Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lesbians Review: Race For The Galaxy

Why hello there, we’re two game lovin’ and girl lovin’ chicks from down under, and today we are reviewing a staple of so many game cupboards, Race for The Galaxy.

The GF! In Space.

Race for the Galaxy Fact File
Players: 2-4
Playtime: 30 - 60
Genre: Card Driven / Civilisation 

Race for the Galaxy entered my apartment not so long ago in an exciting package inside another exciting package we received in the mail. The girlfriend and I had played it before, and we had also played it before we’d played it before, and before that, we had also played it, but had got most of the rules wrong. I’m reviewing it partly because it tops the “recently played” list, and partly because I have been challenged to slip ALL the phase names into my review. And I always accept a challenge. Unless it involves Vector 3 (shudder). 

Before I slide into the review proper, I wanted to announce that we now have a twitter – for all the stupid (I mean um…clever and droll…) board gaming jokes I think of throughout the day. Check it out here:!/lesbigamerz


See the resemblance?
Race for the Galaxy, not surprisingly, is set in “space,” and that is “space” as it appeared on the front of 1980s hack sci-fi novels. The cards feature painted intergalactic landscapes, bad CG, and variety of tropes to let us know it is set a dark, stark, violent, but really really shiny future. Lazerz, alienz, and spaceshipz are trotted out on almost every card letting the player build themselves a glorious twelve card empire of stereotype.

But rare indeed is it for the player of RFTG to be looking at the background art, instead they are much more likely to use their eye power to explore the tiny tiny symbols on their cards – and be warned, these are a weirder alien language then any sci-fi flick I’ve ever seen. 


(The GF is writing the gameplay section again because she is able to explain things in a calm sophisticated manner without using !!, sarcasm, or CAPSLOCK)

Each player is dealt a starting world, with it’s own special powers – some military focused, some trade focused and so on – and six cards. Two are immediately discarded, giving each player a starting hand of four. This is a nice touch, giving you at least a bit of choice in how you’ll be going about taking the galaxy for your own (i.e. earning VPs).

There are also (12 x no. of players) VPs placed out at the start of the game. If these run out, the game ends at the end of that round. The game will also end if any person has managed to place 12 cards down in front of them.  

Now. The cards. The actual things driving the game. In fact, there is no ‘money’ in RftG, you discard cards from your hand to ‘pay’ the cost of things, and earn extra cards when you sell goods. Anyway. there are three different types of cards in the game. Worlds are marked with a circle and you’re able to settle them, Developments are marked with diamonds and are developed (really? You develop developments?), and goods that are produced by worlds marked by a facedown card. You will be trying to get worlds and developments played to expand your tableau (goods do not count towards the 12 card down goal) and net you VPs.   

Disclaimer: lesbian version only

Each game consists of rounds, and each round consists of phases, and each phase consists of playing cards to maximise the phases played in the next round. There are five phases:
i. Explore – draw two cards, pick one
ii. Develop – play any development card, paying its cost
iii. Settle – that shiny new planet in your hand can be played (for a cost)!
iv. Consume – where you sell goods, or trade them in for VPs
v. Produce – all your planets that can produce goods will magically produce them for you

In each round, players will secretly choose two phases each. Only those phases chosen will be played. In addition, players will get certain bonuses for the phases they picked. That’s all folks!


I’ve often heard RFTG referred to as Puerto Rico with card drawing (ignoring San Juan). Lies. Indecent slanderous lies. Puerto Rico with cards is kind of like trapping a yeti, or licking your elbow with your tongue. It would be totally far out cool if you could do it, but YOU CAN’T. Because Puerto Rico has no luck, and card drawing means LUCK. Now I love the ladies, but lady luck and I have a very tumultuous relationship at the best of times, and sometimes I get really angry at her and wish that the fire of a thousand suns would swell up from the ground and consume her (preferably without damaging the apartment – hard to explain a thousand suns to the land lord.) All gamers have at some point or at all the points railed against luck, and luck can be a big part of RFTG. But instead of drawing “good” cards, like picking up that juicy Winchester in Bang, RFTG is more about drawing cards that fit together, that let you produce an evil mining conglomerate for example, or go crazy with the off world tech.

I had someone tell me recently however, that if I thought RFTG was all about luck, I was doing it wrong. This was not a game about drawing cards, this was a game of gaining and spending, buying and selling, the WALLSTREET of the gaming world (…except um….of course the Wall Street game….). It is a game of nauseating circles, build, make, buy, sell, and the person who can develop these circles fastest is the winner. It’s true a high card turnover is integral for success in “space” and what’s more, having so many cards pass through the players hands (most of which become fodder) can suck the luck level back down to the bearable. The key to RFTG is resourcefulness – doing the best with what you have. This is my best guess as why so many people refer to RFTG as “strategic.” It’s a quick clean game, jetting along with no clunk like the slick ships on the cards. BUT RFTG is essentially a hell in space for those who like to plan (like meeee). And therein lies the ill of a card economy – every time you purchase, you wipe the slate clean, and have to settle for the new cards you draw. 

Another worrying aspect of RTFG is what I have labelled the ketchup factor because it is the sauce of much woe. If one player goes into hyperdrive real early on in the game (some lucky bastard almost always does), then the rest get left light years behind. When the GF has +5 military power on her second turn, you know all you can do is bow down and acknowledge her as rightful ruler of the galaxy.

The last thing I wanted to say about RFTG is what is with the cards? Yes, I get it, they’re all “space” themed, that’s great, but WHAT do half the names even mean? My favourite card is “Star Nomad Lair.” I don’t know what that is, but one day I’m going to DYI one in the back yard. Also, Rebel Miners. Because of course, that’s what tanked up rebel fighters do, they mine.


Me: RFTG is a fast paced card churning game of construction which hinges on luck, and what you do with that luck. It’s been called a game of card “economy”, but it’s more like a game of card cacophony, since the constant flow of cards through the hand makes planning sort of like playing chess blindfolded. Once you get in the groove however, you can circle yourself to victory, leaving the other players star dust in the distance.  A fun game but it’s more light on than it wants to let on.
Rating: 7

GF: This is a solid game, very smooth gameplay. It’s fun, yes. But for me, I play it once, I lose, I’ll want to play again, make a military win, then… well, I’m done with it for the night. As such, I kind of consider it as a ‘warm-up game’ before I play the main course of the night. The length of this game is great for that. That said, I wouldn’t mind getting an expansion or two for this one, I have a feeling it would improve the game a lot for me.
Rating: 7

7 / 10

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