Free Games

Free Game Of The Moment: Race For The Galaxy

by Adam Biessener on Aug 04, 2010 at 08:55 AM

This free download is a 100%-accurate digital representation of the excellent tabletop game, built with the original card artwork with the publisher and designer’s blessings. Though it’s been around for a while, author Keldon recently added online play and another expansion.

Race for the Galaxy is a European-style card-based title that draws heavily from classics like San Juan. Up to four players race to collect the most victory points, which are accrued by playing cards into your tableau or consuming trade goods. 

Turns are simple and fast-paced. Each player secretly chooses a role at the beginning of the round, such as Explore or Settle. These roles determine what phases will take place during that round, and while everyone will have a chance to do the basic action for the phase, the player(s) who chose(s) the role get(s) a bonus. So if you pick Settle, everyone can place a planet that turn – but you get to draw a card afterward.

The trick to Race for the Galaxy is that every card has a special power, and interacts with phases and other cards in unique ways. The Galactic Salon gives you a victory point during every Consume phase, for instance, while the Colony Ship can be discarded to settle a world for free during the Settle phase.

The game has a clever icon system to denote card powers. A hand holding a card next to the roman numeral I, for example, means that while that card is in your tableau you get to draw an extra card (the hand/card icon) during every Explore phase (the I). 

The massive card pool (this version includes the first three expansions to the base game) means that every game is unique. Cards represent everything from peaceful consumer worlds to military-focused Imperium forces, strange alien tech, and mining conglomerates. Figuring out how to make the cards you draw work together as a point-generating machine is Race for the Galaxy’s central challenge.

Like many European tabletop games, Race for the Galaxy doesn’t put players in direct conflict with one another. The third expansion adds a harshly limited “takeover” mechanic, but it often never occurs in the game and you can explicitly disable it if you prefer. 

This truly is a race – games typically last under a half-hour in real life, and the speed of having a computer doing the basic calculations means that you can finish a full four-player game inside 10 minutes.

Be warned that the AI that Keldon built for the game is nasty. It doesn’t cheat, but it’s very good. Even experienced players shouldn’t expect to win more than half their games against it, and newbies will likely get thrashed until they get a handle on the mechanics. Like any multiplayer game, though, you have to be philosophical about your losses – they’re just more opportunities to learn.

Race for the Galaxy is good enough that I’ve bought the tabletop game, its expansions, and I still like to squeeze in some matches of this PC version from time to time. I suggest you do the same.