Star Realms invites you to a whole universe of exciting challenges and dueling fun. Want to learn how to play this popular game? Learn the Star Realms rules and strategies to win in a nutshell.
Star Realms is an original card game that will transform you into a space conqueror. Build your space army, recruit new ships, build bases, and beat your opponent.
The game was created by Wise Wizard Games, a company founded in 2013 known for producing Hero Realms, Epic Card Game, and some other popular combat-style board games (check out our Best war board games article for more similar titles).
Although the game is originally designed for two players, you can easily expand it into a great small group game with an additional deck of cards.
The rules are somewhat complex, so Star Realms is suitable for older kids and adults.
This Star Realms rules guide will cover the following:
- What is Star Realms?
- What you’ll need to play Star Realms
- Star Realms rules
- Star Realms strategies to win
- How to play Star Realms (video tutorial)
- Other similar games to Star Realms (our guides)
Let’s move on to the detailed instructions on how to play Star Realms.
What is Star Realms?
Star Realms is an award-winning deck-building game with an exciting sci-fi ambiance and intriguing yet relatively simple-to-learn rules. The game will test your strategic and tactic skills by giving you the freedom to proceed in various directions.
Number of Players: 2 to 6 players
Length of Play: 20+ minutes
Category: Deckbuilding dueling card game
Similar to: Terraforming Mars, Tyrants Of The Underdark
Main Objective: Diminish the authority of your opponent and conquer the space.
Why We Love It: Star Realms look complicated, but once you’re familiar with the rules, it’s incredibly immersive fast-paced fun.
What You’ll Need to Play Star Realms
Star Realms is one of those games that cannot be effectively played without the original game kit. Nevertheless, the set is pretty simple and portable, so you can take it along wherever you go.
The Star Realms game kit contains:
- 80 Main deck cards
- 10 Explorer cards
- 2 x 10-card personal decks
- 18 double-sided scorecards
- 2 full-color rule sheets
All the contents come in a nice pocket-size box with artistic illustrations.
Our tip: The original Star Realms set is sufficient for two players only. If you want to play with more friends, you can buy several copies of this game as an expansion.
Star Realms Rules and Gameplay
Star Realms might seem intimidating at first, but the gameplay has many similarities with Everdell (see full Everdell rules), Dragonwood (you can check out Dragonwood rules here), and other similar strategic games.
You start with little, expand your arsenal and possessions through purchases, and try to dominate your opponent. But first, you must prepare and set up your cards according to the following rules.
Starting the Game & Cards Explained
Before you start playing, you must set up your cards correctly:
- First, place 10 Explorer cards face-up on the table.
- Place the shuffled Trade cards deck face-down on the table. Draw the top five cards and place them side by side in the center. This will be a Trade row.
- Leave a space next to the Trade row – this will be a Scrap pile.
Now, let’s focus on the initial possessions of the players:
- Each player receives their assets consisting of 8 scouts and 2 vipers from their personal decks. They shuffle their cards.
These cards have two important characteristics: Trade and Combat points.
- Trade points: Monetary points are required to purchase new cards.
- Combat points: Attack points you can use to strike your opponent.
Each player also gets 50 authority points(marked in the green shield on the optional Authority cards, or you can note them on a scorecard).
How to Play Star Realms
Once you’re all set, you can start playing. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to attack your player, destroy his bases and outposts, and get his authority points to zero:
- Decide on a starting player who will draw three cards from his pile.
- In the active stage of the turn, a player can perform several actions at their discretion:
- play cards from the hand
- use Primary abilities of in-play Bases (once per turn)
- use the Ally and Scrap abilities of Ships and Bases
- trade (using Trade points) to acquire new assets
- attack (using Combat points) to destroy the opponent
Let’s break it down into several sections for more clarity.
The Ally abilities are indicated on some cards by the specific icon in the text box. You can utilize them when another allied Base or Ship is also in play during this active turn phase.
The icon of a trash can indicates Scrap ability. To use it, remove the card from play and place it in the Scrap pile (space next to the Trade row). Such a card is removed from the game entirely.
When you play a Ship, it uses ability triggers depicted on the card. The ship will remain face-up on the table until discarded (we’ll get to that shortly).
Bases cards remain on the table until they are scrapped or destroyed (not discarded). The lower-left corner indicates Defense points.
These show how many combat points your opponent must spend in a single turn to damage the Base. A destroyed Base is placed in the discard pile of the player.
Count the trade points on your cards (e.g., two scouts = 2 trade points). This is your Trade pool. You can use it to buy new cards(e.g., two trade points can buy you one Explorer card).
When you buy a new card, subtract Trade points from your Trade pool according to the cost of the card and put it into your Discard pile. This is not considered “playing” the card.
Count the combat points on your cards (e.g., one viper = 1 combat point). This is your combat pool. You can use it to attack your opponent’s bases and take away their authority points.
If you strike a base, subtract Combat points from your combat pool based on the Base’s defense. If the card tells you to “Destroy Target Base,” you can do it without spending any Combat points.
Discarding Cards & Drawing new
Once your active turn is over, you move into a Discard phase of your turn:
- Discarded cards and recently obtained cards (purchased from the Trade row) will be placed face-up in your Discard pile. Any player can check them at any time.
- In this phase, you lose any remaining Combat and Trade points. All your in-play ships will also be discarded as well as any cards you might still have in your hand.
Now you’re ready to draw five new cards, which will end your current turn and prepare you for the next round.
The next player takes a turn following the same instructions.
Star Realms Strategies to Win
In Star Realms, you aim to take as many authority points from your opponent as possible. The player who loses all authority points loses the game.
If more than two players play, the game ends when only one player has authority points left. This player is the winner.
There are two widely recognized strategies for winning this game:
- You try to build up as many ships and bases as possible to overpower your opponent fast.
- Build numerous outposts to defend yourself and defeat your opponent slowly.
Experienced players agree that regardless of the chosen strategy, it is crucial to stick to it until the end of the game. As you gain more experience, you will be able to play faster and more efficiently.
How to Play Star Realms – Video Tutorial
Star Realms Frequently Asked Questions
Is Star Realms a solo game?
The game is designed for two players. However, it can be extended for up to six (or even more) players, and there are also several creative ways to play the game solo. The new Star Realms: Frontier expansion tackles this directly by introducing an official solo mode.
Can you go over 50 authority in Star Realms?
No, 50 Authority points are maximum in this game.
How many cards are in Star Realms?
Altogether, a standard basic game kit contains 128 illustrated cards. You can buy several kits to adjust the game for more than two players or get some of the extension packs for even more fun.
Other Similar Games to Star Realms (Our Guides)
Eager to try more original deck-building games like Star Realms? Don’t miss our guides to these alternatives:
- Resistance rules
- Forbidden Island rules
- Clank! rules
- Pokemon card game rules
- Hero Realms rules (coming soon)
- Ascension rules (coming soon)
- Duelyst rules (coming soon)