Race for the Galaxy is a strategy boardgame where players advance their empire by playing cards to build technological developments or to settle planets. Its core mechanic is a phase choosing game. Players secretly and simultaneously determine which one of seven phases they will lock in, all reveal at once, then execute the phases in order. Will you build an engine to ramp up VP generation on cheapo production planets? Will you invest in exploration and settle rare and valuable VP rich planets? Or will you rush a military conquest to cut off your opponents before they have a chance to develop their strategy.
Pro Deep and strategic
Race for the Galaxy is deep and offers plenty of room for customized strategies, so those who enjoy more advanced games should really enjoy it.
For example, you may put together an intelligent play by trying to predict which phase your opponents are going to choose on any given turn. If your opponent controls an area that allows them to trade resources for cards, they might choose the Trade Phase that turn. Since all players can participate in any other player's chosen phase, you may want to counterplay with the Settle Phase so you can join the area and take advantage of the trade too.
There are hundreds of scenarios like this. The amount of sheer strategy and paths to victory combined with the random nature of cards can create plenty of interesting and deep gameplay sessions.
Pro Many different ways to win
There are seven different actions that can be taken each turn such as Produce, Explore, Develop, etc. Each of these actions will then influence which cards you can play from your hand, and also the points you get from all active cards already in play. There are are an almost unlimited amount of possible scenarios and ways to accumulate the most points. No one strategy will ever overpower another thanks to so many random factors and paths to victory.
Pro Each round is different and exciting
At the start of every round, players each choose one action card from among a pool of their seven cards and place it face down on the table. After everyone has chosen, all the cards are flipped over and the round begins.
Any action chosen can be completed by all players. For example, if you choose to Explore, then everyone else may also explore on that turn. If your opponent chose to Produce, then you are also free to produce.
Since you never know what actions the people around you are going to choose for that turn, it's possible that any or all actions will come into play that round. This keeps things fresh and exciting on a per round basis as you never know (except for your own choice) which actions will be 100% in play.
Con Different rules when playing with only 2 players
It is highly recommended to play with 3 or more players, but there is a rule set available for when only 2 players are available. However, this requires learning an entirely modified set of advanced rules. This can be especially complex and frustrating for people who are still struggling with the standard rules.
Con Not much player interactivity
The cards you play have an influence what your opponent can and cannot do each turn, but it all feels so random and impersonal. There's little to no communication required among the group. Everyone just scrambles to get their points without really worrying too much about what the player sitting next to them is doing. This issue is fixed in the expansions, but those who only own the base game are out of luck.
Con Iconography can be difficult to learn
This game relies heavily on a variety of symbols to indicate what each card does. This can make it very difficult for new players that don't yet understand what each symbol means. These symbols range from different colored shapes like circles and diamonds to shapes with various icons inside them. It's not always intuitive what they mean, so expect to consult the rule book quite often while learning.