Right now is a great time to be a Star Wars fan and a board gamer. There are so many good Star Wars board games to choose from: X-Wing, Imperial Assault, Armada and now Star Wars Rebellion. Fantasy Flight Games is hitting it out of the park! If you want Star Wars on your table, you have your pick.
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Playtime: 180-240 min
If you want the mission feel of the Rebel’s assault on Endor’s shield generator, pick up Imperial Assault. If you want to experience dogfights between X-wings and TIE fighters grab a copy of X-Wing. If you want the capital ship scale of space battles, play Armada. And now, if you want to play the Original Trilogy on your table, there is Rebellion.
Before I dive into my review I’ll just say up front, this game is GOOD. Really good – if you have the time and money for it. If that is all you came here for you can happily go on your way. Or you can stay tuned for details.
The word “over-produced” seems to be thrown around a lot recently. I understand what they are trying to say but, to me, that sounds like a bit of a bad thing. In the case of Star Wars Rebellion, I will just say that it is perfectly produced. From the board to the gobs of miniatures to the card art and quality it is simply beautiful to behold and play. It is a pricey game at $100 (before discounts) but worth what you get. The box is larger than it needs to be but that just means that if expansions come in the future, they will have a place to live.
The only issue I have with the components is the standees. They look great but I’ve already had some issues with the stands getting a bit loose. I wish there was a better solution than standees.
STAR WARS IN A BOX
I grew up running around the living room of my childhood home playing like I was an X-Wing. My brother and I frequently played with Star Wars figures and pretended to be Luke and Han. I’ve read many of the books, suffered through the prequels, and was amazed by Episode 7. All that to say, Star Wars played a large role in my growing-up years and is something I still love. I am attached to the characters, mythology, and story of Star Wars. So when a game comes along like this I have high standards for it. It had better be Star Wars in a box. And that is exactly what it is.
Take on the role of the Rebel Alliance and you will find yourself sneaking around the galaxy trying to secure support for your cause by executing surgical strikes on vulnerable Imperial infrastructure all the while trying to keep the Empire off the trail of your Base. Don the shroud of the Galactic Empire and you will be forcing planets to serve you while stomping around the galaxy in your Star Destroyers and AT-ATs hoping to find the Rebel Base – even better if you can find it with your Death Star because, yes, you can destroy entire planets.
Rebellion has the little things in it too. Want to train Luke to be a Jedi? Go find Yoda. Want to capture a Rebel operative and interrogate them? Be my guest. And the cool part is the game just gives you the tools and you get to figure out exactly how it plays out. Go train Leia to be a Jedi if your heart so desires. Rebellion captures both the sweeping scale and personal heroism or villainy that is the Original Trilogy. All of it. In one over-sized box.
Just like the movies, there are two sides to this fight: the powerful Galactic Empire and the outgunned but nimble Rebel Alliance. If these two sides had played the same the game would have been a failure. Fortunately, that is not the case. Fantasy Flight has nailed the feeling of being on either side of the struggle.
As the Rebels, you get to pick where your base starts and this is hard. Everywhere seems too close to an Imperial stronghold or fleet. Once I was playing the board felt way too small – like the Empire player would easily find me. But then, when I played as the Empire, the board seemed to grow on the table. It felt like I didn’t have nearly enough time to find the Rebels and deal with their incessant pestering at the same time. To have the game feel so different between the two sides is a feat.
As the Imperials you can take your massive fleets and move at will around the board, subjugating planets as you go. Toe to toe, the Rebels are no match for you. The Imperial’s missions lend themselves to this. The Rebels, on the other hand, must act very quietly, striking targets that might not seem important to the Imperial, to gain the all important reputation you need to overthrow the galactic oppressors.
The asymmetry in this game is phenomenal – better yet, it captures the feeling of Star Wars I have not felt since…..well watching the movies.
What would a rebellion be without its leaders? What would an evil galactic empire be without its overlords? Answer: nothing. And the same is true in this game. The leaders you have and how you use them are extremely important.
Even though it isn’t exactly a worker placement mechanism, it feels like it. You have a limited number of leaders and you have to decide if you will:
This system creates great tension when deciding what to do on your turn. For example, the Imperials have a large fleet on one of their planets that produces Star Destroyers for them. Their plan is to spread out and hunt the Rebel’s base from there. The Rebel player attempts a sabotage mission on that planet before the Imperial can move. The Imperial player looks at their options: 1) oppose the mission to keep their Star Destroy production going (once they oppose a mission by placing a leader there they cannot move units out of that system) or 2) let the sabotage mission go and start moving their fleet. Tough decision point.
“Rebellion captures both the sweeping scale and personal heroism or villainy that is the Original Trilogy. All of it. In one over-sized box.”
The game box declares that Rebellion is a 2-4 player game. Most games like this have concessions to make it play with 2; some rule alterations that make it work. Rebellion is different. It is primarily a 2 player game – the rule alterations make it work for 3 or 4 players. There are two sides in the game and it was designed to be played by 2 people. Let me tell you why this important.
For a game of this size and scope, you need to set aside a chunk of time. It is far easier to get 2 people to set aside that chunk. The more players you add, it gets exponentially harder. Most big games play best with the highest player compliment. If you want to play Twilight Imperium or Game of Thrones you need as many players as you can get – which is why they seldom hit my table. I can easily get one other person with 3 or 4 hours to spare. Because of this, Rebellion actually allows me to get a big lengthy game in with the best number of players far more often.
This is the only area of the game that felt lackluster to me. It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t do anything to stand out in the crowd and it can be a bit drawn out. There are two theaters of combat – space and ground. You will resolve a round of combat in each theater then repeat until only one side remains in each. It is mostly a dice rolling affair with a bit of card play in the middle.
While most of combat is dice determined there are two very important areas of decision-making: assigning damage and choosing when to play your tactics cards. When applying damage you have to anticipate the cards your opponent might have to block that damage, so if you really want to finish off a unit you may want to over apply damage to it to assure its destruction. Deciding when to keep and play these cards is an important part of combat since they can act like a bluff and make your opponent apply damage where they don’t need to or give you an advantage they weren’t expecting.
It was rescued by the fact that combat doesn’t happen too often and when it does there is a lot riding on it.
Fantasy Flight is continuing its strategy of the two rulebook system and I am a fan. The game comes with a Learn to Play rulebook that does what it says – teaches you to play the game. It also comes with a Rules Reference which is an alphabetized listing of detailed rules. Read the first to learn the game, go to the second when you have questions.
Even though Rebellion is a big game it was pretty easy to learn thanks to this rulebook setup. I came away with a couple questions I couldn’t answer but I easily found answers online.
I think this rulebook system is brilliant for large games like this. It solves the eternal tension between learning and referencing. A rule book that is focused on learning is hard to reference and vice versa. Splitting it up makes both learning the game and referencing the rules later much easier. Thank you, Fantasy Flight for spending the extra money to produce two rule books and solve this problem.
You’ve read a lot of words up to now so I’ll keep this short. Do you really enjoy Star Wars? Do you really like board games? If you answered yes to at least one of those questions then this is a game for you. If you answered yes to both then why don’t you already own it? The price tag is up there but worth it. The play time is also up there but equally worth it. This is a game I have been waiting on for a long time. It is finally here. I look forward to visiting that galaxy far, far away for a long time to come.