Race for the Galaxy
How to Play the Race for the Galaxy Card Game
Playing the Card Game Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is a science fiction empire-building card game designed by Thomas Lehmann and published by Rio Grande Games in 2007. Race for the Galaxy was first developed to be a card game version of Puerto Rico, but he combined his ideas with the theme of a unpublished card game he designed years before (and never published) to create Race of the Galaxy, which is sometimes shortened to RotG or simply "Race". Some of Tom Lehmann's ideas did make it into San Juan, but that popular card game version of Puerto Rico was produced by others.
Race for the Galaxy is an innovative game, but a game with a tight set of rules and good game dynamics, perhaps because of the high number of play tests RotG had before being released. The game avoids pitting players in direct conflict, though they do engage in what others have called "parasitic conflict", where the rivals might all gain something from one player's actions in a turn. This means gamers are engaged the whole round, instead of just when it's their turn to act.
Race for the Galaxy and San Juan: Similarities and Differences
Because both games were first conceived as card game versions of Puerto Rico, RotG and San Juan have many similarities. The differences are many, though. For example, you need a consumer card to sell goods in Race for the Galaxy, as if you found a customer, but you aren't limited by the rules on how many goods you can sell on a turn. You are only limited by circumstances (customer cards). In San Juan, you don't need a special card to sell goods, but you are limited in the number of goods you can sell in a turn. Special cards do give you the ability to make a sell.
Race for the Galaxy Rules
Another example of a difference in the two games is the picking of roles for a turn. In San Juan, the choice of which role to play for a round rotates clockwise around the table, so if you choose the Councillor role, no one else can choose that role this turn. In Race for the Galaxy, more than one player can fill a role, while their decisions are made simultaneously and in secret. If two players select the same role, this action is performed only once, but both players get bonuses during this phase.
The 6-cost card which give you victory point bonuses in Race for the Galaxy, like in San Juan, but these cards also have advantages during the game. This is a stark difference from San Juan, where having too many victory point cards too early in the game limits your efficiency in collecting more resources (and victory points).
Race for the Galaxy Instructions
The instructions and pre-game setup in Race for the Galaxy are simple and easy-to-learn. The game only takes about an hour to play, so you get into the action soon and starting building your mercantile network in space just as soon. Race for the Galaxy originally was designed for 2 to 4 players, though expansions allow for both solitaire play and up to 6 competitors.
One aspect of the game new players find confusing is the unique icons used in place of language. The iconography of Race for the Galaxy has been commented on ad infinitum, so I'll just say that Thomas Lehmann designed his own game icons. Experienced players laud the concise nature of the icons, while new players sometimes complain they're hard to decipher. Play Race once or twice and you'll soak up the meaning without much trouble.
Race for the Galaxy Strategy Tips and Tactics
Race for the Galaxy allows for four disparate strategies (Trade, Development, Production, Military), but you should keep in mind two major points about developing your strategy in RotG. One, make certain you have something that you do which collects victory points quicker than anyone else (that is, quicker than anyone else at that particular scoring strategy). If you don't, you're assured of no better than second place. Two, seek to become versatile, so you can leech off of other players, no matter what they choose to do in a round. Be ready to take advantage of all possible roles chosen.
With that in mind, let's look at the four strategies, starting with a Production strategy. You create worlds that produce and consume a lot. Set up the means of production early and start producing and consuming. Don't chose roles like Develop or Settle, but instead choose Produce/Consume. Cards like Consumer Markets, Mining Conglomerate, and Diversified Economy are important to collect. Early on, cards that give rebates and discounts are helpful. Find cards that consume, produce, or make cards.
Trading strategy requires you to trade for as many cards as you can get your hands on, large scoring worlds and other developments, and then discarding these cards for victory points. Remember that Merchant World and Deficit Spending are a big part of your strategy. You want at least 2 more production capacity than consumption, so you can trade more times and more goods per round.
Development strategy requires you to collect develop cards which give rebates and discounts, so you make cheap developments. Collect cards like Trade League, Interstellar Bank, Investment Credits, and Public Works. The best card for development strategy is Galactic Federation, so keep this in mind always. Any time your opponents don't have a bunch of cards, choose to develop. When your opponents have a lot of cards in their hands, make that the time you choose non-development roles. They're likely to be developing and you can leech off them at this time, while they won't be able to do the same when you go into development phase.
In a Military strategy, avoid settling in the early stages of the game, because this helps your producer opponents get off to a quick start. Instead, settle just enough to get a windfall world, then start stockpiling cards for later play. Once you have your windfall world, start to explore and trade. Collect cards like Galactic Imperium and New Galactic Order. Though it's counter-intuitive, you'll need to be patient with this strategy.
Race for the Galaxy Expansions
You can find three expansions for Race for the Galaxy:
Gathering Storm adds rules for a fifth player and for solo player, while adding new cards and goals. Rebel vs. Imperium introduces the novel "takeover" rule, which is the closest thing to direct confrontation or military conquest you'll find in the game. Rebel vs. Imperium also offers rules for a 6th player. The Brink of War expansion introduces a new victory point consideration: galactic prestige. Most of the new cards and goals involve this new RotG game mechanic on some level.
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