Star Wars is arguably one of the most powerful and significant brands out there. From movies to television to action figures to bed sheets to card games; Star Wars is everywhere. The thought of another Star Wars game on the market, especially another card game iteration, may strike some people as excessive since Star Wars: The Card Game went out of print and Star Wars Destiny tried to capitalize on the latest trilogy, to no avail. However, with a familiar brand and some familiar mechanics mixed in, it’s hard to turn away from this game.
From publisher Fantasy Flight Games and designer, Caleb Grace, the lead developer of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, comes this two player deck builder. Each side controls an imperial or rebel deck with the goal of buying new cards for their deck and controlling the force all to take out three of their opponent bases to secure a win.
The balance of the force is tracked by a double card located on the side of the play area. Players controlling the force can gain new abilities on certain cards and can even gain an extra resource if balance is completely shifted toward a player’s faction at the beginning of their turn. Rebel players start with the force balance.
Cards feature familiar characters, ships, and units from the Star Wars universe. Starter deck aside, each card has a cost located in the top left indicating the amount of resources it takes to purchase a card from the market. Each card will come with at least one of three different abilities located just under the cost: attack, resources, or force. Resources are used to purchase new cards, attack is used to attack opponent cards and bases, and the force will shift the balance towards the played faction. Some cards will also have an action printed on the card that could help remove cards from player decks, draw more cards into their hand, cause the other player to lose cards from their hand, and a variety of other actions. On the bottom of faction specific cards is a target value and reward geared toward the other player. When located in the market row, opposing players can assign their attack values to the cards to gain the reward.
In any deck building game players are constantly trying to gain new and more powerful cards and cull some of the less powerful cards from their decks. Cards are gained from a central market. In Star Wars, six cards are displayed from a common deck featuring neutral, rebel, and imperial cards. Cards are displayed facing the player who controls their faction with the target value and rewards facing the opposing player. A deck of Outer Rim pilots are always available for purchase, giving the player two resources and the ability to exile the card from their deck to gain movement on the force board.
The goal of each side is to destroy three of their opponents bases. Each side has a starting base with eight hitpoints. When a base is destroyed, it goes into a victory pile and the player can choose a new base. Each base has differing defense values and abilities when revealed. The game gives a recommended five base deck for beginning players and an advanced variant that makes all ten bases available to players and increases the win condition to four bases. Base hit points can be bolstered using capital ship cards. Any damage towards a base must first be assigned to capital ships, but once they are destroyed, any remaining damage moves to the base. As players become more familiar with the game, the creators suggest adding in more base choices and extending the win condition to four destroyed bases.
Players start each turn with a five card hand and can take a variety of actions throughout their turn. Players bring cards into play by laying them into the play area. Resources gained make up the resource pool and are used to buy cards from the market. Players can commit cards with attack values to targets in the market or to opponent bases. Attacks against market cards must equal or exceed the target value in a single turn. Attacks to bases are tracked using damage counters. Players can also activate card abilities. Once a card is played, players can execute actions in an order. All cards, except defending capital ship cards and unspent resources, will be discarded at the end of a turn and players will draw five new cards for their next turn. Play then moves to the opposing player. Players continue taking turns until the win condition is met.
The gameplay of Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is nothing unique. It builds upon mechanisms introduced in other games and is about 90% the same mechanics as a similarly themed deck building game. But it’s Star Wars. By its very nature, the theming draws you in as something familiar. Any time a popular IP can get a decent game built around it, players will flock to the experience and that is exactly what Fantasy Flight has here. Players can dive in with familiar characters, ships, and locations without having to learn the lore of another random space faction battling against an alien antagonist. With this game focusing on the events surrounding the original trilogy of movies and its supplemental material from Rouge One and Andor, there leaves a lot of Star Wars canon open for future expansion.
As with all deck builders, the first few turns are spent getting more utility cards into your deck and building a strategy. What I love about deck builder’s is shifting that strategy based on what cards are available from the market. With Star Wars, having faction specific cards in the market can mean you have a lot of options at one time or you may have to pick up some neutral cards or attack opposition cards to get the market moving. Having to balance defending your base, taking out cards from the market row, and attacking the other player’s base, can make purchasing decisions difficult. Overall, both factions seem balanced with higher valued cards available on both sides. If one player can get these more powerful cards, the game can take a downward turn for the opposing player quickly and games can end rather abruptly once a faction builds up their arsenal. This quick game play is one of the appeals, however, and can be adjusted by requiring more bases being destroyed for a longer game. Fantasy Flight has also released a variety of variants and two versus two player mode, available on their website, that utilizes two copies of the game and takes place in different battlefields with cooperative defense of a shared base.
The components of the game are of typical Fantasy Flight production value. Many copies of the game are coming with sleeves featuring the game’s artwork. With all deckbuilding games, after a few plays, you start to notice some wear on the cards and sleeving is necessary to get some long life out of the cards. One thing that threw me off were the resource and damage token colors. The yellow and purple cubes are almost garish and seem a bit out of place with the theming of the game. While the quality of the components themselves are fine and fit the utility of the game, the scheme and design of the tokens missed the mark. The insert provided was much better than the typical Fantasy Flight folded cardboard, but will quickly outgrow its contents as future expansions are released.
Overall, this is a fun game for the deck building fan and great entry into the Star Wars canon of tabletop games. Sitting across from another player, light versus dark side, brought me back to rounds of Star Wars LCG battles of old, but this new card driven entry is much more accessible to the masses and a great way to get a few battles in without a lot of complicated rules or set-up. I personally will be looking forward to how the game expands its galaxy in the future.
Familiar deck building mechanics set in the Star Wars universe. A great two player game for the newcomer and veteran deck builder with plenty of room to expand the galaxy.
- Star Wars
- Easy entry into the world of deck building with room for expansion
- Familiar deck building mechanics with some new twists
- Games can ramp up and end quickly for someone looking for a deeper experience
- Missed the boat on resource and damage markers
- Sleeves a necessity if playing a lot