In Season 11 of the Board Game Geek Star Realms League (which just ended), I was fortunate enough to win the title of Platinum Champion. That seemed like enough of a good reason to post about how to compete in online Star Realms leagues.
For those who have not participated, the BGG League, it’s run by the excellent Commissioner Remy Gibson (IGN Aweberman) who has tirelessly contributed to the online Star Realms community. The league is composed of 5 Tiers (Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron) which are in constant states of flux. Why? Because in order to stay in the division, you’ve got to avoid relegation! At the end of each season the lower performers in each tier are dropped down a rank, unless at the bottom already. Likewise, the one or two top performers are promoted to the next tier until they get to the top.
The effect this has on the operation of the league is critical. It means that players who are able to stay competitive at ever increasing levels of play are rewarded. As a fan of the long tail when evaluating consistent good play, I’m a big fan of this. Everyone is aware that Star Realms has tremendous variance and that luck does play a big role in each and every game, yet many of these top players in the Platinum division are able to compete against the other best players in the league fairly consistently.
Everyone reading this post should go and become a member of the league if they are not already. Check this thread on Board Game Geek for more information.
Without further guilding of the lily, here are my Top Tips for success in Online Star Realms Leagues.
Play Each Round As If It’s The Superbowl
When playing a League match, I do not initiate any other challenges and I ignore any that aren’t about to time out on me. I want to put my full and total focus on my opponent. When you’re playing many matches, certain patterns will arise in your play and you have to avoid that. You need to be concentrating on this match as if it’s the only game you have to win for the next year. In the BGG League, each player gets one single game against their opponents, so concentrating is critical!
Scout Your Opponents, sorta
Often players will post thoughts or ideas about their play style. If you’re aware of this, you might get insight into how they think. The best tip I’ve used in the BGG League has been the specific Game Mode preference that a player has. Because of the variance, I always choose to play Vanilla Star Realms, while many of my opponents will play Type-S or S+G (Gambos). If they are playing Type-S, their meta mindset might betray them when they come back to the old game they haven’t spent time practicing on. When the GenCon tournament was announces as Vanilla, I switched and practiced only Vanilla. I started to notice I was winning quite often against folks. I believed then and now that part of the reason was my focus on a specific mode where my opponents were shifting concentration between many games. If it gives me a tiny fraction of a percent advantage, I’ll TAKE IT!
Learn From Your Losses
When I started playing Star Realms, I used to often toss around the “You got lucky!” or ” Just one more turn…” After playing in the Platinum Tier for a bit, I still recognize the luck, but also the significant skill with which my opponents defeat me. Yes, there are occasions where it’s just “one of those blowouts”, but in general, even with a huge starting advantage, the skilled player can bring it back to a game of just one turn. If you can do that, you give yourself a chance to get lucky and come away with the win.
When you do lose, try to seriously understand what happened. Did I not have enough scrap? Was my deck not fast enough? Due of the limitations of the game log and the weekly reset, those old games won’t be around to review in a month, so you need to take your learnings right after a game. Try to write down the key turns and consider how you might have played them differently. Also, observe how your opponent defeated you. Did he rush you? How could you have hate drafted to break up that momentum he was building?
Doing Math In Your Head
The best league players in Star Realms know exactly how much damage your deck is capable of. They also know how all the cards/combos work together at an expert level. They are playing out your next likely turn before you take it. These are all good things to get used to learning about. How to do a couple of these things is enough for a second article.
Listen To The Megahaulin Podcast
Ok, so it’s cheesy to plug your own cast in this sort of setting, but I do believe that it’s true! Megahaulin interviews the top players in the game. Many of them share tips and tricks that are designed to help you be a better player regardless. Ignoring that resource is missing out on a constantly evolving understanding of the game. So listen in!!
Online Star Realms Leagues are a great way to meet new people, learn more about the game and just have a great time playing with other fans.