Author Archives: HomerJr

Star Realms Card Tier Lists (incl B&B, F&F, Heroes expansions)

by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

Editor’s Note: There is a newer version of the Card Tier List, HERE.

[Updated 1/21/2017] 

A lot has happened since I originally wrote this card tier ranking almost a year and a half ago. Not only have four new expansions containing 16 new ships/bases been released (B&B, Heroes, and F&F), but I played about 5500 more games in that span.  Both of these demand a lot of discussion and necessitate an update to my Tier Lists, so let’s get into it!

Before we get to the updated card tier lists, let’s talk quickly about the new cards introduced in the B&B, F&F, and Heroes expansions.  I think these cards are still new enough to many players that it’s worth going into each card in a little detail.

(If you want to skip to the update Tier Lists, they’re down below with my original ranking concept description.)

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And Now for Something Completely Empirical: Opening Hands and Buys

by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

As fun as it is to debate Star Realms strategy, theory craft factions, and run countless simulations, sometimes there is no substitute for real-world empiricism.  As much as I love playing the Star Realms app (and I do LOVE playing the app), one disappointment is I have is that there there is a gold mine of hundreds or thousands of games worth of data out there with no way to get at it:  which cards do you buy, how many  times have you played each card, opening hand distributions, opening buys, number of turns, number of cards scrapped, bases destroyed, faction preferences, etc.   This kind of post-game summary data is just begging to be mined for correlations to win rate for both the individual player and the entire player community.

Unfortunately, currently the only way to get this kind of data is to keep track of it yourself using a spreadsheet or other tool, which can be quite laborious and difficult to keep error free over a large games .  Nevertheless, my thirst for some kind of empirical data to sink my teeth into drove me to look for an opportunity to collect some meaningful real world data.  Luckily, I was recently a proud participant of the Star Realms Pan-Galactic League s#1 and #2, founded by Remy aka Aweberman and generously run by Brendan aka Carnie. Given the league’s closed player pool, locked league format, and relatively large number of games, what better opportunity would I have to gather some data? 

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Making Your Own Luck: Your Opening Buys and How Not to Bottom-Deck Them

by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

It is generally acknowledged that cards with strong trade and scrappers are some of the strongest opening buys in the game.  (Freighter, Supply Bot, Patrol Mech, Cutter, Trade Pod, just to name a few.)  However, as has been discussed in The Pace of the Game Part 1, economic cards and scrappers are “time-sensitive” in that they require an shuffle to amortize their value. For example, for a Freighter bought on Deck 1 (opening buy), the earliest it can be played is Deck 2 which means the earliest a card that bought using the Freighter’s trade can be drawn is Deck 3.

This time-sensitivity of economic cards and scrappers means that they are very sensitive to the bad luck of “bottom decking”, which is where a shuffle is triggered before you get a chance to play the card because it was near the bottom of your deck.  If your opening buys revolved around buying economic cards and/or scrappers (which they often will), then it can be a complete disaster if these cards are bottom decked at the end of Deck 2. Such bad luck can literally ruin your game by delaying disrupting the timing of your deck and delaying the benefit of trade and/or scrap until Deck 4.  In a game where you only get 4-5 decks on average, this bad luck can often be irrecoverable.

Bottom-decking is mostly just bad luck of the shuffle… but is it really that simple?  Is there something that can be done to shift the odds in your favor and avoid your opening buys from being bottom-decked?  Yes, there is.

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The Pace of the Game, Part 2: The Tortoise, the Hare and the Missile Bot

 by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

Star Realms is a race.  To win the race, you need to  build a deck that can reduce your opponent’s authority down to 0 in fewer turns than your opponent can yours.  It doesn’t mean building the biggest, baddest deck.  Nor does mean collecting all of the cards of one faction.  It means finding the quickest way to accumulate 50 damage to your opponent’s authority (the finish line), while also slowing down his rate of damage accumulation if necessary.

In Part 1, “A Game of Four and a Half Decks”, we explored how the average “race” lasts for 25-turns (13 player hands) and the concept of “decks”.  Now we’ll dive deeper into the different ways you can run the race… specifically, is it better to be the Tortoise or the Hare or something in between?  Which strategy accumulates combat in the fewest number of turns?  I assert that both the Tortoise and the Hare are capable of winning races, so knowing how they run a race is important to knowing which will be the winning strategy in a given game.

First, let’s define what I mean by “Tortoise” and “Hare” strategies in Star Realms.  Then, we’ll try running a couple races and see who wins. 🙂

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Segmenting Card Play – or, Why Not “Play All”? – by greylag

by greylag (originally posted at the Star Realms BoardGameGeek forums)

When I get matched in the app, sometimes I can tell by the avatar or the name if I’m up against a high level player. But not all high level players use Recycling Station, or Yacht, as their avatar. So if that doesn’t give them away, one of the biggest signs I’m up against a strong player is the way they play their cards, particularly their trade cards.

Imagine the row looks like this in the early/mid-game.

Fleet HQ / Cutter / Battle Pod / Defense Center / Blob Wheel

When I started playing (and often still now), if I had 4 scouts on a row like that, I’d click “Play All”, then take the Cutter, then probably the Battle Pod if nothing else good came up.

But what I notice is that higher level players will often play out their turn like this:

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Star Realms Card Tier Lists

BEFORE READING: For the newest version of the Card Tier List, CLICK HERE!

by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

Here are my Star Realms Card Tier Lists!  The intent of these Tier Lists is to provide a quick reference to help players, especially newer or less experienced players, when deciding which card(s) in the trade row they should buy (or whether to buy a card at all).  Every card that is available in the online app (base plus year 1 promos) is contained within these lists and grouped into one of three tiers based on the overall value of the card relative to the cost of the card.

While every card in the game can be valuable and help you win, not every card will have equal value over the course of the game thus there are separate Tier Lists for different phases of the game (opening buys, mid game, late game).  Furthermore, many cards are highly situational or valuable only in certain decks.  Please note that this is all just my personal opinion based on over 3500+ online plays, so don’t take anything in here as law.  🙂   I am always open to feedback, criticism, and discussion.  I also hope to do a deeper dive into how/where/why many of these cards derive their value and how best to use them in future strategy articles.

I rank each card into one of three tiers as follows:

  • Tier 1:  Strong value and/or agnostic to situation; beneficial in almost any deck; you almost always want to have it in your deck if you can
  • Tier 2:  Solid value and/or somewhat situational; may rely on ally ability triggers to be effective; generally a good buy if no Tier 1 card available
  • Tier 3:  Weak value and/or highly situational;  may need exactly the right game circumstances to be effective; best to avoid buying except in rare cases

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The Pace of the Game, Part 1: A Game of Four and a Half Decks

by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

The average game of Star Realms lasts 25 turns.  That means each player only gets 12 hands on average with which to reduce their opponent’s authority to zero.  With so few precious turns, it is therefore very important to make the most of each and every hand.  More importantly, these 12-14 hands per player are distributed among the “decks” formed by each reshuffle and each card in your deck can only be played once per shuffle.  Understanding how these decks affect the pace of the game, and thus your decision making, is one of the keys to becoming an advanced player.

Let’s break down a “typical” 25-turn game, and discuss how it should affect your strategy…

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Starter’s Guide for On-line Star Realms Gaming – by Zuiperd

by Sander Wassink aka Zuiperd

If you bought the game, love the concept but are hesitant to dabble in the online community because what-if-I-lose, or people-will-laugh-at-me-because-I’m-a-noob, then don’t worry. This guide should help you a little. Even if you are a seasoned veteran, there might be a detail or two you can learn from this! For this starter’s guide I assume you have bought the full game on-line and you know and understand the basic game mechanics, but are unsure what the right tactics might be for on-line gaming. Any mistakes or errors in here are mine and mine solely.

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