I enjoy board games of almost all kinds, but I have a special love for deck builders. While the mechanical challenges of a game like Dominion appeal to me, there are fortunately other deck builders out there that play faster, are more aggressive, and have more theme. One such game is Star Realms.
Star Realms is not a complicated game: It's a fun, quick deck builder for two players, or for one if you purchase a small expansion. You play as space empires trying to expand your intergalactic authority, and your goal is to attack each other until one of the players has gone from 50 authority points to 0. Players buy cards off of a center row that is replenished from the draw pile after each purchase. There are four different factions to choose from when buying cards, and it's highly satisfying to create combinations with them. Your cards are also a combination of bases and ships. Ships generate money or attack power, while bases are permanent cards that sit in your display until they are defeated (while also providing many gameplay benefits). Outposts are particularly useful, because once you have placed one, your opponent cannot directly attack you until they have destroyed it.
In addition to its standard two-player mode, Star Realms offers some solo scenarios. The two that I have played, Pirates of the Dark Star and Nemesis Beast, come from the Gambit expansion pack (N.B.: this is different from another expansion called Cosmic Gambit, so be careful when you buy!). In both cases, you are playing against an AI opponent. After your turn, the "opponent" eliminates the right-most card on the center row. Based on the faction of the card that is drawn to replace it, your AI opponent will perform a different action. I thoroughly enjoy both scolo scenarios, either when I want to experiment with different faction combinations or when I want to relax on a weekday evening.
Star Realms is not necessarily a game for the ages. It's not particularly deep, and the solo scenarios can be challenging but not overly so. But there is something really magical about this game. Star Realms is quick and satisfying, and you will get a lot of plays out of one small box. (It's also inexpensive. I paid about $10 for the game and another $4 or so for the Gambit expansion). While many solo games take a while to set up, I can begin playing Star Realms within minutes and play several rounds at a leisurely pace over the course of an evening. It's also one of the few games my boyfriend will always be in the mood to play, and it's small enough for us to take out to a coffee shop. In fact, I often leave Star Realms in my bag, just in case we have an opportunity to play it.
If you like deck builders, space themes, and fun games to play with a partner, then I definitely recommend Star Realms. You will get a lot out of it for the size and price, and it's probably ended up being one of my most-played games. And there is still more of it for me to explore: I want to acquire the other two official Star Realms solo scenarios, as well as try out some of the homebrew ones that have been posted on Board Game Geek.