(Creative Commons Licensed image from brookscl’s Flickr stream)
Since Christmas my friends and I have spend an inordinate amount of time playing a wonderful little card based space ‘board’ game. Race for the Galaxy involves building your little corner of space out of a series of cards that represent planets and social or scientific technologies. It has a wonderful mechanic that allows players to choose which of five actions (exploring for more cards, developing a technology, settling a planet, and so on) they want to enact that turn, without any knowledge of what the other players are going to choose.
Unlike most other games we play (Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, the terrifyingly complex and wonderful Twilight Imperium), Race for the Galaxy takes a maximum of 45 minutes and can be played with two players. The number of players matters very little because, unlike most other games, RftG is essentially played alone. Each player settles their section of the galaxy without any interaction with the other players, excepting the selection of actions. This might appear, on the surface, to make for a fairly lonely game. But somehow, by the brilliance of Tom Lehmann, it doesn’t feel lonely.
To link back to the title of this post, it might be because of the wonderfully geeky artwork and galactic ‘story.’ The game features a number of different types of worlds, technologies, and other miscellaneously storied cards (such as the Galactic Trendsetters, who appear to be the stereotypical parent’s-basement-geek’s idea of super-hot clubbers, featured in the bottom middle of the six cards linked above) that allow for some semblance of narrative to develop. In our more boisterous games (generally the first in a series of three or four back-to-back games), we all tell stories of our empires and how they came to be. And here I’ll stop, as I’ve just revealed the true extent of my geekiness for the whole of the internet to see.
Anyhoo, ignoring the previous paragraph, I highly recommend checking out Race for the Galaxy. If you can either a. get into the geeky art and world it creates or b. ignore it, it’s a wonderfully put together game that is actually remarkably simple, once you get through the seemingly complicated mechanic of production and consumption, and learn all the cards.