Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Board Game Corner: Star Wars Empire vs Rebellion strategy card game

One of my club members picked this up with a Waterstones voucher or something, so I thought I'd give it a try and see if it's any good.

This is a tactical card game where one side plays the rebels and the other (well duh) the Empire. You get a deck of cards each which include some standard cards, and a selection of 4 of 8 characters. You play rounds in a strange sort of blackjack where you try to get close to but not surpass a target score, as determined by the randomly drawn event. Whoever wins gets the event, and the first to 7 points worth of events is the winner.

Now it has to be said, you play first to 7 points, and there are 42 points worth of events in the deck, so there's a fair amount of replay value to this straight away. It's pot luck if you get lots of minor skirmishes or just a few big ones... someone could theoretically win 3 games and the whole title, whilst their opponent could win six and be still needing one more win. So it's a game that can be played many times.

Each side secretly chooses a strategy that will affect the outcome at the end (as long as you haven't gone bust) The event card has all relevant information... the score in the bottom left is the target, and the icons next to it the max amount of cards in play at one time. The numbers on the top right are the value of the card (towards that 7) and how many influence you earn for winning (influence let's you reset exhausted cards, which can be quite handy) The stuff in the bottom right is a reward/penalty for whoever wins/loses.

Each turn a player can do one of four things.

Play a card from the deck into their play area (as long as they aren't already at the maximum card level)
Exhaust a card to use the power written on it (basically tap the card similar to most card games, it then becomes it's side on value, which for most cards is identical but for character cards is a significant reduction)
Spend influence to reset an exhausted card

If both players pass, you cease and count score.

So for example the two sides have dealt a few cards out, they'll use a few powers to maybe upset their opponents score or refine their own, hell sometimes you may use a character power just so it is worth 1 point instead of the 6 that might make you go bust.

Having played through this, sometimes the cards go against you, and you find yourself in the situation where you're going bust, can't deal any more cards, and the only powers you could potentially tap are to mess with your opponents score or to prep your deck... neither of which matters if your opponent can take a 1 point for a win because you've gone bust.

Anyway, in the example above both players are at max cards and they're all tapped out, so unless someone has influence to spend to refresh a card, they both have to pass, and the round ends.

Looking at the scores, we can see it is currently a 17-17 tie. No one wins! But that's where the strategy cards come in.

Now what the imperial player doesn't know, is the rebels had this ace in the hole... an extra 2 points, putting them bang on the target of 19! A victory surely?

Except Palpatine still has a trick up his volumous sleeve... the winner is in fact the loser, and the Empire win the day!

Thus that event would score 1 for the imperials, the decks would be reset, and a new event dealt. You can't use the same strategum again so you will work through all the options, and as the game goes on, the rebel will know the Imperial player won't catch him out with that sneaky "the loser wins" trick again... at least, not till he's tried his other tricks first.

So, like I said, this game is quick, fairly easy, and has some good replay value to it. The sides are aso balanced, and that's where I start to have a bit of a grumble. The sides are perfectly balanced. As in, they have the same deck. You get different pictures on the cards, but the decks are the same. The Military card for the Empire and the rebels does exactly the same. They have different values, but we each have a 3, a 4, a 5 Recon somewhere in our deck. Even the characters each have an exact counterpart - Luke and Vader do the exact same thing.

After playing (and adoring) the assymetrical experience of Star Wars Rebellion, with it's overwhelming imperial military might against the sneaky guerrilla rebels, to have a perfectly balanced system now seems rather bland. For the bread and butter cards I could understand it but come on, at least make the characters and the strategies different! The strategies utilised by the Empire should not match the strategies utilised by the Rebels. They should have different strengths and weaknesses, which yes would make the game more complicated, but at least it would have some flavour. There is no point in there being Star Wars images on this... you could have Mr Men on it for all the in game effect it has! Which means the Star Wars is on there purely to add sales, and that I do not like. Machi Koro is a game of building a town, sounds boring but it plays well and is fun. Ticket to Ride is a game of trains, do we need them to be Imperial trains criss-crossing Coruscant? No, it's a good game, it still works and sells. This is a fun little card game that is a handy thing for the bottom of the bag how to kill half an hour at the end of a night or perhaps a "crap we're the first two here what can we do whilst we wait for the other gamers to arrive" sort of game. But I'd honestly rather they sold this with generic real world equivalents than try to pass this off as being even remotely connected to Star Wars.

Overall: Fun, simple, but absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars.


  1. I received a copy of this game a while back and had the same feelings about it. I'm wondering if it will be a good intermediate level experience for my kids as they grow up, though the way they eye off my X-wing miniatures makes me think that it won't get a look-in ;-)

    1. That's a fair point... I don't have kids, so don't often consider that aspect of a games appeal.

  2. Enjoyed that review! No I want the Mr. Men equivalent please :P

    "Mr. Greedy: Deception. Eats all of the oppositions cookies. You win."

    1. Mr Tickle... with your exceptionally long arms reach across and discard one of your opponents cards... :P