Race For the Galaxy – The Brink of War Card Game Review

The Imperium and the Rebels have been battling each other for control over the galaxy, but things are about to get even more messy in Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War. In addition, the Alien departure point has been found, and the Uplift Overseers are starting to get restless. In these troubled times when war is just a hair’s breadth away, galactic prestige and influence become all the more important as you try to gain control of the galaxy.

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War is the 3rd expansion for the hit card game, following the first two expansions The Gathering Storm and Rebel vs Imperium. It requires the base game as well as both previous expansions in order to play. This review is focused on the new concepts introduced in the Brink of War expansion. If you want to know more about how the base game is played, please read our Race for the Galaxy review.

This expansion follows on from the previous Rebel vs Imperium expansion, where military might was starting to get mobilized and the galactic Imperium was being harassed by the rebels in small skirmishes. Tensions are getting high now though, and the galaxy is on the Brink of War. In troubled times like these, the galaxy looks up to those that hold galactic prestige: the worlds and corporations that have the greatest influence. It’s these prestige leaders who will decide whether the galaxy will prosper or be thrown into war.

The main new mechanic introduced in Brink of War is the prestige system, a new method to achieve victory. Every turn, the player with the most prestige gain an additional victory point. And if this prestige leader gained prestige that turn, they also get to draw a card. Letting a player keep the prestige lead uncontested will basically mean handing them a whole chunk of victory points and free cards. Existing game plans will therefore have to change to accommodate this. If you can’t be the prestige leader, you’ll have to either make sure others can’t maintain that lead, or earn a lot of additional victory points to overcome the prestige leader’s victory point bonus.

So how do you earn prestige? A large number of the cards introduced in this set have the prestige symbol located next to their cost value. These cards (both worlds and developments) will earn you a prestige token when you play them. There are also new abilities that produce prestige tokens. Examples include an explore ability that lets you discard a card to gain a prestige token, and a consume ability that lets you consume an alien good for a prestige token instead of victory points.

There is also another major new mechanic introduced in Brink of War: the Prestige/Search card. This card provides every player with a powerful boost that can only be used once per game. Players can choose the Prestige portion of the card by paying one prestige token when you reveal your role card. That role card then becomes “super-charged” with the relevant ability on the Prestige/Search card. For example, you can consume goods for an additional victory point, or you can settle a world for 3 cards less or with 2 extra military power.

The Search part of the card is equally powerful. Once a game, you can use the card to search the deck for a particular type of card. You choose one of 9 categories (such as a 1- or 2-cost world, or an alien world, or a 6-cost development) and you get to reveal cards from the deck until you reach a card that satisfies the conditions of the category you chose. You then get to put that card into your hand. This is a good way to hopefully find a 6-cost development that will give you the victory points to win the game. More importantly, this card also helps if your initial hand is really bad, allowing you to search for cards that will help you get your engine going. In effect, it is like a “mulligan” that compensates for a bad draw and keeps you in the race.

There are also plenty of cards with new abilities, as well as new Alien and Uplift cards. Overall, Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War is a great expansion set that introduces interesting new concepts and mechanics to keep the game fresh and exciting. Existing strategies are shaken up as players adjust their game plans to accommodate the new prestige system. Do note that the base set and both previous expansions are required to play Brink of War.

Complexity: 4.0/5.0

Playing Time: ~ 1 hour

Number of Players: 1 to 6 players

Tichu Card Game Review

Work together with your partners and defeat your opponents in Tichu, the exciting and volatile trick-taking card game! Use your strategy skills and teamwork to rid your hand of cards before your opponents can. Take advantage of the powerful effects of unique cards such as the dragon, phoenix and dog. Use bids of confidence, card trick bombs and deductive reasoning to get ahead of your opponents. Risk it all in your quest for victory!

Tichu, whose name in Chinese means roughly to “propose” or to “put forward”, is a fast-paced trick-playing card game with roots in Asia. It bears large similarities to the Chor Dai Dee and Da Lao Er Chinese card games which are hugely popular in East Asia. There are elements of Bridge and Poker in the game, and this fusion of styles and mechanics has created a very popular card game. The Tichu variation of this Asian card game was designed by Urs Hostetler in 1991, and has steadily acquired a growing fanbase.

Tichu is mostly played with 2 teams of 2 players each (though the game can accommodate between 3 to 6 players in total). You sit across from your partner, and your team’s goal is to win more points than your opponents during each game, and games continue until one team achieves the target number of points. A hundred points are up for grabs each game, and the target score is usually a thousand.

The game is played using a standard 52-card deck containing 4 suits of 13 cards each, plus an additional 4 special cards unique to this game. The game is played using tricks, which are very similar to poker hands. You can play single cards, pairs, a series of pairs, three-of-a-kind, full house, and straights of at least 5 cards.

The basic premise of the game is pretty straightforward: the lead player opens a round by playing a trick, and players take turns playing tricks that are of the same kind and larger in value than the previously played trick. Once everyone passes, the player who played the last trick wins all the cards played that round, and he gets to start a new round by playing any trick in his hand. For example, Player A opens a round with a pair of 4′s. Player B passes because he either does not have any pairs in his hand or chooses not to play them. Player C plays a pair of 7′s. Player D then plays a pair of Queens. After everyone else passes (opting not to play anymore pairs), Player D wins the round and claims all the cards on the table, and then starts a new round by playing a full house.

Winning the cards played in each round is what scores you points. However, only a few cards are worth anything. 5′s are worth 5 points each, and 10′s and Kings are worth 10 points each. The other normal cards are worth nothing, and merely act as tools for you to win the point cards. The game continues until one player “goes out” by emptying his hand. The game still continues with the remaining players, until only one player is left. Each partnership then totals the number of points they earned that game. You are penalized for coming in last though; the last player has to give all the cards he won that game to the first player who went out, and all the remaining cards in his hand to his opponents.

As you can see, this is a game where teamwork and strategy are required to win (though partners are not allowed to talk strategy during the game). You have to make sure your team wins the rounds where point cards are involved. You also need to make sure you aren’t the last player remaining in the game. In addition, if your entire team goes out before any of your opponents can, the point cards don’t matter and your team earns a whopping 200 points!

Unfortunately, that was just the basics. Tichu has a lot of other rules to make the game interesting and challenging. As mentioned before, there are 4 special cards in the game. They are the Mahjong, the Dog, the Dragon and the Phoenix, and each has its own abilities. The player with the Mahjong card gets to play the first trick, and can force a card to be played. Playing the Dog gives the lead to your partner. The Dragon is the highest value single card and is also worth 25 points. However, you have to give all the cards you won that round (including the Dragon) to an opponent. The Phoenix acts as a wild card and can be played with any trick, but it comes with a hefty -25 point penalty.

There are also tricks you can play called “Bombs”. If you have a four-of-a-kind or a straight-flush, this acts as a Bomb and you can use it to interrupt any round and immediately take the lead. However, your Bomb can also be interrupted by another bigger Bomb. Lots of fun! There are also a couple of other rules to the game. At the start of each game, you need to pass a card to each other player, thereby slightly influencing the quality of the other players’ hands. Before each player plays their first card, they also have the opportunity to call a Tichu. This means they are proclaiming that they will “go out” first. If they do, they win a bonus 100 points. But if they don’t, they lose the 100 points. You can also call a Grand Tichu when only 8 cards (out of 14) have been dealt. This works the same as a Tichu call, but the bonus (or loss) is 200 points!

The many rules in the game can seem daunting, and they can take a while to learn, especially for players who are new to this game genre or have not experienced trick-playing card games such as Bridge before. However, once you do get the hang of it, you will find that it becomes a game full of strategy, teamwork, guessing and second-guessing. And if your gaming group is of the high-risk variety, the constant calls of Tichu or Grand Tichu will turn the game into a suspenseful and exciting game where the point lead can swing wildly until the very end.

Tichu is a great game that you can play a very many times without getting bored. The level of thinking, planning and tricking in the game can even rival that of Bridge. Suffice to say, if you are willing to learn the many rules of the game, you will be rewarded with hours of fun! You will like Tichu if you like other trick-taking card games such as Bridge, Hearts or 500.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
Complexity: 3.5/5.0
Playing Time: 1 – 1.5 hours
Number of Players: 3 to 6 players