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Star Wars: Imperial Assault (SW:IA) probably needs no introduction here, but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) have just released a compani...

Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance

Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance

Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance

Star Wars: Imperial Assault (SW:IA) probably needs no introduction here, but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) have just released a companion app that allows full cooperative rebel play against the app-driven Empire. This review will cover both the game and the brand new Legends of the Alliance app.

As with nearly all FFG games, this is dripping with theme. In fact, the theme makes this game stand out above all my other dungeon crawlers. If you enjoy the Star Wars universe then I feel pretty confident that you’ll enjoy this game. It really does feel like you’re playing as a small group of rebel operatives launching guerrilla raids on Empire outposts. The Story Starts just at the end of A New Hope with the remnants of the Death Star crashing down onto Yavin 4.
3rd Mission of the traditional campaign game.

SW:IA was released in 2014 and it is pretty much a re-skin of Descent 2nd Edition. If you know that game, this one will take you about 1 minute to grok the elegant line-of-sight rules and appreciate the subtle difference between the Overlord player (in Descent) and the Imperial player in this game. In my playgroup, it felt like there was a little less downtime between players.

The game can now be played in three different ways, the standard PvE-like (1 vs many) campaign game - which is where my jam is. The PvP skirmish game or now, thanks to the app, as a fully-cooperative (or solo campaign) game. In the UK the game has an RRP of £92.99 which hurts just a little bit. However, the app is free and it provides a completely different campaign for rebel players to play-through.
You get four rulebooks, count 'em four!
To get the best experience of this game I feel like you need to have a dedicated group of regular players that are also willing to spend the next dozen game sessions or so bashing through this campaign. My group weren’t willing to play this exclusively so we’re only about halfway through the main campaign and the side missions that are interspersed with the story missions. I have also played it in Skirmish Mode which is arguably the most popular mode and as of last week, I have played two missions in the app campaign.

The rules recommend that you also have someone familiar with the game to play as the Imperial player. There is hidden content revealed only to the Imperial player at the start of every campaign mission. As a rebel player, this is a great way to immerse yourself in an almost RPG-like experience. The hidden knowledge also provides a true sense of jeopardy and suspense, although that is tempered by the knowledge these missions have been thoroughly balanced to within an inch of their life to make them winnable by either side. I recommend that you have John Williams playing in the background to add atmosphere.

In my group, only 1 person had played this before, in fact, he owns the game and several expansions. I didn’t know this before picking Imperial Assault up as he is a new to my group, but he was perfect to give us a run for our money as the Imperial player. In our campaign, the rebels have won more than they’ve lost but if there was a consistent trend of one side winning then the game might become unwinnable for the losing side.

Your characters gain XP and access to new equipment and allies as they progress through the campaign. Unfortunately for those wanting to play as Luke or Han Solo they only appear as ‘allies’, appearing only to assist during particular missions. The Imperial player is not left without their own allies or ‘villains’, which may enter play as the rebels progress… There are a total of 12 ally and/or villain tokens in the base box. You can, of course, buy all the miniatures for these extra 12 characters but they’re not provided in the base box.
Some of the components... can you spot the AT-ST?

Worryingly, the base box does come with an AT-ST miniature which is one of the best core-game miniatures I’ve ever seen. It is solid plastic, or at least it feels solid, and it sits approximately 12 cm (or 4” ¾ for those used to old money). I say 'worryingly' because as a rebel player it’s not come out to play in our campaign yet and I feel like we’ll be woefully underpowered when it does. Maybe Chewbacca will come out to help us? Either way, as a player and Star Wars fan I’m excited about the experience and intrigued by the lure of expansions.

Of course, if you want to play with all the goodies straight away you can make up your own army in skirmish mode. Players (just two) will each take a side and build their army using a traditional point-based system. This is done in secret and before both of you know what the particular mission will be. The mission is decided after the players have finished army-building by drawing a card from the Skirmish Mission deck. This make’s an enjoyable and fair mission but for the wannabe-tactician in me, I would prefer to know what my mission is before building and outfitting my force. I’m absolutely fine not knowing the enemy disposition, but not knowing my mission before I select my forces does feel a bit strange.
Everything but the insert

The box and components are all glorious but I do have one niggle with the production. The stupid trench insert FFG insist on using in their big-box games. I didn’t mind it in SW: Rebellion (there were two trenches), I could fit everything back in ‘the trench’ in Mansions of Madness but in this, there is no way all of the terrain tiles, miniatures, tokens and card decks are going to fit back into the box. In the end, I just gave up and ditched the insert. I’m sure 80% of gamers will do the same. “Why bother FFG?” Please, either make the box smaller and ditch the insert, or the trench wider so that it can hold all the components that are in the box after it has been punched.

As you can see from the picture above, once you've ditched the waste-of-cardboard-insert, you have room for lots of expansions...
iOS Screenshot

I’ve only played two missions with the app, but that wasn’t without some teething issues. I should caveat this with I tried this in the very first week it was released so I fully expect the problems I experienced to be ironed out. I initially attempted to run it on stock Android, albeit quite an old version and it hung on the splash screen. The app does say that if this happens. you should restart your phone. After restarting I could never start a mission, so I switched to an iPad which had no problem with the app.

If you’ve played the Road to Legend app, (for Descent 2nd edition) you know what to expect here. Legends of the Alliance is a slick and highly-professional app that makes an already great game even better, by allowing for solo play and fully cooperative modes. This may not be of interest to you but in this free app, it adds a completely new dimension to the game. If you own IA and didn’t know about the app, do yourself a favour and try it out. I am loving it so far and can see myself completing the campaign in it before my group finishes our traditional campaign game.

Another benefit is that the app allows me to play a 2 player game with my son, who is just a bit young to fully control a group of rebels against his merciless father to enjoy it fully. With the app, we get to play together and in the Star Wars universe so it gets two thumbs up from him. Although there are far fewer faux-tortured breathy “... I am your Father!” quips. (He didn’t laugh the first time, I’m not expecting a laugh anytime soon, but I won't stop doing it).

Unlike the Descent app, I don't think the app changes the missions or encounters based on your collection yet. FFG has said that they will be implementing that soon as you expand your collection those additional figures and items will possibly turn up in the app-campaign. This is a great feature which provides a great reason to pick up the base game and some (affordable to you) expansions. However, I should mention and warn those of us who suffer from a completionist disorder that you’ll be spending the best part of £1200 to complete your Imperial Assault collection. Buyer game collector beware!
Shut up and take my money!

The game comes with the expected plethora of tokens and different card decks, when it is all out on the table it is a bit bewildering for new players but the basic rules take about 30 minutes to fully explain (if you've got an attentive group) and after half a dozen or so activations there will be very few rules that require look up.
So many card decks
FFG do an excellent job of writing their rules these days and SW: IA is no exception. The game comes with a basic rules book that consists of 5 pages of basic rules and 1 page of advanced rules. There is a separate Rules Reference Guide that contains every single rule in an a-z format. Each entry has a super useful ‘Related Topics...’ at the end which lead to other sections. I wish all publishers did this. You also get a short Skirmish guide and a much more extensive Campaign Guide rulebooks.
My own token storage solution

I love Star Wars and this game is a fantastic implementation of a great combat system in a universe I would like to visit. I’ve often wondered how good (and long) a grand-strategy and tactical game in the Star Wars universe could play out with all the different and individually excellent FFG Star Wars games we have today.

For example, you could play Star Wars: Rebellion as your over-arching strategy thread; Break out X-Wing the Miniatures Game or Star Wars Armada (I prefer X: TMG) to resolve the space battles; Then break out SW: IA to resolve any ground battles; While dressed in your finest Rebel fighter gear (of course).

If anyone is interested in a very long weekend of Star Wars gaming, full of theme music and tired jokes then let me know...maybe the day after watching the imminent Episode VIII - Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

You can pick up Star Wars Imperial Assault from nearly any Friendly Local Gaming Store and just in time for Christmas...

Amazing fact: FFG own 17 different Star Wars game titles, take that EA! (I have no idea how many current Star Wars games EA have released)

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