Darwin Kastle, Lead Designer of Star Realms and Founder and Creative Director at Wise Wizard Games, wrote a popular article providing advice to beginner players about Star Realms strategy. In this followup blogpost, Darwin provides his guidance on winning strategies with the Colony Wars expansion.


Many people are playing with the Colony Wars set now and wondering if there are any strategies specific to Colony Wars. When you’re playing Colony Wars, you should be trying to use your first few turns to quickly pick a direction to focus on with your deck. Based on what cards are in the Trade Row, what cards are in your hand and what cards your opponent has acquired, you need to decide what plan to use and then figure out how best to execute that plan. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Star Empire/Blob aggression. While Empire/Blob aggro is almost always a strong option in Star Realms, it sometimes backfires when playing with the base set, due to a lack of early trade. The Star Empire’s best trade card is Survey Ship, which is not great for quickly ramping your buying power and the only Blob option is Trade Pod, which can become a bit of an albatross in the late game.
    In Colony Wars, Empire/Blob has much better options for trade: Star Barge, Cargo Pod, Stellar Reef, and Command Center. Now you can stay in your factions while getting enough trade to acquire expensive cards without unduly watering your aggressive deck down in the late game. Star Barge and Command Center are solid in the late game when your deck is full of Imperial cards. Cargo Pod and Stellar Reef get weak in the late game, but both can be scrapped for combat.
    With this strategy, you can ignore Trade Federation cards entirely. While you should focus on Blob and Imperial cards, you should also try hard to get a few Machine Cult scrapping cards early to help you clear out your starting cards and increase your chances of powerful ally triggers in the late game. Some of my favorite cards for this strategy include Battle Bot, Lancer, Predator, Ravager, and Convoy Bot.

  2. Trade Federation/Star Empire control. This strategy follows a standard approach: acquire trade and scrapping early, then work out the finer points of your deck later. Star Barge, Solar Skiff, Trade Hauler, Frontier Ferry, Central Station, and Command Center can all help you ramp up to start quickly acquiring expensive powerful cards. You can even take a Cargo Pod early: it ramps up your trade, you deny it to your opponent, and you can quickly scrap it for combat so it won’t interfere with you hitting your ally triggers as the game progresses.
    While this plan doesn’t usually get you enough combat to race a player going with a more aggressive approach, it lends itself to protecting yourself from their aggression with bases and authority gain. Central Station often plays a key role in decks like these: it helps ramp your trade, it draws out combat from your opponent that would otherwise be directed at your authority, it rewards you for acquiring all sorts of random bases, and it can even gain you authority.
    Like with most strategies in Star Realms, you should be trying to acquire a few Machine Cult scrapping cards early in the game, to help your deck become streamlined in the late game. Trade Federation is usually my primary faction in this plan, to help me to trigger the ally abilities on Solar Skiff and Cargo Hauler. Star Empire cards play an important secondary role in the plan, to help me get the combat needed to destroy my opponent’s bases. Imperial cards are important because this plan is looking to extend the game long, to the point where lots of scrapping has usually taken place, and discard effects become extremely powerful at that point.

  3. All factions/bases/good stuff. While it will often be best to focus on a small number of factions, sometimes the cards that you can afford to acquire in the trade row won’t lend themselves to this approach. At times like this, I like to try to acquire a bit of trade and scrapping from any factions in the first few turns, while trying to acquire every single base I can as the game progresses. While many ships are weak in the late game if you’re not activating their ally abilities, bases are generally always useful. In addition, having an assortment of bases can help you activate the various ally abilities you do have.
    In Colony Wars only, Central Station is probably the best relatively cheap card you can get for this plan. If you’re playing with other sets in addition to Colony Wars, cards like Embassy Yacht, Defense Bot, Battle Barge, and Mega Mech are also stars in a base heavy deck. This strategy can be especially powerful if you’re playing with the year one promo bases like Breeding Site and Starmarket. Another advantage to this plan is that you have a shot at any of the Colony Wars cards that go directly to your hand when you acquire them on a turn where you’ve played a card of that faction, since you’re playing cards of all four factions. It doesn’t hurt that more than half of those cards are bases. While Warning Beacons may not seem too special, they get much better in a deck designed to reward you for having random bases in play.

One of the biggest differences between Colony Wars and previous Star Realms sets is the inclusion of cards that can be acquired directly into your hand when you play a card of the appropriate faction first. Interacting with these cards correctly can be crucial to winning when playing with Colony Wars.

When one of them appears in the trade row, here are some things to consider:

  1. Generally, if you can acquire one of them directly to your hand, you should. While it may mean passing on a card you would normally prefer to be adding to your deck, it’s usually worth it. Not only is acquiring a good card that you can use now often better than acquiring a great card that you can’t use until later, but you’re denying your opponent the opportunity to acquire it directly to their hand.
  2. If you can’t acquire it directly to your hand, try to determine if your opponent is likely to be able to acquire it directly to their hand before you can. If the answer is yes, you should try to either scrap it or acquire it conventionally. If the answer is no, leave it in the trade row and force your opponent to either deal with it or to let you acquire it directly to your hand on a later turn.

Like most sets, Colony Wars has a few cards that can give you a huge advantage if you can acquire them in the early game. I’m especially impressed with the early power of the following cards: Parasite, Supply Depot, and The Oracle. Not surprisingly, many of the most expensive cards can also be total game changers, especially: Factory World, The Wrecker, The Incinerator, and Leviathan. Aging Battleship and Stealth Tower have power levels a bit like Stealth Needle, in that they are usually mediocre in the early game, but they become must acquire cards in the mid-game, and some of the best cards possible in the late game.



Colony Wars has many cards that can scrap themselves to powerful effect: Repair Bot, Stellar Reef, Cargo Pod, Falcon, Bioformer, Frontier Ferry, Gunship, Aging Battleship, and Plasma Vent. For the most part, it will just require lots of experience playing with Colony Wars to get a good feel for when and if to scrap these cards. My general rule for Gunship and Bioformer is to only scrap them to acquire cards that cost seven or eight, and even then, usually only in the early to early mid-game. For the rest of these cards, I try to avoid scrapping them in the early game or the mid-game, but I try to be aggressive about scrapping them in the late game, especially the ships. In the case of Cargo Pod and Repair Bot, I will often scrap them a much closer to the early game, because they can often be so weak in the late game that I just want to make sure that I can’t draw them in the late game.



While the general strategy for Colony Wars remains the same as with the base set of Star Realms, there are some new things to consider. Eventually as you try out these strategies and cards enough times, you will get a good feel for each of them and hopefully enjoy the new twists that Colony Wars adds to the game.