Friday, March 11, 2016

Star Realms: Crisis Events

Star Realms, the space-combat deck-building game that I've written about before, released its latest digital update recently. It adds event cards to the online version of the game, and a new set of single-player campaign missions.
The new update contains the Event cards from the Crisis expansion. (Two other components of Crisis - "Heroes" and "Fleets and Fortresses" - have yet to come to the digital realm.) The new event cards are shuffled into the main deck, and take effect immediately when they're revealed during the normal course of refilling the trade row. Events affect all the players in the game, not just the current active player, though not always in exactly the same way.

Events add an additional layer of randomness to Star Realms. A well-timed (or poorly-timed, depending on your perspective) Trade Mission can give one player a very powerful card early on. Or a Supernova might reset the trade row just when you were about to pick up a powerful ship. They also change the way that a player plans out their turn. You might not want to play all your cards before buying ships/bases from the trade row, since an event might pop up that changes your plans.

I don't think Events are quite as bad as the Gambits expansion in terms of adding randomness, but Events certainly can have a big effect. This is most noticeable when several events pop up at the start of the game - one player can get a huge advantage on the very first turn with a fortunate series of Event cards. Much like Gambits, I enjoy having the extra bit of randomness from Events when I'm just playing the game for the sake of playing. If I actually care whether I win or not, then I'll probably skip both the Gambits and Events when creating the game. The extra randomness is fun, but not particularly conducive to skilled play.

The update made some other changes to the digital app, too. If you play on Mac or PC, you'll need a Steam account now, rather than downloading a stand-alone game client. There's no extra cost, but it is one more hoop to jump through. On all versions, there have been some minor changes to the UI: there's a new animation for 10+ damage attacks, and you can now correctly use effects that allow you to choose cards from both your hand and discard pile. The game's icon and completed-game graphics are slightly different (worse, IMHO, but someone must have liked the new ones). The game does feel a bit slower to respond while playing turns, which I'm pretty sure has to do with checking for event effects, but it's barely noticeable once you've played a few games.

For the $1.99 price, I think the Events addition is well worth picking up. I may not use the Event cards in every game, but it's nice to have them available for when I do feel like it.

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