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Star Wars Legion is a two-player battle between the Imperial forces and forces comprising the Rebel Alliance (what else?).  I've pla...

Star Wars Legion Star Wars Legion

Star Wars Legion

Star Wars Legion


Star Wars Legion is a two-player battle between the Imperial forces and forces comprising the Rebel Alliance (what else?).  I've played enough of the current catalogue of the seemingly never-ending release of Star Wars to be able to say I think this is my favourite at the tactical level (with a few caveats). 

Before I tell you why I think this is my favourite tactical Star Wars game, I've got to set some expectations. The Star Wars Legion box is a starter set for the rest of the system, it is far from the full SW:L experience.  This is a tabletop wargame with elements borrowed from board games that optimise gameplay; it isn't a board game.  To explain further, I would consider Imperial Assault to be a miniatures boardgame; SW:L is a miniatures wargame.

You can watch my unboxing video of the core set below:

Gameplay

A game, or battle, lasts for six turns in which all of your and your opponents will activate alternately with each other.  A full turn of the game comprises three different phases, (I told you it was like a board game), the Command Phase, the Action Phase and the End Phase.
Starter Battle setup
During the Command Phase, players choose one from a hand of 7 command cards to 'order' a number of their in-command units.  However, these command cards also determine the initiative for that turn. If you've chosen a command card with a high number of activations you've probably ceded the initiative to your opponent.  Because there are so few command cards in use, you can know what cards your opponent still holds in their hand and choosing a command card turns into a fun mini-game within a game.

Your commander will be able to order a small number of units directly by placing an order token next to that unit (assuming they're within order range). Units that don't receive an order token will have their order tokens shuffled and placed in a face-down stack. During the activation phase, you can elect to move a unit that has an order token next to it or pull from the randomised stack and activate whichever unit is drawn. 
Protecting the transmission dish
In the most basic terms, each activated unit can move and fire.  As you're moving after your opponent (except for the first activation of the turn) you should be able to react immediately to any manoeuvre.  However, if you've placed an order token next to units that are far from the action, you'll be reduced to hoping that you pull the right order token from the stack to react or cause your opponent the same dilemma. This may sound quite random but you can control it in a variety of ways and it actually plays out like another fun mini-game within a game. 

Your units are not just limited to just moving and attacking. In the learning battle, players can also, aim and dodge, but the full rules, allow for a plethora of abilities to be used. The abilities when used allow you to have more control over the timing or your units' activation, their movement or their abilities in combat.  These powers are mostly tracked through the use of intuitive tokens next to the unit which neatly avoids the ubiquitous lookup tables in many other wargames.  These abilities not only are evocative of the lore of Star Wars but make the tactical decision space far greater.


Father and Son dukin' it out

The movement system is nice and simple. You are given three movement rulers which hinge in the middle and you measure the unit's leader-figures movement. Every other figure in the unit is just placed somewhere within XXX of that figure. There is no need for unit trays or endless measuring of distance. I thought this sped up the gameplay compared to many miniature wargames I've tried and it lets you get on with the real battle.

When in combat your units roll a number of dice depending on how many figures there are in the unit.  The unit cards indicate the number of red, black or white dice a single figure rolls in attack or defence. The strengths of each dice colour are different and I was continually pleased with how thematic the units abilities and dice mechanics worked to fit into Star Wars canon. Once again this was quite a simple mechanic but when the full rules are used, your units may have more than one weapon type and can fire on multiple enemies. Although the gameplay is very accessible there are plenty of good tactical decisions to be made.  I particularly like the surge mechanic which is present in quite a few FFG games.
Stormtroopers rolling too well, they defended every single hit!
The starter battle is very easy to jump into even if you're both complete newcomers to the game or have never played a miniatures wargame.  And you know what? I thought it was a blast.  I've continued to play the advanced rules and built up to nearly a full army of Imperial and Rebels.  A full army is 800pts and when building your army lists visiting table top admiral is a must.  I've even put my 3d printer to good use producing terrain for the game.

I just wish there were more players of the game near me. I've only found one game store out of about 7 or 8 I've visited recently (I travel quite a bit for work) who is stocking SW:L product. Which is a shame because I think this game is a great example of what a tabletop wargame should be and it's set in the Star Wars universe. Win-win from me. Its largest rival in this space is probably Games Workshop's 40k behemoth, and for me, there is no question which is more fun. (hint: it's not the spacemarines)
500pt Battle to control the comms array

Components

The game comes with a plethora of different tokens and figures to get going with the base game. It's almost expected that I would say that these components are up there with the best in the business as is the rest of FFG's output. However, I can criticise the miniatures, specifically the limited glueing surface (e.g. two boots) to their bases. I thought I was a fairly competent modeller and used the right type of glue but I've still had a few miniatures come unstuck.  Why can't all minis come on slotted bases?


Ubiquitous Learn to Play and self-printed Reference

Criticisms

The rest of the production of this game is top-quality, as ever from FFG, but there is lots to criticise here.  I think the delivery of the product to gamers has been poorly handled. 

The core game doesn't provide enough dice to roll just one hand of dice. Scooping up the misses and rolling again, or remembering the previous roll to add to the next is not what I want to be doing. My first 'expansion' that I bought was an extra set of dice.  Adding an extra 9 dice couldn't have been that cost prohibitive, could it?
Can you spot the Rebel sharpshooters?
The rules reference is not provided in the box. The Learn to Play book is there and it's excellent, but to progress onto the next stage you'll need to download and print out or use a screen to read the rules reference.  I know this is intended to be a living document so any print out will show its age, but wargamers have been adding errata corrections to manuals for as long as Star Wars has been around. You can't even buy the rules reference as a standalone product. However, they have used lots of links in the pdf and it's very easy to navigate. You just need to have a large tablet or laptop at the game table.

The scale of the miniatures does not match that of Imperial Assault, they are larger and, however, much better quality, but I think this aspect alone massively damaged Legion's launch. Imagine if all the Imperial Assault players woke up to find a new game, playable with their existing miniatures with just a purchase of some dice and card decks. I guarantee that the uptake of this would have been through the roof. The potential for future expansions would also have been massive as IA players realise that this game is a much better skirmish game than IA. This miniature scale decision could be viewed as quite cynical corporate greed and I think it may have stabbed FFG in the foot a little.

If you do eventually buy the expansions, and I heartily recommend SW:Legion with them, then be prepared for the amount of air you're buying.  The expansion box sizes far outstrip the amount of content you get. I'm getting a bit fed up with publishers making their boxes with no consideration to the amount of stuff that box will hold. It's not bad in the Core Box, mine is stuffed and it comes with an almost workable insert, but the expansions are ridiculous. What is more egregious is that I'm sure 90% of players will be ditching these expansion boxes straight away.

Looking at the prices for this in the one store, I found actively stocking it (luckily it's local) is the price model.  FFG know what they're doing with this IP and the level of players they can expect to invest and support the game, but the prices for the expansions feels fairly wallet gouging if you're not a regular miniatures gamer accustomed to skipping meals to pay for the next unit...



via GIPHY

However, with all that said, these criticisms do nothing to detract from the gameplay. 

Conclusion

So I love the gameplay. There are some really great 'ah-hah' moments when you realise how to use your units abilities and how it fits thematically and I've only really scratched the surface; there's lots of game here to get your teeth into.  But there is lots to criticise as well. Thankfully very few of my criticisms are levelled at the gameplay, more at how FFG have handled the production and launch of this game.
Comms power generator captured by a severely weakened stormtrooper unit
Star Wars: Legion shares top-gong, with Star Wars Rebellion, for best game in the Star Wars universe, in my opinions, and is the most fun I've had playing a tabletop wargame.  Other games I've experienced which I'm basing this comparison on are: Lion Rampant, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40k, and Bolt Action.

Legion plays quickly and you have a plethora of tactical decision every single turn of when to activate and how to minimise the damage an unwanted activation could do whilst attempting to destroy your opponent's forces. 


That's a lot of stuff in the base box
Some people have described this as an incomplete board game, and that is unfair. It is firmly a miniatures wargame with a little bit of a board game in there, e.g. the use of tokens and command cards.  You're paying for the rules and some starter units which aren't provided by many wargame rulesets.


If Star Wars is your thing and you're either a tabletop gamer wondering what all the fuss is about with board games, or you're a board gamer, curious what the other side of your local game shop is all about, then I can recommend Star Wars Legion, it has a foot in both camps.


Now would be a great time to get into Legion as the support from FFG continues to grow and the Clone Wars core box sets are soon to be released alongside the multitude of expansions that will eventually come with the new factions. At the moment only B-1 Battle Droids and Clone Troopers have been announced but you get General Grievous and Obi-Wan Kenobi (of Mcgregor vintage) in the core box alongside two base units and a vehicle unit for each side.

This is a little hard to find in local brick and mortar stores but still widely available online and actively supported by FFG, I get the impression that it is much more popular across the pond than in the UK.  You can 
find your nearest FLGS at http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/

Publisher: FFG

Website: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/star-wars-legion
Players: 2
Designer: Alex Davy
Playing time: 1-2 hours

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