My Wife Always Wins: Star Wars Rebellion
This Week’s Game: Star Wars Rebellion
You may have noticed that play time has been a theme of mine over the past couple weeks. It’s not an unreasonable requirement to want to sit down and complete a game in less than an hour. Like everyone else, my wife, Lyndsey and I both have more things to do than our time allows. This is part of the reason I’ve been delaying on Star Wars Rebellion. The box advertises three to four hours, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to play it, despite our ravenous consumption of all things Star Wars.
This week, I decided we just had to play it. When I delay something long enough, I hit a certain point where it’s just delayed forever, and I will never get to it. Rebellion was approaching that threshold. Lyndsey agreed, so we set aside an entire afternoon and evening on Saturday to sit and play our first game.
The decision for factions was easy. Lyndsey is an evil dictator, so the Galactic Empire was the obvious choice for her. And for me… well, I’ve seen this movie, I know how it ends (SPOILER ALERT FROM 1983: the Rebels win), so I picked the side fated for victory: the Rebel Alliance.
Good against evil. Husband against wife. Our Saturday was about to get interesting.
Star Wars Rebellion is an area control game where the Galactic Empire seeks to route the Rebel Alliance, while the Rebel Alliance seeks to survive. Between miniatures, cards, and dice, there are around 400 components, so it is a massive game – much like a galactic war would be. As such, the rules might be a bit too in-depth to really cover here, so here are the basics.
In the game, the Rebels have a secret base. Each round consists of several turns for each side. The Empire will move from planet to planet, looking for the base and subjugating systems along the way. The Rebels move around the planets attempting to increase their loyalty, and hence build up their troops. Rebels must remain coy, protecting their base while not giving away its location.
Should Rebel and Imperial forces meet in a system, space and/or land battles will ensue, which are resolved with dice. Certain units do certain types of damage (red or black) and each unit is usually only affected by one color or the other.
The game starts with the Rebel reputation marker on space 14 on the time track. There are various missions the Rebels can complete to move the rep marker up, and therefore have to survive fewer rounds. Likewise, there are instances where the Empire can move it back. If the Rebels survive to the rep marker round or the Imperials destroy the hidden base, the game ends and the side whose objective was achieved is victorious!
There is a lot left out of this. Check out the full rules here.
Time to Play
For our first game, we followed the first-play instructions. This designated set planetary systems and units for a more balanced experience. Also, leaders’ action cards are disregarded. By design, the Imperials had many more planets and units than the Rebels. I decided to place the hidden rebel base on Dantooine, a remote planet. It was nowhere near my troops, but also nowhere near Lyndsey’s, so she’d have to do a bit of searching before discovering me.
We each started heading toward the center of the board. I completed a diplomacy mission to gain a system’s loyalty, Lyndsey subjugated a few in her travels. We met at Malastare for our first combat in the second round. Lyndsey destroyed two of my X-Wings in the space phase, and I quickly retreated back to Kashyyyk, rather than face utter annihilation.
A few rounds passed with not much happening. There was no combat – each expanded throughout the galaxy, trying to increase our influence and add to our troop count. As the Rebels, I had to do this much more. It seemed like every build phase Lyndsey was putting at least one AT-AT or Star Destroyer into her build queue. Stupid Imperials with their endless resources.
In the fourth round, I traveled back to Malastare, now with greater forces. This time, due to some fortuitous rolls, I was able to oust the Imperial presence there. With Mon Mothma on a diplomacy mission, I was also able to turn Malastare to Rebel loyalty. Things were good with my control of the central board, but Lyndsey had started branching out. Within two more turns, she’d be at my base on Dantooine. I’d put most of my troops in Kashyyyk to aid my Malastare invasion, so my base defense wasn’t the greatest.
In the sixth round when she would have reached Dantooine, I played the Rapid Mobilization mission, which allowed me to move my base. This is supposed to take place at the end of the command phase, but I misinterpreted and moved my base immediately. This completely messed up the game because Lyndsey would have had the rest of this turn to invade the base and destroy me. She probably would have won this round too. Instead of throwing away two hours of play, Lyndsey graciously said to play on, sure that she would still defeat me despite this blunder.
My base moved to Kessel, and whether by intuition or luck, Lyndsey was there in the very next round. Before the end of the round, she managed to capture both Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, and even managed to turn Han to the dark side. So not only was I down two leaders, but one of them now worked for Lyndsey.
In round eight, my base had moved to Ryloth, in a far corner. Lyndsey immediately said she knew where I was, and I believed her. I set up my defenses around Ryloth and waited for her assault. She discovered my base, but I was able to defend her first onslaught. I built up my defenses and waited for her. The next turn I was pretty sure she’d beat me, but I needed to wait it out. At this point I’d completed three objectives, so I only had to outlast her until round 11.
In round nine, I played Rapid Mobilization again. I figured relocating once more would allow me to outlast Lyndsey in round 10 and claim victory. This was my fatal flaw. As it turned out, I was able to defend my base against Lyndsey’s initial attack, and I was able to get more troops in there to build up a significant defense. I would have lasted until the end in this position. But since I played the card, I had to relocate. I drew four probe cards. Only one was available… Felucia, in the system right next to a Death Star.
Apparently Lyndsey had me narrowed down completely. I put every troop and ship I built that round into the base. I completed the Hit and Run mission to take out a few of Lyndsey’s troops before she got to me. In the end, it was no use. She discovered my base and destroyed it, in the 10th and final round.
The Star Wars franchise follows the plight of a few individuals: the handsome, roguish Han Solo (who I’d say I have quite a bit in common with), the young, adventurous Luke Skywalker (whose also reflects myself), and the beautiful and cunning Princess Leia. Thought I was going to compare Lyndsey to Leia right there, didn’t you? Nope. She’s the Emperor.
Anyway, I think this focus on individual characters takes away from what Star Wars really is: a war of attrition. Luke Skywalker’s Jedi trajectory gives Star Wars this grandiose feeling of good versus evil on a small scale, but it’s easy to forget about the thousands of Rebellion soldiers who are just trying to survive and outlast the Galactic Empire, hoping one of their desperate attempts finally succeeds.
Star Wars Rebellion captures this war of attrition perfectly. The Galactic Empire is overpowered, and the ragtag Rebels need to run guerilla operations to survive the onslaught. I couldn’t, but it doesn’t make the concept any less phenomenal. I am starting to realize that area control is my favorite type of game, so one with a Star Wars theme propels right to the top of my list. The secret missions and amassing an army add to the allure. With dice combat, luck is a big part… but given the theme, I’d say it’s less “luck” and more “will of the Force.” The best part: it’s made for two players.
If you have four or more hours, give this one a shot. You won’t be disappointed. Lyndsey and I both rank this as our favorite game of 2016 (hey it’s only April, better late than never). However, next week we are opening up Scythe for the first time, and if the critics are to be believed, Rebellion may have a short standing as our best game. That still remains to be seen. There are only two things that are certain: we will play it, and I will lose.
Brian Shabbott is a gamer, but not a very good one. His favorite pastime is to play board games with his wife, even though she always wins. He has turned his gaming misfortune into a creative outlet, reviewing their game sessions in his weekly article 'My Wife Always Wins. You can follow him on Twitter at heyshabbott
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