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STAR WARS: REBELLION

Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

STAR WARS: REBELLION (Fantasy Flight Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up; 180-240 minutes; $99.95)

 

It is a period of civil war. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away, and the Empire rules the galaxy by fear. Its newly constructed battle station, the Death Star, is powerful enough to destroy any opposition.

Yet, there is a new hope. A brave few have chosen to stand  against the Empire. From their secret base, these Rebels are making plans to deal the Empire a crushing blow and  restore freedom to the galaxy!

Star Wars: Rebellion is an epic, asymmetric game of strategy and battle in the Star Wars universe designed by Corey Konieczka. Unlike other Star Wars products like Imperial Assault, Destiny or X-Wings, the setting here covers the entire universe with fleets, generals and heroes. On one side the Empire and on the other side the Rebels!

The protagonists of this story are the Empire’s and Rebel’s leaders. In each round, they can move on the map leading fleets and armies or resolving important missions. How to use the leaders and how much to invest in missions and/or wars is one of the most challenging parts of the game.

The map displays the entire galaxy. The base boxes are the systems assembled in sectors. Each system can produce from zero to two different units.

The initial set-up can vary from game to game: two systems allied to the Rebels and five under the control of the Empire.  The Rebels have to secretly decide the position of the base. The goal of the game for the Empire is to discover and destroy the Rebel base; for the Rebel, it is to survive and gain enough time to build “reputation” to make the whole galaxy revolt.

Each player starts with four leaders and the four base missions. Then two new missions are drawn and players will get new ones each round. The starting leaders are always the same but the new ones are chosen from a pool. Which missions and leaders will come into play and the different positions on the strategic maps are enough to make every game different, every time presenting a different story.

Rounds have three phases: assignment, command and refresh.

In the assignment phase, the leaders, starting with the Rebels, are assigned two face-down mission cards. The amount of leaders in play (ranging from 4 to 8-9 during the game) shows the number of possible actions. It is quite wise to keep some leaders unassigned to use for strategic moves on the map or to oppose enemy missions.

Base missions cover the main action of the game like influencing systems, sabotage (Rebel), capturing (Empire), Researching (Empire) and a full deck of different ones.

In the command phase, beginning with the Rebels, you can reveal and resolve one mission or use an unassigned leader to activate a system, moving units from nearby ones. Every leader can have a value ranging from zero to three in four different skills: diplomacy, intelligence, special operations and logistics. To resolve some missions, a certain amount of specified skills is required and you usually have to use the assigned leader and move into a system.  Skills are also important in blocking enemy missions. Missions opposed by enemy leaders are resolved using dice; other missions are an automatic success.

Moving units into an enemy occupied system will start a fight. Each unit has different combat values that indicate how many dice it can launch and how much damage it can absorb before it is eliminated. Combat is resolved in rounds using dice and cards. In the beginning of the fight, each player will draw cards according to the leader’s tactic values. Fleets will fight in space using space tactics cards while land units on the planet’s surface will use ground tactic cards.

Some players have complained that the combat system in Star Wars Rebellion is too complicated but for me, it is a good system and is actually quite simple involving a goodly number of dice throws and some decisions. Usually you can have a good idea how the fight will go by evaluating the involved units. Some battles, involving many units and running several rounds, are truly epic. Control of a system is obtained with influence and politics but troops occupying it can block its production. The Empire can produce fewer units in an occupied system as well.

In the refresh phase. players perform some pure maintenance actions such as drawing new cards.

Empire players will draw two cards from the probe deck. Each card in the probe deck displays one of the systems in play. All of the systems are included in the deck apart from the one with the Rebel base that is set aside by the Rebel player at the start of the game.

This mechanism simulates the continual launch of exploration probes that the Empire makes to seek the Rebel base in addition to various military operations such as the movement of fleets and troops. It is a great mechanism and works well. Playing the Empire, you are always worried about base research while the Rebels have to try to take diversion actions so as not to reveal the true placement of the base.

At the end of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds, a new leader will enter the game. Every player draws two cards from his own action card deck and keeps one. Each card will tell you which leader will come in play and present a special action/mission you can use once during the game. At the and of the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th rounds, there will be a production phase. Each controlled system shows the units produced and the round they will enter the game. Produced units are placed in the production queue and advance each round until they are placed on the map. In the meantime, the reputation of the Rebels increases each round thanks to objective cards the Rebel player can try to resolve.

I really love Star Wars: Rebellion in the way it mixes strategic planning, discovery and battles. The missions cards, the different leaders and action cards let you see the possibilities to choose from and unlock many different strategies. Looking for the Rebel’s base, trying to assemble an army big enough to crash it down is challenging for the Empire. On the other side, the Rebels need to be able to survive long enough in a galaxy occupied by the evil empire to win. Some games are more military and others more politically oriented. In some games, I was stuck because of some very serious battles and in others. while military dominant, I could not find the Rebel base in time. 

I enjoy asymmetric games with different factions playing differently and for me, Star Wars Rebellion is as good as Twilight Struggle. I think it is a must for people who like strategic games and the Star Wars universe. – – – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue


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