Finally, I got to sit down and play Rebellion with some friends. We met at 401 Games using their game room, a nice space with one glass wall overlooking Younge Street. Our first game was divided into teams, with Yik and James playing the evil Empire while Josh (creator of the X-Wing Campaign: Heroes of the Aturi Cluster) and I played the heroic Rebel Alliance.
It took a long time to play. We met up around 6pm and stopped around midnight. Lucky for us 401 was open late because of some Magic the Gathering event. We did spend some time setting up and chatting so those hours weren’t all in feverish game play. Still, the game has a definite learning curve and took a while it’s first time out.
Once we started playing I realized I knew the rules a lot less well than I thought. We referenced the rule books quite a bit to make sure we played correctly. Luckily for me, Josh and Yik are very experienced gamers so finding answers even after hours of play when everyone was a little tired form a long day, didn’t take much effort.
I must mention the game looks great when laid out on a table. The miniatures are pretty well made and the art used in the game is fantastic. I will be painting the entire set of miniatures and plan to do a painting guide for each faction, so keep your eye out for those articles if you’re a painter.
Our game had some fun thematic moments and memorable stories. There was a battle for Mon Calamari early on. When Lando first appeared he liberated the planet, using maneuvers from the battle of Taanab I’d imagine. Later, he led another liberating attack and removed the occupying Imperial ground forces. However, the Empire had a Star Destroyer and TIEs in orbit for the entire match, so Mon Calamari was effectively locked down as we couldn’t deploy Rebel units there.
The Empire developed a strategy of spreading out quickly and subjugating as many worlds as possible. As a Rebel player I thought this strategy was flawed since many of our objectives could be scored against weakly defended subjugated systems. However, by spreading out, the Empire was choking our production and limiting where we could deploy our units.
One memorable moment was when a Star Destroyer attacked a Mon Calamari Cruiser. We were going to retreat but Admiral Piett’s action card called Keep Them From Escaping was played which prevented the Rebels from retreating. It brought a smile to my face as I said his line from Return of the Jedi, “We only need to keep them from escaping…” what a fun game for any Star Wars geek!
The ensuing space battle over Coruscant was easily won by the Rebels but the single Storm Trooper lead by Lord Vader defeated the single rebel trooper unit led by Luke Skywalker. The Rebels just didn’t have the resources to muster a better ground attack, but even with their meager resources they came oh so close to capturing Coruscant and scoring significant objective points.
In the end, the Rebel base was revealed to be on Yavin (of course!). A funny moment happened when a passer by heard this and chimed in, “Come on, you didn’t know the Rebel base was on Yavin? Everyone knows that!” It’s moments like that which make Rebellion a great game.
The power of being the attacker factored in that final, fateful battle. The Empire attacked with Vader leading a strike team of slightly better ground forces (2 At-St’s and 4 Storm Troopers vs 1 Snow Speeder and 4 Rebel Troopers). Luke was commanding the defence.
As the Rebel side, we thought we had a good chance of weathering the ground assault but we were hopelessly outnumbered in the space battle. If we survived on the ground until the end of the phase, we could evacuate the Rebel base by playing the Base Relocation card, Rapid Mobilization.
Yik rolled very well for the Empire, drawing many ground attack cards. That was where the power of being the attacker with lots of dice was made evident to me. We only had three cards possible to play in defence, whereas the attacker had access to many more with a good roll. You have to factor that in when judging a battle’s outcome. I also saw the benefit of putting a shield generator or an Ion Cannon in the Rebel base. Since the Rebels were always outgunned, these previously dismissed units now looked very appealing to have in hindsight.
Sadly, the Rebels were defeated at the battle of Yavin when Vader’s strike team overwhelmed Luke’s staunch defence. It was a very close game as the Rebels were a few points shy of victory themselves. Had they survived the attack and relocated, the Empire wouldn’t have been able to get to Ilum in time (we peeked at the probe deck after the game ended).
Looking back at how we played, it was evident that none of us really knew what we were doing. There were plenty of missed opportunities for both sides. The Empire could have started capturing leaders early in the game and ran more missions instead of always trying to counter the Rebels. The Rebels could have deployed their units better, thought about the order of operations for which mission goes first and perhaps relocated the rebel base a turn earlier.
All that is a good thing in my opinion as it means Rebellion is a deep game. I’d estimate three playthroughs are needed to get a decent grasp of the rules and cards. Team play proved fun as there was a lot to think about and talking it out during a game with four heads is better than two.
Also, using a game as an excuse to get together with a group of friends and then geek out about Star Wars is a great way to spend an evening. I had lots of fun and can’t wait to play again.
Here are some thoughts from the Imperial side of things with Yik’s views on the game.
Grand Moff Yik
Pros: Really feels like the original trilogy movies. The game focuses on characters and their missions and has an excellent asymmetric feel – the Empire is mighty and can defeat any concentrated Rebel Force but the Rebels just keep coming out of the woodwork to harass you.
Cons: Way too long of a game. It is not fun after 4 hours. Your Imperial units move very slowly so many of your units end up “trapped” in useless locations (e.g. the Death Star never got used because it was on the wrong side of the board) Searching for the rebel base can be frustrating. I understand why Darth Vader choked Admiral Ozzel!