Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium

Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium is the second expansion to Race for the Galaxy, my most played game ever. There has never been a doubt that I would buy this expansion, and the next one, Race for the Galaxy: On the Brink, expected early 2010.

Rebel vs Imperium adds new start worlds, new cards, new objective tiles, and takeovers. Takeovers is probably the most interesting new mechanic introduced. It adds some direct aggression to the game. During the Settle phase, if certain conditions are met, you can rob a military world from an opponent's tableau. Only four cards in the whole deck allow takeovers. You need to have played one of them to be able to attack someone else. In addition to that, your target need to have a specific vulnerability that your specific card can attack. E.g. if you have positive military power, you can be targeted. If you have rebel worlds, or you have Imperium cards, you can also be attacked. For a takeover to be successful, the attacker's military power needs to be at least the defender's military power plus the defense value of the military world.

I have played 12 games with Rebel vs Imperium, 8 of which had takeovers turned on (you can opt to play without this). However so far I still have not seen an actual takeover. Maybe it's because all my games have been 2-player games. With fewer players, it is harder for the conditions for takeovers to be met. However, having takeovers turned on did impact our games. We were conscious of it, and it made us think twice before playing Rebel, or Imperium, or military strength cards. However overall the impact of takeovers to the game feels small. I think whenever it does come into play it will become a major factor in deciding that particular game. Just like armies. In peace time you don't feel their impact, but when war breaks out, their strengths decide the fates of nations. I think I will continue to play with takeovers all the time, since with 2-players it is so hard to have an opportunity to see it in action anyway. The rules recommend turning on takeovers for alternative games, but I think that is probably for games with more players.

The additional components for the newly introduced takeover aspect of the game. You use this small board to track your military strength and your vulnerabilities. The pink and purple cubes on the left means you have a Rebel world, and you have an Imperium card respectively. The red cube on the strength track indicates your basic military strength. The pink one indicates your strength specific for attacking Rebel worlds, which may be higher than your basic strength. The square counters are indicators for defense against takeovers. The big round tile is just a reminder for whether takeover is turned on. It is when this side is face-up. Strictly speaking, none of these components are absolutely necessary, but they do make it much easier to see your opponents' strengths and vulnerabilities at a glance. Must easier than checking all the cards and doing the adding every time.

Rebel vs Imperium adds more new cards than Gathering Storm (the 1st expansion). Most of them are interesting. There are quite a few 6-cost developments, which will allow new strategies to be pursued. There is an 8-defense and a 9-defense military world, which are such tempting targets, and yet can be a hindrance if you keep holding the card in your hand and end up never being able to play them. There are quite a few quirky new card powers (e.g. you end the game at 14 instead of 12 cards), and quirky cards (e.g. one of the cards is both an Uplift and an Alien card). I find the new cards very interesting. They make the game richer. I really enjoy exploring the various strategies and various combinations of cards.

A game with the Rebel vs Imperium cards. 2nd row, 3rd card - Mercenary Fleet. It gives +2 strength, and you can discard cards to gain temporary strength. 3rd row, 4th card - Rebel Stronghold. That's a 9-point card, but it's hard to conquer.

Two of the new start worlds were designed to work with the Rebel and the Imperium strategies respectively. Not that they are all that powerful. It's more like you start with the respective vulnerabilities. You start being at risk of getting conquered by the other side. You can have both Rebel and Imperium cards in play. However it will also mean you are vulnerable to more types of attacks.

The new rule that allows you to select one from two start worlds is good. One option will always be a blue (usually peaceful) start world, and the other a red (usually more militaristic) start world. That gives a bit more control. You choose your start world after looking at your initial hand of cards.

The new objectives (objectives are introduced only in Gathering Storm) are nothing spectacular, but they do add some variety. I find that by now the objectives that came with Gathering Storm are starting to feel a bit repetitive. So I welcome some variety.

For those who like Race for the Galaxy, getting Rebel vs Imperium is a no-brainer. The only issue I have with the game is - damn, there are a lot of cards to shuffle.


crushedguava said...

Technically, Rebel Cantina doesn't start with a vulnerability to Imperium Seat because Imperium Seat can only takeover Rebel Military Worlds; you can happily settle other military with Rebel Cantina without worrying too much.

However, Imperium Warlord is vulnerable to Rebel Alliance as Rebel Alliance can takeover any military world (provided you meet the required value) in a tableau with Imperium in it. ;)

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thanks! You are right. I was thinking of the Rebel Cantina being a Rebel world and forgot that it isn't a Military world.

How are you finding Rebel vs Imperium? It seems to be the Military strategy gets used more often. Maybe it's just me. And also being given a choice of start world, it's easier to pursue a military path if you want to.

wankongyew said...

Damn, yet another game I'm interested in trying. I really like card-based games.

crushedguava said...

In my first 10 games or so of RvI I had the impression that the game was overpowered to the settle/dev route, i.e. finishing the game on 12 cards asap.

After that I felt it became more balanced. The main complaint of this game is that you more often get hands of a random assortment of cards with no clear direction (due to the inclusion of quite a few slightly-more-specific cards). It really forces you to be able to be more adaptive. A lot of games are won by my one friend who just puts down a random assortment of cards with no clear strategy (well, he is able to trade for a lot of cards most turns and then puts down the highest scoring cards he has).

Hiew Chok Sien said...

For me, even with just the Gathering Storm expansion I sometimes feel I get hands with no good synergy. In such situations, my strategy sometimes becomes focusing on the objective tiles. Getting objective tiles can be a strategy in itself. I like the objective tiles for this reason. It's another way out when you're a bit stuck.

Another way that I sometimes play if I get no-synergy hands is go for speed. Try to end the game before my opponent is ready for it. Not that it'd always work. :-D

crushedguava said...

On a different matter altogether, I'll be going to HK for a month in January. I noticed that you sometimes go to a boardgame cafe there?

Would you be able to provide me with some details about boardgaming related places in HK? Thanks =)

Hiew Chok Sien said...

The boardgame cafe I've been to is Jolly Rogers. It's near an MTR station and is quite convenient. They have mostly Eurogames. They seem to be quite packed so you better make a reservation beforehand.

One boardgame shop I often visit too is Wargames Club at 8/F 678 Nathan Road (somehow I can never get this address out of my head). They have both Eurogames and wargames, CCGs too. Pretty good inventory, but a bit pricey. Not sure whether cheaper or not compared to Australia though.

You should be able to find websites of these two by googling. You will probably find more, but do double check that these places are still in business. I think some don't do as well as others. These two above seem to be doing alright so my guess is both are still around.