Ok. Apart from chess. And some other classics. But apart from those, Race For The Galaxy is hard to beat if you can overcome the initial brainache.
So what is it?
Race For The Galaxy is a card game that revolves around creating as large a space empire as possible in the shortest possible time. Why do I say shortest possible time? Because the way you play the game can force the game to end to your advantage.
It has its roots in the game Puerto Rico, a resource / worker placement game. In Puerto Rico, players take turns to choose one of six different actions, the fun bit being that everyone performs the same action, but choosing the action gets you a bonus. (You can watch a video of someone explain the origins of the game here)
In Race For The Galaxy this is taken a step further; everyone chooses their actions in secret, and then each type of action is made by every player SIMULTANEOUSLY once they’re unveiled. This means you can try to second guess what other player’s are going to do to try and get yourself more useful moves each round. And this simple fact is what makes the game so special; you have to watch everyone else’s game like a hawk, and make sure you can leech off their tactics.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here as it’s quite difficult to describe, but what you’re basically doing is picking up cards and laying them down to form a tableau (your empire, if you will). As your empire grows it can do more and more things.
There are four different types of planet cards / colours. These can be layed in your tableau and they produce goods. Goods can be exchanged for victory points or more cards.
There are lots of different types of development cards. These add lots of extra advantages.
Collectively, your tableau builds and builds and enables you to do more ‘stuff’ as the game progresses. When all the (limited amount of) victory point tokens that are taken for cashing in goods are gone, the game is over. Also, the game ends when a person’s tableau reaches twelve cards.
And there’s another completely mind-boggling twist to playing the game. You pay to lay down cards in your tableau with…
…other cards. Initially, it’s bonkers and you struggle to know what to keep and what to discard.
For example, if you have 7 cards in your hand, and you want to lay a planet card down that costs 3, then you lay the 3 value planet down and discard, face down, three cards. Now you’ve got a 3 value planet in your tableau, but you only have 3 cards left in your hand.
Confused? Initially it is a bit confusing, and some people don’t like the symbols on the cards but basically it can’t work any other way and once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll realise how damn near perfect it is.
There is no other game that I’ve played so many times either with others or vs the computer. Every time you play it you feel like you’ve been around the frikkin galaxy, it’s pretty intense, even though the game doesn’t take that long to play (at least, not once you’ve got the hang of it).
There is a brilliant free version you can download for Windows or OSX here – Keldon RFTG
The version that’s been occupying my time lately though is the fantastic RFTG – Temple Gates Games LLC for iPad / iPhone
You can buy RFTG On Amazon