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Star Wars The Card Game Review

Star Wars Review Kennon

Slightly more than a week ago now at the World Championship Weekend, FFG made one of the most amazing announcements that I’ve ever heard at a Thrones event- the announcement that all of the players who had pre-registered for the weekend’s events would receive a free copy of the Star Wars LCG. That’s right, FFG flew in advance copies of an LCG core set which won’t be released for quite some time. And, never fear, but the folks that hadn’t pre-registered could still win a copy of the game. FFG employees and volunteers (at least, I think a couple were volunteers) spent the rest of the weekend gunslinging Star Wars demos: if you won against them, you received a copy of the game.

Now that we’ve got a few games under our belts, let’s take a brief look at the newest addition to FFG’s amazing stable of Living Card Games.

The Good:

Let’s start at the top here, once you open the box, you’re treated to the usual rules booklet, cards and such, but there are a couple of advancements here that I think are worth noting. There’s an insert that I don’t remember seeing in LCG boxes before that actually recommends that you stop right now and before trying to read the rulebook, go watch the learn to play video on the FFG website. All of the learn to play videos that I’ve seen FFG put out have been really solid affairs with high production values that give a very solid fundamental grasp of what’s going on. The other recent change, is that all of the cards in the Core Set are actually in two small zip-lock style baggies rather than the sealed shrink wrap affair that we see in Thrones and others. To be fair, this isn’t the first LCG to do so, but it’s worth pointing out that they make a great way to keep the cards together more easily than before, as well as being perfect to store the many counters in once you’ve popped them out. As well, the art on the cards is really quite stellar overall, which is a huge boon for immersion into this universe far, far away. If you look closesly, there’s even some Ralph Mcquarrie art, which is a huge nostalgic boost.

On to the gameplay itself! It’s interesting that this game can seem like it plays so differently, but so obviously feels connected to the mechanics of the other LCGs. To start with, once you’re up to speed with the mechanics of the turn, this is a quick game. At most, you’re just going to be playing for eleven turns, barring a few card effects. This is because the Dark Side player has inevitability on their side. Once the Death Star counter ticks up to twelve, the rebels lose. This forces the Light Side player to be constantly looking for a way to put pressure on the opposing side. As the second of FFG’s assymetrical LCG’s, there are certain aspects that have been improved in Star Wars. While Netrunner excels at bluffing, the two sides are extremely locked in to their attack and defense roles. Star Wars manages to dodge this somewhat by two ways. First, the dark and light sides do all use the same card types and second, the Dark Side does have the opportunity to attack. This gives the Empire player the opportunity to outmaneuver a hesitant Light Side player by going on the offensive in the same manner. While destroying three objectives as the DS player won’t bring a victory the same way as it will for LS, it gives that side a greater flexibility of interaction than the Corporation has available in Netrunner.

The speed that the game can be played at though, is probably quite necessary in order to allow players in a competitive environment to flip and play both sides within the necessary time limit. This is also good for casual players that want that quick fix of another attempt to keep them going. I’d say this is probably the LCG with the closest feel to Magic: The Gathering terms of the length of the game.

Other aspects to note about gameplay are the objective system, which seems like a bit of a mashup of AGoT plots, CoC stories and CoC domains and combat. While the objectives also impact deckbuilding (which we’ll get to later) one of their most important features is that they provide the majority of the resources that you’ll have to work with during the game. You construct a side deck of 10 of these objectives, then draw 4 at random and keep 3 to start the game with. Often they have effects similar to plots or locations in AGoT. This is great because along with your faction card, you’ll be starting games out with a minimum of 4 resources. All of the LCGs have solid resource systems that manage to mitigate some of the random draw issues that MtG has, while allowing you to get into the thick of things more quickly.

Combat is interesting mainly due to the edge battle mechanic, which is a sort of side battle before the battle. At the start of each combat, players essentially bid cards from their hand in an effort to win the “edge battle.” The winner is determined by adding the force icons which are present, literally on the edge of the card, barring some card effects and modifiers. If you win this battle, you may strike first with one of your characters, which may entail some combination of damage to opposing characters, objectives, and/or extra focus tokens added to characters. Since this means you might kill or otherwise incapacitate opposing characters before they get to affect the outcome, winning the edge battle is quite important. Thankfully, the draw mechanic in this game consists of drawing back up to your starting hand size each turn, so the attrition on your hand size and available options on what to play is not as brutal as it might seem.

The Bad:

For all the good that there is in this new LCG, there are a few downsides as well because sadly, no product is perfect. First up is the resourcing system. Straight out of the single core set, it appears difficult to build a very powerful deck because, much like all of the LCG Core Sets, there isn’t actually a full playset of many of the cards available in a single box. So, in order to build more powerful decks, it’s pretty tempting to mix and match several objective sets from a couple different factions. Unfortunately, this can cause a problem when needing to resource match in order to play cards. Since the 4 objectives that you start the game choosing from are drawn randomly from the objective deck, we’ve already had several games where all of the 4 objectives are from one faction or the other and that player was effectively locked out of playing a large portion of their deck. This will almost certainly be addressed with future additions to the card pool, but right now, playing a dual faction deck is a very risky business.

Another aspect that’s not as good as it might be, is connected to combat. While Star Wars does offer some interesting distinction between the different icons and it is nice to have that difference between unit damage and objective damage, there is a bit of cognitive dissonance when combat is being conducted between characters and vehicles. This can make sense when it happens to be ewoks versus AT-ST’s, but it can be a bit disconcerting when it’s Luke Skywalker versus Devastator- and that’s without the use of his X-Wing!

rawr


The Ugly:

Thankfully, as I said, most of the art is rock solid for the Star Wars LCG, so the ugly items aren’t really that bad. Still, there is a bit of awkwardness to be had which the final jury is still out on. There are a lot of counters and tokens in the game. A lot. While there aren’t that many different types (damage, shield, focus) there is a very good chance that there will be a lot on the board. So far shields don’t come up all that often, but units and objectives generally have multiple hitpoints, which leads to multiple damage counters on each as the game goes on, but as well, Star Wars uses focus tokens to show which resources and units have been used rather than rotating the card like AGoT and others do. This leads to a board littered with tokens as the game goes on, and an awful lot of adding them during your turn and then clearing them all off during your next turn’s refresh phase.

Deckbuilding is also in a bit of a grey area right now. While selecting your 10 card objective deck (which then dictates the entire contents of your draw deck) does make deck construction fast, I can’t help but worry that in the long run, it’s going to mean less interest in the game from those of us that like to tweak, test and customize every inch of our decks. With so few points of articulation compared to something like AGoT, I’m not certain that this has the long standing range of deck construction that other games might have. Of course, it does mean that many players will be forced into including sub par cards (Trench Run, anyone?) in their deck in order to include stronger ones, which means cards that wouldn’t see play in a traditional constructed setting will be in many decklists in Star Wars.

One last item that I'm a little uncertain of is the Edge battle. Mechanically I think that it works just fine and it's an interesting addition to the combat in this game, but something feels a little odd about it. Sure, after a moment I can grok that it's representing which side has "the edge" in a certain battle with some combination of morale, intelligence, initiative and whatnot, but since the Force icons are shown down the physical edge of the card, I surely can't be the only one that looked at the mechanic at first glance and thought "Oh wow, I can't believe they couldn't come up with a more flavorful name than literally telling us that the icons are on the edge."

So there you have it, folks, my first impressions on the Star Wars LCG. For everyone else that has a copy, what do you think so far?
  • Archrono, bigfomlof and jgoyes like this


47 Comments

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emptyrepublic
Nov 22 2012 06:28 AM
How is the multiplayer support going to go (if any)? I believe GoT is the only LCG that supports more than 2 players in a game. Not sure why this, so far, has been exclusive to GoT.
The Core Set rulebook says there will be an expansion next year with multiplayer rules.
Yeah and an interesting switch is that the multiplayer expansion will be a 3 on 1 affair, with 3 light side decks vs 1 OP dark side deck. Sounds fun to me.
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emptyrepublic
Nov 22 2012 06:48 AM
Ooo, that does sound interesting. I'm open to picking up another LCG but it's only really interesting if there is proper mutliplayer support.
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darkbladecb
Nov 22 2012 06:59 AM
In a weird way, I sometimes get a feeling like this game is perfectly set up to be everyone's "other" LCG. I wonder if were looking at the expansion of their catalogue of games and the popularity of the license they were worried about Star Wars cannibalizing some of their own market.

It plays very fast and the deck building rules make it really accessible and very easy to just pick up and put together a deck, no problem. I know I consider all these things a plus--it makes it a bit easier to keep track of while letting me keep all my focus on Thrones. At least while the card pool is small, I suppose.
Thanks for this review. I've taken the liberty to submit a link to this to BGG.
    • Kennon likes this
I agree that the deckbuilding rules are a two-edged sword:
On the one hand I appreciate it because it could make deck-building a less time-consuming process.
On the other hand I'm a bit worried that it will be more difficult to balance objectives as opposed to single cards.

I really like that they decided to go with an asymmetrical game, though.

I still won't invest in the game before having played a couple of games, since I already play CoC, LotR, and A:Netrunner. Three LCG games is really enough. If I'm to invest in Star Wars, one of the others needs to go.
I have seen this at Stahleck (not played, though) and I will get one copy of the CS just for the artwork, which I think is awesome.
I will simply skip this game. I'm a huge SW fan, I collect books, novels and stuff (X-Wing, hell yeah) and back in the days I never got a chance to collect and play Decipher's SW CCG. But I will really skip this game.

First of all, the way FFG is promoting this game seems like a desperate way to spread this game. If they have such marketing maneuvers is because they don't believe in the product itself.
You didn't need to see such tactics regarding Android: Netrunner, so why such 'giveaways' with this game? Why they want so desperately push this game unto our hands?

My answer to that is my second point, this game doesn't offer anything new and they know it. This is just an example of "strong theme, weak game" like other titles from this company (Starcraft the Board Game, World of Warcraft boardgames, Horus Heresy), the rules are a mess of mixed mechanics from several other LCG with a bit of Legend of the Five Rings in it; yes, Edge Battles as much as they can defend are an implicit mechanic of the L5R duels, also the way the Characters act in combat is just the same "I Go You Go" mechanic used in L5R, characterwise.

This game uses icons for damage and combat results! - Nice, so does Call of CThullhu LCG.
This game uses Objective cards that are winning conditions! - Nice, so again does CoC.

I was so hyped about this game in August, when I saw the videos in Gencon, I've seen the videos around 10 times. Then I was bombarded with information about this game and the more I knew about it the less my interest was on it. After reading the rules I see it clearly, my intent to buy the game for its looks and try to make my own rules for it vanished completely because even if I did it I was supporting this game and FFG. I will not do it. I will not support a weak product by a company that makes such great games and did this game in less than a year, a weak product that is only relying on a strong theme.

Third, the deckbuilding inovation; or is it just a cheap trick to make this game different?!
I will not open speculations on what the meta of this game will or will not be, but we, who play all LCG and CCG for years, know that this kind of deckbuilding will restrain variety and options. If we see people using only 2 out of 7 factions in a brand new game like Android: Netrunner, I wonder how this would be in a game that has an asymmetric feel (not that much asymmetry in gameplay, 'though) with only 2 Factions (LS and DS, I don't consider SW LCG having Factions because there are no distinctions on all 3 Factions per side, another fault of this game).


I could continue rambling about this game that frustrates me because I had high hopes for this title that I thought that maybe was the FFG answer to fight mainstream CCG. Now I see I was wrong. :(
@Emptyrepublic, Lord of the rings can be played by more than 2 players also. ;)

Will, the resource system is similar to the LotR and they got some attachment type cards that make resources work for other faction cards....i bet it will be similar. (haven't played LotR much because i hate playing solo, but it has some pretty interesting mechanics like the managing of resources)
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emptyrepublic
Nov 22 2012 01:39 PM
My understanding was LotR was entirely coop though.

My understanding was LotR was entirely coop though.


It is.
@XJediX, if Netrunner had been coming out around that time and not Star Wars I am sure they would have given away copies for that instead. Also every card game has similarities to others so that is not really a valid reason to not play. You should play it before you make up your mind.

First of all, the way FFG is promoting this game seems like a desperate way to spread this game. If they have such marketing maneuvers is because they don't believe in the product itself.
You didn't need to see such tactics regarding Android: Netrunner, so why such 'giveaways' with this game? Why they want so desperately push this game unto our hands?

I can't address any other points of yours, since I haven't played the game yet, but how can giving copies to preregistered players at worlds be construed as a bad thing? I thought it was a brilliant move.

I mean, FFG got criticised in the past for allegedly not doing enough in terms of support for Organized Play, and then they start giving away games and suddenly that's some sinister ploy to force unwanted product on you? Really?
    • Amuk likes this
I ask you ths: have you seen this policy before?

I never saw this procedure before from FFG but if they'd already done that I'll remove what I wrote.
But I see FFG making a lot of effort in putting this game into our hands...
I might check it out once there's proper multiplayer support in. I can see 3vs1 being very popular with the people I play with, if it means they get to gang up on me :)

I can't address any other points of yours, since I haven't played the game yet, but how can giving copies to preregistered players at worlds be construed as a bad thing? I thought it was a brilliant move.

I mean, FFG got criticised in the past for allegedly not doing enough in terms of support for Organized Play, and then they start giving away games and suddenly that's some sinister ploy to force unwanted product on you? Really?


What Ratatoskr said. It was FFG's first year holding Worlds at their event center so no, we haven't seen this policy before (seeing as it was, you know, the first time). If Netrunner or LotR had been the new game to come out then I'm sure that's what they would have given out.
    • Toqtamish and Amuk like this
@xJEDIx, I really do have to agree with the others here. Giving copies away at the World Championship Weekend wasn't some desperate marketing ploy to get rid of a crappy product. It was a smooth marketing maneuver to build a lot of buzz and excitement about their newest game while rewarding loyal customers. You haven't seen this sort of thing done in the past with the other LCGs because there's always room for improvement. The other games have had very, very little in the way of advertising (until the HBO Game of Thrones show), so doing practically anything is a step up. There's always room to improve a system, and I fully believe that the give away was evidence of FFG attempting to improve the system.

As well, I'm not sure that the "cannibalized" mechanics that you list are really a reason to turn away from a game. Every card game steals from, improves upon, and modifies what came before them. Being designed by Eric Lang, it's even more likely that several of the LCGs will utilize certain mechanics and themes similarly as those are likely tropes that he feels it valuable to hit upon. For instance, your mention of combat using icons can really include Star Wars, AGoT, CoC, and Warhammer. The two games that don't as directly utilize them (Netrunner and LotR) are the two that weren't designed by Eric. Of course, those games have other bits and pieces of similarities.

On the other hand, if you feel that the combination of mechanics that we see in Star Wars doesn't accurately represent the feel of the universe, then I think you'd have a more valid issue, but I'd urge you to play the game a few times before deciding that definitively.

@Francisco, you make a good point about the similarity to the LotR resource system. The key difference starting out like this, however, is that in LotR you know exactly who your starting heroes will be (or at least, which spheres they are) so you're able to plan out the ratios of factions in your draw deck account for the number of resources of a certain type that you'll have, as well as knowing that you'll begin the game with resources of all of the types that you'll need. The problem with SW at the moment is that you can't have that certainty with your objectives since the four that you'll have to choose from to start the game, are themselves chosen randomly. This means that even going with a 50/50 percentage (5 of one faction and 5 of the other) which is the greatest ratio of a given resource match that you can get without lowering your odds on having other faction, leaves you with a possibility of all 4 being one or the other and leaving you mostly out to dry for the rest of the game with half of your deck. Now, if you're lucky the faction card can offset this some, but it's still not a guarantee. Of course, as you said, this will likely be addressed soon as the cardpool grows, but at the moment, it's a flaw that's very noticeable in the Core Set.
@xJEDIx

Regardless of whether it is new or not why is effective promotion all of a sudden sinister? Yes they want to generate buzz for the release of the game but so what?

FFG is also pre-releasing some of the delayed Wave 2 for X-wing as tournament prizing, I'm guessing you have an issue with that as well.

I really do not get your thought process here.

@xJEDIx, I really do have to agree with the others here. Giving copies away at the World Championship Weekend wasn't some desperate marketing ploy to get rid of a crappy product. It was a smooth marketing maneuver to build a lot of buzz and excitement about their newest game while rewarding loyal customers. You haven't seen this sort of thing done in the past with the other LCGs because there's always room for improvement. The other games have had very, very little in the way of advertising (until the HBO Game of Thrones show), so doing practically anything is a step up. There's always room to improve a system, and I fully believe that the give away was evidence of FFG attempting to improve the system.

As well, I'm not sure that the "cannibalized" mechanics that you list are really a reason to turn away from a game. Every card game steals from, improves upon, and modifies what came before them. Being designed by Eric Lang, it's even more likely that several of the LCGs will utilize certain mechanics and themes similarly as those are likely tropes that he feels it valuable to hit upon. For instance, your mention of combat using icons can really include Star Wars, AGoT, CoC, and Warhammer. The two games that don't as directly utilize them (Netrunner and LotR) are the two that weren't designed by Eric. Of course, those games have other bits and pieces of similarities.

On the other hand, if you feel that the combination of mechanics that we see in Star Wars doesn't accurately represent the feel of the universe, then I think you'd have a more valid issue, but I'd urge you to play the game a few times before deciding that definitively.


You brought a nice issue there! Why didn't they offered copies of the "light" Game of Thrones CCG instead?

I don't think there's any ploy with this, I see it clearly as a way to generate noise about this title. So much noise that is generating negative reviews of it on BGG and other websites.

Some game I don't need to test them to see if they're good or bad. I took a hunch on Runewars and then I bought it just to confirm the game was... as it was. Also done it with LOTR LCG. I'll not do it with this one for a matter of principle.

We, as consumers, we vote with our money. Our money votes on this and that company that produces games. If I don't agree with the policies of Games Workshop why will I spent money in them? If I see this game as a weak product, a game that doesn't add or bring anything new to gaming tables, a game that tramples the theme and uses the theme as their only market value, why would I vote on this game?

Nah! I'll skip it. I'm pretty loyal to Game of Thrones LCG and I think, as a game, it's a clean and complete product that used its theme in the right way. I'm also liking Android: Netrunner so far, a game that brings a different approach to the table. I don't need a game that's more of the same but with another look on its face.
@xJEDIx: It is never to late to start with Decipher's SWCCG.
    • xJEDIx likes this

@xJEDIx: It is never to late to start with Decipher's SWCCG.


I've been looking through eBay for Limited Premiere stuff... and I've found plenty! ;)
Thanks for the detailed review. I can't believe how far in advance you guys all got the core set. I'm really looking forward to giving it a shot, despite some of the mixed feelings so far.
Will, Yeah, that randomness is to encourage using inhouse stuff (aka keep your faction more or less pure)....it's a lot more difficult that paying 2 gold in agot, but it's basically the same, i don't see many people complaing cause you can't run alliances all the time and that the reducers don't work for the other house ;)....but i actually like that, and the resource managing it requires is a lot more dificult than gold in agot. I already pre-ordered from TC (they have it at 10usd less than the price in ffg news) and i'm planing to keep it as my second game (especially if i can convince someone else to play it too!!)
How is there no quote on the Han Solo card?!
    • Rave likes this