Star Wars: Imperial Assault (8 out of 10); Fantasy Flight Games; Ages 14+; 2-5 players; 1-2 hours per game; released December 31, 2014.
Fantasy Flight Games has been doing nothing but great things with the “Star Wars” license, and this month’s release of “Imperial Assault” only adds to their track record of great gaming in a great way.
Bringing their classic play patterns and style from games like “Descent” into the world of “Star Wars” is a smart move, but not one that seems like it would work right off the bat. It’s certainly a tweaked version of “Descent,” so if you’re familiar with that game, you’re going to feel very familiar with “Imperial Assault” right out of the box. There’s an Imperial character who is able to command almost limitless amounts of troops, where the rest of the players take on the persona of a single rebel character. There is a massive campaign version of the game (just like “Descent”) as well as the option to play in skirmishes, offering enough replayability to make the suggested retail price more than worth it.
The game comes with a variety of figures for play, including an incredibly cool looking AT-ST, as well as figures for each individual rebel hero. They come unpainted, so if you’re into that sort of activity, this gives you a lot of “Star Wars” themed miniatures to work on.
The game board is modular and can take a bit of time to set up between missions, but it’s a great map system and improves upon the map tiles from “Descent.” With the new board comes new line of sight rules from Fantasy Flight that might cause some consternation among some players. In an effort to streamline play and make it move faster, line of sight works as long as you can draw two unobstructed lines to different corners of another square from any corner of your origin square. It makes things go a lot quicker, but seems to favor the Rebellion players quite a bit in the early missions I was able to play. I had no problems with the rule change, but a couple of people I played with thought it was absurd.
The best thing about Fantasy Flight is that they’ve been able to, across their entire “Star Wars” line, create gameplay that promotes the feel of “Star Wars.” The game is paced briskly, there are more roleplaying and problem solving elements than you’d expect, and you feel like the fate of the galaxy is at stake. That you’re able to use actual “Star Wars” characters in the game is a bonus.
Another bonus is that the game brings extra playability to it with expansions. The version I received for review came with the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader expansions. They came with figures, cards to play with them, as well as new maps and missions specific to their characters. I imagine through 2015 we’ll see a lot of expansion of the game. I would love to have seen more prequel era stuff incorporated into the game and hopefully the expansions can bring that to us. Or perhaps a sequel will come out that will be Jedi vs. Separatists focused. This game focuses pretty heavily on the Rebellion, though.
Overall, I find this game a worthy addition to any game closet, not just those of “Star Wars” fans. It’s made for a few great game nights in my house and I think it would do the same in your house. I’d recommend not playing with less than 4 players, though. Less than that didn’t seem as though it would be as fun. Games like this always seem to work better with larger groups.
The appropriate age-range is pretty wide, too. I had a lot of fun playing with a group of my peers and a group of my son’s peers, all 12 and 13 years old. The rules are easy to grasp and the gameplay is very fluid, so I think the recommended age range is a little higher than it needs to be.
I’m going to give it an 8 out of 10. It looks great, has a lot of replayability, is easy to learn, and builds on a winning formula.