Imperial Assault Campaign – The Battle for Yavin (NAGA @ 19-01-2015)

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Star Wars: Imperial Assault was released on December 31, 2014 by Fantasy Flight Games is designed for 2-5 players of Ages 14+.  The box literature and design of the game puts it at 1-2 hours per game.

So last night at NAGA we started the Imperial Assault Campaign that will be running every third Wednesday of the Month.

There were four “hero” Rebel players (Mitchell “Mitch” Dunton, Dave Baxter, Edward “Ed” King and I, Jason Marden) and our GM, Alan Mathieson, playing the Galactic Empire.  Our brave rebels were positioned outside a building, whilst inside and ready for war were an Imperial squad consisting of: three Stormtroopers, an Imperial officer, a probe droid and an E-Web Heavy Repeating Blaster (a bloody great big tripod mounted immobile gun).  Our objectives were to grab the crates, destroy the Access Terminals and stay alive.

Alan had to leave early due to other commitments but we’d get a few turns played hopefully.  The game started without me so I missed how easy it was to setup and get into it.  By the time I’d arrived a few of our party had already taken significant damage from the well positioned E-Web sentry gun…..not helped by Ed opening the door to the bunker it was hiding behind.

Its created quite the buzz around the SWXW and NAGA communities I hang around in and was very eagerly anticipated with high numbers of pre-orders.  I will admit to not being a huge fan of the SW franchise and only having me and OH Lucy to play made purchasing this myself pretty low on my list of gaming priorities for 2015.

We discussed buying it at Hairy Gamer HQ with Hairy Gamer Tris and we both felt that it was a bit meh so wouldn’t invest.  Tris later grumbled something about “mistakes being made” and how he “just happened to be passing a shop with large stocks of the game” so he now has a copy.

Fantasy Flight Games has been doing great things with the “Star Wars” license including Star Wars X-Wing, and the release of “Imperial Assault” only adds to this reputation for exciting yet sensitive handling of the SW Universe.  It would seem that everything FFG touch turns to gold with regards to SW.  The quality of the components and the thought gone into the game cannot be questioned and it certainly gives a very SW feel.

As a new player to Imperial Assault at first looks it has the feel of old school games such as “Space Crusade” or “Heroquest” but brought right up to date.  Other players likened it to “Descent”, a game I have not played.  Bringing the classic play and style from games like “Descent” and “Space Crusade” into the SW Universe is a smart move. By all accounts from my fellow players it’s certainly a tweaked version of “Descent,” so if you’re familiar with that game, you’re going to feel very familiar with “Imperial Assault” right out of the box.

The box is huge and contained everything we needed to get involved.  There are a large number of  modular double-sided board pieces are gorgeously illustrated with classic Star Wars imagery.  The decks of cards have evocative images from the Star Wars universe.  The four books Learn To Play, Rules Reference Guide, Campaign Guide, and Skirmish Guide are well written, formatted, and organized.  There are also a number of sheets of token which required “punching out” before you could play.  Plus of course all the miniatures required to play the game which I’ll cover next.

There are a number of Rebel characters to play (shown by the buff/sand coloured miniatures in the picture below).  These include: a Wookie, a Sniper, a Jedi, a Smuggler, a rebel Commander, and a Soldier. Each has their strengths and weaknesses e.g. weapon range, movement and health, but working together means you can have a solid unit to try and complete the mission at hand. including Smugglers, Jedi, etc.  Each  can be further tweaked with the addition of equipment and gear.  There are also a “cast of thousands” of Imperial characters for the GM to play.  They range from the ubiquitous Storm Troopers, to Patrol Droids, to Royal Guards and Imperial Officers.  Again each can be tweaked by gear.

The Smuggler

Jyn Odan, The Smuggler

The Rebel Commander

Gideon Argus, The Rebel Commander

The Jedi

Diala Passil, The Jedi

The Soldier

Fenn Signis, The Soldier

The Sniper

Mak Eshka’rey, The Sniper

The Wookie

Gaarkhan, The Wookie

The GM plays the part of the Empire who is able to command almost limitless amounts of troops, while the rest of the players take on the persona of a single rebel character.

(Mitch – Soldier, Dave – Sniper, Ed – Jedi, Jase – Smuggler)

The game has two modes; the straightforward skirmish game pits two players against each other. The set contains enough pieces to cobble together Rebels versus Imperial Forces games with plenty of bad guys but less selection for the goodies. In the skirmish game, each player also selects 15 command cards, and these provide an interesting set of advantages. This ability to tinker and refine the game to suit your play style makes this version of the game stand out from its competitors, and also injects a fun Star Wars feel.

But the main appeal of Star Wars:Imperial Assault for me personally is its scenario-based campaign mode. The game comes with a beautifully detailed, narrative campaign book that allows upto five players to play through a series of Star Wars-esque adventures. This is the mode we will be using.  One player, Alan, takes the role of the Galactic Empires forces, whilst everyone else picks a single Rebel character to play. After you’ve stopped squabbling over who gets to play the Wookiee or the Jedi, play begins. By all accounts those that have previously played Fantasy Flight Games’ “Descent” will be on familiar ground here, missions within missions and small win conditions even when you lose; lots of baddies to kill, a goal to achieve, and an enemy determined to stop you. Each successful mission leads to the winning side getting rewarded with a ‘level-up,’ making each game as compelling as the last.  Grabbing crates of loot leads to Experience points extra gear to use and credits to be equally shared amongst the party.

The game comes with a variety of figures for play, including an incredibly cool looking, huge AT-ST, as well as figures for each individual rebel hero; Jedi’s, Smugglers, Wookies. Some of the limbs, weapons and parts on the miniatures are very fine and suffer the same frailty issues as some of the X-Wing miniatures.  Dave commented that before the box was even opened he had a broken leg on his Patrol Droid but in a display of the usual excellent Fantasy Flight Games Customer service a quick email resolved that and a new droid was dispatched.  The miniatures do have some very bendy components which can be put back in place with some warm water (this tends to occur on things like Lightsabres).  Tris did mention that elements of the AT-ST were quite difficult to assemble being an interference fit.  This meant a liberal application of brute force to get the bits together and a fear that the model would break under such strain.  This wasn’t to be the case but you have been warned.  They come unpainted, so if you’re a painter, this gives you a lot of “Star Wars” themed miniatures to work on.

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The game board is modular and can take a bit of time to set up between missions, but it’s a great map system and improves upon the map tiles from “Descent.”  With the new board comes new line of sight rules from Fantasy Flight that might cause some consternation among some players. In an effort to streamline play and make it move faster, line of sight works as long as you can draw two unobstructed lines to different corners of another square from any corner of your origin square.

The basic rules only took us through the actions (move, attack, interact, rest, and special), how the turns work and combat (using the array of dice included in the game). The Rebels move one character, then the Imperials and so forth. The odds at this very early stage of play seem incredibly stacked against the Rebels but within the Star Wars reality, this was the case around the Battle of Yavin. As we hopefully explore the game in more depth in the coming weeks, it will become clear if this remains or if the game offers the Rebel Alliance a chance to get the upper hand.

Your characters basic actions and statistics are governed by his/her statline from the Characters Card.  The Key stats are Health, Endurance, Speed (for movement) and Defense.  The card also defines how many dice and what types of dice you roll for certain actions.

Combat is based on a number of coloured dice.  You roll the dice specified on your weapon (red, blue, green, yellow) and the total of the numbers rolled plus any modifiers equals the range your weapon can fire.  The number of “explosion” hit icons determines the damage taken plus any modifiers from special skills or equipment or weapons.  The number of “lightening” boon icons determines any special effects or additional damage based on skills and equipment. The defending character rolls a defense dice, either white or black dependant on what the characters card says.  Certain symbols cancel hits and other symbols cancel Boon abilities.  If you are hit you receive damage tokens equal to the number of hits.  Once you reach the same number of tokens as your Health, as determined by your character card then your character card is “flipped” over and all damage removed, leaving any other tokens such as Stress.

Your character can use Stress tokens to perform certain actions or take extra movement allowance (1 stress per square).  My character, the Smuggler, can take two stress tokens to interrupt an enemy characters activation and shoot them, like a “sentry” or “overwatch” type action.

The best thing about Fantasy Flight is that they’ve been able to, across their entire “Star Wars” line, create gameplay that promotes the feel of “Star Wars.” The game is paced briskly, there are more roleplaying and problem solving elements than you’d expect, and you feel like the fate of the galaxy is at stake. That you’re able to use actual “Star Wars” characters in the game is a bonus.

Another bonus is that the game brings extra playability to it with expansions. For those looking for the “big names” of Star Wars there is a steady release schedule throughout 2015 introducing infamous characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. By the looks of things each expansion comes complete with figures, cards to play with them, as well as new maps and missions specific to their characters. Again I feel that the limited selection of factions to play will hinder this game.  I felt the same way about Star Wars X-Wing (another Fantasy Flight Games product) but they will shortly be releasing the Scum and Villainy faction.  It would be nice for other film elements to be introduced.  I would love to see more prequel era stuff or different factions such as Bounty Hunters and Separatists incorporated into the game and hopefully the expansions can bring that to us. It would be a smart move for FFG to look at an expansion pack or prequel box to come out that will be Jedi vs. Seperatists focused. This game focuses pretty heavily on the Rebellion, though.  In fact it focuses mostly on the hours/days immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star, the Battle of Yavin.

Overall, I find this game a worthy addition to any Mancave, not just those of “Star Wars” fans. It’s made for a few great game nights in my house and I think it would do the same in your house. I’d recommend not playing with less than 4 players, though. Less than that didn’t seem as though it would be as fun. Games like this always seem to work better with larger groups.

The appropriate age-range is pretty wide, too. I had a lot of fun playing with a group of my peers. The basic rules are easy to grasp and the gameplay is very fluid, so I think the recommended age range is a little higher than it needs to be.

Summary

I’m going to give it an 8.5 out of 10. It looks great, has a lot of replayability, is reasonably easy to learn, and builds on a winning formula.

The models are nicely detailed and unpainted allowing for players to customize them themselves.  Sadly they can be easily broken.

I think the rules could have been laid out in a far more user-friendly way and perhaps were a little text heavy.  We certainly questioned the text of certain cards and the interactions they had. Then again, I don’t think this sort of game (costing between £65 and £80) is one that someone might buy on a whim.

There is a massive campaign version of the game just like FFG’s previous outing “Descent” as well as the option to play in skirmishes, offering enough replayability to make the suggested retail price more than worth it.

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