Revisiting the Race for the Galaxy

We played quite a bit of Race for the Galaxy a few years back, but with the DELUGE of games of the board coming out in the last few years, it hasn’t hit the table overmuch. I consider it a great game, but not one of my all time favorites. I think after the two games I lost last night, I now know why: there’s no real player interaction at the level of play our group plays at. If we played hardcore Race all the time, we may be able to card count and estimate the optimal action card to play by reading the other player’s tableaus, but when you play a few times a year, you can get by really well by just picking a strategy (military, get 12 cards out the fastest, or Consume) and playing whatever you think is best tactically for that strategy based on your cards in hand–not really factoring in the other player’s goals or tableau at all.

Since we aren’t card counting or really looking at each other’s tableaus, Race boils down to a mutual solo game where the actions of the other players may help (say if you wanted to develop and colonize in the same turn and can anticipate which you should play), but are rarely detrimental. Again, this view of the game would vary drastically at higher levels of play, but even casually playing Race’s parent game, Puerto Rico, you are forced to plan around the role selection step a great deal more to score points FTW. In contrast to Puerto Rico, with Race, there is often so much going on with the other players abilities to score points, and very little you can do to impede their progress except work out the Nash Equilibrium to determine if you absolutely need to play the cards that don’t immediately score you points (Produce, Consume: Trade, Explore).

That said, Race for the Galaxy is still a great game (I’m not sure the most recent expansion has helped it however) and will hit the table from time to time–but when you have greats like Nexus Ops, Cosmic Encounter and the like that have tons of player interaction, it’s tough to get this to the table. ┬áTheme and art never fail to impress.