Type: Card Driven / Area Control
Time to play: 90 – 120 minutes (Teaching: 20 – 25 minutes)
Best played with: 2 Player (Only)
So you like hide and seek? Luckily for you hiding the rebel base and blowing up planets to find it, well that’s the most epic hide and seek ever! Star Wars Rebellion brings a new concept into board games – not hidden movement, but hidden base. If the opponent finds you then it’s possible to hold them off, but you will be in for the a continuous assault until the game grinds to it’s conclusion.
So this is a massive asymmetric, area control game fought across the star wards universe. One of you is a rag tag band of rebels holding out for a heroic victory (of the clock ticking down), whilst the empire is the monolithic army expanding across the universe to find the rebels. The mechanics of the game force you to accurately reflect the behaviour of these two powers, while the leader driven decisions and movement mean that every action you take is driven by a character – increasing the narrative feel of the game.
You start with only a few leaders, and therefore only a few actions you can play. Over the first few turns you will get more leaders and more ability to move. That will be balanced by your opponents gains, but will also increase the things you can achieve in the game. For the empire, this importantly increase your ability to search whilst the rebel gains the ability to play more espionage cards or search the objective deck.
So your playing thematically and with huge narrative implications, but it’s also important to build up an army – the two sides will clash time and time again across this map in small skirmishes that give you the feeling that one key battle can swing the war, whilst most battles will in fact be irrelevant. For the rebel, it’s often more about delaying the empire than winning the battle. For the empire, it’s crushing forces that won’t be at the rebel base.
These skirmishes, and big narrative decisions, all encourage both players to take risks. Risks that might discover the base, risks that might award you a better objective card or risks that might capture an opponent. These decisions are meaningful and relatively balanced – which is an impressive claim for a game with so much asymmetry.
This is also an intriguing game because it requires players to use deception and and quick movement. The rebel player wants to deceive the empire as to where they hid the base, whilst the empire is trying to deceive the rebel as to where they are looking. Why?Well if the rebel player knew they were in danger they would jump to another planet! You only want to let that happen when the other planets are already under empire control.
If all that isn’t enough, then sure enough the game comes to it’s natural conclusion – a great success for the rebels – pushing the time marker down and ending the game early – or the rebel base is found and it’s one last stand! That last stand is a two phase battle – space and then land. It’s an epic conclusion to two hours of game play. However, be warned that this can come to a simple die roll in the final round of combat. Frustrating for some and yet this can be the stuff stories are made of.
Combat is made better with the expansion, but here in a simple review of the base game I have to admit that the small dice rolls and high variance in outcomes are a big weakness of the game. There isn’t statistical significance or ways to mitigate it. Fights are a necessary risk and a costly failure – especially in those last fights which I have regularly seen come down to the final men.
Also, whilst the character led actions build narrative the story is lacking in a plot arch – each turn you will play similar cards and similar actions. There’s occasional variance but ultimately games can play out very similarly turn to turn and game to game. For me this is much more limiting than Near And Far or other great narrative games of 2016 / 2017.
Lastly, like many card driven games the more you play the more you will win. It’s a simple fact that the more experienced players should dominate this game. This is simply because a lot of the cards have surprise twists / reactions / powers which can be predicted or avoided if you know they are coming. Knowledge is a meaningful advantage.
Nonetheless, I enjoy this inter-galatic fanfest with lots of references to the films and plenty of opportunities to feel you followed or subverted the key themes.
- If you like a star wars board game, but don’t want to sink lots of cash into collectable miniatures, then this is a good balance
- If you hate to get so close, only to be denied by the dice -may be pass this one
- If you win, try the other side! (or try it again, now your enemy knows where you hide / look!)