Star Realms High Alert introduces a new card type: Tech. In this article we’ll discuss this new card type generally, and then each Tech card individually.
High Alert introduces 10 different Tech cards (8 from the Tech set, and 2 more from the Kickstarter-exclusive First Strike set).
Tech cards are shuffled into the trade deck and included among the cards available to purchase from the trade row.
Like Heroes, when you purchase a Tech card it goes directly into play. Unlike Heroes, a Tech card is not scrapped when used. Instead, the card stays in play for the remainder of the game; you can use each Tech card’s ability once per turn by paying the ability’s cost.
To me, Tech is the most fun of the five High Alert sets. It is a lot of fun, and adds a lot of interesting choices and strategy considerations to the game.
Here are a few initial thoughts:
- Worth the Cost – I’m not just talking about the cost to buy this expansion, but also about the cost of each card in-game. There are often times in Star Realms when you should not spend all your trade because everything in the trade row would just make your deck worse. In those instances it’s often best to just leave your trade unspent. Tech cards, however, will never make your deck worse. So far, the only reason I’ve found not to purchase a Tech card is the obvious one…because there is a better card in the trade row. But you should never end your turn with unspent trade when there is a Tech card in the row that you can afford. [Some might argue that you might not buy a Tech Card if you’re worried about flipping a better card for your opponent. I generally disagree with that philosophy, but that’s probably a topic for another article].
- Value Increases Over Time – With a few exceptions, the value of the Tech card tends to increase over time. I think that’s largely due to the fact that early in the game, you’re probably using a higher percentage of your trade on ships/bases to build up your deck; but as the game progresses, the chances of ending your turn with unspent trade increases over time. Tech cards allow you to use that trade that would have otherwise gone unspent to improve your turn.
- Tech Support – As fun/great as I think these Tech cards are, don’t get carried away and overvalue them. They are supporting cards that can tip the odds in your favor, but there are plenty of ships/bases/heroes in the trade row you may want to purchase over a Tech card in any given situation. The Ark is still one of the best (if not the best) cards in the game, and you can’t get The Ark without adding some trade to your deck. Tech cards are great supporting cards, but you still need some ships and bases in that deck! So don’t get too excited and just auto-buy any Tech card you see…make sure there aren’t better options in the row.
Tech Cards Discussed
While in my initial thoughts above I noted that Tech cards tend to increase in value over time, GUIDANCE is one of the more valuable early-game Tech cards, with the ability to control the trade row at the outset of a game. This can be particularly valuable early on when your opponent has the trade advantage and there are high cost cards in the trade row that you are unlikely to afford.
A nice purchase for those many times you’re left with one unspent trade at the end of a turn. With SHIELD you can convert that unused trade into authority gain. If you purchase this early, for a 20 turn game (10 turns for you), I estimate card will typically add 4-6 extra authority to your total over the course of the game.
Similar to SHIELD, but LASER converts 1 trade into 1 damage instead of 1 authority. However, LASER is much more valuable than SHIELD because damage is typically more important than healing, and more specifically, because LASER could make the difference in destroying an opponent’s base.
I think that in the early game there are a lot of cost 3 ships/bases I would take over STELLAR LINK. But it clearly offers a helpful ability, particularly in the late game and on turns when you will be drawing extra cards. STELLAR LINK will also be helpful in managing deck size to decrease the chances of bottom decking an important card.
While there will be turns when STEALTH does nothing for you, there will be other turns when it’s huge. Imagine paying 2 trade to trigger Blob Carrier’s ally ability to acquire Leviathan for free to the to top of your deck! Ok, that’s an extreme example, but it shows how huge this ability could be. STEALTH will also work well with the new mechanic introduced in Requisition, one of the other new High Alert sets. That new mechanic allows you to pay 1 trade less for certain cards depending on the number of cards of that faction are in play, so STEALTH will be even a little more valuable if you’re also playing with the Requisition set. STEALTH will also be very handy in hatching Pod Tokens (which are part of the Universal Storage Box expansion).
[In anticipation of rules questions related to STEALTH, it is believed that…YES, STEALTH triggers ally abilities; NO, STEALTH would not count towards Blob World’s draw ability; and NO, STEALTH would not count towards the directly-into-hand abilities of some cards in Colony Wars. I have reached out to WWG for confirmation and will update the post if any of those assumptions are incorrect.]
One of the more powerful abilities among the Tech cards. Most often TRACTOR BEAM will be used to play one of your bases twice one a single turn, which can swing a game. But this ability can also be used to return an opponent’s base to their hand for a finishing blow, or just to do damage when you otherwise didn’t have enough damage to kill an outpost. Of course, this card’s value is swingy since it depends on how many bases you own, if any. Oh, and hot tip…don’t let your opponent get this card if they have a base like Brain World/Factory World/etc. 😉
PROCESSING could be my favorite Tech card. You can basically pay 2 extra when purchasing a card to put that card directly on top of your deck. Considering how often in the late game I have unspent trade on my turn, I believe in the last half to last third of a game, one might be using this ability just about every turn. PROCESSING can be particularly helpful to a player that is trying to get back into a game by constantly throwing bases on top of their deck (assuming of course the trade row has bases for purchase).
Probably not be worth the cost in the very early game, but WARP’s ability will be quite valuable as the game progresses. In the early game you will likely be cycling a viper for a scout, which isn’t worth 2 trade since it only nets you 1 trade. In the late game, as we’ve discussed, it will be well worth it. The key consideration for this card – and all Tech cards – is when it’s worth the initial purchase cost. The chances that they are worth their initial cost increases as the game progresses. Among those, I believe WARP will take a little longer to reach the point that it’s worth the initial cost than most other Tech cards.
Like WARP, MISSILE LAUNCHER may not be worth the cost in the early to mid game, unless you’re struggling to destroy your opponent’s bases. Lets compare this to the $4 Blob Destroyer (which does 6 damage among other things). If you purchase Blob Destroyer in Deck 2, you’ll probably play it 2-3 times during the game, which adds up to 12-18 damage for $4. If your purchase MISSILE LAUNCHER in Deck 2, and used it every turn for the rest of the game, you’d probably use it 7-8 times for 21-24 damage for $25-28 (minus any damage from cards you would have purchased from the $25-28 ). In short, MISSILE LAUNCHER is a good card, particularly for an aggro strategy, but in the early and mid game I think there are typically going to be better options.
[NOTE: MISSILE LAUNCHER comes from the Kickstarter-exclusive First Strike set]
5 trade is a lot, particularly very early in the game, but getting an extra card every turn is pretty big. INDUSTRIAL UPGRADE is in my top 3 for most powerful Tech cards (with PROCESSING and TRACTOR BEAM). Interestingly, the cost to buy INDUSTRIAL UPGRADE and then immediately use it is the same as Fleet HQ. Which would you pick?
[NOTE: INDUSTRIAL UPGRADE comes from the Kickstarter-exclusive First Strike set]
While I rank INDUSTRIAL UPGRADE, PROCESSING, and TRACTOR BEAM as the most powerful Tech cards, I think GUIDANCE might be the most powerful for its cost, and could turn out to be the Tech card whose ability is used most often.
In general, all of the Tech cards provide nice abilities that will often be worth the cost to trigger. The more difficult question with Tech cards will be when their initial cost is worth the price over a ship/base of equal cost. It may take some trial and error to figure out the intersection of price/future value; as you work to figure it out, feel free to reach out to Megahaulin for any of your Tech Support needs.