Variant Race For The Galaxy

 Custom Card Creations

Ah, here we have the meat of the Variants. Every copy of The Gathering Storm came with eighteen blank Race for the Galaxy cards. The vast majority of these seem to never be used. When asked, players state they don’t want to write on them for fear of wasting them on one idea and deciding later that they’d rather have used them for another. That, or that they weren’t sure their ideas were good enough to use. It’s a catch-22: fear of using them up causes them to never get used.

Nevertheless, there are people in the community who have taken the plunge and posted new card ideas. As I’ve sorted through people’s contributions, I’ve noticed that many were only slightly tweaked versions of already existing cards, or bogged down the game with the addition of convoluted new rules or mechanics. Out of the background noise of submissions, a few truly noteworthy efforts arose. Whether they are just a collection of random worlds and developments or a small expansions in their own right, here is bit more variety to your already expansive collection:


Dawn of the Mystic

Created by Rwinder. This small set of nineteen cards focuses on a new color keyword, MYSTIC, unifying the set and complementing the already existing REBEL, IMPERIUM, ALIEN, UPLIFT, and TERRAFORMING keywords. As these are made using the blank cards, there is currently no artwork available. He has uploaded the pictures of the cards themselves written on with sharpie though. That may sound like a small thing, but looking at even a mockup of a card can be preferable to just plain old text. What I like about this set is how this new keyword pulls the whole thing together, with each Mystic card making it easier to play others. Additionally, the author has included explanations with each card explaining how it thematically fits in with the rest of the game:

“Sadly, religion can turn to violent fanaticism, and the mystic faith is not immune to this. The spread across the galaxy is not always peaceful.”


  • Rare Elements Production
    MYSTIC Stellar Formation (6 Cost /4 VP)
    I: +1 explore
    V: draw 2 cards when producing on this world
    “One of the most sacred locations to the mystics, their greatest prophets foretold how it would lead them to true enlightenment and point the way to their destiny among the stars. This spectacular stellar arrangement is surrounded in a halo of rich mineral and spirituality, but acquiring it is costly.”


  • Novelty Goods Production
    MYSTIC Basilica (4 Cost /2 VP)
    V: gain one victory point during production
    “One of the most sacred locations to the mystics, their greatest prophets foretold how it would lead them to true enlightenment and point the way to their destiny among the stars. This spectacular stellar arrangement is surrounded in a halo of rich mineral and spirituality, but acquiring it is costly.”


  • Six-Cost Development
    The Galactic Conspiracy
    II: -1 to place developments
    V: draw a card for every world of cost 4 or more in your tableau
    This is worth 2 VPs for every unique appearance of a color text in your tableau (so cards with two color texts are indeed worth 4 points!) and 1 VP for every world with a cost greater than 3.
    “Though many factions vie for control of the galaxy, an illicit alliance has been forged between various parties, each relying on the other to ensure their victory.”


My personal favorite from this set?


  • Six-Cost Development
    Coalition of Minor Worlds
    I: draw +1, keep +1
    III: draw card if you are settling on a 0 or 1 cost world
    $: for goods traded from 0 or 1 cost worlds draw 2 extra cards.
    This is worth 2 VPs for every world in your tableau of cost less than 2.
    “In the face of domineering Imperials, tricky Rebels, fanatic Mystics, and a potential galactic conspiracy, the minor worlds of the galaxy have no one to rely on but each other, but united they are a force to be reckoned with.”


Now, due to the small number of these cards, the MYSTIC strategy will become less pronounced as you play with more and more expansions. However, the same could be said of several other strategies. Your TERRAFORMING falls apart without some specific cards to support it, REBEL or IMPERIUM can falter without support, and so on. Many players find they have to diversify a bit, and this new set, I believe, offers just that.


Customized Mini-Expansion

Created by Matt Kearse. This unnamed set features seventeen new cards, ready to print and slip into sleeves. He includes a short explanation with each one, but the cards do tend to explain themselves. While there is no unifying theme as with the last one, these cards do complement the existing cards nicely without just copying and tweaking existing cards. Utilizing ALIEN UPLIFT, more PRESTIGE shenanigans, and a new Goal-based development, this certainly fits the criteria of adding variety in new and interesting ways. The only drawback I can see is the added complexity. Each of these cards has a fair amount of explanatory text, and the number of icons on several of them is certainly…impressive. While experienced players should have little trouble understanding them, newer players may not be too comfortable using these cards to their full advantage. This is an excellent addition to any intermediate to expert level player’s deck, but be careful about using them to teach new players. All in all, it’s a strong addition.


Voxen’s RftG Expansion

Created by Voxen. It is a fifty five card expansion that is also ready to print and play. The author has chronicled his set’s development since March of 2011, from the initial concept of its theme through the evolution of new mechanics and the tweaking of individual cards. I highly recommend visiting his Development Blog for a quite fascinating look into how this set has evolved over time. As for the cards themselves: along with two new Goals, he has also introduced a new tile type, Agendas. Representing the wishes of secretive overlords, they are selected at the start of the game and provide Favor Tokens to players who place specific card types in their tableau. The tokens can then be spent for certain bonuses throughout the game.

In the cards themselves are a new mechanic, Intelligence, which increases player interaction. Essentially, it allows you to leech off someone else’s actions, gaining bonuses for actions you didn’t select. For example, with the Development “Research Intelligence”, if someone else selects Develop, you get -1 to place Developments. If you also chose Develop, then combined you get -2!

A new Military world type is also introduced, PEACEFUL. You “conquer” them during the Settle Phase using negative military totals. If you liked “Contact Specialist”, this is the theme for you. As your Military score drops, you can play the larger and more developed worlds. I liked this little twist. If you’re not going for a REBEL or IMPERIUM build, you can still settle some worlds for free.

Yet another new addition are two cards which have “Round Start” abilities, allowing you to alter your Action card after the other players have revealed theirs each round. I’m not terribly fond of this one myself. Yes, it can be fun to gain that kind of advantage, but I personally feel that it puts one player in too superior of a position.

Generally though, I enjoyed this expansion a lot. Overall, and with the exception of the Agendas, it doesn’t really increase the complexity of the game that much. Most of the cards are pretty simple and straightforward, and the new mechanics do not overwhelm the gameplay. The art may not be great, but it’s a free fan-made expansion, so if it really bothers you, I’m sure the author would enjoy any art upgrades you’re willing to provide. Besides, some of them are just funny.



And Then There’s The Reskins

Enter Paradox, created by LordRaidor. This one differs from the rest in not being a bunch of new cards or abilities. It’s a complete reskin of the base game.

Yep, all the mechanics and cards are the same but renamed, everything is now from the Doctor Who universe.

The Phases no longer read as I, II, III, IV, $, V.  Now you have T, A, R, D, I, S.

Worlds are now People (Tech Beings, Daleks, Humans, and Aliens), your Military score is now your Resistance quotient. Instead of Novelty Goods, you have Human Clues. Genes are now Alien Clues, etc. Get it my dear Chesterton?

Admittedly, this set isn’t for everyone. If you’re not already a fan of Doctor Who, then this will seem to be a lot of work for nothing. But if you are, and would like to explore something a little different, you just might enjoy playing.


There are, of course, plenty more of these kinds of reskins out there, from Dune flavored (or should I say “Spice” flavored) expansions to Star Trek/ Wars cards…we fear for the possibilities.

All in all though, the pool for Race Variants compared to many other games is relatively small. As you can see that most are sourced from one location (BGG) out of necessity rather than choice. Nevertheless, it’s clear that those who have taken the effort to create these alternative play options have put quite a bit of time and effort into them. So, I’ve included some links to others below.

However, if you have your own homemade cards, sets – or ideas for them – we’d love to hear about them in our forums!


Notable Mentions

Knowledge and Power

Planets and Developments, oh my!

Brigs’ New Cards

Blank Card Ideas

A Modest Attempt


Nathan Crocco is a regular contributor to the site. If you have particular game variants you wish to request of him, he can be reached at


You can discuss this article over on our forums!

Photo Credits: Happy Gilmore by Universal Pictures; Custom RftG cards cover by Rwinder, Voxen, and LordRaidor, respectively.