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Star Colonies Review

Quick Look: Star Colonies

Designer: Lawrence Davies
Artist: New art from professional designers, as yet unnamed
Publisher: Daviesdesign Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 11+
Playing Time: 40-60 min.

From the publisher:

The overpopulated Earth is slowly dying... 

Three human Factions: The Confederation of Sol, the Praetorans of Mars, and the Outer-Worlds Alliance have been fighting for domination of the solar system with space fleets from their bases orbiting Earth, Mars and Titan. Now with the perfection of the FTL hyper drive, scout ships are finally able to explore distant stars. Earth, Mars and Titan have agreed a truce in order to settle colonists in new star systems far from Sol.     

In Star Colonies, you play the leader of a space corporation from the over-populated Earth, contracted to explore and colonize habitable worlds. Yours is one of the first corporations with FTL Scout ships and the license to install hyper drive technology on ships you add to your fleet, bought from the major military factions of Sol.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Star Colonies. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Review: Star Colonies

Overview and Theme:
Star Colonies is a strategic deck-building game with a deep backstory set in the future of an overpopulated Earth seeking new habitable worlds. My friends and family enjoyed hearing me read aloud from "The Beginning," a sci-fi short story by designer Lawrence Davies that was included in my prototype copy of the game. The depth of worldbuilding and creativity are on display from the story to the rules to the components.

Components and Setup:
My copy of Star Colonies was a prototype, and I worked with several versions of the rules and player aids as I learned the game and taught it to several groups. The artwork on the prototype version is good, but the designer is hoping to make things even better by contracting with a professional artist to create even more unique and eye-catching cards. Because my components were prototypes, a few of the images I am using in this review were provided to me by the designer.

The heart of Star Colonies are its cards: a nine-card starting decks for each player, as well as decks of Fleet, Transport, and Colony cards which can be added to your growing deck, and a set of oversized Explore cards which reveal the worlds you are reaching.

Setup is quick, once you are familiar with the cards. There's a Sol System board which goes in the middle of the table for the various decks, and each player has a small Home System mat to go in their play area with their personal deck.

Game Play and Mechanics:
Star Colonies is a cross between a deck builder and a light 4x (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) game. You're working on the goals of 4x by exploring new worlds and expanding into them, gathering various ships to help you, and engaging in combat with the other players. As you're able to acquire new ships, you add them to your deck.

Star Colonies is unique as a deck builder in the fact that you don't shuffle, and you aren't forced to discard. When you get to the end of your draw pile and need to use your discard pile to continue in the game, you simply flip the pile over! In addition, when you get to the end of your turn, you are not forced to discard unused cards and draw a fresh hand: you can keep what you haven't used and simply draw back up to four cards. For those who are able to plan long term or count cards to some degree, this adds a much deeper level of strategy. You don't have to wonder when those good cards are comingyou know (or at least have a very good idea) just where they are in the deck.

The no-shuffle rule was probably the thing that my play groups talked about the most. It is really an intriguing twist on the deck builder and allows for more careful planning with less blind luck. For us, that was the biggest part of the mechanics of Star Colonies that made it stand out from the crowd.

The rest of the play is solid, too, but a little more expected. On your turn, you can explore (put a new system under your control), attack (any system already in play using the cards in your hand), trade (using the credit valuecostof the cards you choose to discard in that way to buy a new ship), deploy (any remaining ships in your hand to your systems), and refresh the trade row and draw your hand back up to four cards before passing to the next player.

Combat is familiar to folks who have played card combat games before: send a warship to attack an opponent's system, the opponent can choose to defend or withdraw, and both sides can reinforce. Then add up the total firepower (red numbers) from the attacker and compare to the total shield values (blue numbers) from the defender.

Your goal is to be the first faction to have 4 victory stars by controlling systems with Outposts and ColoniesOutposts are worth 1 star and Colonies are worth 2 stars.

The Good:
By far, our favorite thing about Star Colonies is the depth of strategy added to a deck builder by not shuffling the deck! A note from the designer indicates that in the advanced game, there will be cards available to use strategically to change the order of cards in your deck. Being able to keep cards in hand from one turn to the next was also incredibly important to working up a winning strategy.

We also really enjoyed the story behind the game and the way that your actions in the game can be woven into the storyline. The theme is well thought out and captivating.

Another high point of Star Colonies for my family is that games are usually less than an hour, meaning we can fit in plays after dinner or between activities, and don't need to devote an entire afternoon to space exploration!

The Bad:
I really don't have anything bad to say about Star Colonies except that I'm excited to see it in finished form. It's not as easy to work with, teach, or critique a prototype, because I could tell you that the artwork is solid but not excitingbut I know that the designer is planning to work with an artist to ramp it up. The core elements of the game are strong, and the restartwork, final components, final rulebook, etc. are yet to come.

Players Who Like:
Without a doubt, Star Colonies will appeal to fans of deck builders like Dominion, Ascension, Star Realms, etc. Fans of science fiction and near-future Earth stories will enjoy the plotline of Star Colonies, too.

Final Thoughts:
Star Colonies takes the planning and plotting elements of a 4x game and blends them with the speed and elegance of a deck building game. From its well-developed story arc to the intriguingly captivating no-shuffle rule, Star Colonies draws players in with carefully crafted details of both theme and gameplay. I can't wait to see Star Colonies in its final, published form!

Check out Star Colonies on:


About the Author:

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
Star Colonies Review Star Colonies Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on July 12, 2018 Rating: 5


  1. great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Seeing the fun is what makes designing games worth it

  2. there's another review of the latest edition on https://www.criticalgrind.com/blog/review-star-colonies?fbclid=IwAR0I_NmvsxiC1Wb7gGnTecaYOJr0gvABJV_prIYGsXZbce--0dVu5bKKwNU



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