By now everyone with access to a TV or the internet should know what Star Wars is. Some hate it with a passion, others love it and even spend their own time and money to make movies or write fan fiction. Some don’t care either way. I love the franchise and I pre-ordered my copy of SW Rebellion as soon as it was available in South Africa.
Star Wars Rebellion is a 2016 game by Fantasy Flight Games. It covers the events of the first 3 movies in the Star Wars saga. It’s a huge undertaking, retelling a tale of epic proportions. So it makes sense that this is a game of pretty epic proportions.
For the Tl;DR version click here.
Opening the box
Spec on the Box:
- 2-4 players. I’ve not had the chance to play this with more than 2 players, to be honest I don’t actually want to; it’s pretty much a 2 player game.
- Ages 41+
- 180-240 min. I did say it was epic, however I have had games last under 2 hours.
In the box we have the usual FFG 2 rule books. A learn to play guide and a rules reference. I don’t mind this as it usually helps me to get into the games quicker and when I have a rules query there’s a useful glossary to reference. I’ve got 1 complaint though; the initial setup is split in 2, with the board setup closer to the back of the book, a minor annoyance.
There’s a set of black and red custom dice, heaps of cards and tokens all of good quality. There are also not 1 but 2 boards that need to be combined into 1 huge board.
There are little cardboard standees of the various heroes and villains (leaders) from the Star Wars universe and some really gorgeous miniatures. There are over 150 of them and they are small, delicate and all crammed into a single baggie. One of my Tie Fighters arrived broken L. I’ve not contacted anyone from FFG about a replacement, it’s an expensive game so maybe I should give it a try.
Oh there are also 2 player boards which give you’re the stats for the various units of your particular faction.
This game requires 2 different sizes of sleeves, as there are 2 different sizes of cards. I used these:
Well, its Star Wars… however it’s not quite as the movies present it. You’re not one of the heroes battling it out to save/conquer the galaxy. You’re one of the generals, the big kahuna. It’s your job to decide the overall strategy of your forces spread out across the entire galaxy!
Rebellion puts the players into the shoes of the leaders of the 2 major factions of the war, the Imperials and the Rebels. It’s up to them to decide the course of the war.
The rebels are slowly sowing the seeds of rebellion across the galaxy and the Empire is trying to stamp them out before their movement grows too strong. The Empire’s goal in this game is to find and destroy the rebel base. The Rebels need to stall them long enough, initially its 14 turns, for the rebellion to take root.
This is a bit long; maybe go grab a cup of coffee…
Setup can take long. Especially if you don’t have all the miniatures and standees stored separately, by faction. Then there are a few decks of cards to be prepped and if you’re not playing the beginner game you’ve got to get the starting positions sorted out too.
Once all of that is done and everyone has their starting leaders (heroes) and starting cards the game beings. The Rebel player will look through a deck of cards called the Probe deck. This deck has a card for each planet on the board. He will remove 1 card from the deck and this card will represent the location of the secret rebel base.
Each round starts with the Assignment phase.
The game revolves around your leaders and what you do with them each turn. The first thing that you can do with them is send them on missions. You will start the game with 4 mission cards. You need to send a leader with the appropriate skills on the mission. You won’t send Chewie on a diplomatic mission but sabotage is right up his ally. Some missions need specific requirements before they can occur e.g. you cannot capture a rebel leader until one of them is on the board.
You place the mission face down in front of you and then place 1 or 2 leaders on the card to show that they are on the mission. Your opponents won’t know what the mission is but he can see the leader’s skill and hazard a guess as to what it’s about.
Players will alternate sending Leaders on missions until they decide to pass or run out of leaders. You don’t want to use all of your leaders at once. Maybe you do, but it’s handy to keep some left over for the next phase.
Then comes the Command phase.
During this phase each player will take turns using their leaders to perform actions. So you could start with a leader on a mission and have him perform his mission. Your opponent will have a chance to send one of his remaining heroes to try to stop you. This makes for some great story moments. I once sent Chewie to save Han from being captured by Boba!
Of course you can only challenge your opponent’s missions if you have a leader that’s not already been used this turn and he or she has the matching skills for the mission. Then the players roll off with the player with the most successes claiming victory. Ties go to the person trying to stop the mission.
The next thing you can do is use 1 of your remaining leaders (not on a mission, or on the board) to move your units on the board. Place the leader into a space sector that you wish to move into and then you can move units from surrounding sectors into that sector.
Of course there are some restrictions. Units cannot move out of a sector that contains a friendly leader and some units, like tie fighters and troopers need to be transported. If you move into a sector that contains enemy units then you will initiate combat.
I’m not really going to go into detail on combat but I’ll say that it’s usually pretty decisive. It involves a combination of dice rolls and playing combat cards. If the Imperials land units on a planet then the Rebel player must let his opponent know if the rebel base is on that planet or not.
Then the game moves into the Status phase.
First all Leaders are returned from play or any missions that you chose not to resolve. Then the imperial player draws 2 cards from the probe deck, these will show him 2 planets which DO NOT contain the rebel base. Then the Imperial player draws an objective card. Objectives are usually fairly difficult to accomplish. However if they are, then the number of turns that they rebels need to hold out is reduced as a reward!
Each player also gets to draw 2 new mission cards. Then they check if it’s a recruitment turn, ie. Can they recruit new leaders this turn? Each player will draw 3 of their action cards, each card will have the image of up to 2 leaders on them, and these are the leaders available this turn. You get to recruit 1 of them. More leaders give you more actions each turn, but you need to select them carefully based on your strategy that you are following and the missions that you have available.
Then they check if it’s a construction turn (every even numbered turn). Looking at each of their planets players can see what units each planet can produce and how long it will take to produce them. These units are placed on the build queue according to their production time 1-3. Then all units in the #1 section of the build queue get to deploy and everything else moves 1 space down.
Then advance the turn tracker and start a new round. If the turn tracker reaches the Rebel win marker then the rebels win. If the Imperials destroy the rebel base before that happens then it’s an Imperial victory.
Let me start with, I love this game.
You create your own version of the Star Wars story each time you play. I’ll never forget the time there was a Death Star under construction in orbit above my hidden base! The Death Star needs to be constructed in secret in a remote location, the Imperials had no idea that I was there! Man, I really had to play it cool in that game but I had to scramble to kill it before it became operational and destroyed the whole planet!
The game is littered with some fantastic cinematic moments that you will create when you play your own version of the Star Wars saga.
The rules are not terribly complex; in fact they seem rather simplistic. However once you factor in your leader management, you’ve got a rather deep, strategic game. That’s not only your leaders but your opponent’s leaders too; sometimes you will need to make them use specific leaders just so you can perform vital missions unopposed. You might need to make a sacrificial combat just to force your opponent to use his leaders in defense.
It’s a game of moves and counter moves, of feints and bluffs. A game of cat and mouse of a galactic scale. You need to out play and outwit your opponent. It’s like chess but with a theme that actually matters and it almost always comes down to a “either I win now or you will win next turn” ending. It’s great.
The 2 factions are very different from each other and offer multiple paths to victory; you won’t see all of your missions or all of your leaders and actions in each game so it’s got a large amount of replay value too.
Star Wars Rebellion is not just something that you will whip out on game night. It’s a huge game; you will want to dedicate ½ a day to it. It’s one of those games were you will want to find a regular opponent and have fairly regular battle of wits and wills against them.
The only real down sides that I can think of are the silly insert which can damage more models. The long setup and tear down times. All of these issues can be resolved with a custom insert.
A note on time. The game can go long. This is especially true if the rebel player runs a disruption game. Instead of trying to win quicker, he slows the Imperial down. This can be frustrating for the Imperial player, if he falls into the trap of trying to fix the damage the rebels are causing. I have played with this approach and frustrated my opponent and I’ve played against it, but I stuck to my own game and I won!
Can I braai with this?
You might have to. It goes long and you will want to have some sustenance and might need some time to think. Then again, I tend to find myself riveted to the board so I’d end up with burnt meat.