Race For The Prize: Race For The Galaxy AI

Like I just stepped out of a Salon. Wait.

If your head has been turned by the mention of Race For The Galaxy as an inspiration for the coverage around Cryptic Comet’s Six Gun Shooter. What is this mysterious card-game? Well, you can go and buy it, but if you’re interested in a quicker nose, there’s a Rio-Grande-approved free version that lets you play against the AI. Lovely Reader Alan points us in its direction, noting that you’d need to know the rules before playing it. Thankfully, Rio Grande has them available as a PDF. The game’s very well thought of, so this is an ideal way to explore. I’m still digesting the manual, having had my card-playing organs absorbed by – er – something involving Space Marines. Man!


  1. jackshandy says:

    Holy shit. I was literally looking into Race for the Galaxy RIGHT THIS SECOND.

    Can… Can you read my mind?

    • Skurmedel says:

      Play the card game, it’s awesome.

    • jackshandy says:

      So they tell me, but I wasn’t sure if I could get the amount of people together I’d need, or whether I should spend the money, whether the rules where to dense, etc. So, trying it out with an AI? PROBLEM SOLVED.

  2. Fede says:

    It’s very well done, I only get a strange bug when in full screen (it doesn’t adjourn the screen for some reason, maybe it lacks a call to repaint()? No idea.) but if you play windowed it’s fine. The AI seems to play rather well, certainly better than a beginner.

    • Fede says:

      Forgot to say: I’d suggest to play without expansions at first, the base version is easier to learn.

    • brog says:

      Very strongly support this suggestion. I’ve taught this game to many a human now, and it just does not work with expansions in (the first expansion can be done, but past that is unacceptable). Building up to the later expansions should be done very gradually. The third expansion is totally awesome (not just because I designed one of the cards), but it seems to be incomprehensible to players with inadequate experience in the earlier expansions. This game has depth enough for hundreds of plays, so there’s no need to rush into expansions.

      I guess it’s quite handy with the computerised version that you don’t have to sort through all the cards to extract expansion cards.

  3. BigJonno says:

    That Death Angel game looks a lot like the old Alien vs Predator card game, which I absolutely adored.

    • Nick says:

      I loved that game. Except when my friend threw a hissy fit and detonated his predator in a three way game =/

  4. Sigh says:

    Thanks for posting this Kieron! Lately, for some inexplicable reason I have been completely absorbed by board games even to the point where I have barely played any pc games (though Civ V will remedy that). My only problem is that my wife is my primary (perhaps only) board game partner at the moment so that rules out 3-person or more games and really thematic games (although she is willing to give Warhammer: Invasion a shot, bless her). Race for the Galaxy is a game I have been eying for a while, but I believe it requires a minimum of 3 people and is probably more than my wife would tolerate. I can’t wait to try this format.

    I would like to express my overwhelming enthusiasm whenever RPS covers board game IP that has some type of pc alternative. For me that type of thing is really refreshing. It is hard to explain, but board games have seemed much more enticing and elegant compared to pc releases of late. Thanks.

    • brog says:

      RFTG supports 2-player (this is my favourite format, in fact) and my wife loves it (but you have a different wife so this may not give any indication).

    • Sigh says:


      Thanks for the correction. I may nudge her to give it a try. My only concern is that she articulates that she hates anything with a space/sci-fi theme…high fantasy and even low fantasy (e.g. Warhammer old world) she tolerates, but space is usually a no go. Although this game is highly regarded and the mechanics may be interesting enough to her to overlook its thematic presentation.

    • brog says:

      Good luck with that endeavour!
      If she can’t get past the theme, you might want to try San Juan – I haven’t played it myself, it apparently has similar mechanics but a lot less depth. But it has the generic historical setting favoured by so many eurogames, so you may be able to experience something like the joy of RFTG without offending her taste in locations.
      BGG: link to boardgamegeek.com, online version at link to brettspielwelt.de

    • Sigh says:


      Thanks for the recommendation, I will check out that title as well.

      Unrelated note: I think that I may have confused my terminology above as Warhammer may more appropriately fit in “high fantasy”. It appears that “low fantasy” seems to exclude an alternative world/plane/universe. I guess the finer subtleties separating sub-genres never mattered that much to me.

    • Clovis says:

      I’m in similar situation. In addition to regular boardgaming being restricted to two player, I also have to avoid highly confrontational games. I think I screwed up when I bought Agricola, as far as that goes. I get some mean glares when I grab that starting player token. Outside of 2 player it becomes a lot harder to specifically screw your opponent though since you have so much else to worry about.

      Anyway, I’ve heard that RFTG is one of those almost “multiplayer solitaire” games. I’ve read that there is definite intereaction, but that it is subtle. So, this sounds like a good idea.

      I’ll probably only give the online version one or two tries to learn the rules though. Playing a game where I have a significant advantage is normally a no-go too.

    • Skurmedel says:

      Yeah,… you can do offense but mostly it’s about playing your cards right (harr harr). I don’t know if I ever done anything worse than slowing someone down. All that matters in the end is how many points you have which is decided by what you have built (and some extra factors.)

    • Atic Atac says:

      Jambo is an awesome 2 player card game. Space Hulk is probably the best 2 player board game I own though.

      The upcoming LOTR co-operative 2 player living card game from Fantasy Flight looks awesome as well.

  5. brog says:

    Something important to add: the AI version also supports online multiplayer. There have been a couple of other online versions around, but this seems to be the one of choice at the moment.

  6. Taillefer says:

    There’s something inexplicably appealing about representing things as cards to me and I’m not even a big game player outside the PC realm. When I first saw Armageddon Empires, I was drawn immediately to the fact the units were done that way.

    And just looking at that screenshot makes me want to play this.

    • Sigh says:


      “There‚Äôs something inexplicably appealing about representing things as cards to me …”

      I agree completely. I am such a sucker for that type of presentation.

      Speaking of Armageddon Empires can you are anyone vouch for the game, specifically the AI? I noticed in the reviews on the website that RPS gave it high regards along with a few other journalist sites, but is the game as fun as the reviewer quotes? Does the AI put up a good fight? If so that game looks right up my alley, something I have been looking for recently. Thanks.

    • Graham says:

      Armageddon Empires is super-sweet, but definitely clunky and a bit hard to learn. I’m an idiot, so the AI is good enough for me; your mileage may vary. By far the worst thing about it (the AI) is that it has a limited set of pre-made decks, while you can build whatever you want (unless that changed while I wasn’t looking).

      If you’re on the fence, check out the demo:
      link to crypticcomet.com

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The biggest problem is getting past the UI. The AI isn’t hyper-smart, but it’s certainly competent enough. Some of the fun is seeing if you can get a really obscure build past the AI.

      (For example, my hyper-low-strength stealth deck which is based around filling the countryside around their base with invisible units and then waiting for the main defence to leave to do something… and then invading, taking the capital and then filling all routes between the capital and the main army with my soldiers. Since they can only fight one battle a turn, they have to squash one of the useless units and don’t make it back to the capital in time for me to win the game)

      That’s the thing – that’s a very extreme example, but since the enemy play with set decks, you trying out various variations of the rules is key to the game. And since they take 1-2 hours to play, you can really be quite radical.

      It’s just a lovely strategy game, and well worth buying.


    • BooleanBob says:

      Yeah, I do love messing about with different custom decks in AE. One of my prouder achievements was a deck built to maximise air power. It didn’t really work as planned (air units are temperamental basts), but it did teach me the value of forward observation squads (best human scouts in the game, no question), and because of the value restrictions of taking all those fighters and bombers, the army I was left with was invariably lean and deadly (lots of shock attack, backed up with that incredible human mech unit).

      Also: neglect the Heroic Administrators (seriously, what a concept) at your peril.

      Browsing the first page of RftG, it has a powerful whiff of San Juan to it (as someone mentioned above), so I will definitely check it out. There’s a (free, legal, thoroughly addictive) java AI client that anyone who’s interested in this sort of thing should definitely check out, although be warned: the AI is literally superhuman, and coming out on top in a four-way match is rare indeed.

      Also, if that’s really sugar they’re selling at those kind of prices then my name is Tony Montana.

    • Sigh says:

      Thanks Kieron, Graham, and BooleanBob.

      Sounds really intriguing. I will definitely give this a try.

    • GreatUncleBaal says:

      I’m going to give AE another crack – the demo just didn’t pull me in, but I’m reading so many good things about it that I’ve got to go back, get past the difficult interface and sniff the game proper, so to speak. Have have had a major revival of interest recently in card-based games in general (picked up Warhammer Invasion a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and will be getting the Space Hulk game soon – have now banned myself from the Fantasy Flight website for fear of acquring Cthulhu stuff), so a half-decent AI card-based game for PC in between game nights would be more than welcome.

  7. Morph says:

    Race for the Galaxy is pretty much my favourite non-computer game, so now… yey!

    I urge people to play it but warn you there is a steep learning curve and you’ll have no idea what you’re doing the first few games.

    • TimA says:

      This is me. I think I understand the rules, to an extent, but the AI totally kicks my arse every time, so I’m doing something wrong.

      I’d love to try some multiplayer, if anyone is patient enough feel free to email me tim dot ashcroft at gmail, perhaps we can arrange something.

  8. Clovis says:

    Hey, I went and read the instructions for RFTG and was pretty shocked. It’s absolutely clear that they totally gutted the game in order to sell expansion packs! The base game actually comes with cards that are already marked to fit into specific expansion packs! That means they were totally finished but then just took them out of the game. Personally, I won’t support a company that clearly plans on milking their customers for every dime! What next? Will we have to pay extra just to get VP tokens , a printed instructions manual, or game pieces that actually look like animals and not colored cubes? Boardgaming is doing its best to destroy itself.


    • MWoody says:

      I understand everything but the sarcasm tag. Are you implying that if a new card game came out with instructions already in the first-printing rulebook for paid expansions, you wouldn’t be annoyed?

    • brog says:

      I don’t see how this is a bad thing at all. The game was finished and being played a long time before it was published (a situation quite different from in videogames, where people seem to always be frantically releasing unfinished games). The playtesters wanted more, so the designer started making expansions. There was time to make some changes to the base game to help things stay balanced when the expansions were added, and to add some symbols to cards which would allow more interactions with expansion cards, so they did.

  9. Mort says:

    I learned to play this with two friends, so together the three of us hacked our way through the first 10 or 20 games. Then we started to realize how the cards worked together and whatnot, eventually working our way up to playing at super-speed. Now we can’t teach anyone else to play because we’re all miserable silent bastards, each fully absorbed in our own little corner of the galaxy, playing through each round very, very quickly. But it’s fantastic fun. And, as a commenter above points out, later expansions add more interaction between players. Although it’s still a bit of the ol’ playing alone together. I’m also up for some multiplayer, as TimA is above. adam dot gilg at gmail

  10. malkav11 says:

    Race for the Galaxy is about the only game I know that plays in less than half an hour and yet is super fun for me. I typically go in for great huge lurching monstrosities like Arkham Horror that take 5+ hours but are well worth it. It just has so much depth and combinatorial possibilities in a deceptively simple framework. (Honestly, I’ve never seen why people have trouble getting into it – the basic rules are very simple, and while the cards are a giant mass of special cases, they’re special cases that are clearly marked on each card.)

  11. MWoody says:

    Man, this game is fun, but I am getting my ass BEAT. We’re talking 10+ games without even being close to winning. I’m getting closer, though.

  12. Guhndahb says:

    Wow this is so much fun! And, I’ll tell you, the first thing I was thinking as I was playing this is which friends I should buy the hard copy it for as holiday gifts. So allowing folks to make free computerized AI-opponent recreations of board/card games like this seems like a money wining proposition to me. I hope more rights holders and developers follow suit.

    I won my first game – I’m quite certain out of sheer luck. (I was New Sparta and had lots and lots of +1 and +2 military worlds to conquer right off the bat – then a bunch of high VP rebel worlds to conquer with my +9 military in the mid-game) In fact, when I saw “Game Over” I said “Who won? Oh! Yey blue!”. :D

    My biggest wish, however, would be for there to be some way to customize the victory conditions when playing against the AI (even in the form of a configuration file). It’s a little frustrating that my game ended before my planned strategy could unfold. I’d have learned more if it had.

    One question: in the GUI, the diamond seems to represent VPs, I understand that, but what are the two numbers in the diamond? The bottom is the VPs I guess since it said I won with 29, but I had a 4 above it. What did the 4 signify? Thanks.

    • brog says:

      The other number is the number of VPs gained from Consume. In the physical game you gain tokens for this, and it’s significant to know this number separately because there’s a development that gives extra points for every 3 VPs in tokens.

    • Guhndahb says:

      @brog: Ah! That makes sense (and explains that development too). Thanks a bunch.

  13. Mippy says:

    This is the worst game in history and Alan should be sacked from your readership FORTHWITH