Type: Card game (non-collectible)
Players: 2-4 (1-6 with expansion sets)
Suggested Ages: 12 and up
Play Time: 60 minutes
Build a galactic civilization using cards for planets and developments, which grant special actions or rules exceptions. RftG is fun for thinkers and strategists; the randomness of drawing cards can mildly frustrate strategic planning.
How to Play
Each player manages a small hand of cards to put cards in play in front of them, granting special abilities or resources. Your goal is to gain victory points from high-scoring cards and resource trading.
Each round has five phases which all players act in simultaneously; these let you draw new cards, play cards from your hand, and gain or trade resources for cards and/or victory points. At the start of each round, each player selects one of the five phases secretly, then everyone reveals them together. You only play through those selected phases (with a little bonus to the players who selected it).
Putting cards in play has a cost, which you pay by discarding other cards from your hand. Most cards give you bonuses during one or more phases, such as drawing extra cards, reducing costs, gaining resources, etc. It’s the last round when someone has 12 cards in play.
What do all these icons mean? All the qualities of a card are shown by icons. It’s a bit overwhelming at first. The game comes with some cheatsheets which explain them, and the manual has a master list.
After one or two games, I was over that hump and really enjoyed myself. The shared phases aspect makes each round a fun gamble; you always want to do two or three things, so you’re counting on the other players to pick the phases you didn’t.
Your options are always limited by the cards in your hand. Sometimes this was frustrating, since it made strategy hit-or-miss. Usually though, I found the game gave me enough ways to draw cards that I was almost never totally out of options. The hardest part is picking which cards to discard, since that’s how you “pay” to play cards.
This is a solid economy style game with a few fun twists. The vibe is surprisingly light. “Race” is an apt title, since you’re never in direct conflict with the other players; it’s just who can get the most points. Quick setup makes it ideal for impromptu play.
As with many Rio Grande games, this is more for experienced gamers. The complexity is probably too intimidating for the casual gamer, but could be the perfect next step for someone who’s cut their teeth on Settlers of Catan and wants to broaden their horizons a little.
If you like economy games, pick this one up. The expansions add some fun new cards (and allow more players), but they’re not necessary to enjoy the game.