My wardrobe is full of spaceships. So many spaceships that there’s barely room for clothes. Most of them live in an enormous box which crushes my shirts out of all recognition when it’s squeezed in and out for play. It’s a good job I play with spaceships a lot more than I wear shirts.
Having a cupboard crammed with spaceships is awesome, but it’s also a little tiring. Each comes with cardboard and plastic that must be meticulously selected and laid out before playing. That was, up until recently, where most of the game was in x-wing, and that’s sad. What was sadder is how often I’d ruin the suspension of disbelief just to make a better list.
Take Poe Dameron. Poe’s an incredible fighter pilot, and it shows in his skills and abilities. He’s also an incredibly expensive fighter pilot that you’ll want to preserve to cause maximum carnage and deny the enemy victory points. So, given that his ability lets him benefit from focus tokens without spending them, it makes sense to give his ship an astromech droid which can spend the token to regenerate shields. Right?
Of course it does. Poe with R5-P9 is a great combo that I’ve seen used to great effect in many games. It’s also completely and utterly wrong.
You’ve seen The Force Awakens. You know that Poe would never take to space without his beloved BB-8 and focus tokens be dammed. So, with the Force Awakens base set for X-Wing and one each of the existing expansion models, that’s exactly what I did. I flew Poe as he’d want to be flown. With BB-8 on board, a rookie wingman, and nothing else.
They ran into an ambush on the wingman’s training flight. Three members of the First Order’s Omega Squadron and their fearsome ace. Similarly unequipped with any modifications. The TIE f/o’s caught them in an ambush and smashed down the rookie’s shields with a volley of plasma fire, before smartly executing a k-turn and coming back in for the kill.
Poe screwed up. He panicked, and no matter how much he weaved and used BB-8 to barrel roll, he could barely make it into the fight beyond a couple of stray bolts. The rookie, meanwhile, took a deep breath, concentrated on the force and flew straight and true into the heart of the enemy swam.
When the dust cleared, only Omega leader was left flying and the rookie, his hull hanging together with prayers and sticky tape, joined up with Poe and caught the wicked ace in a murderous crossfire. Game over.
It was simple. It was fast. And it was brilliant.
Armada had the same feeling of freshness when it was first released. That’s part of what I liked about it: a rich, epic game that played in a couple of hours and didn’t need lots of pre-prep work. What mattered were the decisions you made on the table, more than the ones you made beforehand. Wave 1 didn’t overburden that dynamic too much, and the game did need a few more ships.
So now we’ve got wave 2 and so far I’ve picked up the rebel releases. How could I not, with Admiral Ackbar coming in the Home One expansion and giving me the chance to shout “it’s a trap” when my fleet came into contact with the enemy? Plus, Home one and the MC30 rebel frigate are sweeting looking models. The Frigate also promises to bring some much-needed black dice firepower to the Rebel side. I still haven’t tamed my inner wargamer enough to resist pre-painted plastics.
Throw in the Rogues and Villains expansion and you’ve got a plethora of ships to play with. And that, for the moment, is all I care about. So I’ve started doing the same there – forgoing lots of detailed upgrades in favour of a fleet commander, a couple of capital ships and a few characters and fighter wings.
It’s hard to leave out Han and the Falcon when you’ve got them in your collection. You can even take the little plastic ship off its stand and perch above the bridge of a Star Destroyer if you’re a real geek.
The first time I ran a list like this was against someone who’d tooled up with upgrades just like usual. Because there’s still not a fleet builder for Armada that actually prints the card effects on the output sheet, it took a while to get set up. I’d seized on the concept of using Garm Bel Iblis and just taking as many ships as I could, to maximise my free tokens. It seemed like a good plan. It wasn’t.
In truth, it was a massacre. I didn’t play well, treating it more like X-Wing and going in all guns blazing than the more thoughtful approach required for Armada, but even so, I don’t think I took out a single Imperial big ship. Upgrades, it seems, are more important in Armada than they are in X-Wing. Which makes the lack of a fully-featured fleet builder all the more annoying.
Such an awful loss was partly down to an unfortunate feature of Armada that I don’t think I’ve spotted before. With the range ruler literally allowing handfuls more dice to be thrown between range steps, tiny distances can make a big difference in the outcome. His Gladiator-class Star Destroyer was in black dice range on a critical turn, and my MC30 wasn’t. If the opposite had been true, it might have been a very different outcome.
Frankly, I stopped playing miniature games to get away from exactly this sort of thing. But I like Armada too much to hold that against it. So next time, I think I might make both lists. Hang the upgrades and just take Akbar and Home One squaring off against some big Star Destroyers and squadrons, just like the denouement of Return of the Jedi. I’ll get to shout “it’s a trap!”, and I’d urge you all to do the same.
The base set of Armada looked to have the makings of an outstanding game. But it was kind of hard to tell for sure. With just three ships and a handful of fighter squadrons to divide between two sides, all you could do was sense the potential rather than experience it for yourself.
A generous first wave of expansions has now arrived. Each contains a variety of upgrades, many of which can, of course, be used on a variety of ships. And all that extra variety does the job. Armada finally plays like the game that it was shaping up to be.
Both sides needed extra ships for reasons other than variety, however.
The spindly, fragile Rebel ships felt desperately under-powered compared to the might of the Imperial Star Destroyer. The new Assault Frigate expansion fixes that to an extent. Dubbed the “space whale” by virtue of both a curvaceous design and a lumbering maneuver chart, it’s the most eye catching ship in this wave.
It also comes with a wealth of upgrades to increase its firepower and durability. And it needs them: this isn’t the panacea you might think it is. Even festooned with additional cards, it can’t match the devastating laser broadsides of Imperial ships. Which is for the best, since it ensures that the two sides play in a distinct manner, as they should.
One nice feature of the Assault Frigate is that the two ship cards you get offer quite distinct builds. One lends itself to being tanked up and sent into battle. The other looks to be an impressive fighter base for co-ordinating rebel squadrons. All in all, one of these models will lend Rebel Admirals a lot of flexibility in fleet building.
The other two rebel ships are copies of the ones in the base game, the Corvette and the Nebulon-B. Each comes with some new upgrades, of course, to tempt you into investing.
In truth, it’s kind of hard to see why you’d want a second Nebulon. There’s nothing essential in the upgrade list and the ship itself is hard to use effectively thanks to its flimsy flank shields. Some neat title upgrades are tempting. Especially Yavaris which helps turn the frigate into a squadron command platform, a role to which the ship is well suited. The Corvette is a different matter. Fielding two or more of these as cheap, mobile fire platforms is a viable way of counteracting the ponderous Imperial ships and their short-range firepower.
The Imperials, in their turn, get the option of a new medium class ship, the Gladiator. While still at its best in close quarters combat, this adds some much-needed speed and flexibility to the Imperial fleet. It packs an enormous punch at close range and, thanks to a much kinder maneuver chart, it’s far better placed to get in their and deliver its payload. Plus, since it’s cheaper than the Star Destroyer, it means the Imperial player can field two big ships with enough points left over for those all-important TIE fighters.
The points cost of the Star Destroyers themselves makes it buying the expansion something of a quandry. Two of them on the table look terrifying, but it leaves little left to get anything else, and they’re so ponderous that Rebel ships can dance round them at range. The lure is more likely to be the expansion cards. There’s a nice commander, and the title Corruptor offers the possibility of outfitting a Star Destroyer as squadron command rather than just brutal damage output. But this is probably the least interesting pack in the wave.
All these ships help add depth and breadth to the game. Bringing even a couple in to your collection should give you enough upgrades to build a lot of interesting lists. But what really shocked me about wave 1 is that the real interest isn’t in any of these lovely big models. It’s in the fighter squadrons.
There’s a pack for each, both with four different models of fighter. Different fighter models excel at different roles, as you’d expect. Rebel A-Wings and Imperial TIE Interceptors excel at taking out enemy squadrons. At the other end of the scale B-Wings and TIE Bombers offer impressive anti-ship firepower for their meager cost. Each fighter type also comes with a new hero, like Tycho Celchu or Darth Vader should you want him.
It’s because each pack contains four very different types of craft that these have such a huge impact on the game. Fighters can screen big ships, venture out to blow away the escorts of enemy craft, creep in close for a killer blow. Co-ordinating the different types along with squadron commands from the big ships is a complex and compelling source of tactics. It’s hard to learn to use these things well, but it’s essential for success.
The main issue with Armada was and remains its cost. There’s a slight saving grace here in that these expansions punch above their weight. If you’re collecting one faction then just a couple of selective purchases will add enormous diversity and fun to your games. And if you can afford it, you should. With wave 1 on board, Armada has blossomed into an incredible game. It looks great, plays fast and offers enormous replay value alongside a fine balance of depth and drama. It’s the best game I’ve played in several years, and you should play it too.
It takes about a New York minute between seeing a copy of the X-Wing base game and wondering what a Star Destroyer model might look like at that scale. In that minuscule time frame, Star Wars: Armada became an inevitability.
In truth, the Star Destroyer in any scale is almost bound to ruin the look of the game. Even here it looks enormous, and dwarfs the spindly Rebel ships that oppose it. The quality of the paint jobs seems to have gone down a notch, too. Armada just doesn’t have the same visual appeal as its illustrious predecessor.
So it’s a good job that it’s a much better game.
Miniatures games are, on the whole, luck-fests. The skill comes in picking your lists beforehand, like a chef carefully eying up flavour combinations for that nights’ dinner menu. At the moment, the lack of expansions means there’s a lot fewer options for Armada and that feels like a breath of fresh air. Instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of choice, you can slap a list together and play. And when you do, you’ll find that here, it’s the game itself that demands planning and strategy.
Although the models and the license beg comparison to X-Wing, this is a totally different game. Instead of secret movement selections you pick secret orders to fire, repair, maneuver or command fighters. The bigger the ship, the further in advance you have to select these orders. As they come up, you can chose to take a token to use on a later round for a weak effect, or use it then and there for a powerful one. So for a behemoth like a Star Destroyer, where you’re picking orders three rounds ahead, a lot of advance planning is necessary.
What really makes the game, however, is the turn structure. In this game, you fire before you move. A simple change, and one that’s hardly novel, but it means you have to make sure your ships are where you want them the turn before. More planning, more strategy. The more novel idea is separating the fire/move phases for the big ships and the fighters. Normally, the latter move after the former, making it doubly hard to get them into position. But if you use a Squadron command, you can move some of the little ships with the big ones. And at those moments, they can prove decisive.
The whole thing feels like a ponderous yet wonderful ballet. Colossal frigates and dreadnoughts wallow in the vacuum, trying to line up broadsides against one another. Fighters dart around them, hoping for the orders and information that will allow them to make a difference. Yet even as the fistfuls of multicoloured dice rattle over the table, they’re just arbiters to tip the see-saw and excitement to ice the cake. Most of the time, victory goes to the player with better list, the better plan and the best ability to predict moves ahead of time.
Nailing the balance of skill in list-building and skill in play is the chief triumph of Armada. It’s a tricky thing to get right, and many games have fallen by the wayside on the way. Whether Armada can maintain this delicate act in the face of an inevitably-expanding expansion roster remains to be seen. For now, it’s a thing to be savoured.
If you can afford it.
Because price and accessibility is one area where this does deserve comparison to X-Wing. For that, a modestly priced starter box gives you everything you need for a fun few games. Armada’s initial outing is about three times the price. And to get the most out of it you need not one copy, but two.
While the game excels at providing a challenging yet thrilling experience, it can feel gamey in a way that X-Wing never does. Instead of fighting until the bitter end, it’s played for a fixed six-turn duration. That makes it surprisingly quick, but can lead to bizarre situations toward the end like the leading player suddenly trying to break combat and run.
The clever twist of making fighters move after capital ships may add a lot of depth, but a moment’s consideration shows it’s also silly. It makes nimble fighters less able to react to the situation than ponderous cruisers. So you end up with the peculiar spectacle of fighters dancing around a bigger ship they can never hope to get into their target arc.
These problems are fundamental to the game, but the more models you put on the table the less of an issue they become. As the number of combatants increases, it becomes harder to run away, harder to leave your enemy without something to shoot at. Full scenarios also have objective cards which offer more complex and interesting victory conditions.
You get none of this with the starter scenario you can play with the paltry three models in the box. So right now, you need access to two copies for a satisfying game. Even then, the limited selection of ship models feels contraining after a few games. Things will improve a bit when the wave one expansions come out, but it’s still an expensive proposition.
Which is a shame, considering how great the beating heart that drives this title has the potential to be. Space combat is often imagined to be a bit like naval combat, but this is the first game that really made me feel like an Admiral. It’s just that you’ll need an Admirals salary to get the most out of the experience.
Recently, I started playing X-Wing against someone who really knew their Star Wars. They knew that Howlrunner was a female pilot, and where the YT-2400 freighter originated from in the expanded universe. They also told me something interesting: that the Hutts and their criminal networks were a faction equal in power to the Rebels of the Empire. What looked like a footnote in the films was actually a major player in the galaxy.
At that moment, I decided I needed Scum and Villainy.
Before this revelation, I’d dismissed it as a cynical marketing gimmick to sell more ships. Especially more Z-95 and Y-Wing models, designs that have languished in popularity since launch. And it is, of course: some of the ship options make that abundantly clear. It’s just that now, it looks like a fun and attractive marketing gimmick rather than a cynical one.
That said, the core set to this new faction, Most Wanted, represents good value for money. You get three ships – two Headhunters and a Y-Wing, all with variant paint schemes – and a slew of upgrade cards. It’s especially good value for Rebel players because, of course, these ships can be used in Rebel squadrons too. All you need is a Rebel version of the ships for the correct pilot base tokens.
As well as having all the cards and tokens for the ships in the box, Most Wanted provides Scum & Villainy branded pilots for some existing ships. One, of course, is the Firespray. Which means, of course, that there’s another Boba Fett pilot card. This version gets rerolls for each enemy within range one.
There are also variants for the unloved HWK-290. While they don’t make that awful ship any better, there are a couple of neat new pilot skills on offer. Who isn’t going to glee at the idea of stealing enemy focus tokens, or of taking stress to cause automatic damage to ion-disabled targets?
These sorts of abilities are emblematic of the feel of Scum and Villainy. Some of the pilots like to fly by themselves, others can pinch tokens off friendly pilots. There’s even an new kind of “illicit” upgrade, which offer nasty surprises to the enemy, like discarding to gain a free 360 degree attack. Flying a Scum squadron feels more like a ragbag collection of selfish individualists than a well-drilled military wing. And that’s exactly how it should be.
For players who are more heavily invested in Imperial ships, the benefits of Most Wanted are more questionable. There’s one or two useful upgrade cards, but nothing special. Some people may want to get in to X-Wing and start off with Scum and Villainy, and for them Most Wanted is an essential starting point. They’ll need at least one or two more ships to build a squad, though.
And what better place to start than with the Starviper. This ship is the reason I was looking for an excuse to get in to Scum and Villainy. Not because it’s overpowered or has unmissable tasty upgrades, just because it’s such a beautiful model. Like some pale, ghostly space butterfly cruising through the cosmos. It might be the best-looking ship in the whole Star Wars canon, and this miniature does it proud.
It’s no slouch in battle, either, although with a high point cost and one shield and four hull, it’s vulnerable to critical hits. To compensate it’s very maneuverable. It also has a new move, Segnor’s loop, with allows the model to about-face after taking a gentle left or right turn.
Segnor’s loop is also available to the only new big ship in the range, the IG-2000 Aggressor. Indeed this beast is incredibly dexterous for its size, also being capable of the standard K-turn, and having three attack and evade dice to boot. The fluff says that this is because the pilots of these ships were bounty-hunting droids, which didn’t need life support. So all the extra space could be filled with engines and weapons. In reality it seems an excuse to make this a small model compared to the other big ships, yet charge the same price.
In addition to that powerful stat line, the IG-20o0 title card has another surprise. Each pilot can use the pilot abilities of every other friendly Aggressor pilot on the board, regardless of distance. This at once creates fascinating tactical opportunities while being an obvious stunt to try and make people buy these models in pairs. I guess it’s just a mercy that at 36 points each, you’re only going to see two in a standard 100 point list. Either avoid this, or be prepared to invest heavily.
Which leaves us with the odd one out, the peculiar Syck Interceptor. At first glance, there’s nothing to recommend this. It’s similar to a TIE fighter, but swaps some speed and maneuverability for one point of shield. The model is ugly, aside from a nice metallic sheen. It’s so obscure that even my Star Wars fan opponent has likely never heard of it.
So what’s the point of them? Well, for two points you can buy the “Heavy Syck” title which allows you to mount a cannon, missile or torpedo option on your strange little ship. That’s not interesting in itself, but it does offer quite incredible flexibility for squad building. If you’re desperate for a particular combo that won’t quite work with the other ships on offer, chances are a Heavy Syck can carry what you need. That still makes it far from an essential purchase for Scum and Villainy players. But having one around might prove handy for creative squad builds.
And that’s the current contents of this wretched hive. At first glace, it’s hard to see why someone would want to run a whole squadron from this faction. Existing players will buy selectively for spare ships and handy upgrades. But without the draw of iconic movie starfighters, these appear destined for collectors only.
Playing with the ships, however, makes it clear where the appeal lies. While the Rebels and Imperials execute their military maneuvers with bland precision, the Scum are full of pomp and flavour. The lack of film tie-ins leaves a blank canvas for you to paint your own characters and stories. Without such obvious co-ordination and killer combos as the existing factions, you might not win quite as many games. But my word, you’ll have a lot of fun trying.
Uh oh. It’s the angry mob picture. That means that I’m about to issue forth with an unpopular opinion.
When I was in second grade, I had an Empire Strikes Back lunchbox. One of the right and proper ones made of metal with embossed images and a plastic thermos. On one side it Yoda and Luke. On the other it had Han, Chewbacca and C-3PO in the Falcon. Around the edges there were scenes from the film- Imperial Walkers, Vader, a Star Destroyer and even an image showing both Boba Fett and Bossk. Yet, contrary to the kind of logic that marketers use to sling licensed products, it never seemed to bring the magic and excitement of Star Wars to my PB&J and chips. There was no magical transmogrification that occurred that made the contained foodstuffs more Star Wars-ish. In the end, as cool as the pictures on it were and as much as they stirred my Star Wars loving heart, it was still just a lunchbox.
And so we come to Fantasy Flight Games’ latest big box release, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, by way of the school cafeteria. I’ll say this up front. This review is absolutely futile on a “pissing in the wind” level. It will not change your mind about this game, and it likely will not make a difference beyond possibly adding a lone, critical voice to the swelling triumph of this game over the hobby marketplace and mindset. The game is already a smash hit and gamers everywhere are lining up to either post the “take my money” Fry meme or to post fawningly on Boardgamegeek.com about how much they love it. I’m writing this by my front window, wondering if I should go outside and lock the front gate to keep the inevitable angry mob out.
Because quite frankly- and I am saying this not only as someone that pretty much fails their saving throw any time “game” and “Star Wars” occurs in the same product description but also as someone who desperately wants to love this game- Imperial Assault is a tremendous disappointment. Now, those of you who have followed this game’s announcements and marketing material will likely say “what did you expect” because it was plainly stated from the get-go that this was effectively a reskin of FFG’s second edition of Descent. The disappointment is that despite all of the great illustration, the obvious time and effort put into content and that plastic AT-ST miniature that had tongues wagging from the first images, this game never really feels like Star Wars. It’s a $100 Star Wars lunchbox containing a PB&J and chips that taste just like Descent.
I, somewhat famously, do not care for Descent. An article I wrote a couple of years ago called “The Descent of Descent” about how I had come to realize how much of a drag I thought it was got noticed by top brass at FFG and I was dropped from their press list. I never played the revised second edition, which by all accounts was a very streamlined and improved experience overall. Wait, I take that back. I have played the revised second edition- the one with the drawings of Luke and Han on it instead of Red Scorpion and Mad Carthag. I also played the game when it was called Doom and wasn’t saddled with a bunch of clutter, filler and a turgid pace.
So out of the gate, if you liked Descent or Descent 2.0, you’re halfway home. If you liked Doom, you’re about a quarter of the way home. If you liked none of the above, then you are at that point relying strictly on the Star Wars livery and that plastic AT-ST miiniature to sell this game to you. The multi-function dice used for combat resolution in Doom and Descent are here, as is the Overlord concept where one player controls the bad guy forces and the players control individual heroes. It is a standard move-and-or-shoot dungeoncrawler, with the map laid out at the beginning of a scenario and then populated by the Imperial player with enemies and surprises as the heroes fight through it.
The on-board action never captures the cavalier, swashbuckling attitude toward action that have made the films so popular. Just like Descent, it feels like a kludgy space-counting affair with a two-corners line of sight system that is way more cumbersome than it ought to be. The maps tend to be small, resulting in battles that feel way too much like close quarters melee even if you are blasting Stormtroopers with a DL44. There is a movement penalty to move through enemies, but no zone of control rules. So it feels a lot of times like everyone is kind of shuffling around tight spaces.
Also brought over from the Descent experience is the kind of card-creep where both the Rebel and Imperial players wind up with a bunch of cards in front of them with various powers, buffs and advantages. There are class cards, items that can be looted from supply crates and things you can buy between missions with whatever credits you earned. Fortunately, it doesn’t bog down nearly as much as Descent did, mainly due to some much cleaner rules for the Imperial player to spawn new units and generate the threat points to do so. It doesn’t take two hours to clear a room, and for that I’m grateful. Most missions can be completed in 60-90 minutes it seems, which is important since this is intended to be played as a campaign.
The campaign game isn’t just emphasized, it’s practically mandatory. There are no one-off scenarios in the rather generous assortment provided in the box and there is a really quite smart system of outcomes paired up with cards to give the players a choice of story missions or side missions to pursue. But there is nothing in the box that says “here’s how you play one mission without devoting your next four game nights to Imperial Assault”. That said, without playing the campaign and having the interstitial phase between missions where everybody levels up and acquires new stuff, you’re kind of missing on this game’s more innovative and interesting aspect.
Oh wait, there is. There is a tacked-on, card-driven “skirmish” mode for two players that was, to be honest, the main reason I wanted the game. I liked what I read from the rules early on, but I was disappointed that- just like with the campaign game- the Descent mechanics struggle to tell a Star Wars story. It isn’t seamlessly incorporated into the package, using some of the same components with some keywords and abilities ruled out and some other components that have no function in the campaign game. It feels like a dry,very ordinary tactical miniatures game but nowhere near as interesting or fun as the old Wizards of the Coast Star Wars miniature game was, or any of the other PVP-focused “dudes in a hall” games out on the market today including some of which that are published by Fantasy Flight Games. I played the skirmish game with two different people who- without prior collusion- both said that they’d rather play Star Wars: Epic Duels than the Imperial Assault skirmish. It says a lot that a mass market, silly kid’s game where you can have Mace Windu fight Darth Vader somehow captures more of the Star Wars magic than this labored, propped up hobby game.
It isn’t so much that the game isn’t specifically about canonical Star Wars events or characters. I think it’s smart that the player characters are “new”, and you’re not just playing Han, Luke, or Leia. I actually really like that they pop in the campaign in supporting roles, and I really like that when Vader shows up in a mission it’s an EVENT of the magnitude that his appearance warrants. But if you changed all the names and left the missions as-is- maybe it’s just some kind of combat mech instead of specifically an AT-ST and maybe that Chewbacca stand-in is just some kind of gorilla alien- and you’re left with the exact same game with no loss. And that game is a traditional dungeoncrawler with melee-focused combat and an emphasis on clearing rooms, completing perfunctory switch-flipping objectives and picking up some loot.
What I keep coming back to with this game- having played skirmishes and ? of a full campaign as the Imperial player and then some puttering around solo- is that the whole thing is just deceptive and lazy. It’s the kind of game founded on the notion that “theme” is the pictures and proper names, not the meaning of the actions or the narrative concepts they generate. It’s all a fa?ade, and it is clear that any time spent on developing this product was focused mainly on the missions and making it look like Star Wars. From a product design level, it succeeds. On the table, it does only if you are very forgiving about some of the dissonant points when it feels like that medieval dungeoncrawl that is this game’s chassis. Or if you get confused as to the difference between “theme” and “setting”. A plastic AT-ST and a card that has a lightsaber on it does not make a game thematic. Nor do they by default generate a sense of setting.
It’s disappointing that Fantasy Flight, having one of the most sought-after licenses in gaming, couldn’t do something more innovative, groundbreaking or compelling than slap the Star Wars logo on Descent. What a letdown this game is after the great work they’ve done with X-Wing (which was itself functionally a redevelopment of Wings of War) and the Star Wars LCG. Even the Star Wars microgame re-theme of Cold War: CIA vs. KGB feels more thematic and appropriate to the setting. However, there are apparently some restrictions regarding their license and how it intersects with Hasbro’s right to publish Star Wars board games, so it could very well be that this “adventure game” and “miniatures skirmish game” skirts around certain prohibitions- it being an existing design, and with the expansions sold in individual miniatures packs to coyly emphasis that this is miniatures game and not a board game.
I find myself almost wishing that Fantasy Flight had just done this game without the license, maybe even set in the Twilight Imperium setting or something. Or that they had chosen the excellent (and much more innovative) Gears of War to festoon with the Star Wars stickers. Hell, I think they could have made a more Star Wars-feeling game out of Nexus Ops, if they still have the license for it. At the end of the day, this game feels a whole lot like jerry-rigging the Game of Thrones license onto an existing light wargame design that does not capture any of the intrigue, melodrama or interpersonal affairs that have made that property so successful. But they’ve already done that, too.
Despite all of the above, I have to admit that I’m still playing Imperial Assault and I’m not looking to trade or sell it any time soon. It doesn’t feel like Star Wars which is the most important function of a Star Wars game, but it does have a kind of PB&J-and-chips appeal. It’s fairly bland, but anyone can digest it and fill up on it. It gets the job done if you want to play a vaguely sci-fi dungeoncrawler with decent mechanics (the Doom dice system is still great, regardless), and the campaign mechanics do help to increase the stakes of each mission even when the handful of paragraphs the Imperial player reads at key points don’t really add any tension or drama. And you won’t have trouble finding someone to play because everybody but me apparently loves this game.