2-4 players, Competitive, Strategic War Game
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Artwork: Matt Allsopp
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Overview of Gameplay
In Star Wars: Rebellion you assume the mantle of either the Rebels or the Empire in an effort to either complete missions until you have successfully weakened the Empire or Discover and destroy the Rebels hidden base respectively.
To do these things you will be playing over a series of game rounds that consist of placing heroes to go on missions, move troops to different systems (planets and surrounding space) or oppose your opponents forces. That is the main meat of the game but there are other interesting facets like unit production based on what planets you have loyalty on, a decent combat system when you do meet head to head and the ever-tightening hand that the Empire has around your throat. The gameplay varies a great deal depending on which side you play on as both sides have completely different overall objectives to win. To give you a little better idea of this I will explain in some detail each side.
First the Rebels. Right at the beginning after each player has placed down units and systems have been chosen the Rebel player picks a system in secret. This is the hidden base system and it has a specific spot on the board so the Rebels can furnish it with troops during the game and not give away its location. So the Rebels are unique in the fact that only they get to draw and work towards these objective cards. The Rebel player gets to draw one at the end of each round (Refresh Phase) and these things have a variety of things to accomplish so the Rebel player can slowly move his objective tracker down the board. They do take some time to complete and you can only complete 1 refresh one per round and 1 combat one per round so don’t be expecting to save a bunch up for a sneaky win outta nowhere. Also the board state changes quite often as far as where units are so if you can complete one…..you better complete it. Once the Rebels objective tracker meets the games basic round tracker, the Rebels win! It’s important to note here that the Rebels are greatly outnumbered in the game. Don’t go into this expecting to fight the Empire head on militarily. As the Rebel player you need to be concise and sneaky, sabotaging Empire production lines, gaining loyalty in systems to garner support etc. Your mission is to survive and hinder the Empire long enough to pull out a win, keep them chasing their tails.
Now on the other hand playing as the Empire affords you with all the resources and units that you would expect. Your army, even starting systems are greater than that of the Rebel players. You can very quickly move troops around on the board subjugating systems in an effort to locate the hidden Rebel base. You can start work on secret projects like the powerful super star destroyer or a SECOND death star, if you draw the cards that is. You see for all the power that the Empire has, they are powerless in the fact that they just do not know where that pesky Rebel base is located. There are tons of systems on the board that the Rebels could be hiding on, but where? Luckily the game does throw the Empire a little bone and each round during the refresh phase they draw 2 probe droid cards which each have one planet. These cards show systems that the Rebel players base IS NOT. Even with those probe droids out scanning the galaxy the Empire will be hard-pressed to locate the base before the Rebels complete the number of objectives to win. You see for the Empire to locate the base they must make landfall on the planet or gain loyalty on the system. It’s much more time consuming for the empire to gain that precious loyalty than the Rebels AND there are two kinds of loyalty that the Empire has to contend with: Subjugated and Full Loyalty. If you go in all willy nilly and land ground troops on a planet you subjugate that system, which, will cause the Rebel player to reveal if it is the rebel base (if it’s there). However subjugated systems only produce half as many units as the full loyalty systems. It’s easy to invade, but it comes at a cost. Now it instantly sounds like the Empire has a massive leg up over the Rebels, and in some forms they do. But not to worry, the game is balanced almost to perfection and no matter which side you play as, you will enjoy the time you put into it.
These are some of the things you need to take into account when playing as either side. Both sides are a thrill to play but have VERY different strategies to employ.
Win Condition /Length
Rebels: Complete objectives until the round tracker meets the objective tracker
Empire: Locate and destroy the hidden Rebel base
It’s a pretty long game any way you slice it. I would say minimum 3 hours of a constant board flux awash with different troops and heroes going on missions.
You know setup really isn’t all that bad. For as epic as this game is, there really is not all that much needed to do to get started. You have a few card draw piles but the board/s have locations for most of them which makes remembers setup super easy. Mostly you will be sorting out the number of different plastic minis that represent your faction….or not. Heck you could just dump all the Empire minis into a pile and pick from it while you play, it kinda depends on how neat you want your specific play areas. The longest bit of setup time comes from the initial board setup drawing the system cards to show which systems each player has units to start with and then placing said units.
Takedown is quicker, bag up the stuff you want bagged and toss it in the box. Depending on how you separate everything you can determine just how fast you want takedown to be.
The components are all of a good quality, pretty much what you would expect with a typical Fantasy Flight game anymore. The minis are detailed and solid with a wide variety of each for both sides, the Death Star under construction is a particularly cool one. The cards all have a nice linen finish and a good thickness to them and of course comes with some of those miniature sized cards that almost all Fantasy Flight games come with. The dice have a good weight to them and have unique icons that are recessed and painted, they feel high quality.
The gameboards, yes BOARDS, are also of a good quality. You see this game is epic in more ways than one and as such includes two boards that you have to push together to form the one gigantic playing board. Before I bought the game and was reading about this, this was my main concern with the game. I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t just one big board folded up, because you have to use both of them to play the game. Honestly after having played a number of times I don’t even notice that there are two boards. The boards don’t bow or warp so everything sits flush and smooth. Not only that but the board looks incredible. I love the variety of planets displayed on the board and of course they are all from the Star Wars universe so any fan of this material will instantly recognize most if not all of them.
I usually complain about Fantasy Flights boxes and storage as every game they release has the most pitiful excuse for an insert. They make their inserts MOSTLY for shipping punchboards. Luckily this games insert isn’t all that terrible. I mean it’s still the same old thing we’ve come to expect with Fantasy Flights inserts but with this game it works ok. The box is deep enough that once you bag up the components they fit down into the recesses of the insert and the boards and instruction booklets sit atop it nicely. The lid goes on and everything stays in place.
Here’s the thing, I think the reason this particular insert works with this game is just because the game doesn’t have a SUPER massive amount of different tokens to contend with unlike a lot of their other games. You can easily bag up all the tokens in one bag in this one with little increase in setup time.
On the other hand there are a bookoo of different kinds of minis so I wouldn’t be surprised if some would rather have those more organized in the box. In that case this insert will not work for any kind of organization as you must have everything bagged up as is.
Visual Appeal /Theme
If you are a fan of Star Wars then you are just going to love this. Visually you are going to see all the main and support characters of the original trilogy represented as well as 32 planets on the board. A ton of different unit miniatures such as Stormtroopers, Airspeeders, AT-AT’s, Ion Cannons, Star Destroyers and more. I mean going in this game just drips with Star Wars theme and put it to great use. The artwork on the cards is excellent as well. I mean all around A+ visually on this one.
There are two rulebooks, a Learn to Play and a Rules Reference. You really only need to go through the learn to play book starting out and use the Rules Reference for any lingering questions that you may have in a bit more detail. I like the way Fantasy Flight has been doing this with more and more of their games as I think it does help shorten the time it takes to learn how to play. And for the most part the Learn to Play guide is good for setup and jumping in and playing a game. It also has a sweet turn and phase reference on the back of the book so you can keep that out and look it over during your first few games which I always love.
That said there were some lingering rules questions that were not addressed in either book. Also some of the wording of some of the rules was a little odd which created confusion. The learn to play booklet would have benefited more from more picture examples for sure.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
This game generates a good amount of table talk even though you’re not working together. When you send your heroes on missions and the other player opposes you with one of their heroes it creates an interesting bit of tension and theme. You both will roll a certain amount of dice based on the skill of each hero involved to see who wins. The theme part of this comes from the heroes and missions you take part in that are from the movies. So for example, you decide to use Lando Calrissian for the mission to travel to the Dagobah system to train with Yoda. I mean if you had Luke unlocked to send he would get a bonus of becoming a Jedi Knight, which is also really cool. In any case Lando trained with Yoda and now he gets to reroll one die during future missions.
In another example you sent Chewbacca to sabotage the production of Star Destroyers but the Empire sent Darth Vader to oppose you. In either case both heroes are stuck in that system until the next round. Later in the round the Empire player sends Boba Fett to that same system in an attempt to capture Chewbacca and succeeds! Now that Chewbacca is captured later on in other rounds or possibly in the same round the Empire player could play the card that would freeze Chewbacca in Carbonite!
And those are just a couple of interesting, majorly thematic events that can transpire during a typical game. These events really add to the overall fun you will have ESPECIALLY if you are a Star Wars fan. Coming into this game not knowing much about Star Wars and just basing your fun off the gameplay alone and you probably won’t like it nearly as much. It turns into a basic strategy game of trying to complete objectives and moving around units. The theme is what makes this game.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
The game is marketed as a 2-4 player game and can be played that way but the 4 player aspect feels a bit tacked on in an effort to expand the market for the game. At its heart this is a 1 vs. 1, 2 player game and that’s the way I would recommend playing it. With one person controlling the Empire and the other controlling the Rebels. At 4 players you have to split the responsibility of units and some actions between the players. It becomes more of a burden than anything however they do a good job of outlying who does what in the instruction manual at least.
The game is infinitely replayable just like a game of chess is replayable. There is some variation to the starting locations for each faction at the onset and of course what mission and hero cards you will draw and can use. This will change your strategy on what you might try to do each round but your overall objective always remain the same. I have played many games and enjoyed each just as much as the last. Even though I have gotten to the point of knowing what each card does and expecting certain cards I have never drawn out the mission deck completely so there are always some that I don’t get to see every game. I expect Fantasy Flight to release expansions for the game over time (there is already one out at the time of this writing) that will add more to the game that will continue to increase the variability.
I was impressed at how much I enjoyed playing this when I played my first game. What impressed me even more is that I found myself craving it. I had other games that had come in that I needed to learn and play but I found myself thinking about Star Wars: Rebellion. This is a rare gem of a game that is not only pretty straight forward but also incredibly deep. Add to that the amazing theme and you have a game that any Star Wars fan should at the very minimum play, if not buy.