Review: Race for the Galaxy


Type: Card game (non-collectible)
Players: 2-4 (1-6 with expansion sets)
Suggested Ages: 12 and up
Play Time: 60 minutes
Cost: $34.95

Extra Info

Play Style: Competitive, economy, empire-building, shared phases
3 out of 5
Learning Curve: Moderate
Similar To: Dominion, Puerto Rico
My Rating: 4 out of 5


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.

PDF Manual from Rio Grande Games

My Experience

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.

Final Analysis

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.

5 responses to “Review: Race for the Galaxy”

  1. Daniel Z says:

    I enjoyed it!

  2. NateStraight says:

    Race is kind of a difficult game to learn on your own. Though it is a great game, the icons and special powers can be overwhelming. My wife and I love the game and would be happy to teach anyone anytime we’re over at +1. :)

  3. Jerry says:

    There is also a FREE computer game of it so you can give it a try vs ai opponents.

  4. cubetap says:

    Funny, I always hear people talking about how complicated Race is to learn. They’re just icons, people! I actually prefer the icon system to excessive game text (I’m talking to you, Agricola). Once you learn what the little symbols mean, you can glean all the relevant info very quickly.

    @Jerry there used to be a play-by-web site you could play against human opponents, but I think the server went down for good.

    If you buy this game, sleeve your cards. This one will see a lot of repeat plays. Mine are so worn out that if I get the newest expansion I’ll have to get a new base set – it’s really obvious which ones are the new cards.

  5. Jerry says:

    Yea I really didn’t feel it was very complicated either. Actually I found it’s one of the exceptionally easy games to teach as each icon is only related to the phase number it appears next to. Teach them a couple of basics and hand them the manual open to the icon page and answer any stray questions worked really well for me.