Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How To Race for the Galaxy

I'm going to hopefully be playing some online games of Race for the Galaxy this evening, and I thought I would go over the basic rules of the game.

If you've every tried to learn Race for the Galaxy from the rule book, it can be a harrowing experience. Surprisingly, the game itself will seem simple once the initial confusion is over. But that initial confusion can be a big hurdle to make your way over.

A Little Background
At the very heart of Race for the Galaxy was an attempt to create a card game version of the popular board game Puerto Rico. If you ever want to play the actual card game version of Puerto Rico it's called San Juan. Available in paper form at the store, and also as both an iOS and Android smartphone/tablet game. Race for the Galaxy is slightly more complex than San Juan, with a greater variety of play options.

Obviously the better game. But San Juan is pretty good, too.

Winning the Game
Race for the Galaxy is over as soon as on of the players in the game either a) builds the 12th card in their tableau or b) exhausts the victory point chit pile (which is typically 12 VP per player in the game). So building things and earning extra victory points (by the consume action) are the two things you want to be doing as much as possible.

The Actions
There are 5 possible actions in Race for the Galaxy, and at the beginning of the round you will pick a single action from these 5 choices. There are actually more choices than 5, but we will go into the options of each action further down the post. Each action is pretty simple, but complicated by possible bonuses.

While you just pick a single action, you will usually have the opportunity during the round to do multiple actions, because all the actions each player picks are available for every player to take.

1. Explore
This action is a simple way for you to draw cards if you don't have anything better to do, or you want to dig around for a specific card combination from the deck. The basic explore action is this: draw 2 cards, pick one of them, then discard the other card.

Typical developments
2. Develop
This action allows you to build a development card from your hand and place it in your tableau. The cost for building a development card is the number in the large tan diamond in the top left corner of the card. You pay this cost by discarding that many other cards from your hand.

Developments are technological advances for your galactic space empire. They typically allow you to do things better, give discounts to other costs, better consumer options etc.
Settlements. The Artist Colony produces blue novelties
3. Settle
This action allows you to build a settlement (sometimes people call these planets) to your tableau. Settlements are mostly paid for exactly like developments except the cost in in the large circle in the upper left corner of the card.
An additional type of settlement is a military settlement. You will know a military settlement by the red ring around the planet. You can discard cards to play for a military settlement, instead you can play a military settlement for free if you have military strength equal to or greater than the cost of the settlement. Military strength is gained from various settlements and developments. You typically start with 0 military strength.
Adding military settlements to your empire is either extremely easy or completely impossible depending on your military strength.

4. Consume
This action turns goods into either the currency of the game (cards) or victory points. Some settlements and developments have consume powers and it will tell you right on the card how many goods you can consume and what you get back in return. The consume action is one of the ways you win the game.
In a consume action, you need to consume as many goods as you possibly can. Because all players have all actions available, this is one way to screw over other players by forcing them to consume goods before they have their cards set up optimally.
You may be wondering where goods come from, since I haven't said anything about them yet. Well just wait one more paragraph.
2 windfall Production settlements

5. Produce
This action creates goods in your settlements. Some settlements start with a good (windfall worlds, which are empty circles with a glowing halo on the outside). But most need a produce action to get goods. Settlements produce a specific color of good denoted on the card. Blue goods are the least valuable, while yellow alien goods are the most valuable.

All settlements that can produce a good do so during this action. A settlement can only hold one good, if the produce action happens again, any settlement with an existing good is passed over.

The Bonuses
When you pick an action for a round, you get a special bonus. While all other players get to take the basic action, only you get the bonus. Here's where things get a little complicated.

The 2 Explore action choices
Explore Bonus
When you pick explore, you have the choice of 2 bonuses.
1) draw an extra card and keep an extra card. (Draw +3, Keep +2 total)
2) draw FIVE extra cards, and don't keep any extra cards (Draw +7, Keep +1 total)

The first bonus is chosen most often, but the 2nd bonus is often chosen when there is a specific type of card you really need to make your economic space engine of doom.

Development Bonus
The development bonus is a discount of 1 less card to pay for building your development. Easy!

Settle Bonus
The settle bonus is to draw a card after you build your settlement for the round. Again, easy!

The 2 Consume choices
Consume Bonus
When you pick consume you have the choice of 2 bonuses.
1) "Sell" one of your goods for a specific number of cards. Blue goods are worth 2 cards, brown is worth 3, green is worth 4, yellow is worth 5. After you sell you then do the rest of the consume action normally.

2) 2X Victory Points. When you take this bonus, all victory points generated during the consume action are doubled. This is can be a bonkers number of points. If someone is taking this action and they have 3 or 4 planets with goods, they are currently in the process of winning the game. All will be over soon.

Produce Bonus
The produce bonus is to produce a good on one of your windfall worlds. Typically these settlements start with a goods card, but don't generate any extra during the game. With the bonus, you get to make a good on one of these special settlements.

Counting up Victory Points
When the end game conditions are met, the game is over at the end of the round. There are 3 sources of victory points. Settlements and developments are each worth a certain amount of VP, as printed on the card in the white hexagon. And then victory point chits are added to the total on top of that.

The final objective is simple enough, but there's a bunch of ways to get there. If you have a hankering to play Race for the Galaxy, check out the online version here.

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