Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rebels with a Cause

Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration -
but don't worry; we will deal with your rebel friends soon enough. 
Just being honest: if I had access to a Death Star, I don't know if I could act with the same cold restraint with which Grand Moff Tarkin acted. And now, for the first time ever, thanks to the creative geniuses at Fantasy Flight Games, I can have a Death Star! I can indiscriminately blow planets to pieces! I too can give Obi Wan Kenobi a headache from all the millions of voices suddenly crying out in terror and suddenly being silenced. For now, I have a copy of an "investment" game that I've long had my eyes on: Star Wars Rebellion!


Here's how it started: well, wait. I actually started by reading some gushing reviews along the lines of "OMG play this game immediately." Truth be told, I should just point to that review at that link and just drop the mic. But I have a blog and an ego, so...  After that review, I saw that game time and again at my favorite game store in town. There it sat, staring at me. Beckoning. Requiring. But...the price tag. But...who'd play with me? But...

And then along came a bucket-list trip for me. I've long wanted to get to  GenCon. And finally, early in August, I got the chance to hang out with my most favoritest nerds during the "best 4 days in gaming" and lose myself like a kid in games and game demos and game playing and meal-missing and caffeine-chugging.  I was surrounded by My People in an environment where we can let our nerd flags fly proudly.

GenCon demo with my favorite dorks
Fantasy Flight - one of my favorite publishers of some of the best games I own - have come up with a series of games that allow gamers to interact with the Star Wars universe at any level they wish. Star Wars Imperial Assault is troop-based ground combat. Star Wars X-Wing is fighter-based combat using beautifully-painted minis of your favorite Star Wars fighters (X- and Y- Wings, B-Wings, TIE of every flavor, etc). Star Wars Armada is capital-ship combat between the behemoth starships like Star Destroyers and Mon Calamari Star Cruisers (little fighters are now itty-bitty squadron-sized minis), highly-detailed and beautifully rendered. And finally, there's what you see here: Star Wars Rebellion. This is the whole war, the whole time period around the first-3-movies-that-are-the-second-3. Ships and planets and troops and Death Stars and all your favorite generals and admirals and heroes and villains.

And so all those questions and second-guesses from seeing that lovely box at my game store were washed away in the environment and hype and joy of a gaming convention, and home I came with a 10-pound game in a bag on your arm.


This is a game for 2, 3, or 4 players. I loved the competitive/cooperative feel for the game. 2 players is simple: Empire versus Rebellion. As you add more players, each new player picks a side and it becomes a 2-on-1 or a 2-on-2 battle, complete with cooperation between partners.

Game-play is not that complicated. Each player gets mission cards, and assigns a well-known Hero like Darth Vader or Han Solo to do it. Then: you do it. Sometimes it's automatic, sometimes, the other player tries to oppose it, each of you rolling a number of "successes" on the supplied dice. Each player, one after the other, can also put famous characters in systems in order to activate that system to move troops and ships into it. If there are badguys there, fight. If not, enjoy the view.
Look at all those chances
for millions of voices to cry out

What's the point?

If I'm the Rebel player, I'm doing missions that sully the reputation of the Empire (like shooting all their Storm Troopers off a planet or blowing up a Star Destroyer), and waiting for a moment in the game where you have essentially waited-out the Empire. The game has a time tracker. Time tracker runs out, game over for the Empire.

If I'm the Empire, I'm in a mad dash to find the Rebel base and shoot all the Rebels I see. If I find the base and land on it and beat the Rebels, I win. If I find the base and stick a Death Star next to it and blow it up, I win. But again, if the Rebels wait me out, keep the base a secret, and essentially embarrass the Empire enough (Geez, these little upstarts keep blowing up fearsome ships and punching Imperials in the face...the Empire must suck...), the Rebels win.

There's more fun to it: there's probe droids, capturing and interrogating leaders, turning people to the Light or Dark, blowing up planets with Death Stars, blowing up Death Stars, blowing up.... It's a fun way to participate directly in, and even maybe change the "history" of, one of the most famous and beloved stories of all time.

My only complaint: the combat system is a tad clunky. We had to refer to the rulebook a lot during battles, and then had to refer to a separate (but included) document on rules clarifications a few times. Once we got the hang of it, we got it. But it took several combats before we really felt it. It's a slightly more cumbersome take on Risk's system of successes-versus-successes. That alone isn't so bad, but when you add-in multiple colors of dice, and some ships or troops can only be damaged by certain colors of dice...you get a little clunky.

But that complaint is far, far outweighed by being able to  get so deeply involved in Star Wars.

As for age-appropriateness of game-play: my 11-year-old and I played a game recently.

I believe this picture sums-up how that went...

He's grounded now
A light and fun family game this is not. This is a gamer's game, made for gamers, by gamers. It's an investment in both money and time, and is a few steps complicated enough that it helps to have some solid "I've played a zillion different games" experience under your belt to really grasp the play. If you've played Axis and Allies, you'll get this game. That said, a mild gamer could learn this game very quickly from an experienced gamer and realize some fun and success (just refer to that picture...).

All in all, I recommend this game as among the most interesting, detailed, and fun I've played. The cooperative/competitive multi-player approach is really wonderful. You'll not play this game at a warm, couple-y game night; this is 4 friends, beers, and a Saturday. Or your 11 year old Star Wars fan whose deft planning foils the mighty Empire and secures a better, less blown-up future for the galaxy!


  1. That looks and sounds like a lot of fun. How long does each game take? You said it's a game for gamers, so I gather it's not a casual "let's do something quick and fun" sort of game. From your description, it sounds more like a "clear 4 or 5 hours so you can really get into it" kind of game.

    1. Yeah, this is pretty far from a casual "let's bust this one out real quick" game. It's...Risk/Axis and Allies length.

      Our first game together, as we had to refer to the rules a lot, probably totaled 5 hours over 3 or 4 different days of playing. If we play again, I bet it gets down to the 3-4 hours that FF Games says it takes; less stumbling and rules-checking.