One reason for this meaty gameplay is the four different factions in Star Realms. The Blobs excel and generating high Combat values, while the Trade Federation is less warlike, and best at protection and defense. The Star Empire is militaristic, specializing in drawing extra cards and forcing opponents to discard, hampering their resource generation. Lastly, the Machine Cult, rather appropriately allows tuning of your deck by removing undesirable cards from it, minimizing the occurrence of a bad hand. When you play multiple cards of a particular faction in one turn, they become more powerful, encouraging you to limit your purchases to one or two factions each time you play.
Star Realms was designed as a competitive game, and it certainly can be quite cutthroat. Often, the best play is to purchase a card that your opponent wants, just so their deck will not perform as well in future turns. Some of the cards that cost more Trade are incredibly powerful whether or not you have other cards of a matching faction to support them. On the other hand, if you can pull off a chain of cards of one faction, the stacking effects can be back breaking. It is not uncommon to do dozens or damage in one ultimate turn, ending the game in one glorious fell swoop.
Cooperative play comes to Star Realms with a pair of cards from the Gambit expansion, which is due to be reprinted later this month. Instead of fighting against one another, co-op players are given the task of reducing the Authority of a Co-Op Challenge boss. There are two such bosses in the set, the Nemesis Beast and the Pirates of the Dark Star. These bosses act by taking a card from the Trade row, and adding it face down to a stack. The number of cards in the stack is the amount of Power available to the boss that turn. In addition, a new card is drawn, and depending on the faction of this card, all manner of bad things happen to each player. The boss has a scaling amount of Authority based on the number of players. Like the standard Star Realms, these Co-Op Challenges are intuitive but still require a high degree of teamwork and strategy to defeat.
Given the ease of setup, inexpensive price, and the sheer amount of solid gameplay packed into such a tiny package, Star Realms is a must play for fans of the deckbuilding genre. It is easy enough to pick up that you can play it with even non-gamers, while still providing a serious challenge, particularly with the Co-Op bosses, for those who have played dozens of deckbuilders before. Star Realms is a fantastic experience, and belongs on the gaming shelf of every tabletop gaming enthusiast.