Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy has been around for almost a decade and continues to be loved and played. It takes the core concept of the hit game Puerto Rico, turns it into a card game, and adds a space exploration theme. And it’s brilliant. It has captivated large numbers of gamers, some of whom dedicate themselves to playing it hundreds of times.
However, one common complaint you may hear is the difficult of the iconography on the cards. I urge you not to take these complaints to heart. It’s just something for people to whine about. People like to whine about very popular games to feel like they are against the grain. But in reality the icons are not that big a deal and in fact can become a great asset after only a little experience with the game itself.
Race for the Galaxy is a race because all players are trying to be the first to lay down twelve cards on their “tableau”, which are all the planets and technologies they’ve discovered throughout the game. After that the game ends and the points are calculated. Throughout the game, there are a number of actions players can take to either play their cards or acquire new cards to use into their hands.
The great and interesting thing about this game is that the cards are used for everything: they are used as resources, currency, and the actual planets/tech themselves. It’s easy to keep everything straight but difficult in deciding what cards to try to keep and what cards to throw away in order to pay for the others.
Another cool concept in Race is that players play simultaneously. Each turn starts by players selecting what action they want to take for that turn but the great thing is that everyone gets to do all the actions selected. This is borrowed from Puerto Rico as mentioned before, but still feels like its own thing here. This makes for a smooth-flowing game experience.
Race for the Galaxy consists almost entirely of cards, though there are some victory point tokens which were just regular old tokens really. The cards are cool though. Each one is decorated with cool sci-fi artwork, giving you a sense of the vastness of this galaxy you are exploring. They are also organized in a way which shows what the card will do at what action in the game.
So let’s discuss the icons. At first glance, yes it seems like a foreign language. But all you need to do is suck it up of your first play and after that you’re golden! Because it all does make a lot of sense once you get the hang of it, and to help you get there the game does provide a player guide with a key for what the symbols mean.
Before the first game ends, you should have a pretty good idea that a card in a hand means, guess what, take a card into your hand. Once you look past the vague confusion of the “forest” and actually look at all the symbols as “the trees”, they will make sense. In fact, they enhance the game once you’ve got the basic idea.
I think I’ve said all I want to say. Race is a game we keep coming back to because it plays pretty quickly, sparks the imagination, and always provides a challenge to create the best federation of planets you can. The simultaneous action selection and multiple uses for your hand of cards are very interesting concepts which keep bringing us back and make this an excellently designed game.
I also love the theme, though I usually steer clear of sci-fi games. This is certainly one of the exceptions. The symbology is unique and helpful and only a barrier to new players if they are completely unwilling to take half a game to figure it out.