Race for the galaxy milestone

October 17, 2021

Race for the galaxy milestone

Since 2019, I played almost 1000 games of Race for the Galaxy (online on boardgamearena). So to mark this milestone, I am writing down a few tips and observations, and hopefully when I’ll hit 2000, 5000 or even 10 000 games I’ll be able to see if I still agree.

I am currently around 350ELO on boardgamearena, with a top around 420 last year. Best players are at least 550 I think, so I have a long way to go.

Disclaimer: all discussions in this post are about the base Race for the Galaxy game, two-players only and with the “New Worlds” variant. (at the start of the game, choose between two worlds instead of being locked with only one).

Note that I won’t explain what Race for the Galaxy is in this post, maybe another time. But your favorite search engine will help you find out all about this wonderful card game ;)


First turn settle “surfing”

I’m not actually sure what’s the actual term for this action, but I call “surfing” when you bet on the other player choosing a specific action, so you don’t take it and choose another one to speed you up.

A very common way to do this (and quite powerful too), on the first turn is to select the “trade”/“produce” phase without selecting the “settle” phase. This way, if your opponent select “settle”, you get to draw cards immediately, and because often the first world played is a windfall one, you get to “trade” the next turn but your opponent won’t be able to. So you gain some tempo on him.

This works better if your starting world is a producing one, because then you produce one good at least, and two in the best case.

I climbed from 300 to 350ELO recently in large part because I had the opportunity to use this opener, and that helped me snowball faster to the finish line than my opponent.

“Lost Species Ark” card is a trap early-mid game

“Lost Species Ark” is a green card costing 5, producing genes good and allowing to draw two cards on the “produce” phase. For a long time, I thought this card was marvelous and would try to keep it in my opening hand and playing it as soon as possible, because I thought the payoff would be so worth it.

In reality, what it did most of the time was getting me in a situation where I would spend all my cards to play this one, then desperately “trade”/“produce” for a couple turn because I was card starved, and if my opponents were half-decent, they would “develop”/“settle” so much in the meantime that I would be too much behind.

Almost the only way to play this card is toward the endgame, or when you have the 2-cost development that allows you to play any world for free. And having both in your starting hand can sometimes be a great opener if you “develop”/“produce” and you surf on your opponent “settle”. But this is a lot of “ifs”, most of the time, avoid playing this card early at any cost, it’s very rarely worth it.

Two rare production/windfall worlds + the 6 rare development

Two rare production/windfall worlds + the 6 rare development can be an opener to “consume x2”/“produce” very early and consume 6VPs per round, hopefully closing the game early enough that your opponent will still be trying to find a strategy.

The downside is that you won’t draw any card once you are starting with this, so it’s a sink or swin strategy.

One way to make it work is to:

  • have your opening world be the rare windfall world that discounts other rare worlds, one rare world costing one (or two) (preferably a windfall one) and the 6-cost development. This will require you have 8-9 cards in hand to put everythings
  • first turn: “explore +1/+1” / “trade” to get 5 cards. Hopefully, your opponent “settle” so you can play you rare world.
  • second turn: “develop” / “produce”. If your opponent did not settle the turn before, you hope he does now.
  • If your opponent did settle on turn 1 or 2, you now have 2 goods and the development, so you hammer down the “consume x2” / “produce” phase to end in 4 turns. If not, you have to waster another turn to settle but usually, people play at least one world early on so I think in most cases you could expect to be set up.

Recording games to review your play

This one is also a tip, but I’ll put it in its own category.

In various fields, you can read that recording yourself and reviewing your plays can help you see mistakes and correct them. It’s true for sports, videogames, and probably a bunch of other activities so let’s try it for this game! Also when I face better opponents, that could help me review their game instead of mine to see if I can grab some strategies or tricks from them.

I am only trying this one for the past five games, so I will need to report on the results later on, but what I see right now is that by putting the energy to record myself, I play more focused, which increase my odds of winning.

This is also very easy to set up, I use simplescreenrecorder myself but a bunch of alternatives exists (Kazam, OBS to quote a few).

Final words

I would like to write a bit more about Race for the Galaxy, it’s a very fun game (most of the time). We’ll see how the next 1000 games will go!

If you have questions, suggestions or want to discuss about this subject, I'd be more than happy if you reach me at conta-remove-ct@julienrouse.com. See also my open invite
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