Designing Race for the Galaxy: Making a Strategic Card Game
In this 2018 GDC talk, game designer Tom Lehmann discusses his acclaimed card game Race for the Galaxy, walking through through its use of cards as resources, simultaneous play, luck mitigation via card-sifting, use of icons, and how ideas from economics and optimization theory influenced its design.
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51:14 – Design Strategies
55:14: Dune: Imperium also has multi-phase powers, but is still accessible
Ark Nova also managed to fit multiple texts for multiple powers
40:20 Overall I appreciate him giving his thought process but this strikes me as something that should be learned from rather than excused. The idea that it might streamline things a little for experienced players while creating a known barrier for entry to new players is a huge problem and I don't think it's just the added information as he suggested in the QnA. Those who are dedicated will likely remain so but won't complain about a bigger player base instead IMHO. There has to be a way it could be presented clearly and consistently for both old and new players.
This is one of my favorite games of all time, but the graphic design on the cards makes this game really hard to understand. He tries really hard to justify it here, but I can't help but wonder how much easier this game would be to teach if they had more graphical clarity around things like halo vs production worlds, or military vs card costs. Color coding different borders is not great visual clarity.
Amazing, Tom! Thank you very much!
whatbdoes he mean by synchronization points?
Love Tom and Race. He’s a genius!
well, magic has a lot of different win conditions 🤔
Let's see what god has to say
For long time i didnt buy games with abysmal visuals and i think this game has one of the worst artworks out there but im very glad i gave it a chance. Terrific game design
MtG actually has an official Japanese "sequel" called Duel Masters which implements opportunity cost, since instead of using dedicated lands, all cards can be played upside-down as "land", but you abandon their use as monsters or spells that way
Would def want to see more of these from board game designers.
Going to disagree on the symbology not being the problem for entry, many games such as Imperial Settlers, Underwater Cities, Dune imperium and Lost Runes of Arnak also use cards with multiple abilities, and are much easier to understand than the symbology within Race. I think RfG is a great game, lots of fun, but those symbols make learning the game a struggle!
Never heard of this game until today. Now I know the next game I'm getting 😉
Excellent presentation! A rare nuts-and-bolts look under the hood, instead of the usual, elementary "playtest/iterate/repeat" kind of advice we get on design talks.
Legends of Runeterra has a wonderful mana system with opportunity cost: you can save up to three mana for the next turn that can be spent only on spells, not on champions or allies
One of my favorite card games.
This game sounds fun
I can't play Race anymore. I've played lots of it with cards but that required having people to play with and was slowed down a bit by shuffling. Then I've got the PC version and that was pure crack. I've played thousands of games on it. Sure as hell I'm not downloading it on the phone, I'd probably sink back in.
Hearthstone does have a "tower" condition. It's called OTK.
In magic you can also mill the other teams deck as a win condition.
Great video, thanks for posting. I'm developing a game and this is super helpful.
Also Magic has a "tower" condition – if you draw a card when your library (your card pile) is empty, you lose. There are also spells in magic that give you victory if you meet certain conditions.
This game is one of the best ever made. It packs an engine building, euro game with lots of depth in a deck of cards. No cubes needed but everything is there…different resources, production, exploration, tough decisions, more interaction than in many euros. Plays quickly but gives in 30 minutes the tactical and strategical depth many euro games take hours to provide.
I got New Frontiers (the board game version of Race) and I enjoy that a lot too. It misses the tight opportunity cost contention of the single resource (cards in Race), but it makes up for it with the variable phase order and better immersion in the theme. Great video, great games, great design! 🙂
Drinks water, crumples bottle, and smacks loudly into the mic
It's not an issue that people need to drink, it's an issue the video editors didn't do anything about it in post production.
Lovely and fascinating talk, thank you!
At around 49:11, after he says the word "arcs" does anybody else hear a very low "NOM" that sounds just like the Heavy from TF2?
I would never be using the word 'design' in the same sentence as 'Race for the Galaxy'.
Really candid talk with some good insights.
This was very interesting, thank you Tom!
This is just gold
This video was eye opening to me, thank you very much
That was a very good presentation, but it's worth noting that MTG has multiple win conditions besides losing 20 life, you lose when you run out of cards, and many of the cards have specific win conditions.
or, "Why my game is better than Magic: The Gathering and Puerto Rico"
I wonder if the "Former Penal Colony" Card is Australia, based on his "Iceland" comment.
Tom is such a natural presenter. I wonder why he is so good at it?!
Hm thought this was about designing a card game with Race as an example. But feels more howndesign worked just for this game…
45:55 I don't understand what he is saying here.
What is 'minding the gap'? And how is he promoting Strategic play over tactical play?
Hi guys, you might want to also check this new card game called LAGIM. Its story is based on Filipino folklore and myths. Where you need to defend your baryo from evil fiends. Try to visit their FB page and website for more details.
Great talk! got to drink more tea for my balancing 🙂 Thanks for the sharing.
I love Race for the galaxy, it's a fun, neat little game but he can't seriously be suggesting that he "fixed" Puerto Rico with it? He even made his own version of Puerto Rico (still don't know how that's legal) which is also a very fun game but come on… none of these games actually hold a candle to Puerto Rico. Ita is the essence of elegance and tight play, a classic of legendary status and for very good reason. It was number one on BGG for YEARS and despite it's age is still one of the most beloved board games of all time. Seriously Tom, you're a great designer but lets not pretend anything you made comes close to Puerto Rico. In fact your most successful IP is based on it. So I would show a bit more appreciation if I were you.