Sunday, December 28, 2008

Musings on Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy or RftG for short is one of the games I like quite a bit yet have issues with. It is highly rated on the geek (no.8 at present) and dubbed by many as the answer to a game that's quick yet deep. I agree with those views and for someone who has never tried a traditional CCG, really enjoy the pseudo CCG elements of various card combinations. 

However, Van really dislikes the game. We have played almost 20 times and part of me secretly hoped it would grow on her as she got past the steep learning curve but in vain. The space theme unfortunately doesn't appeal to her (no surprise there I suppose) but what really puts her off is the lack of interaction between players. The interaction in RftG has been termed as subtle in the geek forums and from experience, Van has surprisingly enjoyed games with more direct confrontation.

Additionally, it does not help that most of our plays have been 2-player games. I personally still like the game for its depth and length and currently rate it a 8 but some issues nonetheless linger:

1. Feels like multiplayer solitaire - like my wife, I prefer more direct interaction. Little incentive to keep a close eye on opponent's cards. 
2. Game length is a double edged sword - Quick games allow more plays but I can't help feeling at times that it comes across too short for a game of such depth. I recognize it's called RACE for the Galaxy but it doesn't help that I still often feel unsatisfied at the end of games because of it. 
3. Steep learning curve - tough to get casual players into the game and for them to be even somewhat competitive. As such, it's often only a legitimate option for regular game partners. 
4. Card draws can occasionally determine the outcome of games. I like a degree of luck in games but not to the extent when you just watch your opponent run away with the game. 
5. Playing according to cards obtained sometimes lead to mechanical choices. Consume - 2x VP / Produce is the dominant strategy for the 2-player game and once a few production worlds and consume powers are established, the game plays itself.

Admittedly, some of these issues are minimized with 3 or 4 players. But with the steep learning curve and my wife increasingly reluctant to play the game, it has been hard bringing the game to the table, much less with more than 2 players. I contemplated selling the game off at a both but I figured it fills a nice niche in my collection, and at the moment I still enjoy enough to want to own a copy.

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