Strange though it may seem, considering how big a fan of Star Wars I am, until very recently I had not played the Star Wars: Imperial Assault boardgame. When we reviewed this game on a recent episode of the Meeples & Miniatures Podcast, Imperial Assault was described as “Star Wars: Rogue One – the boardgame” and we started to discuss how Imperial Assault encapsulated the essence of the Star Wars films in its gameplay (and by the Star Wars films, I’m talking about the original trilogy plus Rogue One, which adds to the Galactic Civil War story.)
With FFG recently announcing their first wave of expansions for Star Wars Legion, which unsurprisingly includes both an AT-ST and a T-47 Airspeeder, I have begun to wonder whether this new game or the existing Imperial Assault gives the better experience of the films…
In Imperial Assault, a small number of heroes (usually 2-4) work to complete missions on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. These heroes can be aided by allies, who can include characters from the films such as Han Solo or Chewbacca. Arrayed against them are various bad guys, ranging from Imperial Stormtroopers and Probe Droids through to various bounty hunters and even an AT-ST. Whilst the numbers of Imperial forces can be challenging, there are not usually more than a dozen figures in play at any one time.
Imperial Assault was originally designed to be played with a single player controlling all the Imperial Forces and up to four players controlling Rebel characters. FFG have just released an app which takes control of the Imperials and allows players all play Rebels. One of the immediate benefits of this is that it now allows for solo play, but it also means that the game has more of a surprise element, which means that certain areas and enemies are only revealed as the board is explored, which gives a great ‘all in this together’ experience. This experience works brilliantly in the Mansions of Madness game.
Imperial Assault also has a second style of play – skirmish mode – where players can take a number of miniatures and play a battle on a map, which has much more of a feel of skirmish wargame. Whilst it is possible to potentially play with more than half a dozen miniatures a side in this mode, the play engine starts to bog down if too many figures are used.
Many of the scenes in the Star Wars films – whether it is the rescue of Princess Leia from the Death Star, the battle on Bespin, the rescue of Han from Jabba’s palace or the mission on Eadu to find Galen in Rogue One – focus on the actions of a handful of heroes attempting to complete a mission, and this is the ideal format for Imperial Assault.
However, there are almost as many examples in Star Wars of larger battles with more troops taking place, such as Hoth, Endor and Scarif. Whilst some of these are quite large (Hoth being the obvious example) the battles generally seem to be more like large skirmishes, and can certainly be handled as such on the tabletop, so the forthcoming Legion game seems to have its place in recreating parts of the films – and it has the added advantage that players can actually play characters from the film, rather than them appearing as side allies in your adventures.
Whilst I am looking forward to the release of Legion, I have to admit that on reflection the Star Wars films are primarily adventure stories that contain battles rather than war films (although it can probably be argued that Rogue One has much more of a war film vibe) so, as a game, Imperial Assault seems to better reflect the general ethos of the films.
Having played Imperial Assault several times against someone playing the Imperials, I am looking forward to the co-operative play provided by the app and comparing the experience.
So where does this leave me? Well, Legions will be arriving in the new year, so I’m definitely on board with that. However, especially with the release of the new app I am tempted to get my own copy of Imperial Assault – I know that ‘my other mate Dave’ has a
big huge collection of this, but I’m tempted to get my own copy to play games with Josh (like father, like son – we are both big Star Wars fans) – It just depends whether playing Legions, X-Wing and the odd game of 7TV scratche s all the itches…
7TV from Crooked Dice has a Star Wars episode guide, which is great for playing small skirmishes…