Thursday, January 6, 2011

Our Expanding Universe: Race for the Galaxy

Introducing Our Expanding Universe! This is a new segment we’re testing out in which we talk about expansions for games that we play. Expansions enhance the way we enjoy games, and are worth talking about in their own right.

Hello! Welcome! This post is going to launch a new post category for our site. Our Expanding Universe articles are going to cover expansions for games. A lot of games are seeing expansions added, and many of these launch with expansions planned for years ahead. Some are good, others not... but you know this. Today, I'm going to talk about a game that I will not play without an expansion. That game is Race for the Galaxy.

Rio Grande Games Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is an excellent strategy card game with a fun space theme. In it, players settle planets and build developments. A game round starts with each player secretly selecting an action card, then revealing the actions selected together. Each action card selected means an action is available for all players that round, and the selecting player gets some privelege for being the one who selected it. Actions include Explore (drawing cards), Settle and Develop (for purchasing a planet or development card, respectively, among others. Game play continues until someone has played the twelfth card in their tableau (play area), after which victory points are added up.

Race For The Galaxy: The Gathering Storm
The expansion to this game I cannot play it without is The Gathering Storm (TGS). TGS is the first of three expansions for the game. As expected, it adds a few cards to the pretty large amount in the base game. These cards are pretty well balanced and fill thematic and mechanical "holes" in the base game. For example, some cards have keywords that can be relevant when scoring happens. This adds more of those cards, which allow more interesting combinations. What really stands out, however, are the goal cards.

The goal cards are a set of goals that are randomly dealt out each game. Two large goals each worth five victory points and four small goals each worth three are in each game. The large goals function like the Longest Road/Largest Army cards in Settlers of Catan, in that they can change hands during the course of the game. One is for largest military, for example, and another is for largest number of large developments. The small ones are for the first person to reach the goal. These add some serious considerations for gameplay, since sometimes a few points can be the difference in first and second place in scoring. And if your draws aren't getting you the planets types you want, you can try focusing on the goal cards so that you're earning points while you're waiting to draw the next rare minerals world, or  big development.

To summarize, I wouldn't play RftG without this expansion. The other two expansions don't seem as critical, as I can easily see playing without the additional rules from the Rebel vs. Imperium or Brink of War expansions (Prestige points and takeovers come to mind). This expansion really made Race for the Galaxy a better game. So, if you own the game, try this expansion if you haven't already. And share your thoughts! Tell us what you think of this expansion, or any other expansion for any game you cannot see playing without!

This post was another is our series of challenge posts with the gaming blog Cool Factor 5. Be sure to check out what he has to say about an expansion he thinks is an absolute must!


  1. I agree. The rebel vs. imperium takeover rules feel clunky and don't seem to mesh well with the rest of the game mechanics, but yeah, Gathering Storm pads things out nicely with the additional goals to aim for. Also, I like the larger final scores.

  2. The higher scores are definitely nice! I seem to remember the first game you ever played of this, you mopped the floor with us. :)

  3. RfTG is an awesome game!! I've been slowly teaching it to my 11yr old daughter. She gets the basics, but she still struggles with the more strategic side. My 8yr old daughter wants to play too.. but understands she's too young to play. However, both of them are excellent Talisman players and I get asked on a weekly basis if we can play "Daddy's favorite." :) Also been teaching my oldest Magic the Gathering and both of them have started the land of Munchkin!