Welcome Time Wasters!
My week has seen me playing a lot of one game… Breath of the Wild. Yeah, I know. Not really a Time Waster, but Alia and I just got our Switch and I had to give a shout out to a wonderful game (You can read the GiN review of it here). Alia has been clocking even more time in the game than me, and while she’s playing I’ve been checking out Race for the Galaxy.
Race for the Galaxy is a mobile game that is an adaptation of a physical card game. To be blunt about the matter, I’ve never played the board game. While we’re being honest here I’ll also say that I was provided a review key for the game from its developers.
Now that the disclosures and idle talk are out of the way, we can really get into the review of Race for the Galaxy. The first thing to note is that this isn’t a simple pick-up-and-play game. There’s a good bit that players have to know to really enjoy it. There are tutorials to help with this, but they aren’t really all that great. It mostly just tells the player what to do to win the tutorials without explaining how they are winning. The rule section in the game shines some more light on the subject, but is still a little lacking. With a little bit of experimentation (and getting my teeth kicked in by the computer) I was able to get a hold of the game’s flow of play.
The first thing to note about Race for the Galaxy is that there are five phases to each turn. These phases are Explore, Develop, Settle, Consume and Produce. Exploring allows player to draw cards, Develop lets them play a Development card, Settle lets them play a World card, Consume lets them trade in goods and Produce creates goods. There are also other special effects that can happen and different phases, but these are the basics.
Unlike most other board or card games, Race for the Galaxy doesn’t require the players to go through every phase each turn. Players each pick a phase and reveal these picks at the same time. Each player can take actions during these phases, but the player that chose the phase gets bonuses. This can include extra draws and other benefits. Multiple players can also chose the same phase and both get the bonuses.
Each game of Race for the Galaxy starts the players with a World card. They also draw six cards from the deck, but only get to keep four of them. The goal of the game is to collect more Victory Points than the opponent. Players earn Victory Points by trading goods for Victory Tokens, as well as from the Victory Points on their World and Development cards.
A game of Race for the Galaxy can end in two ways. The first is when a player completes their empire. This means that they have 12 World or Development cards on the board. The second is if there are no more Victory Tokens available in the stash. After either of these events occur, players count up their total Victory Points to determine the winner.
If all this sounds like a bit much to digest, it is. However, players that stick with Race for the Galaxy will find a fun card game to enjoy. This is already known by the fans of the board game. What we should really be talking about is how well the game translates to a mobile device.
Race for the Galaxy works on mobile, but at a cost. The first negative that I can think of is the opponent’s side of the board. This is hidden from view normally and has to be tapped on to see what cards they have in play. This problem slightly extends to the players side of the field. They can see their own cards, but will have to double tap them to get more information. It works, but is a bit clunky.
The screen also feels a bit cramped. A sidebar allows players to select and move through the different phases. This sidebar only has the icons for the phases and not their names. That may not confuse veteran players, but it definitely left me wondering what the heck was going on when I first started playing the game.
Games of Race for the Galaxy don’t last too long. My matches were lasting for about 10 minutes at a time. There are online and offline matches in the game and both work well. The AI is ruthless, and so are many online players. Players can pause offline matches and resume them later. My luck with this feature hasn’t been the best, though. I’ve had the game crash on more than one occasion when trying to resume a match.
The animations in Race for the Galaxy are simple and that is for the best. It makes for a smooth experience while playing and helps overcome the problems I have with the clutter that comes from the user interface. While the user interface is a bit much, it is probably about the best that can be done when adapting such a complex board game for mobile devices.
The audio in Race for the Galaxy isn’t exactly all that great. There’s a single track that plays in the background for both menus and matches. It conveys the space feeling with soft, mysterious tunes and a slight mix of electronic beats, but isn’t anything memorable. Selecting cards and actions in the game also have the appropriate sound effects, but come across as a bit generic. Honestly, these aren’t really the reasons that people will be playing this game, but I still have to talk about it.
Overall, Race for the Galaxy is a fun card game, even on mobile devices. It caught some problems during the transfer, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t an enjoyable experience. Fans of the board game will likely enjoy this version of the game, but it may be hard to draw in new players. It is just a bit complex for a mobile game and it doesn’t explain itself well to the player. If there is one thing this game has done, it is convince me to keep my eye out for a physical copy of it next time I go browsing the local hobby store.
Race for the Galaxy earns 3 GiN Gems out of 5!