Star Wars Rebellion
Excitement. Adventure. A Jedi craves not these things. But I do!
Star Wars Rebellion is a two player asymmetric war game from Fantasy Flight Games. Players will take on the roles of either the Galactic Empire or the Rebellion in a struggle for galactic influence. The Rebel player attempts to rally systems in uprising against the Empire, while the Empire attempts to tighten their stranglehold on the galaxy while searching for the Rebel base in an attempt to destroy the Rebellion once and for all.
In rough terms terms, Rebellion is a war game. One that brilliantly uses asymmetry at the heart of it's design. Asymmetry is a great thing in game design. When used properly it creates tension, narrative, momentum and keeps the players engaged. In Rebellion, asymmetry begins with the opening set up when the Rebels choose the location of the Rebel base.
The game comes with a deck of cards that show every system on the board. At the beginning of the game, the Rebel player takes one of these cards and claims it secretly as the location of the Rebel base. Each turn the Empire will draw two cards from that deck, thus narrowing down their search. A majority of mission cards for the Empire also focus on drawing more of these cards on their turn, making their sweep of the galaxy swift and ruthless.
This helps simulates and drive home the feeling of the rebels cowering in whatever corner of the galaxy they choose, trying to throw off their scent. Meanwhile, the Empire is building their arsenal, searching every system, charging as quickly as they can into the wide expanse of space with the efficiency that only space fascists could muster.
Star Wars demands this inequality, and it is felt at each turn. It takes a head to head battle for control of the galaxy and turns it into a sort of evasive dance. It's a great example of the benefits of narrative games as well. Narrative can define the relationships between the characters and give us some sense of their goals and desire. The Empire wants dominance. The Rebellion exists to resist.
From a gameplay standpoint, Rebellion's greatest strength is in the Command Phase. Players alternate between resolving missions, placing leaders on the game board, moving units and initiating combat. Basically the meat of the game.Leaders are the only means of moving units and activate missions. Leaders can oppose missions and defend systems under attack. Missions are the brunt of the of the game adding intriguing events, purpose, and narrative to all the pew pew.
There's meaningful choice here. Missions are hidden before activation with your only guess at their contents being the skill icons their leaders attach to them. Furthermore, units in a system with an allied leader can't exit the system and all opponent leaders in a system will oppose any missions taking place there. Serious thought has to be taken when it comes to your order of activation. Every activation gives your opponent a chance to retaliate. Placing a leader in a system to defend against an enemy attack or activate a mission will lock your units there.
On the negative, it is a bit long, I think longer than it really wants to be. Plan on probably 4+ hours your first time out, with a potential to run 5+. Your second game should go a bit smoother, but not by much. Also, its a two player only experience. Piggybacking with another player is just awkward and makes one player feel like a set of wheels on a TIE fighter.
Just one play and you'll be impressed and in stunned awe as to how the game manages to succeed at everything it promises. Rebellion cleverly and effortlessly offers interesting trade-offs, meaningful choices, and highly narrative driven gameplay. All the while It evoking the essence and whimsy of the original trilogy. Although it's not that similar, Rebellion's closest analog is War of the Ring. I actually think it's better than War Of The Ring. Rebellion feels more of a game unto itself, unique and original, and not just a reworking of tried and true designs and elements of the Avalon Hill War Games Era.
Final thoughts: The Force is strong in this game. Yeah, Rebellion really is/was worth the hype and extra wait it took to get it produced and on the shelves.