Three Ring Circus: Knife Fight at the Pick n Mix

Do you ever think about the pence-per-play cost of board games?  I do, although it is usually as a cunning means to justify a new purchase.  At £13 or $13, (through the mysteries of board game currency conversion), Star Realms is a game that renders value for money arguments unnecessary.

Star Realms

Big game – small box.

Star Realms, by White Wizard Games is a two player deck building game which sees you and a friend play out an epic space battle to the death. Deckbuilding is all about starting with a small hand of weak cards and gradually improving it by buying better and better cards. It’s a powerfully clever concept started by a game called Dominion.


In the small box come 118 cards, rules and zero wasted space.  The cards are things of beauty: imagine every spaceship and space station from every science fiction book cover ever.  The cards are split into four coloured factions each with their own style:

  • The Trade Federation who are keen on money and defence.
  • The Blobs who favour destruction
  • The Machine Cult who eat their own young, (sort of).
  • The Star Empire who have an aggressive Star Fleet feel about them.

Set up

This is a 30 minute game, and set up is suitably quick too.  Each player starts with 10 basic cards and then its a question of shuffling the main deck and laying out the top five to form the starting market.

Set up and ready to play.

I have the Authority

To win the game you must reduce your opponent’s authority from a starting 50 to zero. In your starting deck you have two Vipers with a combat of 1 and eight Scouts with a trade of 1.  Winning the game with just these cards would be pretty dull, futile even.

To win you need more combat.  Combat is the bullet, but first you need to build the gun.  In other words, you need to construct a deck that will be an awesome engine of victory!

How do you build a deck?

The market place always has 5 cards.  Whatever you buy will give you one, or more, basic benefits: 

  • Combat, which reduces the opponent’s authority.
  • Trade, which allows you to buy new cards.
  • Authority, which increases your authority.
Middle cost ships.

Each turn you use the five cards drawn from your deck.  At first your deck is weak and the more expensive ships and bases are out of your price range.  When you buy new cards they go straight to your discard pile, but eventually reinforce your draw pile.  This steady buildup of strength is the nub of the game.

Each ship and base offers something a little bit different like pulling an extra card into your hand, or allowing you to scrap a weak card.  On top of that there are combo powers that trigger when you play another card of the same faction, (remember them from earlier?). Winning the game is all about buying the right cards at the right time and picking ones that work together.

Playing with Three

This is a two player game. You can pick up a second pack and play with 4.  I’ve thought of playing with three and house ruling that you always attack the player on your left, with forced discards to your right.

How easy is it to teach the game?

As deckbuilding games go, Star Realms is pretty straightforward. The rules on the cards are clear and the ‘draw five – play five – clean up’ process will be familiar to anyone who has played a deckbuilder before.  For newcomers, learning how to play will take a few cycles through the hand of five.

Can complexity be scaled?

There are some mini expansions that add new cards and rules. I would avoid these on first play. Beyond that the complexity isn’t in the game itself.  It’s in the building of a deck that will floor your opponent.

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

At first I let my son start the game with a hand of 5 rather than 3. This worked well and wasn’t needed for long. You could vary the starting authority too.

How likely is your child to flip the table half way through?

Your table is probably safe. Someone has to lose and that is the perfect opportunity to suggest a rematch.

Beyond the game

You can play the same game on PC, Android and IOS. The game is free, but unlocking online and full campaign modes costs a couple of quid.  I have been playing online for months. The game does not get old.

What do I think?

Let’s start with the negative. The game comes with cards to keep track of your authority. They come as a selection of 20s, 10s, 5s and 1s and I found them to be a complete faff. Now we use some ship miniatures and the score track from Carcassonne.

Carcassonne score board with my own ships.

I am a sucker for deckbuilders in general.  There is something about the draw, discard and shuffle that feels so right. There is also that thrill of discovery as you find which five cards you drew into your hand. With that in mind I was expecting to like Star Realms, but I was surprised at just how much fun I have had with it, both online and in person.

The art work and the setting are right up my street, but the game play excites too. I think part of the reason for this is the different approach to victory.  Most deckbuilders have you accumulating victory points, but here it’s a struggle to the death. As you fence around the available cards it’s like having a knife fight in a pick n mix.  Each drop in authority that you suffer moves you a little closer to the end and this puts a spotlight on your decisions.

The feeling that you get when when your deck delivers the goods is fantastic.  When you pull off combinations that are devastating, which draw extra cards and do extra damage, it feels like you’ve just taken down the Death Star!   Also I can’t think of many games that make me panic, but this one does.  If my authority is low, I may start to trash cards for small benefits or buy unsuitable bases for defence.  It’s sort of the equivalent of blowing the tanks on a submarine when you think you are sunk.

 I’ll come clean: this is barely a review. Really it’s more of a recommendation. It’s £13, buy a copy, find a friend and play the game. 

This review was written for Tabletop Day 2015.  If you enjoyed this review, or if you are desperate to find something better written try these other contributors:

The Savage AfterWorld — — Escape: Zombie City by Queen Games 

Channel Zero — — Thunderstone by Alderac Entertainment

Fractalbat — — The Hills Rise Wild by Pagan Publishing

The Gibbering Gamer — – Dragon Dice by SFR (formerly TSR)

Random Encounters (From Ohio) — – Nano Bot Battle Arena by Derpy Games



Kick The Box Oct 28th 2013 Edition

Kick The Box

Oct. 28th Edition

G’day fellow Kickstarter enthusiasts! Welcome to the last week in October edition of Kick The Box. This week we have a new established company entering into the Kickstarter craze, and Dice Hate Me Games newest tabletop game on Kickstarter which has already been funded, plus a couple of companies that are not only new, but new to Kickstarter with some amazing merchandise. This week, we have a bonus feature at the bottom of the page, so let’s kick out the latest updates, and roll onto this week’s picks.

 Update: Hurry and join the already funded card game Star Realms as it’s entering the last week of it’s campaign for some Stretch Goal Goodies! Also, the card game Novus is entering it’s last couple days of it’s Kickstarter campaign with some new Stretch Goals added! If you’ve been on the fence about either, now is the time to get off, or jump over it.

Shadows of Brimstone

Project by: Flying Frog Productions

Mix some classic Old Western archetypes with some Lovecraftian-inspired Other World Creatures in a cooperative dungeon crawl and what do you get? Why, Flying Frog’s newest game Shadows of Brimstone, of course.

Even though Flying Frog is no stranger to pushing the envelope when it comes to grand game designs with games like Fortune & Glory and A Touch of Evil, they are, however,  new to Kickstarter.

This is their first foray into the tabletop craze on Kickstarter, but you wouldn’t know it by the amount they have already surpassed their funding goal by. In the first five days of the campaign, they have already crushed their pledge goal level by over $360,000! And there is still twenty-two days left in the campaign.

So, create your continuous character, grab your six shooters, and join the other 1,400+ backers in an Old West adventure of a lifetime!

Shipping in US included. International shipping is $25-$40 depending on the pledge level.

Effortless Toolset For Complete RPG Immersion (

Project by:Brian A.C.

Questkick is a new HTML based toolkit designed by Brian to help both GM’s and Players become more immersed into their gaming worlds. His goal is for both, players and GMs, is to be able to use the website on any mobile device, making it easier to track all the game notes for NPCs, locations, and quest details. Also, to include mini-maps on the screen, reducing the amount of time needed to flip between maps and other notes, and of course sharing all this information either, with all the players, or specific players in your group with a touch of a button. Add an easy to use embedded dice rolling with modifiers application, dynamic soundtracks, and much more, and you have an all in one stop shopping center for help in creating and running campaigns.

This toolkit would become a must have for any GM-Ran Campaign and his participants.

 Brew Crafters

Project by: Dice Hate Me Games

Why just drink beer while gaming? When you can be drinking beer AND building the best brewery in town!?

Check out Dice Hate Me Game’s new game Brew Crafters on Kickstarter now, and that’s exactly what you could be doing. You would be playing a heavily influenced Euro game with an original American theme. Place your workers, chose your recipes of beer, gather hops and other resources for your recipes of choice, upgrade your brewery and equipment, research new methods that improve your manufacturing and beverages, and hire skilled workers with special abilities to help increase the efficiency of your brewery. As with any good worker placement game, there are so many valuable choices, and not enough time to use them all.

Can you grow your business to be the best reputable brewery in a short three years time when the final judgment of best local brewery is honored? Now is the time to find out.

One pledge level for shipping within the US, and another for International shipping.

Spell Saga

Project by: French Toast Gaming Co.

Tired of staring at a screen all day? In the mood to relax and get a little tabletop RPG gametime in but everyone is busy? Than the game Spell Saga  could be the answer to your problems. Yes, there are plenty of cooperative games that you can break out and play solo, but some of the setup times are a little long, especially if your setting them up by yourself. Spell Saga is designed as a RPG single player game.  It’s easy and quick to setup.

You play as The Last Minstrel searching for an answer to a world that has past it’s ending. Even though the major plot stays the same in Spell Saga, the path through the plot points and whether or not you survive changes with each game played.

If your not sure whether a single player game is for you, then head over to French Toast Gaming Co.’s first Kickstarter page and download a demo Print n Play version of the game with it’s rulebook and take the game for a spin yourself.

US shipping only. There are International Pledge Levels as well.

Publish James Carling Illustrations of Poe’s “The Raven”

Project by: Poe Foundation Inc.

Even though I have personally backed Poe Foundation Inc.’s project at the $75 pledge level for a copy of the book and two copies of The Incredible Mr. Poe: Edgar Allan Poe in Comics, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include it in my weekly article or not since it doesn’t fall into the tabletop game or game accessory category. BUT, I think it is safe to say, that most of us would be interested in helping the Poe Foundation reach their pledge level, so I have decided to include it as a bonus to my article this week. Besides, it’s my article and I can choose to bend or break whatever rules I have imposed upon myself, whenever the convenience may strike.

Enough about my inner debate and turmoil, and on with the subject of it’s creation.

No one can deny Edgar Allan Poe’s immortal influence on the literature culture  for the last 200 years. The bountiful amount of daily pop culture reference’s aside, Poe was also an idol to the grandfather of horror, H.P. Lovecraft. Without, Poe, I believe there would be no Lovecraft and I couldn’t imagine  living in an alternate universe where neither of them nor their literature existed.

James Carling is a famous sidewalk street artist of the early 1800’s. His greatest achievement was his artwork depicting Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem The Raven line by line. These drawings were selected this year as one of Virginia’s Top ten Most Endangered Artifacts by the Virginia Association of Museums, and the Poe Museum has taken upon themselves to try to raise the funds needed to preserve and publish a coffee table style book of Carling’s paintings.

If your table is in need of a new book to show your appreciation of one of America’s most beloved and iconic authors, or you just want to help Poe Foundation with a small donation, there is still a little less than three weeks left of their Kickstarter campaign to show your support and appreciation of all things Poe.

US shipping is included. Add $5 for international shipping.

Thanks again for stopping by and will see you next week as we officially enter into the winter months. Keep on kicking it and as always . . .

Spread The Addiction!


Kick The Box

Oct. 7th Edition

I’ve dug through the depths of Kickstarter, looking for the latest and greatest tabletop games available on Kickstarter. Sci-Fi seems to be the theme for games this week, and, well, coffee. Kick through the updates and see what you’re game collection is missing.

Updates:  RPG Gaming Table ended it’s campaign successfully funded this last week, as well as Fantasy Frontier, and Alien Uprising. Congratulations to all of those successfully ran campaigns!

Star Realms

Project by: Robert Dougherty

Been wondering what the Co-Founder of Ascension, Robert Dougherty has been up to? Than wonder no more because his latest creation is now running on Kickstarter. Star Realms is a deckbuilding LCG. There are four different factions to choose from. The goal is to obliterate your opponents faction by reducing your opponents score (authority) to zero.  The game looks easy to learn, but difficult to master. The artwork is gorgeous and fits the theme well. Not only is the game going to be released as a physical card game, but also will have a digital counterpart on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Star Realms has well over three weeks left in it’s Kickstarter campaign, and is almost already fully funded (Probably will be funded by the time I post this, and you get a chance to read it.). I see a lot of stretch goals in it’s future!

Free shipping within US and add $40 for shipments outside of the US.

 Mars Attacks

Project by: Mantic Games

Topps is looking to celebrate their Mars Attacks franchise’s 50th anniversary in a big way. They have teamed up with Mantic Games to produce a two player miniatures board game set in Greenville. This campaign is now running on Kickstarter and is blowing throw so many stretch goals in the three days it has been live, it is unreal. The pledge goal level is $50,000. In just three days, they are just a couple thousand shy of $230,ooo pledged! And for a good reason. The miniatures look great, and the board and accessories also look amazing.

So, hurry and grab your copy and either command the Martians on their take over of Earth, or control the humans, and help save humanity from their black days of demise.

Shipping is free to US and UK backers. EU backers need to add an additional $10 for shipping. Africa and South America must add $30 to their pledge levels, and all other international backers will need to add an additional $15 for their shipping.


Project by: Stephen Boyajian

I don’t know how I missed this one and really hadn’t heard anything about it unfortunately, because it does look interesting. The theme of the game is different from most and that is one of the things I find appealing about Expresso.  This reminds me of a board game version of the hit video game Diner Dash. There is a little over a week left in the campaign and they can still reach their measly goal of $6000 in that weeks time with some word of mouth advertisement.

Each barista is in charge of their own section of the expresso shop. They have a limited amount of actions and salary to try to fill their customer’s order. The object of the game is to be the first to achieve the goal of 15 points(tips) before your other competing baristas do. I think this is a great idea for a fun little 2-6 player, 30-45 minute filler game, and wish them success in achieving their goal.

Shipping in the US is free. Add $10 to ship to Canada, and $18 to ship International.

UFO Hunter

Project by: Mark Hanny

 In UFO Hunter, you are a researcher traveling the globe, hoping to be the first to collect enough evidence of UFO’s existence and prove to the world once and for all that they do exist.

Buying equipment to help you in your hunt, conducting research, and publishing rumors of new sightings are just a few of the things that make this game interesting. You can also put your money where your mouth is by placing stakes on a rumor to either lure your competitors to a bad rumor, or if it’s a good rumor, get a piece of  cut when it the rumor is discovered. Players also have a stable of contacts they can call on for help. Benefactors can also help you with financial issues. Aviators can help you travel farther , and Inventors can help by building you better detection equipment.

Thanks for stopping by every week  and checking out my little piece of grain of sand laying on the beach of the Internet. Return next week to see what I have thrown together in between watching the Seahawks take on the Titans, and trying to catch as many of the post season MLB games as possible. Go Red Sox! Until then, keep on keeping on and as always . . .

Spread The Addiction!

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