Star Wars: The Card Game Review

Star Wars Card Game by Fantasy Flight

A game that I've been literally wanting to try for over a year is Star Wars: The (Living) Card Game.

In Star Wars: The Card Game, one player takes on a Rebel faction (there are pre-constructed decks for Jedi and Rebel Alliance) and attempts to thwart the objectives of their opposing Imperial faction (decks for the Imperial Navy and Sith).  Each turn starts with the "Balance" phase - on the Imperial turn, the Death Star track will go up by one or two points, depending on which side is controlling the Force, and on the Rebel turn, they can damage an Imperial objective if they control the Force.  (The game is played on a countdown, with the Rebels attempting to destroy three Imperial objectives before the Death Star track reaches 12.) After this, the active player refreshes their cards by removing one focus icon from each card.  Then, they draw back up to their hand limit (after optionally discarding a card).  Next, forces are brought into play.  Finally, we get to fight!  The active player can choose any number of their "ready" characters (any that don't have a focus token on them), and attack their opponent's objective.  The defending player can choose to defend the objective with their own ready characters, and if so, an "edge battle" occurs.  In the edge battle, players play cards back and forth face down until both pass - and then whoever has played the most "Force icons" wins the battle.  The player who wins the edge battle gets to use extra icons (some icons on characters are only valid if you win the edge battle), and players alternate taking turns assigning damage, starting with the player that won the edge battle.  Finally, after all of the conflict is resolved, the active player has the option of assigning characters to the Force.  After assigning (or choosing not to assign) characters to the Force, whoever has the most Force icons assigned to the Force flips the Force icon to their side.  Play continues like this until either the Death Star dial has reached 12 or the Rebels have destroyed three Imperial objectives.

Star Wars Luke and Yoda cards
They also created custom artwork instead of movie images
So, the crux of the game is definitely the conflict - after all, this is Star Wars.  And, my first pro is that I really like the conflict system.  Specifically, I like the amount of strategy that goes into any given battle.  Instead of the game simply being "I have bigger and stronger guys, so I'm going to obliterate you" (though this happens sometimes), attackers and defenders generally start off at least relatively evenly matched.  However, once you start the battle, there are important decisions to be made.  First, you fight an edge battle.  When doing this, how much force do you want to commit?  Do you want to use one of the incredibly strong characters (like Obi-Wan) from your hand to help win the battle?  There are also "Fate" cards that can be played in the battle that provide effects when they are revealed.  One of these cards cancels the edge battle, discarding all the played cards, and starts a new one - so you must be careful not to over-commit.  But, once the edge battle is resolved, there are still relevant decisions - like who attacks first, and who do they attack.  Often characters are going to die in the fight - so, do you commit them first to ensure that they are going to get to strike, or do you swing first with your better characters to try to kill off some of your opponents before they can attack?  Do you attack their strong characters or the characters you know you can kill?  These decisions will drastically alter the outcome of the game.

The next thing that I like about Star Wars is how some of the resource generation works.  Some cards allow you to generate several resources, but you must put a focus icon on the card per resource.  However, each card only has a single focus token removed in the refresh step of your turn.  So, if you choose to generate a lot of resources from a single objective, then it will take you a few turns before you can use resources from that objective again.  Basically, there is a "cool down" period.  (This cool down period applies to characters as well.)  I like this concept, and I think that it causes there to be more important decisions.

Star Wars battle of cards
A Force struggle - the Jedis are winning!
Another thing that I find interesting about Star Wars: The Card Game is how deck building works.  Now, admittedly, I haven't done a lot of deck building (the Core set doesn't provide you with a lot of versatility in this area).  However, the deck building is driven by objectives.  Instead of creating a deck card by card, you create a deck based on objective sets.  In order to use any given card in a deck, you must include the entire objective set - which consists of an objective and it's corresponding five cards.  And so, instead of deciding on 50 different individual cards to put in your deck (or more), you have to choose 10 objectives to use.  I think that this will help in keeping the game balanced as more sets come out (though we will see), because as powerful cards get introduced, they may or may not have other strong cards in their objective set.  So, if you want to add an extra copy of Darth Vader, you may be adding several weaker cards along with it.

The last pro (that I will mention) for Star Wars is that I like that your units can serve different purposes.  We have already discussed how edge battles work - and so, one use for a unit is to discard them in an edge battle.  Some of your characters, like Mon Mothma and Grand Moff Tarkin, can also be used to generate resources.  Obviously, you can also use your characters in battle.  Finally, you can commit your characters to the Force, which is a critical element of the game.  (By the way, I also like how committing characters to the Force works, and adds another element to the game that players must balance.)  So, with each individual card, you must decide which way to use it - and, if you are able to use your cards to counter what your opponent is planning, you will probably win the game!

R2-D2 card from Star Wars card game
Obligatory picture of R2-D2
With all that I love about this game, there are a couple of things that I'm a bit hesitant about.  First, the resources can sometimes get frustrating.  There are some cards in each deck that allow you to generate extra resources, but there is no way to carry them over from one turn to the next.  Granted, many card games of this nature don't allow you to carry resources over, but Star Wars seems to have struck an odd balance where I either didn't have nearly enough resources (you have a minimum of four that you can generate) or I had far too many - all dependent on whether I drew the cards that help with resource generation.  Hopefully, spending some time in deck construction will help with balance out some of this.

The next con that I have for Star Wars is really pretty trivial, and is common to many games of this nature - some cards seem a bit too powerful.  Now, as I've already mentioned, there is at least some balancing of this by the objective sets - having powerful cards in your deck also means that you're going to put some weaker cards in your deck.  But, if you draw the powerful cards, you have a major advantage.  And some cards, like Force Lightning, seem ridiculous.  Force Lightning lets you kill an exhausted character.  Just, *poof*, they're gone.  Doesn't matter if its Yoda, Obi-Wan, or some grunt.  There are a couple of cards that I've seen that allow you to cancel an opponent's event, but if you don't have one, then you just die.  Similarly, if the Rebel player draws Luke and Obi-Wan early, and his opponent doesn't draw anything that is able to easily deal with them, then the Light side might run away with the game.  I know that most card games have some luck of the draw elements to them, but for whatever reason, I noticed it more in Star Wars.

Overall, I give Star Wars: The Card Game a 9.0/10.  I really enjoyed this game a lot, and I'm looking forward to giving it more plays to see how well it stands up over time.

If Star Wars: The Card Game sounds interesting, then you might also check out the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, and Game of Thrones: The Card Game.

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