity. Although the gameplay is straightforward the iconography on the cards makes for a fairly steep learning curve . Even with dozens of games under our belt I do still find us needing to refer to the rulebook for clarification with certain cards.
The base set is balanced but lacks options for a true military victory ( it is possible but you need to rely on luck to get the right combination). I also find the base set could use more possible start worlds for variety’s sake. We have since purchased the first expansion (the brink of war) and this really rounds out the game.
I feel race for the galaxy is an excellent mid level card game. It is fast moving, well designed and plays in roughly 30 minutes. The cards and the game pieces are of good quality with excellent art work that suits the theme. The variety of possible paths to possible victory add lots of replayability. This is a solid option for anyone looking to move up from the gateway difficulty games.

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Professional Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
77 of 91 gamers found this helpful
“A power gamers delight. Tough to learn, great on depth!”

Race for the Galaxy is a card game that is like San Juan on steroids! It has the same role selection and simultaneous action mechanism as San Juan(except each user can still pick the same role) as well as using cards to “purchase” other cards to place on your tableau. In this game, you’re building your galactic civilization by scoring victory points through exploring other worlds and trading resources. If the victory point chips run out or 12 cards are in a tableau, the game is over and points are tallied to see who the winner is.

This game has so much depth with many different strategies. It takes a while not only to learn the multitude of icons, but also all the various planets and support cards to understand how they work together to create your overall strategy. For example, some worlds support a military strategy, so if you find yourself drawing military worlds and military units, it may be best to start working with those cards. There are plenty of expansions to this game that will continue to satisfy the power gamer as they explore new strategies or ways to enhance older styles of play.

Personally, since I game with my family, I don’t see this ever hitting the table. I had a hard time learning the icons on my own, to the point it seemed like work. I have enough games that require “work” that I didn’t feel the need to go through it again. There isn’t much interaction going on in the game, because everyone is concentrating on their tableau. However, if I was younger and had more time with proper game partners, I would probably pick this up again. For now, I’ll stick to San Juan with the same amount of interaction with less brain burning.

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Knight-errant Beta 1.0 Tester
Intermediate Reviewer
The Big Cheese 2012
56 of 67 gamers found this helpful
“Card games revolution!”

Race for the Galaxy is not a brand new game, but I’d still probably say it was the best game that I played at GenCon 2011.
When I kept making comments about wanting to play this game with my convention buddies (cough Mitch cough), I was informed that the game was sort of hard to learn and that the first game was mostly an exercise in frustration.

I was also informed that being taught how to play the game was way WAY easier than sitting down to play after having read the rulebook.

Fortunately, I sat down with someone who had a pretty good understanding of the game. (Oh and by the way, this is where I got my beta key to this site from one of the crew) He explained the game in about 10 minutes and we all said our peace on whether we understood.

Here is an admirable thing about the game, even though it was my first game and the (Jim maybe) guy’s game, we were all pretty close in score in the end. Also, the game lasted less than an hour. I usually find that those little time prediction icons on the game box are way off for the first game or two. The fact that it was on for the first game was amazing.

2-4 players seems to play out about the same. 30-60 minutes is perfect for a casual game during lunch at work, or for a nice relaxing time at home. Age 12+ is probably about right as long as people refer to the graphic that explains what all the base icons do.

The one thing I really love about this game is that there are no wasted card spaces just for a money card or for a victory card like in Dominion or some other card games. You pay for things by discarding cards you don’t want, and you make money by getting to draw more cards. There are just so many more options throughout a game!

All in All. I give my fellow players an A+, the learning experience an A+, and the game itself an easy A+.

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I Am What I Am
Professional Grader
85 of 102 gamers found this helpful
“Great game once you get into it”

Race for the Galaxy has been my favorite game for a while, but it’s taken me quite some time to get Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm. But it is finally here. So far I’ve played it several times with 2 and 3 players.

Initial Impressions: I was very disappointed to open Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm. There was a stark difference between the backs of the cards from the original, and from the expansion. The border is much darker on my expansion cards. From the draw pile you can easily tell whether it is a new card or an old card. The obvious solution would be to just sleeve the whole deck in sleeves that have a solid back, so you cant see through, but that’s another chore and expense added onto the expansion.

What you Get: My biggest concern when purchasing an expansion is what it adds to the base game. I want to take a look at each of the components you get when purchasing the expansion, and tell you what I think it adds to the feel of Race for the Galaxy.

Action Cards For a 5th Player: These would come in handy supposing you have more friends then I. You get 9 cards in total, 7 for the base game and 2 for the advanced 2 player game. Since it is the 5th set, they don’t even really need the cards for the advanced 2 player game, but I guess now you get more color choices when playing. You also get more victory chips to accommodate the fifth player.

4 New Starting Worlds: I was excited to review these, they were exactly what my group wanted. These worlds add to the base games five to make a total of 9 different ways you can start your empire. I was also pleased to see these cards had the slight increase in complexity that is often desired in expansions. One forces you to discard down to 3 instead of 4, and another one will only produce if you discard a card. These new mechanics will integrate well with the rest of the set. My group definitely enjoyed the wider variety of starting options.

Goal Tiles: For me this was the crux of the expansion. There are 4 “most” goal tiles, and 6 “first” goal tiles, worth 5 and 3 points respectively. The goal tiles come in those thick cardboard sheets where you get to punch out your pieces, which by the way, is the most satisfying feeling in the world. Each game takes two random “most” tiles and 4 random “first” tiles.
The “first” goals are awarded permanently to the first player to achieve that goal, for instance the first player to play a 6-development card. The most cards may be traded back and forth based on who currently has the most of the goal. For instance the largest military (minimum of 6). You can certainly play around with the number of goals you want to add to your game, making even more variants possible. I like these goals because they force you to pay more attention to your opponents. Race for the Galaxy is often criticized for just being mulitplayer solitaire, but these goals really change the nature of the game. They aren’t worth gigantic amounts of VPs so that they dominate the flow of the game, but they are substantial, and often can make the difference between winning and losing. The implementation of these goals increases the social aspect of the game.

18 Game Cards: This seemed shockingly low to me. Only 18 more cards (plus unused home worlds) to add to my deck? And one of those was just an additional copy of Contact Specialist! I understand you don’t want to drastically alter the deck by adding expansions, but this seemed to hardly tweak it. Some of the new mechanics are great fun, I really enjoy cards like Space Mercenaries which give you more options in your game play. But honestly, I just felt like I spent a lot of money, and was not getting a lot for it.

18 Blank Game Cards: I’m tempted to complain about how the designer just got lazy and left the thinking up new cards to the players – but to be honest, I love blank cards. Adding my own touch to games is a whole lot of fun, and I’m sure this will be no exception. The cards are designed like normal Race cards, which is nice for appearances, but doesn’t do much for me in terms of practicality. The background of most of the cards is black, so small printing will become a must. And they have the color of the planets filled in already, so you can only add one per color, production and windfall. They even include blank developments, and 6-developments. Why not just make them all blank? Surely if I’m writing in everything else, I can manage to write a “6”. But at this point I’m just nitpicking.

Solitaire Board and Tiles: I’ve never cared for solo board gaming, unless the electricity is out, and this one isn’t an exception. I like the social aspect of gaming, and not even my favorite game can survive with just me. If solo gaming is your thing though, this may be a big plus.

Overall: I like this expansion, but I think it’s only because I LOVE the original. If you are only lukewarm on the original, I wouldn’t recommend buying this expansion. I just don’t think it adds much for the price. The goals are great, but once you have the idea for putting goals for VPs in the game, you really don’t need fancy card board push outs to play with them. Heck, in addition to the blank cards, I might even grab some index cards and make some new goals too.

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Viscount / Viscountess
Advocate Beta 1.0 Tester
36 of 44 gamers found this helpful
“Steep, intimidating learning curve. Don't be scared!”

Not a deckbuilder, in that both players develop their hands from a central deck.

Each card in the deck represents any one of a number of different things: it can be a good on one of your planets, it can *become* one of your planets or developments, it can go into your hand and be used, from there, as a coin with which to pay the deployment cost of some *other* planet or development.

There are a lot of symbols and a lot of things to wrap your head around. This game is not for the faint of heart.

Despite its depth, though, it plays very fast once all the players (2 or 3, ideally) know what they’re doing. There are so many ways to win this game it’s ridiculous. Just when you think you’ve discovered all the ways a particular card set might go, you find yourself struggling, and sometimes succeeding, to win by pushing it in some other way.

The only real drawback I see is it’s very difficult to catch the leader. But the game plays so darn fast, under 30 minutes, I don’t mind, because I can start again soon.

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80 of 102 gamers found this helpful
“Fantastic Card Game... With an Epic Learning Curve”

RFTG is easily one of the best card games I’ve ever played. It has deep strategy, tricky tactical decisions, and a surprisingly well-integrated theme. Role selection means there are plenty of reasons to pay attention to your fellow players. It’s fantastic.

Now that that’s is over, here are the ****** bits. It is a BEAST to learn. The iconography, once you learn it, is really well thought out and makes lots of sense. BUT, the first time you play, you will have NO IDEA what any of it means. As others have mentioned, it’s almost like learning a new language. Also, in order to play well, you’ve got to get to know the deck intimately.

However, this is not a reason to skip on this one. If you’ve got some patience, improving at this game is insanely rewarding. This is not a game that you will master in your first, second, or tenth play. I’ve played it dozens of times and I still find new card combos and tricks to mess with my opponents.

The expansions are a bit of a mixed bag. “Gathering Storm” is great, adding a nice goal mechanic on top of an already great game. “Rebel vs. Imperium” attempts to add more player interaction (with conquests) but it ends up being pretty rare and not very satisfying. “Brink of War” was a big disappointment for me, not succeeding in anything but complicating a really elegant game. Honestly, though, I am satisfied with the base game.

It plays great with 2, 3, or 4, and, with experienced players, can have a play time around 30 minutes.

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Bronze Supporter
33 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“Tough at first, awesome afterwards.”

The first time I played this game I had no idea what I was doing. The second time I had some idea and even got close to win. After that… wow, this game is just so awesome. Even though luck is a very important factor, foresight and planning (with flexibility) become your best assets. Knowing the cards and what they do and knowing all the symbols and their meanings is important in order to plan better. Then you need to see what your opponent is going for and then you can play actions that may mess what you infer their plan is.

Now I play it whenever I get a chance and every game is quite different, because it also depends on what other players are going for. It is a race for resources and infrastructure. A fine balance between building up and harvesting the benefits is needed for optimal performance.


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