Will you play as the Empire and try to crush the Rebellion or play as the Rebels and try to bring freedom to the Galaxy?
Hey there everyone! Bubba here!
If you've been reading my reviews you might have noticed that I really tend to like like quick, easy to learn games. Well this isn't one of those. This one is a big, heavy, multi-hour experience. While this type of game isn't really my usual, I adore Star Wars. The Star Wars Miniatures game is what really started my life as a gamer back in 2005/2006 and the franchise will always hold a special place in my heart. So what's in this gigantic box of bits and bobs?
The Game: Unlike the previous games I've reviewed, I'm not going to try and give a FULL rules run-down on this one because this would quickly become a novel. One of the aspects of this game that makes it so interesting is that it's what is called asymmetrical. That is to say that both sides have different objectives and play differently. I'm absolutely pants at playing the Rebels so I usually play the Imperials. (The Glorious Empire is better anyway) .
The goal of the game depends on what side you're playing. If you're playing the Empire, your goal is to find the Rebel base and eliminate their forces there, and the Rebel's goal is to keep that from happening long enough for their reputation tracker to hit the turn tracker. This can seem insurmountable, but I see the Rebels win far more than the Empire (Maybe I'm bad at playing the Empire too... I don't care though, this game is too much fun).
The Imperial player starts off with FAR more units than the rebel player does and generally produces larger amounts of them on build turns as well, but that actually helps keep the game balanced. A game usually takes anywhere between 7 turns (if either side is doing particularly well) and 10 turns (if neither side is doing particularly well). The Rebels start with a hidden base that they choose from anywhere on the board except Coruscant. At the end of every turn, the imperial player draws 2 Probe Cards which show locations where the Rebel Base can't be. The only way other than probe cards to determine the location of the Rebel Base is by landing on planets.
You found the Rebel Base! CONGRATULATIONS! Now you have to eliminate all of the ground units before the Rebels can relocate their base. Did I mention that those dirty Rebels can change their hiding spot? I did now. Ugh. It's like hide and seek but if you don't manage to knock out the person you found in 30 seconds they got to teleport away. I honestly love it.
"So the Imperials are trying to find and crush the Rebels," you say to me in my head because you're not actually here. "But what do the Rebels do?" Oh man, what DON'T they do! The main goal of the Rebels is to score objective cards. These are what move the reputation marker toward the turn marker. Though their main goal is to move the reputation marker, it's pretty hard to do that without troops. How do you get troops? You need to control systems, of course!
While the Imperials can simply subjugate systems by landing on them, the Rebels actually build loyalty. They also spend their time sabotaging Imperial systems. Again, ugh. More to clean up. Rebels leave such a mess, don't they? When you occupy a system you add the units that it produces on to the build queue every build turn. That is unless that planet happens to be sabotaged. A pretty fun note though, is that the Rebels don't really have a way to fix sabotage. So if the Imperials abandon a sabotaged system, well, it just stays busted.
"So you just build stuff and sabotage stuff," you ask. HECK NO!!! This game has so much flavor it could choke a Rancor! And not just one of those baby ones like Jabba had on Tatooine, but a FULL GROWN ONE! "Oh wow, Bubba! That's a lot of flavor," you say in my imagination. Well you bet it is! You can do SO MUCH cool stuff with this game! Did I mention that the Empire starts off with a Death Star?! It's under construction, sure, but just give it a few turns! You can even build a second one! Oh, and that Death Star? It can blow up planets like it's not even a thing! Just blasting them into space dust left and right! And if you happen to be at the Rebel Base, well, you can't have ground troops to eliminate if there isn't a ground.
There's honestly too much cool flavor stuff to go into it all. You can make Luke Skywalker into Jedi Luke, but you have to have him do a special mission on Dagobah. You can capture Rebel leaders and freeze them in Carbonite. I once captured Mon Mothma, turned her to the Dark Side, and made her throw the switch on the Death Star to blow up Naboo while Vader watched. This game is too cool, you guys.
My Playthrough: I've actually played this game quite a lot, so I'm just going to talk about my most recent playthrough with my friend, Tim. We got together on the fourth of July and set up in the garage. We've played together before, in fact, I think I've played this game against him more than I've played it with anyone else. We set up, sat down, cracked a couple of beers, and started the STRANGEST playthrough of Rebellion that either of us have ever played.
"How was this playthrough strange, you ask?" Well, for one thing, normally the Rebels never manage to land on Coruscant. It's the space on the board that comes printed with Imperial loyalty. Later in the game there's a Rebel mission card that gives you two reputation points if you control Coruscant. I've literally never seen anyone play it. Tim was in control of Coruscant by the end of Turn 2. He actually managed to keep control of it all game. Never seen anything like it.
Usually, the Imperial player spends most of the game searching for the Rebel Base and might find it once or twice; usually only after the Imperials spread themselves to the far corners of the galaxy. I happened to find it on Turn 2. He relocated.
I found it again on Turn 4. He relocated.
I found it AGAIN on Turn 6. He didn't relocate.
There are really three things you can do with your leaders in Rebellion. You can assign them to missions, you can hold them in reserve to oppose your opponent's missions, or you can reserve them to move troops. In a normal game of Rebellion, both the Imperial and Rebel players assign leaders to go on missions. This is how you do things like gain loyalty in a system, or sabotage a system, or draw extra probe cards, etc. In this one, however, nearly all the missions were run by the Rebel player. I just used my leaders to move out and spread myself over as much of the galaxy as I could. I didn't capture any leaders, I didn't blow anything up, never made another Death Star or Super Star Destroyer, barely even initiated combat. I just went wide.
And it actually paid off! There was nowhere he could hide from me! Mwahahaha!!! Oh... I actually have to be able to take his forces out you say... Oh dear. I got so caught up in finding him that I forgot to be ready to fight when I actually found him. No matter! I'll just build my forces right there and use them to... what's that? You can't deploy forces in a sabotaged system? Oh. Ummm... I can still make this work! All I have to do is pull everything I can together as fast as I can before he runs away again...What do you mean if I don't wipe him out next turn I lose? That can't be right! Oh.
Did this whole game come down to one final climactic battle? Yes. Was that battle so close that it was decided by a single die roll? Also yes. Did the Rebels manage to kill Darth Vader? I don't want to talk about it. But did I win? ALSO YES!!! It may have come down to a single die roll, but I WON!!! THE EMPIRE WON!! (I'm super excited because I've only won Rebellion like twice. I may not be great at the game, but I LOVE it!)
After we moved our troops, but before we rolled dice, Tim and I stepped outside to watch the fireworks. A great night with a great friend.
Pros: There is so much about this game that I love. It's got such flavor that I immediately get sucked in. The minis are cool, the theme is cool, everything is cool. And it's made by Fantasy Flight so you know all the components are going to be SUPER pretty. If you're playing the Empire you really feel the pressure to find the Rebels and if you're the Rebellion, you can feel the Imperial player's eyes on you every time you look at the board. Constantly trying to find where your base is. I adore the bits and bobs and it's all so pretty. It even just looks good on the shelf. I love love love this game.
Cons: As much as I do love this game, it's definitely not perfect. When I said it has a lot of bits and bobs, I literally mean 465 components. You get a LOT of stuff. That also means a lot of stuff to keep track of during a game. And boy oh boy is there a lot to keep track of too. How you order your turn between missions and movement matters so much that I usually keep a notebook with me to write down my plans for the turn, but that might be a personal issue. At around 3 hours (if everyone knows the rules) I usually need a break in the middle. Just like a 10 minute walk or something. It's definitely a big game. I kind of wish there were some dividers on the board to keep any sort of table bump or surprise cat appearance from being catastrophic, but that's more of a "would be nice" thing than an actual need. I also really think that the game lies about its player count. It says 2-4 but I really can't see this as anything other than a 2 player game. Yes, you could have one player be in charge of space combat and one in charge of ground combat like they say, but how could the Rebels discuss any strategy without the potential of giving away the location of the secret base? Keep it simple, keep it for 2 players.
Personal Gripe: So I can't in good conscience call this a "con" but it makes me mad enough that I have to tell all of you about it and complain at you. And what are you going to do? Stop reading NOW while I gripe? I don't believe you. Now let me complain. There's this STUPID rule that you can still resolve missions in destroyed star systems. It's obscure enough that you actually have to look it up in the board game geek forums because it's such a corner case. Why does that matter? That means you can still turn Luke into Jedi Luke even if there's no more Dagobah. If you've reduced the planet, and Yoda, to space dust, he can still train Luke. If I knew that I wouldn't have wasted 3 turns blowing his stupid green Muppet butt up. And how do you train Luke in space? There'd be no cave! No rocks to move! NO GRAVITY TO MOVE THEM IN! Ugh. Alright. I'm done.
Wrap Up: I absolutely adore this game even though it was super intimidating to learn. If you're into Star Wars, this game is a must play. And if you're not into Star Wars but you're really into heavy strategy games I'd say the same. Just make sure you keep it 2 player.
Catch you on the flip, Zip!