Few games can pack so much fun into such a short time frame.
Theme and What is it?
The Trade Federation controls Earth and its surrounding colonies. They specialize in enhanced trade and authority. The Blob are a mysterious alien race that is incredibly warlike and threatens all of the other factions.
The Star Empire broke away from the Federation and focuses on having the power to defend itself while manipulating circumstances in its favor. The Machine Cult represent a limited few people cut off by the blob. To survive, they build up their robotic combat forces. Their reliance on robots has become so strong that they regard them as a deity.
These 4 factions are attempting to find a balance between each other. Sometimes they will work together, other times they will clash. The players who control them will try to find the right balance to defeat each other or their shared nemesis.
Star Realms: Frontiers is a deck building game. At its fundamental core, it has always been a 2 player direct combat game. One primary appeal of Star Realms has always been how fast it plays out. With more than 2 players, it features player elimination or special variant rules to have a good experience.
Frontiers offers a whole new way to play. The game comes with 8 oversized challenge cards. Each challenge has its own special setup, play rules, and automated enemy response. Players take on these challenges fully cooperatively.
The defining characteristics of Star Realms deck building include a dynamic market, faction synergies, and the balancing of buying power, life (authority), and damage. It includes bases that stay out once played until an opponent destroys them. There are bases that must be destroyed before the player or other bases can be targeted (outposts) and there are some that just offer passive benefits that opponents can choose to ignore.
One distinct difference in the Frontiers card set are double faction synergies. Normally cards have a base effect and another bonus if played with another card from that same faction. Now there are cards that get a base effect, a bonus for playing one of the same faction, and another benefit if you can play a second of the same faction in addition to the original one.
Game Build Quality
Star Realms: Frontiers fits in a small box. This makes it a minimal drain on space in a game collection and means it can travel easily. There are no token or resource components of any kind. All you get are cards. Because that is all you need. Frontiers has excellent health tracking cards which are far less clunky compared with the original Star Realms components. Note that the awesome playmat does not come with the game. This particular playmat was from their 2019 Origins 10k tournament series.
Each faction has their own distinct style in the artwork. You can identify the factions without any color or text usually. You can also occasionally see them fighting each other in a specific card. The challenge cards have particularly excellent artwork in this set.
We often play this when waiting for players to arrive. In a 20 minute lull in today’s gaming while two of us were waiting the rest to show up, we managed to sneak in 3 full games of Star Realms: Frontiers. One game was a fast combat rush that ended very abruptly. The others had more back and forth and special powers being used to reach a very satisfying final few turns for each of us. Few games can pack so much fun into such a short time frame. Our first few games ever took significantly longer (closer to 30 minutes) as we read cards and attempted to find the right strategic choices. But now most games take close to 10 minutes.
Age Range & Weight
12+ is maybe a tad bit high. I have seen younger players be successful with the game. As far as complexity goes, there is very little room for confusion. 5 card hands. Shuffle your discard if you didn’t have enough cards in deck to draw enough. Newly acquired cards go to your discard immediately.
Your bases stay in play. Outposts get attacked first. Cards get their additional bonus effects only if you have the required symbol in play during that same turn. Trashcan effects (scrapping) can be taken after all the other effects for a one time additional boost then you permanently lose the card. There it is. That is basically the gist of things you might need to mention to be completely ready to play.
Frontiers offers an excellent 2 player direct combat experience. Overall, I think I prefer Colony Wars for that particular experience goal. But I will never turn down a game of frontiers and can even mix the two very effectively. Where Frontiers steps up in a big way is the optional solo and cooperative modes. There are 8 different challenge bosses. Each has their own special rules and mechanisms. Yet, all of them have a great experience.
We binged through doing each boss back to back to figure out what they all did. None of them seemed boring or poorly thought out. The Dimensional Horror was one of our best experiences. With three players, two of us had to sacrifice ourselves to go out in a blaze of glory. This made it possible for the last player to successfully defeat the Horror. 10/10 would do again.
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