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How To Play Star Realms (5 Minute Guide)

How To Play Star Realms (5 Minute Guide)


Star Realms is a 2 player deck-building card game with an outer space theme. Throughout the game, players will trade cards to acquire ships and bases, trying to defeat each other in battles and end up with the most authority.

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To begin, place the 10 Explorer cards face-up on the table. Shuffle the Trade Deck and place it face down on the table. Draw the top 5 cards and turn them face up to form a Trade Row between all the players. An empty space next to this row will contain the Scrap Heap pile for cards that will not be used in the game.

Each player will start the game with their own deck of 8 Scout cards and 2 Viper cards as well as 50 Authority. These can be tracked using the included Authority cards. Both players will shuffle their decks and place them face down in their player areas. There should be an empty space next to each for a discard pile.


The object of the game is to beat your opponent by destroying their ships and bases and lowering their authority.

Player Actions

Once the first player is chosen, they will draw 3 cards from their personal deck. Each turn will consist of 3 phases:

Main Phase:

Players are allowed to perform a series of actions in the order they choose during this phase. These actions can be playing cards from their hand, using the primary abilities of in-play Bases, using the Ally or Scrap abilities of in-play Ships and Bases, using Trade to get new cards from the Trade Row, and using Combat to attack an opponent or their Bases.

Any Ship that is played during the game will use ability triggers as indicated on the card and will stay on the table facing up until the Discard Phase. On the other hand, a Bases card will remain in play until they are destroyed or scrapped, not discarded. Bases have Defense numbers in the lower left hand corner that display the amount of Combat their opponent must hit them with in a single turn to destroy it. If a Base is destroyed, it will be placed in the defeated player’s discard pile.

Each card’s Primary Ability can be used once per turn at any time as indicated. However when a Ship card is played its Primary Ability will be automatically put into effect as it is played. Some cards have Ally Abilities as indicated by the icon in the text box. These can be used when another Ship or Base of that faction is currently in play at any time during the Main Phase. Scrap Abilities are indicated by a trash icon in the text box and can be used by removing it from play and placing it in the Scrap Heap next to the Trade Deck. Once this is done, it is permanently removed from the game and cannot return to your deck.

Some cards will give you the ability to acquire cards from the Trade Row or Explorer Pile. The cost will be indicated in the upper right hand corner. In order to get a new card, you will subtract Trade from your Trade Pool according to the cost of the card and place it into your Discard Pile. Taking this step does not count as playing the card.

When you gain Combat, it will go into a Combat Pool and be used to attack your opponent and their bases. If you are attacking a Base, you will subtract Combat from your Combat Pool according to the Base’s Defense. If the Base is destroyed it will go into the other player’s Discard Pile. If the card indicates to “Destroy Target Base” you will be able to destroy it without using any Combat.

Discard Phase:

Discarded cards and newly acquired cards from the Trade Row will immediately be placed facing up in your Discard Pile for any player to look through at any time. During this phase, you will lose remaining Trade in your Trade Pool as well as Combat, discard all in-play ships, and place your remaining hand of cards into your Discard Pile.

Draw Phase:

During this phase, you will draw 5 cards to end your turn and prepare for the next round.

How to End the Game

The game ends when one of the players reduces their opponent’s authority to zero.


There are 2 major strategies to choose from while playing Star Realms. You can either build up ships and bases to take down your opponent quickly, or buy outposts to protect yourself from attacks and defeat your opponent slowly instead. Whichever strategy you choose, make sure to stick to the same one throughout the entire game for the best results.

How the Game Changes Depending on the Number of Players

The basic rules do not change when more players are added, but there are a few rule variations for multiplayer games. A 3-player game ends when there is only one player left standing. In a game with 4 or more players, they are only allowed to attack the player to their left and the last player alive will win the game.

Variations of the Game

Variations of Star Realms include the Polish, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Czech, and German Editions with multiple printings of each version.



Time to play: 20 minutes

Manufacturer suggested player age: 12+

Community suggested player age: 8+

List of expansions: Star Realms: Command Deck – Lost Fleet, Star Realms: Command Deck – the Alignment, Star Realms: Command Deck – The Alliance

Community rating: 7.6/10

Popularity: Rank 90

Difficulty: Easy

Designer credits: Robert Dougherty, Darwin Kastle

Published year: 2014

Link to official game site:

Awards: 2017 As d’Or – Jeu de I’Annee Expert Nominee, 2015 SXSW Tabletop Game of the Year Winner, 2015 Origins Awards Best Card Game Nominee

If you like this game you’ll also like:

Hero Realms, Tiny Epic Galaxies, Galaxy Trucker

If you don’t like this game, you should try:

Ticket To Ride, Railroad Ink, Monopoly