Race for the Galaxy

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Race for the Galaxy
Rftg cover.jpg
Cover Art
Designer(s) Thomas Lehmann
Illustrator(s) Claus Stephan
Martin Hoffmann
Mirko Suzuki
Publisher(s) Rio Grande Games
Players 2 to 4
Age range 12 and up
Setup time 2 minutes
Playing time 30–60 minutes
Random chance Medium
Skill(s) required Economic management, Strategic thought

Race for the Galaxy (also abbreviated "RftG" or simply "Race") is a card game designed by Thomas Lehmann that was released in 2007 by Rio Grande Games. Its theme is to build galactic civilizations via game cards that represent worlds or technical and social developments. It accommodates 2-4 players by default although expansions allow for up to 6 players, as well as solo play. The game uses iconography in place of language in some places, with complex powers also having a text description. While appreciated by experienced players for being concise, some new players find the icons difficult to learn and decipher.[1]

The game won Boardgamegeek's Golden Geek Award for best card game,[2] Fairplay Magazine’s À la carte award for best card game of 2008,[3] and was described by the magazine Tric Trac as "LE jeu de cartes de cette année 2008" (THE card game of the year 2008).[4]


The play style of the game is similar to that of another Rio Grande game, San Juan,[5] which is the card game version of the board game Puerto Rico. Lehmann, Race's designer, developed his own card game version of Puerto Rico at the request of the publisher. Some of its ideas were incorporated in San Juan. Later, Lehmann used those ideas to create a different game, one of space exploration and conquest rather than colonial development in the Caribbean.[6]

Each player builds an interstellar civilization that starts with only its home world in play and a hand of cards. Players strive to have the most victory points at game end; points are gained by settling new worlds, by developing new useful attributes for their civilization, and by consuming goods produced by their civilization's worlds. Each card serves multiple purposes: cards represent the worlds and civilization "developments", cards are used as payment for playing a world or development (by sacrificing cards from a player's hand); finally face-down cards are used as tokens to represent the goods that worlds produce.

At the start of each round, all players simultaneously and secretly choose one of five phases: Explore, Develop, Settle, Consume, or Produce; phase selections are revealed simultaneously.

Main part[edit]

In the main part of the round, all players may perform a specific activity related to each of the phases that at least one player has chosen, in the order above (Explore, then Develop, then Settle, etc.). When performing the activity for a phase, a player who actually chose that phase gains a bonus (looking at extra cards during Explore, paying fewer cards to Develop, getting a bonus card after Settling, etc.). The Explore phase adds cards to a player's hand; the Develop and Settle actions let players play cards from their hand onto the table (a player's tableau). In the Spanish version more activities are added.[7] The Consume action can result in players drawing cards and taking victory point markers from a common pool; and the Produce phase creates goods that can be Consumed in a later round. Cards in a player's tableau typically provide bonuses to various activities, in addition to providing victory points.

After all activities are complete, players discard down to a hand limit of 10 cards. Unusually among card games, cards discarded due to the hand limit or when paying a cost are placed face-down (in a "messy" pile to distinguish them from the draw deck), concealing information that could be used to deduce upcoming draws.

Play continues until, at the end of a round, either at least one player has 12 or more cards in their tableau, or the entire starting pool of victory point tokens has been claimed by the players. At that point, the player with the highest total of victory points from tokens and from cards in their tableau is the winner.

Race vs. Puerto Rico[edit]

The principal difference in the playing sequence between Race and Puerto Rico/San Juan is that in the latter games, a given phase can only be chosen by one player each round, and the order of activities is based on player order and the phases each player picks in succession; in Race, multiple players may choose the same phase, and the order of activity execution is fixed.


During playtesting, plans were made for two expansions[6][8] to add more variety to gameplay, shore up certain strategies, and to accommodate more players. The game's success prompted the publisher to request a third expansion, as well as new expansions not requiring the original trio.[9]

Gathering Storm[edit]

The first expansion adds components for a fifth player, additional cards, goals (opportunities to gain extra victory points chosen at random at game start), and rules and components for solo play (against a "robot" player).[10]

Rebel vs Imperium[edit]

The second expansion adds components for a sixth player, more cards, and (limited) direct interaction between players (in the form of military conquest (known as takeover) of certain worlds belonging to other players' civilizations; players who refrain from playing certain cards are immune to conquest).[11] This expansion also introduces many new Rebel and Imperium Cards and introduces a special 2 player game variant where one player takes the role of The Imperium while the other struggles against it allying with the Rebels. In this variant the starting hands consist partly of Imperium/Rebel cards and takeovers are allowed.

The Brink of War[edit]

The third expansion adds still more cards, and goals, as well as a new mechanic called galactic prestige. Each round the player(s) with the most prestige earn an additional victory point and possibly a card. Each prestige is worth one victory point at the end of the game, and many of the new cards allow prestige to be spent (for victory points, cards, or other effects). Additionally, a new "once-per-game" action is introduced that allows the user to search the deck for a card meeting a specific stated requirement, or to enhance the bonus the user earns in a round (at the cost of one prestige).[12]

Alien Artifacts[edit]

The fourth expansion is used with only the base game and was released during 2013.[13] It includes new explore powers and an "alien orb" that players explore for victory points and new powers.[14]

Xeno Invasion[edit]

The fifth expansion, published 2015, is for use with the base game only.[15] It allows for up to 5 players, and in addition to new world and development cards it includes an optional "Invasion Game", in which players must defeat three waves of Xeno alien invaders. Players can earn bonuses by contributing to the war effort, but as in Catan: Cities & Knights, if players do not work together the invaders may defeat everyone.[16]


  1. ^ Joshua Kosman (December 9, 2007). "Ranking the new board games for the holidays". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ "Weitere Auszeichnung für Agricola". Spielbox. 26 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  3. ^ W. Eric Martin (October 18, 2008). "Race for the Galaxy Wins Fairplay’s Card Game Award". Boardgame News. 
  4. ^ "Jouez à Race for the Galaxy sur votre ordi". Tric Trac. 19 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  5. ^ "Race for the Galaxy". Board Game Geek. 
  6. ^ a b Race for the Galaxy Designer Preview #1: http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comments/game_preview_race_for_the_galaxy_designer_preview_1/
  7. ^ "Stadium Race". 
  8. ^ Race for the Galaxy Designer Preview #3: http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comments/game_preview_race_for_the_galaxy_designer_preview_3/
  9. ^ BGG forum chat the game's creator: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/3692801#3692801
  10. ^ "Game Preview: Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm", By Tom Lehmann, September 26, 2008, Boardgame News.
  11. ^ Tom Lehmann (June 8, 2009). "Rebel vs Imperium Designer Preview". Boardgame news. 
  12. ^ Tom Lehmann (May 25, 2010). "The Secret History of the Brink of War". BoardGameGeek. 
  13. ^ "Rio Grande Games Website". Rio Grande Games. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  14. ^ "Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  15. ^ "Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  16. ^ "RFTG: Xeno Invasion". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 

External links[edit]