Deck Builder Card Games

Star Realms: The Best Deck Building Game For Beginners

If you’re looking for a great deck building game that is easy to learn, look no further than Star Realms. This game has been gaining in popularity in recent years, and for good reason – it’s a lot of fun! Star Realms is a great gateway into the deck building genre, and it’s inexpensive to try out. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of the game and how to get started.

What is Star Realms?

Star Realms is a deck building game for two players. In the game, each player takes on the role of a space admiral and tries to build up their fleet by acquiring new ships and bases. The game is played with a deck of cards, which represent different ships and bases. Each turn, players will draw cards from their deck and use them to either attack their opponent or defend themselves. The goal of the game is to reduce your opponent’s score to zero.

Why is Star Realms Good For Beginners?

Star Realms is a great game for newcomers to the deck building genre it will help you learn the core deckbuilding components without layer on a lot of rules. In a lot of other deck building games turns have multiple phases that must be completed in a specific order, or there are limits to how many cards you can play and how many you can buy.

Star Realms doesn’t have any of that, you are able to buy as many cards as you can afford, you can buy first, or attack first — doesn’t matter. The game is a lot of fun, and once you learn how to read a Star Realms card the game is easy to learn. Let’s look at that next!

The Anatomy of a Star Realms Card

Let’s take a moment and discuss the different parts of a Star Realms card. Once you understand this, the rest of the game is pretty easy to pick up.


Faction – The first thing you’ll notice on a card is the faction. There are four factions in Star Realms: The Star Empire (yellow), The Blob (green), The Machine Cult (red), and The Trade Federation (blue). Each faction has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll want to try out each one to see which suits your playstyle the best.


Cost – The second thing you’ll notice is the cost. This is how much trade you’ll need to pay to acquire the card. Trade is represented by coins, and you’ll start each game with a few coins to get you started.


Primary Ability – Next you’ll want to take note of the card’s primary ability. This is the main reason you’ll want to acquire the card, as it will help you in some way when you play the card. Our example card gives you eight combat when it is played. This can be used to attack your opponent.


Ally Ability – Some cards have an ally ability meaning if you play cards of the faction shown on this same turn, you also get this ability as well. In our example, if I had two blob cards in play this turn, I would also get to draw another card from my deck.


Scrap Ability – Finally there is the scrap ability. This is an ability you get if you choose to scrap the card, which means it gets permanently removed from your deck for the remained of the game (and goes on the scrap pile). You’ll want to carefully consider when you want to use scrap abilities.

How to Play Star Realms

To explain how to play Star Realms, we’ll focus on the two-player version of the game.

Star Realms Play Area

Game Setup

Make a starting deck for each player containing two Vipers and eight Scouts. Each player shuffles their deck, the first player draws a three-card hand and the second player draws a five-card hand. After the first hand, both players will draw five-card hands. Going first is an advantage so the starting three-card hand helps to balance that out.

Set aside the pile of the scout cards and then shuffle the remaining cards, these cards make up your trade deck. Deal six cards from the trade deck as shown above to create your trade row. You’re now ready to play!

Taking a Turn

On each turn a player can spend all of their coins (trade) to buy as many cards as they can afford, they can also use all of their combat to attack their opponent and/or their opponent’s bases.

Any cards purchased go into your discard pile, not into your hand. After you’ve spent all of your trade and attack, discard everything and draw a new five-card hand. When you are out of cards to draw, reshuffle your discard pile.

When you purchase a new card it goes into your discard pile, not into your hand. You’ll get a chance to play these cards when your deck runs out and you shuffle your discard pile.

The one exception to the rule is that when a Base is played it is not discarded. Bases stay in play until they are destroyed and give you an ongoing effect that you get on every turn that the base is in play.

Barter World for example allows you to choose between getting 2 authority points back or having two additional trade every turn. Players can choose to direct some of their attack toward a base to destroy it and keep thier opponent from getting this benefit. A base can only be attacked if you do enough damage to destroy it on a single turn. Any additional attack can be used to destroy other bases, or go against your opponents authority.

Bases can also give you additional protection. Bases that are designated as an Outpost like War World MUST be destroyed before the opponent can be attacked. As with all of the damage must be sent on a single turn. So, if you have War World in play and your opponent only has three combat, you can not be attacked and that combat is wasted.

Star Realms Scoring

Each player starts with 50 authority points which function as your “health”. The object of the game is to knock your opponent to zero. The game has a very clever way of keeping track of the authority score.

One card is rotated to depict the “tens” portion of the score and moved up and down to depict the “ones” portion of the score.

Star Realms Official Rules

Star Realms comes with two sets of rules. If you only have one set of Star Realms core cards, you’ll use the two-player rules. You can use the multi-player ruleset if you have more than one copy of the game. The multiplayer rules can accommodate up to six players (with three sets of the Star Realms core cards).

This is a nice way to package things because it allows you to try the core game inexpensively and if you like the game you can add on.

If you want more detail than my overview, or you’re interested in the multi-player variants of the game, you can check out the official rules:

Two Player Rules (Page One)

Two Player Rules (Page Two)

Multiplayer Rules

Star Realms Strategies

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of the game, let’s discuss some strategies you can use to win.

Synergies – Look for cards that work together and try to get multiple cards in the same faction so you can benefit from Ally Abilities

Thin Your Deck – The saying in deck building games is “thinning is winning”. As you get more valuable cards in your deck you’ll want some method of scrapping your lower value cards. This allows you to draw your high value cards more often becuse there is less “junk” to get thorugh. In Star Realms the Machine Cult faction often lets you scrap a card of your choice, pick up at least a couple of these.

Get Some Healing – Don’t ignore the blue faction. It’s the only faction that lets you add to your Authority score.

Make Use of Outposts – Make sure you get some outposts to block attacks from your opponent. Having multiple out there at once can really save your authority.

Are there expansions for Star Realms?

There are several expansions for Star Realms.

Colony Warsintroduces a new card type – colonies. These are powerful cards that can give you a big advantage, but they’re also very expensive to acquire.

Crisis Expansions – The Crisis expansion is actually a set of four mini-expansions, but they can be purchased together. All of the cards in this expansion are added to your trade deck.

  • The expansions include more powerful bases and battleships.
  • Event cards that trigger a potentially game-changing effect when they enter the trade row
  • When you acquire a Hero they go directly into play instead of going into your discard pile.

If you get all of the crisis expansions you add a total of 48 new cards to the game which add a new layer of strategy to the game.

Gambit – The gambit expansion adds 13 new cards to the game called Gambits. Each player gets two Gambit cards at the start of the game that they keep face down. These cards can be played at any time during the game and give the player powerful one-time or recurring effects. You have to decide when to make your move, hopefully your gambits will pay off!

Can you Play Star Realms Online?

Star Realms can be played online in multiplayer, or against AI. The free version has a limited number of features but it’s more than enough to determine whether or not you like the game. The full game can be unlocked for $4.99 USD. The game is available for Andriod, iOS or Steam.

Is Star Realms Fun?

Star Realms is a great introduction to the Deck Building genre, and it’s a lot of fun to play. It does have a “take that” feel since the players are attacking each other directly. This can make the game feel more confrontational than other deck-building games. Players with less competitive personalities may not enjoy it.

Is Star Realms Worth the Money?

Star Realms is definitely worth the money. It is an inexpensive way to add a Deck Building game to your game shelf. You can usually find the game for around $12-$15 and can add additional sets later if you want to try some of the multiplayer variants.

Final Thoughts

Star Realms is a great game for newcomers to the deck-building genre because it is easy to learn and relatively inexpensive. Star Realms is a great gateway into the deck building genre. It’s inexpensive to try and it can be played online with other people. The game has a decent amount of depth given it’s simplicity and offers a lot of replay value. If you’re looking for a deck building game to try, Star Realms is definitely worth checking out as long as you’re OK with the “take that” nature of a directly competitive game.