The galaxy has been undergoing a civil war for years. Planets that were once host to many thriving forms of life have been turned into piles of cosmic ash. As the Empire took out the Republic and its protecting knights, the Jedi Council, entire civilizations were in danger of annihilation. Some flee to distant stars with their lives never to be found again, some fought and died in battle, some struggle with survival. The empire’s fleet of destruction continues to conquer the galaxy and destroy everything in its way.
Some people however, decided to stand their grounds and fight back. They formed an alliance across the different systems of the galaxy and came to be known as the Rebels, the militia who organizes and leads the Rebellion. The Rebel Alliance has recently become quite a thorn on the Empire’s side and their commanding officer, Darth Vader, is not pleased with their operations being sabotaged and their territorial planets showing resistance. Impressively, they have managed to keep their main base hidden from the Empire’s iron fist, but Darth Vader continues to venture through space seeking the Rebellion’s main base of operation; intending to burn it down.
In this very moment, the Empire’s world-destroying weapon and head of fleet has set course towards planet Alderaan. Darth Vader attempts to send a message to the Rebel forces across the galaxy that will be a hard one to miss. By destroying one of the Rebel Alliance’s key planets and all life forms on it, the Empire is sure to earn some respect and fear. The Sith lord takes pleasure in the people being afraid.
Thousands, perhaps millions have fought in this galactical conflict and a countless lot have lost their lives. The war yet wages on. To finish this war once and for all, difficult choices must be made, hard tasks need to be done and sacrifices will be inevitable. This means that there are very few people whose actions can change the tide of the battle and decide the fate of the galaxy. A special few who may not realize how crucial a role they play in this scene.
As a young girl, brought up in a house of nobles, tries to make her way through enemy forces to deliver important technical data to the Rebel forces, which is necessary for saving Alderaan, beneath all the heat of the galactic war, a farm boy dreams of walking among the stars. Both of these children will soon find their place in the world and must have what it takes to save the galaxy from the unforgiving hands of the dark force wielders. As the Force awakens once more, the Empire prepares to strike.
As we celebrated May the 4th just about a week ago, I got to bring out of the shelf my favorite Star Wars themed board game and I realized I just had to write about it. Star Wars: Rebellion is a massive space combat game for 2-4 players which takes about 3-4 hours to play depending on your pace and personal level of experience. The game focuses on strategical space combat while also following the narrative of the galactic civil conflict right after A New Hope and prior to Return of the Jedi.
This title is an asymmetrical game, in other words, each team has their own unique path towards victory and follow a certain objective. One player controls the fleet of the dark side, who’s charged with exploring the galaxy in search of the hidden Rebel Alliance headquarters and the other takes helm of the forces of the rebellion and tries to evade the Empire’s grasp while also sabotaging their affairs.
Published in 2016 by Fantasy Flight Games, Rebellion features a huge game board, which depicts George Lucas’s galaxy in a beautiful way and a large scale, 150 high quality plastic miniatures representing the space ships and combat forces of each faction, and numerous cards and tokens used in various objectives, tactics and actions. Special dice for combat rolls are also included which I’m not a huge fan of, but is quite standard for a game of this genre.
Designed by the same brilliant mind behind Twilight Imperium, Battlestar Galactica, Eldritch Horror and much more, Corey Konieczka, this Star Wars entry is one that should absolutely not be missed out on by anyone who’s into Star Wars (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) and strategical interplanetary combat.
The Rebellion Has Begun
Throughout the course of the game, the Imperial player seeks to fid and capture the Rebels’ base of operations and the Rebel player works towards building a good name for the resistance and dealing damage to the Empire’s plans. The objective of the Rebel player can vary depending on the objective cards they draw each round but the Empire’s goal remains the same.
You could argue that the Imperial party has more room for maneuver since they have only one objective to focus on, and while that may be partially true due to the asymmetric nature of this game, in practice, leading Imperial forces sometimes requires even more strategy than leading the Rebellion. If it was an easy task, the Emperor wouldn’t have put his best man on the job.
The Rebel Alliance player has a better position for unpredictable plays. While it requires considerable flexibility to play the Rebel side, it can also be very rewarding if you plan your moves carefully. The element of surprise is on your side but it’s up to you to take proper advantage of it. You’ll have a team of different leaders whom you can assign to different tasks around the map and have them return with the rewards and increase in reputation that each completed assignment brings you. Choosing the right person for the right job adds yet another level of strategical depth to the gameplay.
Each round is divided into three phases. The assignment phase, the command phase, and the refresh phase. In the assignment phase, each player has to send their chosen leaders on their missions. Whether they succeed or not depends highly on which mission you assign to which one of your leaders. Next, within the command phase, players get a chance to reveal their missions and/or travel to new systems.
Finally, there’s a refresh phase where everyone gets to regroup and prepare for the next round. During this phase, you’ll bring all your leaders back to your leader pool and draw two new mission cards. If you’re playing as the Empire, you’ll also draw two probe cards, while the Rebel player gets to draw an objective card. Both players eventually deploy new units and the time marker moves forward.
If at any point during the game Rebel and Imperial forces end up in the same system, they must engage in combat. Your X-wings are dice here and just like many other combat systems within the American Style genre, the conflicts are resolved by a rolling of dice. There are, however, utilities at your disposal that you may use to increase your odds of winning in battle. Certain item cards will come to your help in both defense and offense. The dice, as always, leaves some to be desired but the uncertain nature of dice rolls makes the occurrence of combat quite exciting.
Rebels win if the time marker and their reputation marker end up in the same spot and the Empire wins if they manage to find and eliminate the base of the Rebellion before they run out of time. It’s an immersive epic struggle between good and evil all the way through.
Star Wars Rebellion has only had one expansion released so far but it’s a worthy addition to the game and refreshes the experience very nicely. Let’s take a quick look at Star Wars Rebellion: Rise of the Empire and what it brings to the table.
Rise of the Empire
This expansion pack was released in 2017, a year after the base game’s publication date, in an attempt to bring the story of Star Wars: Rogue One to tabletop. Although it can’t confidently be called an adaptation of Rogue One, it’s been heavily inspired by it and the creators have stated so themselves.
This well-received expansion brings a ton of new features to the base game, including new familiar leaders for both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire that have been taken from the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the animated TV series Star Wars: Rebels. And let’s not forget about the new unit types, like the speedy B-Wing and the powerful TIE Defender.
Rise of the Empire also introduces new missions, objectives, and systems that’ll totally up the ante and keep you engaged for hours on end. Fans of the franchise will also be excited to hear that the most destructive epic weapon of the Star Wars Universe, the Death Star, is now active and in the game. The Imperial player gets unstoppable firepower that allows them to blow up planets while the Rebels have a shot at the most memorable infiltration mission recorded in the history of the galaxy.
Overall, this expansion adds a lot of exciting new content to the game that’s been influenced heavily and impressively by the Rogue One movie and it’s a worthy purchase for anyone who wants to amp up their Rebellion or relive the events of the motion picture in tabletop form.
What It’s Like
Rebellion is an immersive thematic experience and that’s the least that we could expect Fantasy Flight to do with George Lucas’s classic. But is that enough to make it a great board game?
Firstly, you can’t help comparing this game to others released by the same brand or designed by the same designer. The similarities are very obvious and even though the familiarity greatly helps the learning curve of the game, it can come across to some players as a lack of variety. I don’t entirely agree with that because the magic of adaptations is recreating a popular atmosphere and convey the feelings it invokes. While not entirely original, Rebellion manages to do that in a pleasantly engaging way.
As far as replayability goes, I can see myself as a hardcore Star Wars fan playing this game for a week on end since I get my hands on it and then leave it in the shelf for every May 4th. But that description doesn’t do the title justice because its vastly due to my lack of time and many other games to play; because the game by itself, even more so with the expansion pack, has a lot to offer. Specially for fans, each session of this game can be as exciting as the first one but if not for its distinct theme and audience, many could just as easily go back to playing Twilight Imperium or their other favorite space opera.
The scales of this entire game are massive and it can be expected to take a little longer than usual to set up and play, but the good news is that the rule book is comprehensive and specially if you’re familiar with Corey’s other games, you should have no problems learning your way around the galaxy. Still not a game I’d play short on time, but setting it up and explaining it to novice players doesn’t feel at all like a chore.
The gameplay isn’t too complicated nor too simple, but still suffers the same unoriginality that I mentioned before. That said however, if you set Rebellion up looking for a fun Star Wars experience, you won’t end up disappointed by how well it captures the Star Wars feeling.
As said before, Star Wars is more than just a franchise. It is a lifestyle and for anyone who’s been living it for as long as I have been, this game a true gem among the many Star Wars entries out there. Even if you aren’t as much of a fan of Star Wars as I am, you’ll still find many positive notes on this award-winning title and will have a great time playing it as either side of the war.
It’s a great way for newcomers to get familiar with the basis of Star Wars and an even better way for lifelong fans to relive some of their favorite space actions.
If you have any thoughts regarding Star Wars: Rebellion, make sure to share them with us down in the comments!