When I first saw Star War: Rebellion, you could say that my lack of faith was rather disturbing. It looked a lot like a typical 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy game, but with our beloved Star Wars slapped over the top of it. After only the first round , I was rather blown away by the kind of game I was playing. It had worker placement mechanics mixed with territory control, bluffing, and asymmetrical objectives that perfectly matched the Empire and Rebel forces, all wrapped up in an epic game of hide-and-seek.
The objectives are fairly simple; if you are the Rebellion, you must traverse the galaxy and visit each system to strengthen your reputation and build a full-scale revolt against the Empire. You do this by sending diplomats to different systems, or execute missions that display your good will and expose the Empire’s wicked ways. If you are the Empire, you must find and destroy the Rebel base before the galaxy realizes how much of a jerk you are. You do this by subjegating systems, capturing and interrogating Rebel spies, and flat out destroying planets with the ultimate weapon — the Death Star.
The first part of each round has the Rebels and Empire assigning their characters to mission cards. All characters who are not assigned to a mission can later be used to counter opposing missions, or used to move units from one system to another. Beginning with the Rebels, the controlling player will choose to perform an action with one of their characters. If it is a character assigned to a mission, they will usually get placed into a system on the board where the mission is taking place and the Empire will then have a chance to challenge that mission. To challenge a mission, player simply have to place one of their unassigned characters into the same system. Then each player will roll a number of dice as indicated by the mission type and the attributes of the character they played. If the player on the mission rolls higher, they succeed and complete the mission gaining any rewards, otherwise the mission is a failure.
Characters who are not assigned and who have not been used to counter opposing missions, can be used to move units from one system to another, sometimes resulting in a full scale battle. This is surprisingly easy, as you simply place your free character into a system neighboring the units you want to move. You then move the units to the new system, making sure all ground units have enough space in flying units to be transported, and redeploy in the new system. If after units are moved they are sharing a system with opposing units, they will have to fight it out. Believe me when I say, you do not want the deflector shields to be operational when your friends arrive.
Depending on the characters assigned to the system, each player will get to draw tactic cards to aid them in combat. First the flying units will battle, with each side rolling dice equal to the types associated with each unit, and playing tactic cards to modify the results. This continues until all of the air units on one side or the other are destroyed. Then the ground units will begin to battle in the same way. If only one side’s units remain, they claim control of the system. Otherwise, you can have scenarios where the ground units from one side are trapped on a planet, blockaded by ships in orbit. You’ll be rolling a good number of dice if you have a small fleet in the area.
Sometimes, I can take or leave the themes associated with games, but probably one of the most impressive things about Star Wars: Rebellion is how well the theme fit the gameplay. Say you are the Rebels, and you need to send someone on a diplomatic mission, who better than Princess Leia Organa. Have a mission against the Empire where you may have to get your hands dirty? Send a scoundrel like Han Solo or Chewbacca. If you are the Empire and need to remind the masses who really runs the galaxy, you send good ol’ Emperor Palpatine, or maybe the Rebels are getting out of hand on Kashyyyk, so who better than Darth Vader to force choke a few wookies out. Each of the characters give bonuses to roles to give a little more weight to their actions and a bit of story behind every decision.
While the game is meant for two people to play head to head, you can play with teams of two where each team splits the responsibilities of their faction. There are mechanics in place that specifically delegate certain tasks to each player, but we found that the most entertaining way to go about it was simply allowing both players on a team to control everything. What particularly made working as a team fun, was discussing plans and plotting the next move, in addition to all the funny and silly Star Wars quotes you can imagine. Everything from “It’s a trap” down to “I got a bad feeling about this” was thrown around with a whole lot of “Good, good” and “Nooooo!”
Now this should come as no surprise, which is why I saved it for last, but the component quality of this game is top notch. From the two large and highly detailed game boards, to the plastic miniatures, to all of the art on the cards and characters, it is just dripping with Star Wars goodness and FFG gold. As always the rules are full and clear with a supplementary guide for all the little questions and details you may need as you play. Dense, and thick gauged tokens and cards round this whole product out to be one of the nicest looking and feeling board games I have every played.
In short; if you like Star Wars, or are looking for an interesting game to play with one or more of your friends, this has got to go on your list. Engross yourself in the theme and the swelling drama as the wicked Empire clashes with the Rebel scum. Watch as beloved planets explode, and characters get captured and frozen in carbonite. It is certainly on the pricier side of board games, and it can take upwards of a few hours to complete, but if you get a chance you should try it; or rather “do it”, because there is no try.
Images Credits: Robert Hornbeck
Feature Image: Fantasy Flight Games