Friday, July 24, 2009

On your mark, get set, Race!

Fellow Galactic Feigns,

I am finally getting a chance to discuss the new Race for the Galaxy expansion, Rebel Vs. Imperium.

Short Version:

It is a great expansion that adds a lot of new items, most of them excellent, some of them middle of the road. A must buy for a RftG addict.

Long Version:

RvI adds in several new functions in the game, mostly through inventive mechanics to existing game play. First up, the game expands, allowing upto six players. The new player cards are a nice purple color with some interesting aliens.

To accommodate the new player numbers, the developers have added three more home worlds, giving the game a total of 12. First up is the Rebel Cantina. A few interesting items with this home world. It is the only non-military Rebel world and it gives you the ability from the Contact Specialist, but with out the negative. This allows a rebel strategy sans the military. Reinforcing that is the Production special that gives you a card for every rebel world in your tableau.

Galactic Developers is the next home world. For a starting card it might seem weak, but the free draw on any development, stacked with the other nice development cards in the deck and you can quickly earn more cards on a development then you spend. Using the right <6> cards and you hit the Jackpot.

Finally is the Impeirum Warlord, not the best name for a 'home world' but what the heck. The additional vision early on is always a boon, plus the early military could lend itself to the same strategy one would expect from the Separatist Colony, but with the added bonus of being able to get a extra bonus versus the rebel worlds.

In addition to the three new home worlds, the developers have tweaked the starting rules. Now you separate the home worlds into odd/even (red/blue) and each player gets one of each pile. They then get their six starter cards and can decide which home world to use, the other being discarded along with the extra cards from the player's hand. I like this start because it gives you a better chance of not getting stuck with junk... Not that it doesn't happen, but it will help minimize those 100% junk hands a bit.

The most widely known feature of the game is the attack mechanics. Traditionally the players had not interaction between their tableau once cards were played, RvI changes that, but only under strict guidelines. First off, only four cards out of 180 in the deck allow you to attack across the tableau's and each of these a unique qualifier to allow you to conduct the attack.

The Imperium Seat allows the player to attack another player that has at least one card with the Rebel keyword.

The Rebel Alliance is the opposite of the Imperium Seat as it allows you to attack another player with at least one card with the Imperium keyword.

The final card, of which there are two copies in the deck allows the player to discard it from their tableau to attack a player with at least a +1 military.

The attack mechanism seems to be pretty straight forward once you figure it out. Instead of settling in the settle phase, the player declares an attack. The attacker nominates a combat planet (red) and each player totals up their military, with the defender getting a bonus of the defense (planet value). If attacker is greater, they take the planet, if not the attack fails. In addition the game recommends alternating the use of the mechanic between games. To be honest this is my biggest gripe on the expansion. It seems such a minor and trivial add since it is so specialized that it would be hard to build a strategy around it. I assume that future expansions will adequately fill out the mechanic.

Finally, here are a few cards that I think added to the game.

Pan Galactic Research is the first <6> Development that does not have a random victory point count, but fixed value of 4. I think that is because it is a dozy of a card. +2 vision and +1 keep alone are great cards, but adding in the reduction cost to developments can allow the right strategy to drop developments at a -4. Additionally the 2 cards per production phase is huge as it allows you to take advantage of almost every phase, but the real kicker is the fact that your max hand size is increased to 12 cards, giving you more flexibility. All around sweet card!

The next card isn't so 'special', but it provides an example of the new Explore power. They funky symbol on phase one allows players to draw cards directly into their hand, then discard any that are required. Previously you had to keep the drawn cards separate, now you can mix them and toss the trash. This power shows up in a lot of cards which is a nice feature.

To wrap up, I liked many of the new cards and powers as I think they added to the game tremendously. The attack mechanism seems very limited in the current state, but I expect it will get better in the expansion.

If you like RftG, then RvI is a good investment.

Meet me at the Cantina

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