As you might expect, the Rebel vs. Imperium expansion has shaken up Race for the Galaxy, opening up new strategies and rearranging the strength of others. While I don’t think anything that I’ve written about the strategy of Race for the Galaxy so far has been invalidated, several topics do need updating before I move forward, and this is the first of a short series of articles that I hope will provide those updates.
This first piece offers small updates to strategic ideas that were previously discussed, namely Card Flow and Discounts, Power Consume strategies and Novelty Consume strategies.
Card Flow and Discounts
Mix & Match Explore
Rebel vs. Imperium introduces a new Explore power, Mix & Match. Any player that has it in his tableau may discard cards he already had in his hand prior to an Explore as if he had drawn them during that phase.
The designer’s principle aim with this power is to counteract some of the streakiness inherent in the larger deck. Specifically, it is a defense against those frustrating occasions when you are looking for one card for your strategy and draw four. If you have this power available, you can keep all four provided you have enough cards in your hand to satisfy the discard requirement. In fact, this alone is enough to recommend it to many build strategies, especially those that need most instances of a certain rare type of card, such as “big Rebel” (Rebel Outpost, Base, Homeworld and Stronghold) or Alien discounts (Alien Tech Institute, Alien Rosetta Stone World & Deserted Alien World), since an Explore +5 could turn up more than one.
The Mix & Match power opens up one other important tactic, as well.When you find yourself with a handful of junk, it can be a very strong play to select Explore +5, hoping to find several viable plays. This is especially useful early in the game, when you are more concerned with finding a some small powers to build your position, or a card or two that give you some strategy to build toward. Because these requirements are so broad, it is easy to succeed.
Rebel vs. Imperium has added several cards with important Develop powers. Galactic Developers is a start world that features the same card drawing power as Interstellar Bank, as does Galactic Bankers, a development-oriented 6-cost development. Pan-Galactic Research, while expensive, is another card that features a -1 discount for developments, and R&D Crash Program is a Colony Ship-like development that provides a one-time 3-card discount when developing. All of this makes it possible to cycle huge numbers of cards while playing developments, even 6-costers, for little or no cost.
The result is a tableau rush strategy which, at least in the early phases of the game, cycles cards while playing small developments faster than it’s opponent. When luck is on its side, this can turn into a full-blown interlocking 6-development strategy that lays power card after power card with few pauses to refill its hand, and the ability to play small worlds when necessary as well. This is, in many ways, the development equivalent of a power military strategy, and when it gets lucky it is extremely hard to keep pace with it.
For now, I just want to highlight the power of this collection of cards (which also includes Interstellar Bank, Investment Credits, Public Works and Galactic Federation from the base set), the most extreme version of strategic card generation currently available to a build strategy. I will discuss the tactics of this set of strategies in a later article.
Just a short note on Galactic Salon in a Power Consume strategy. Although it saves a tempo by sparing you the need to play a world that will Produce a good, Galactic Salon will not sit at the heart of a Power Consume strategy. It is still only a 1 VP Consume power like any other. That does not mean that it isn’t worth playing if you can manage it, but you should not see it in your hand and tell yourself that it will form the basis of your strategy.
One partial exception to this is if you expect to Consume twice for every Produce. In this case, since it is not dependent on goods, Galactic Salon is worth three tempi instead of two, which is much closer in value to Tourist World or Alien Toy Shop.
Novelty Consume strategies got beaten with a rubber hose in Rebel vs. Imperium. Not only did they not get any major new tools, but the escalation in scoring and speed highlight Novelty Consume’s largest flaws: it is slow, and it does not score a lot of points for its builds. Since the larger deck makes it harder to find key cards (Free Trade Association and Consumer Markets) and it becomes a thoroughly mediocre, somewhat luck-dependent strategy. You certainly want to maintain the possibility of playing Diversified Consume until you find a key card for one or the other.
Smuggling World is the most noteworthy of the new Novelty worlds in Rebel vs Imperium. Although its zero VPs are galling, it’s specialized discount helps compensate. It can help you deal with Novelty’s tough time generating cards early in the game, and it can greatly increase your options by giving you access to both 1-defense Novelty production worlds and the 1-defense Novelty windfalls (since there are surprisingly few non-military Novelty windfall worlds). Even more important might be its Mix & Match Explore-phase power, though, since you can overcome a lull in Novelty-related cards quickly with an Explore +5 or two.