Star Wars: Imperial Assault. Fantasy Flight Games, 2014. $100. Designed by Justin Kemppainen, Corey Konieczka, and Jonathan Ying. A learn to play rulebook, a rules reference book, a campaign guide, and a skirmish guide; 34 figures, 59 double-sided map tiles, 11 custom dice, 250+ cards, 150+ tokens. Includes the Luke Skywalker Ally and the Darth Vader Villain Packs. 2-5 players. 90-180 minutes.
This game is actually two games in one. The Campaign game is played by 2-5 players with one player taking the role of the Empire versus all the other opponents playing rebel heroes working together in a series of linked missions that culminate in a campaign deciding finale. The Skirmish game is played by 2 opponents, one Empire, one Rebel, using the same basic rules in a head to head miniatures battle.
Those familiar with FFG’s Descent game will quickly recognize the similarities. Board tiles are used to create a tactical map. Players divide into one Imperial (think Overlord) and the rest (1-4) Rebel Heroes. Each Hero having its own special starting abilities as well as a Class deck which gives them new abilities as they gain experience. The Imperial player chooses a Class deck, on which he will spend experience to gain new cards, and builds an Agenda deck, on which he will spend Influence to gain cards to shape the game. Experience and Influence are gained based on how well the sides do during each mission.
Each Hero and “Deployment Group”, take turns activating. When activated each figure gets two actions from a set list that includes: Move, Attack, Interact, Rest, and Special. Only Heroes can use both actions to Attack. All these actions are very similar to those in Descent, but there are some very useful differences.
For example, gone is the X on the attacking die causing you to miss completely. Instead the white defensive die allows the defender to “dodge” which causes the attack to miss. Line of Sight has also changed. You now chose one corner of the attacker’s space and trace “two straight, uninterrupted lines to two different corners of the target’s space.”
The Campaign system starts with the Rebel players selecting Heroes from among the 6 provided and then creating a Side Mission deck from specific Hero focused missions, random missions, and some missions chosen by the Rebel players. This system allows for some randomization, some choice, and insures that only some missions will be played in each campaign which increases replay value.
The campaign begins with the Introductory story mission whose outcome will then determine the next Story mission to be put into play. The Campaign log then guides the players as to which type of mission to play next, Side or Story. The Rebels will have 2 Side missions from their shuffled deck and pick one to resolve whenever a Side Mission is called for. And certain Imperial Agenda cards will also force the players to confront Forced missions. While every few missions the Campaign log will direct you to play the next Story mission, whose outcome will then determine the next one. The Missions themselves are both tactical combat situations and stories that unfold from hidden information only known to the Imperial Player.
The many missions all include narrative to set the scene and information hidden from the Rebel Heroes as they explore the situation and find their way past surprises to victory. Depending on the outcome, the Heroes and the Imperial player gain abilities as they progress through the campaign to its finale. The winner of the final mission wins the campaign.
For those more interested using the range of Star Wars miniatures to create head to head battles, there is the Skirmish system. Each player takes one side and builds an army using Deployment cards and adds to this Command cards. Skirmish mission cards define the map and special rules and add setting and variety for these combats. The basic rules for resolving the fight remain the same as those used for missions in the Campaign, though there are differences (for example, figures cannot Rest).
The Campaign system is very rich. And with additional Villain and Ally packs on the horizon (the core set comes with the packs for Luke & Darth Vader) the possibilities will simply increase.
Of course I can criticize some elements, such as having 4 books (Learn to Play Guide, Rules Reference, Skirmish Guide, and the Campaign Guide) which is a LOT of information to read scattered across many pages of separate books or the fact that the miniatures are unpainted, the overall result is a system that is easy to play, fast paced, with lots of variety, two ways to play, and has the look and feel of the best of the movies.
While a campaign can take quite a few missions to complete, and every mission can take 2-3 hours, the end result is a Star Wars saga of your own making!
Though I believe this review to be fair and objective, I feel obligated to provide the following information. This review was written using a Beta test copy of the game provided by Fantasy Flight Games. I was a beta play tester for FFG on this game. I have a long standing relationship with Fantasy Flight Games as a freelance contractor. No compensation for this review was involved.
c2014 by Richard A. Edwards