Quick Review of Race for the Galaxy by Adam Blinkinsop
Two to four players, one to six with the expansions.
About an hour to play, less with experience.
Race is a machine-building game, my favorite kind. You build inertia by the cards you play until your unstoppable juggernaut slams into the immovable force of your wife's luck.
Each turn you secretly choose a phase to play. These are revealed simultaneously and occur in phase order (somewhat like Citadels). Each phase you perform all the actions on your cards that match that phase. They generally give the person who chose them a minor benefit (somewhat like Puerto Rico, it's spiritual parent). Over the course of the game you'll be playing cards (colonies and developments) which give you VPs, and acquiring and using resources for more cards or VPs.
Strategies in Race are legion, but mainly fall into two categories. One approach is to drop colonies and developments as quickly as possible to end the game before anyone else can get started. The other approach is to take your time building up a machine that generates victory points in piles, and end the game at your leisure.
The former strategy (quick) is supported by several mechanics. The only real resources in Race are cards themselves. You discard cards to colonize or build developments and you use cards to represent resources ready to be used. This places a very real limit on the number of cards you can actually play over the game. However, there are several ways to "cheat" cards into play. First, the military. Taking a colony by force requires only military strength, with no discarding. With the right starting planet (these often form a major part of your strategy), you can play a colony per turn and just ride off the other players' need for card draw. Second, some cards grant discounts for playing colonies and developments. This has a chicken-and-egg problem, but if you see the right cards, works rather well.
The latter strategy (slow) also provides major benefits. The Consume phase is your best friend: generating both cards and victory points (often both at the same time), you can use this phase to keep your engine running and lock out the usually resource-starved military player across from you. Since the number of cards you can play is limited, you'll need to make good decisions as to what abilities you need, but this is a great strategy if well-executed.
My favorite thing about this combination of strategies is that it creates a great tension, even when your only real influence on the other players is your choice of phase. Each turn, the quick players are wondering if they'll be able to finish the game before the slow players really start to get going, and the slow players need to decide if they should play that acceleration card or the one with better Consume abilities.
Immediately upon breaking this game out, everyone is struck by the symbols (somewhat like Bang!). The entire game is predicated upon evaluating these symbols, often several on a card. While some can't handle it (I have to learn another language?), I'm a big fan. These symbols are both easy to read (after the first few rounds) and precise. What do I do this phase? Read across my cards to immediately find out. How many cards have Consume: Trade abilities? Instantly visible. How many cards do I draw in the Explore phase? Count across. While not for the faint of heart, good player aids and graphic design should make this a non-problem for most groups.
A brain-burner with simultaneous action, straightforward effects that are complex in combination, good for any number supported: Race is one of my favorite thinking games.