Having a Healthy approach to Star Realms (and gaming in general) – Part 2

By Ryan Powell – aka Hypaspist

In part 1, (which you can find Here) we talked about having a healthy approach to gaming, and how that pertained to your approach to any given game of Star Realms outside of an actual game.

Today, we are going to focus more on some facets that relate directly to any given game of Star Realms you might play.

Understanding your role. (who is the beatdown article shoutout).

There is a seminal article (link below) written by Mike Flores regarding Magic the Gathering entitled “Who is the beatdown”. In it, he talks about the importance of understanding your role within any given game.  I’d recommend you read it, even though some of the terms may be alien.

His essential premise is that misidentification of role can cause you to lose games.


Finished? Great!

Mike talks about aggro/control which are a few of the MTG archetypes (as well as combo, midrange, prison, etc).

Some of these concepts (and how they pertain to Star Realms) I’d like to expand on in the future, however, for now, it’s probably better to talk in terms of the short game vs the long game.

Simply put, do you believe you are best placed to win the game quickly, or do you believe the game is more favourably yours the longer the game progresses?

Clearly, before you begin a game, you both have the same deck, and therefore the first inputs to this analysis will be the beginning trade row/gambits/1st player etc.

Which path (short or long game) does the trade row seem to favour?

Considering the expansions in play, is there an inherent bias?

Very quickly though (sometimes even before any purchases are made in the case of gambits and events) we have the ability to assess “Who is the beatdown”.

Once you have looked at this, there are several paths forward.


Sometimes, in a game, it is likely that all other things being equal, your opponent is heavily favoured to win the game. In such situations, I always try to see the path that I would need, in order to win, and make decisions as if those factors (trade row flips, deck shuffles, or events) are going to occur. You may not win, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Some of the games we play and lose are undoubtedly due to a mis-understanding of role within any given game, accurately assessing the game state can give us the best chance of avoiding defeat!


Managing Variance

There is a lot of variance built into many games and Star Realms is no exception. Trade Row flips, Deck Shuffles, Gambits, Events, Heroes, Missions.

All of these things can have an input into how the game plays out and in some cases, change the course of a game.

Whether the inherent variance in the trade row is *that* much different from the inclusion of events/Gambits/Heroes is a discussion for another article (as I have definite thoughts around this) 

What can be said though, is that there are some Good Play Practices that we can implement to help ourselves.

  1. Knowing the cards in each expansion, what they do, and recognising them by their name/card art can go a long way to assisting in good decision making.
  2. Understanding how each expansion (individually) can effect the potential deck archetypes and available decks to build towards.
  3. Acknowledging if a given expansion prolongs or expedites a games pace (eg : Gambits and Events generally speed up the acquisition of power to your deck).
  4. Recognising that despite our best efforts, we *are* going to lose some games.

Point 4 is a good natural segue to the next section, how we manage losses and Tilt.


Managing losses and ‘Tilt’

It is an inevitable part of gaming that we are going to lose some games. Certainly in a game like Star Realms which has an element of variance built in.

There is a mantra within the MTG community that goes something along the lines of “Never play on tilt”.

But what is “Tilt”?

Almost certainly, you have already formed an answer to this question and I suspect it ranges from “I lost and it was pure lucky nonsense” to “I’ve been having a bad run and this was the last straw” (and many other things besides) almost universally though its a negative emotional response to an event (or series of events).

Tilt is different things to different people, and it can often be synonymous with being “Salty” but an universal truth that exists throughout life is that we rarely perform at our best when we are angry/on tilt/salty. (and there is a spiral potential if trying to work through it).

There are a few rare individuals who can channel that emotion and use it to play well but for most of us the state of mind we get pushed to when tilted is going to reduce our effectiveness, not enhance it.

Regardless of whether you are being honest with yourself around why you are feeling tilted it is invariably irrelevant when you are at that point.

The absolute best thing you can do *at that exact point in time* is often to take a break.

I’ll often see veteran players giving the advice to push through a slump, this is different to playing when tilted. A slump is a dip in form over a protracted period of time, Tilt is an in-the-moment feeling, which comes on suddenly and has an immediate impact.

I personally feel the best way to address Tilt is to sit down and be completely honest with yourself about why you feel that way.

Certainly on the “I lost and it was pure lucky nonsense” side of the spectrum we, as humans, have a habit of focusing on the negative side far more often than the positive side. Over the long term, the amount you are negatively impacted is going to be very close to the amount you are positively impacted.by it, but it feels uncomfortable to acknowledge that you may have made some poor decisions, and far better to believe you made good ones, so I would urge you when salty or tilted to try and be objective about that feeling and strip away any other clouding factors.

Ultimately, it may well have been an horrendous turn 1 Trade Mission topdecked Ark and there is genuinely nothing you can do to stop that….
…. But you can always stop for a break, take a breath and play through it or hit the concede button as is your preference.


Finding your capacity

Finally, I’m going to talk about ‘capacity’.

In this context it’s going to reference your current capacity right now.

I’d recommend going and taking a quick read of this wikipedia entry on Comfort Zones (also known as comfort circles).

Essentially speaking, a comfort circle describes the areas in which we operate:

  1. Safely,
  2. Optimally,
  3. Stretching our ability,
  4. Moving into panic/terror.

Capacity, as I am defining it here, can relate to many aspects of Star Realms.

It could be the number of asynchronous games you queue at one time, or
the number of expansions you use to play with. (I’ve only played Vanilla but I just bought all the expansions, lets try ALL OF THEM!)  

It could be how well you have learned the cards in any given expansion.

It could also relate to simply the number of tournaments you are trying to be involved with or keeping track of, or it means chasing arena games, competitive games, ranked games and friendly challenge games in one week.

In whichever of those areas we are discussing, you will have a natural, or default limit.

As an example, (which speaks purely to asynchronous games, but is an example of understanding my own capacity) shortly after beginning to play Star Realms, I found the thread of asynchronous games very difficult to keep in my mind, to mentally track what was going on after a 24, 16, or even 4 hour break (what was I doing, what was my opponent doing and what was my overarching plan for the game, crikey, did I even have one?)

Once I managed to cross that threshold, I would then be overwhelmed by multiple asynchronous games in my queue (read, more than 4, if it was past a screen, I couldn’t handle it!)

Wind forward to now, and I regularly play a 42 game challenge with Clevermissy (where we queue up 42 concurrent games and bang them out in ‘mostly’ one session) .

I regularly have a queue between 20 and 80 games large. (mixing ranked, tournament, and fun games)

I play in lots of tournaments

And I do it all comfortably and with enjoyment (and maybe, sometimes, even a little success!).

On the whole I manage the thread of these games fairly well as well.

So what changed?

In my case, the ‘How’ or the toolbox (as it were) was flooding myself to breaking point with games until I passed through caring about specific details and identified games more by my plan, than by the opponent or the archetype (“oh, in this game I am the scrap/aggro deck”  “this game I am playing basewall control”  “aaah this is my defense bot combo/engine game”).

For me, filing the games this way shortcuts a lot of information and boils down to a few essentials (am I the beatdown? What cards are in my deck? What are my default choices”).

This is not “the best way” to play, this is simply one of the approaches I have to queuing games that allows me to enjoy my play at a level of success I am comfortable with.

For some players, they play ‘packets’ of games, say in groups of 10, attempting to win a number of games that is greater than their current win percentage (so 6 out of 10 if their win % is less than 60%).

It’s not important what works for THEM, so much as what works for YOU.

Number of games in-queue is just one facet to your capacity which stretches to not only your knowledge of the game, how much you are capable (or willing) to play at once, how many formats/types of games you are playing, but also what you should expect of your own performance.

Managing your own expectations is one of the most fundamental pieces of enjoying any hobby and to do so I find it’s important to be honest with yourself about your ability, your capacity and most importantly of all, what you want out of the game itself.

There is no right answer to the last part, it could be anything from being a part of a community you enjoy taking part in, making meaningful connections with players with similar interests, it could be excelling, or anything in between.

But knowing and acknowledging your goals, limits and capacity, can help you to manage your expectations and hopefully lean into enjoying the game just a little bit more!

I hope this (or parts of it) has been useful to at least some of you.

If you have any questions, or want to expand on any of the topics above, please feel free to catch me in A Star Realms Fan Created Community Page, private message me, or if you want to send me a challenge I never turn them down =D

Here’s to hoping you enjoy your games, identify your role, avoid tilt and most of all, enjoy yourself!

Hypaspist x

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