Star Wars Rebellion, First Impressions

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.

12946879_10154004663225119_302562127_oI 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.

12915277_10154004663415119_87601308_oThe 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.

12953235_10154004663650119_1262966920_oOne 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!

12914861_10154004663720119_2093202549_oA pivotal moment came when the Rebel fleet appeared (by playing the Hidden Fleet Card) near the lightly defended Coruscant System and then attacked!

Rebellion Hidden Fleet

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.

objective-heart-of-the-empireIn 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.

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The end of this insignificant Rebellion!

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.

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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!

Ozzel_croaks

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4 thoughts on “Star Wars Rebellion, First Impressions”

  1. Great review! Nice pics too. It’s funny because I act all hesitant, but in all honesty, I’ll be buying this game at some point. I like the thematic inclusions. I’m a board gamer at heart and tend to play games for the social aspect, so this game could be a good addition to our group’s selection.

  2. 4 hours seems like it’s on tail-end of the length spectrum. I’ve played three matches, each with a new player (and me being new the first match obviously) and each game clocked between 2.5 – 3 hours.

    It’s possible a four player match adds an hour, but at least a two player game seems like it would take about 2 hours when both players know the rules.

    Even less if the Imperials stumble on the base early (all three games went to the final turn).

  3. Having now put 2 games under my belt, I feel like I’ve learned a lot and have ironed out any mis-plays and rules gaffes from talking about it with other players on BGG, etc.

    It’s pretty fun overall, but will require you to appreciate the investment in getting though those games with some rules lookups to handle some of the game interactions.

    This isn’t necessarily a negative for the game from a review perspective per se, but when you’re playing a game with hidden information (like face down missions) and you’re hatching some hair-brained scheme to move into a region and assume total control over it in one game round, you’ll want to take the time to read up on anything that might be unclear before you tip your whole hand.

    The homework component might turn some people off, but it’s better than stopping the game to do some rules lawyering. If you ever tried to fly Omega Leader in an X-Wing tournament before the Wave 8 FAQ came out, you’ll appreciate how a little proactive research can make the whole thing run smoothly.

    I can’t wait to play it again with even less interruptions! Soon we will get it down to a 2 hour game.

    Incredibly, I lost to the Rebels in my last game with a zero-hour all-in on the system I deduced had the base. 2 Star Destroyers, an Assault Carrier, 2 TIE’s, 2 Stormtroopers and an AT-AT vs 2 Mon Cal’s, 1 Corvette, 1 X-Wing, 1 Y-Wing, 2 Rebel Troopers and an Airspeeder.

    I got Tagge into the system on my first activation to do an unrelated Mission, then when I activated again, I dropped Vader there to activate the system, pulled all my stuff in from several systems and got to it. I had “More Dangerous Than You Realize” (hence setting Tagge up ahead of time) and drew all the Tactics cards I could for space.

    Round 1, I drop 7 damage on a Mon Cal, ensuring it’s destruction, take no damage back. I managed to wipe out the ground resistance in 2 rounds of combat.

    Every round after that was a slow decline as my wife kept rolling criticals and drawing card after card after card for space and slowly pushed back the life lead I had. It ended with 1 Corvette surviving, and moving the base with the Mission to escape.

    So close! I liked how the game allows for some comebacks, which helps keep combat less algorithmic when you’re planning your big hit. It would be terribly boring to have to do all that die rolling if it was a foregone conclusion that my setup with all those cards would guarantee the win.

    It was a suspenseful, possibly even stressful conclusion to the struggle for the galaxy. On the plus side, I tortured the ever-loving Hell out of Dodonna for most of the game, and he just sung like a canary with all kinds of intel.

    Super fun, but like all “big” games, you need to appreciate going into it that this is going to take a few hours, closer to 4 if it’s your first time through. This will all smooth out after a few plays.

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