I backed Star Realms
on Kickstarter, and I've been extremely happy with it. It seems to be available in retail stores now, so I thought I'd mention it here.
I've been playing this deck builder for a few months, and it's become a go-to.
At it's base, it's in an Ascension format. There are 5 cards in the trade row available to purchase. These are either ships or stations. You pay for them with gold in your hand. The only other currency is weapons damage which you use to directly attack your opponent. One interesting twist is that your health is also your victory points. All of the games I've played have ended because someone is at zero health, but I can imagine scenarios where you actually burn through the huge deck and the difference will matter.
Some cards will give you health/vp and these can be critical. Another way to protect yourself is with the bases. When they cycle into your hand and you play them, they stay in front of you until an opponent takes them out (or you trash them - some cards give a bonus ability if you trash them). Some of these bases are standard and are often just a nuisance to your opponenet, who must decide whether to spend damage on them or on you. Some of the bases are outposts, and your opponent must spend any damage he has on them before he can get back to attacking you. Destroyed bases go into your discard pile, so destruction is temporary.
Another aspect of the game that is interesting and done supremely well are the factions. There are four: The Trade Federation, The Blobs, The Star Empire and The Machine Cult. They are all different in what they provide, or how they provide them. Most of them also provide bonuses if you have another unit of the same faction out. These combos can get kind of staggering, especially because bases are also faction-based.
Because of the combos, most people's first thought is to specialize in one faction. But if you focus on the high attack powers of the Blobs, for example, you'll be missing out on the key healing power some of the Trade Federation ships have. You also have to be paying attention to what your opponent is focusing on. It may behoove you to grab a card before he has a chance. Even if you try to stick to two factions, you're still at the mercy of what cards come out in the trade row. Inevitably a fantastic ship or outpost that you can afford will pop up. Even without the combos, a lot of these cards are pretty powerful.
Some of the cards even seem too powerful, and not only the expensive ones (the Cutter is a prized ship, for example, that gives both gold and health every time it pops up, and it only costs 2 gold). But luck of the draw might make the difference here. There are multiple copies of each, but will that ship hit the trade row on your turn or your opponent's? Will you have the cash to afford it? Does it fit your overall strategy? Better than another card available to buy?
Partly because of the powerful cards and the simplicity of the damage or money currency, this game plays fast as hell. I've rarely had a game go more than 20 minutes. And even with the combos, turns can fly by so quickly that you barely have time to draw your hand before it's time to play again.
I've had a crapload of fun with Star Realms. It's one of my favorite deckbuilders out right now. It's tight, well designed, super fast and a heck of a lot of fun. Plus it's cheap! $20 gets you enough cards to play with 2 people (multiplayer will need another set per 2). I honestly can't recommend this game enough.