You would think I could come up with a better pun, wouldn’t you?
This week, we’re looking at a selection of Star Wars themed games on the market, as we all get generally a bit over-excited for Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1&2, streaming now on Disney Plus.
Plus of course, UK Games Expo is just around the corner, and you can find out more about it, and our lovely sponsors Asmodee UK, HERE.
Thanks to our chums at Asmodee, we’ve got a brace of goodies for you to get stuck into, and something extra geeky for the toy fans thanks to Hasbro UK.
Plus, as ever, we’re excited to announced the winner of last week’s Marvel giveaway!
Star Wars: Rebellion / Star Wars: Rebellion – Rise of the Empire
(RRP: Base Set £109.99 / Rise of the Empire: £44.99)
There’s no denying that Rebellion is a big investment of a game, but there’s a reason: it’s a massive, expansive, asymmetric experience for 2-4 players that allows you to reenact the classic saga as an entirely new narrative, taking on the roles of a few plucky Rebels or a vast, implacable Imperial force. The Empire’s goal is to find the Rebels’ secret base, before the Rebels achieve their goal of bringing enough planets to their side.
Covering everything from skirmish to space battle to solo operatives, it manages to capture the scope and feel of the Star Wars Saga like no other game, with 32 planetary systems to explore across its two game boards (that’ll take over your dining table) and more than 150 miniatures – including, of course, a tiny death star or two to blow up planets that get in your way. The fighter models are roughly a quarter of the size of, say, X-WING pieces, but are definitely chunky and satisfying enough for board gaming. The combat system can seem a little random at times, though it allows for a few brave fighters to take on mighty capital ships.
Playing Rebellion is a big time commitment: it’s at least half a day of dedicated play (our first play took 3.5 hours) but absolutely worth it. Although both space and ground battles happen (and matter), it’s more about trying to influence the loyalty of planetary systems (or, you know, crushing them), rallying to rebel cause or rooting out the scum, depending on your perspective. Fundamentally, it’s a remarkably straightforward worker placement game, with your leaders (iconic characters) giving you specific actions each turn, either moving fleets or performing an assigned action from a faction specific hand of options (4 that you have access to every turn, and 2 randomly drawn ones subsequently). So the Imperials will generally be sending out probe droids or building projects (Super Star Destroyer, anyone?)
Whilst you gain more leaders each turn, and so can do more, the galaxy gradually shrinks for the Rebel player, as each turn two probe droids scout out and eliminate base locations – in more mechanical terms, leading the game towards its end. So whilst having more time means more chance of the Rebels getting planets on side, the Imperial player is more likely to find them.
A criticism that could be leveled at the game is that it’s a political, scheming game at its heart – and is that truly the cinematic derring-do of the Classic Series? But with leaders doing key missions, like Han running to Kasshyk to help Chewie rally the Wookies or Boba Fett capturing Mon Mothma for Imperial Interrogation, it really does feel like you’re enacting your own, unique Star Wars Saga. Even at last gasp, down to your final few scrappy survivors, the Rebellion can win on a final desperate gamble – and if that’s not Star Wars, I don’t what is.
As if that’s not enough for you, Rebellion adds in a prequel element – or rather, a Rogue one (clever, eh?) where the burgeoning fires of the Alliance begin to come together before there’s any sign of new Hope (I’ll stop now, promise). It adds in elements from the Rebels TV series also, with some neat new objectives. The good and the ill of the expansion is it adds a layer of complexity to the combat system, which is perhaps one of the more frustrating elements of the base game (as mentioned, they can feel a little TOO random) but the self-same complexity adds more time to the gameplay of an already massive experience.
So if an afternoon of play isn’t enough, stick on the movies and work your way through an epic of your own making. It is without doubt THE ultimate game for the Star Wars fan, but this isn’t the only reason it’s won multiple awards and consistently sits in the top ten games on BoardGameGeek: it’s a rich, complex yet accessible experience for all.
Star Wars: Outer Rim
If. on the other hand, you’re more the Scum & Villainy (or just scruff-looking nerf herder) type, then perhaps Outer Rim is more your style. With more than a passing resemblance to GF9’s Firefly and other Collect & Deliver type games. Outer Rim pits you and your crew against rival smugglers trying to get the biggest score, all the while dodging Imperial Patrols, do-gooding Rebels and of course Hutts, the Syndicate and every other low-down cartel that skirts the fringes of the galaxy. The first player to reach 10 Fame, either through Cargo Runs or collecting Bounties (or, most probably, a combination thereof) wins!
It’s worth mentioning this is a much speedier play than Rebellion, coming in at a couple of hours (well, smugglers have to work fast), so it’s a more contained experience, though no less satisfying. Crucially, unlike Firefly (which I love) it is less dependent on resource combos and, whilst you are not directly in opposition to other players, still feels more interactive – although it can be played Solo (Koona t’chuta?) if you wish, which is another big bonus to it. Also, it requires less familiarity with the source material (or only a passing familiarity, at least) to be really enjoyable.
It’s worth mentioning also that game board is quite linear, around the “edge” of the Rim rather than “through” space, so it’s less about working through a network and more tracing a path – although the Unfinished Business expansion, coming mid-June, allows you to short-cut through the core worlds (though at greater risk of encountering Imperial interference).
Now although, yes, there are card decks and tokens, there’s not GIANT piles and piles of cardstock (a common complaint with Firefly, or Unfathomable/Galactica, from the same design team – or of course, Rebellion): it feels tight and self-contained, about playing to your Smuggler’s strengths, building (and occasionally selling out) your crew, and slowly working through little jobs and busy work (you can, in fact, herd nerfs) until your can go for the big scores in the second half of the game.
There’s a lot of lovely physicality to this game. The dashboard with your character is logical, as you slot in jobs, gear, your ship, its upgrades and so on – I particularly love the sliders for tracking your status with the different factions. It’s a fun, sneaky, nasty little game. You go down to planets, hire contacts, shoot at your opponent (or set the Hutts on them), do jobs and raise funds – will you rescue those poor rebels, or sell them out to the Imperials (or even jettison them into space?) You can be as devious as you like, with fan-favourite characters from Lando (woo!) to Dr Aphra all grubbing around the universe in search of the next score (and a sweet, sweet space cape). A highlight for me was taking out a Rebel Patrol ship, only to send out a distress beacon and have the lovely, trusting Rebels “save me” and repair all the damage for free.
Overall, Outer Rim is a very satisfying way to spend a couple of hours and highly recommended; in the end I even prefer it to Firefly, if truth be told, as it’s so much smoother. It’s a very different game to Rebellion, it’s not as heavy – in our first game, we didn’t even need to look at the main rulebook once – but no less enjoyable, or thematic, an experience.
Dobble Star Wars Mandalorian
So here’s the thing with Dobble – I am far too competitive to play it. Dobble has become ubiquitous, as much a part of the everyday family game landscape as Uno, Cluedo, or (shudder) Monopoly. But rather than the themed variants on the game feeling like saturation, they are genuinely refreshing: because you don’t immediately know what to look for, it levels the playing field. Anyone can happily yell out “Mando”, “Grogu” or even (gaffi) “Stick!”
It’s most comparable to the Harry Potter version, where you still have to take a minute to figure out which bobble-headed wizard is which (witch), and as a result makes for hectic, noisy family fun. Another great addition for long journeys, whether in the car or on the Kessel run – and so there’s a copy for you lucky types to be won below!
Star Wars Jabba’s Palace: A Love Letter Game
I could, quite simply, write a love letter to this game. Fast to learn and play, it’s a pocket sized game of luck and logic. The secret admirer becomes a hidden character (though R2 can peek at them), and this highly thematic reskin retains the charm of the original game.
You simply draw a card each turn and essentially try to outthink your opponent based on what’s already been played. It’s very quick, but with 4 distinct game modes for victory, it’s never dull. Great component quality – chunky tokens, lush cardstock, lovely bag and compact rulebook – make it an absolute modern portable classic, so we absolutely have to give you the chance to win a copy. Read on!
Unlock! Star Wars Escape Game
From the makers of popular Unlock! we now get a Star Wars version, and with the companion app handling a large part of the organisation it makes for a much smoother experience than some. You get 3 escape room adventures in the box – one each thematically for Rebels, Smugglers and Imperials – which is fair for the price when you consider standalone, single-use Escape Room games such as EXIT tend to come in at around £15. In fact, with the game’s tutorial mode you’re effectively getting 4 Escape Rooms (granted, the first one is quick, but still, it’s great fun).
You have a notional hour to complete each adventure, with mistakes earning you time penalties (affecting your final score). This adds real tension and excitement to the experience, which is very satisfying. Beware that the final adventure has a marked jump in difficulty, though your skill cards that you gain at the start of the mission can give you extra help along the way – as well as really helping you feel like you’re a character in the story.
I’ll be honest, I’m not actually a massive fan of Escape Room games, but I was prepared to make an exception for this and I’m glad I did. With the app running the game – which I often find intrusive in boardgames – it reduces the clutter and really adds to the whole experience. The use of Holst’s planets as background music works really well, with the addition of key sound effects from the Saga when they fit. The puzzles that are app driven make sense – there’s even a VERY clever nod to the original Professor Leyton on DS – and the hints are pitched just right.
We did have an issue with one of puzzles that was a phone screen size problem but we just sucked it up as a hint. Equally, there was at least one puzzle that we were just being completely dense about and the reveal was a glorious OF COURSE! Yes, the replay factor is obviously non-existent but at least you can pass it on once done – and you get a decent amount of playtime for your money.
What it comes down to is that even with minor niggles, we immediately felt we would buy non-Star Wars versions of this – and will absolutely be looking out for more IP tie-ups from them.
Thanks as ever to the gang at Asmodee UK, we’ve got a copy of Dobble: Mandalorian Edition and Star Wars Jabba’s Palace: A Love Letter Game to give away PLUS a Darth Maul Buildable Saber with light and sound effects from the lovely folk at Hasbro UK (pictured below).
So, which one of all the above lights YOUR saber? Let us know in the comments!
UK only unless you’re willing to fork out the postage, alas.
Don’t forget to check back in next time for our seasonal Summer review and giveaway, where we load you up for family fun in the sun (or rain).
And finally, the winner of our last giveaway of Marvel Crisis Protocol goodies is… Adam Drew! Congratulations!
Remember to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org within 30 days to claim your prize!