Game Spotlights

Published: February 12, 2024

Adam Knight

Star Wars Board Games: Part 2

Last Spring, we covered some of the venerable titles in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars, though, has had a busy time on the tabletop lately, so we’re swerving back to the galaxy George Lucas built and taking a look at a few newer Star Wars board games, from pick-up and play fun to full-blown hobbies in and of themselves.

A Good Time with the Bad Guys

For those paying attention, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Disney’s Villainous line, having deployed a plethora of small boxes stuffed with cartoon evildoers, would expand to Star Wars. But, much like a rewatch of Empire Strikes Back, ditching surprise doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

In Star Wars: Villainous, you’ll adopt the sinister mantel of such icons as Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and slightly deeper cuts like Asajj Ventress and Moff Gideon. There’s also the small box Scum and Villainy standalone expansion, if you prefer Boba Fett of ‘no disintegrations’ fame. Regardless of your chosen evildoer, you’ll be working with their unique deck pair, one flush with nasty cards to power your play, and another, the Fate deck, drawn by your opponents and meant to slowMore Star Wars you down.

What makes the Villainous line tick is asymmetry: every villain has a unique way to win, some harder than others, along with their personal fate deck. You’ll play on your own unique boards too, with every space presenting a tempting action menu. That you can’t use the same space twice, and the fate deck might, say, send Luke Skywalker to ruin your best spot, makes every turn a compelling choice.

Equally compelling is the player count: Villainous, in my experience, plays best at two, where you can engage in drafts, tournaments, and head-to-head clashes. If you relax the cut-throat carnage a bit, Villainous also works well with younger players (though reading is a must), making this trip to the Star Wars Universe a great choice as your kiddos dive into the movies.

Skirmish Battles with Shatterpoint

Star Wars is a cinematic playground, and 2023’s Shatterpoint takes full advantage. Made by Atomic Mass Games and building on their Marvel: Crisis Protocol chops, Shatterpoint is a skirmish-sized, objectives-based miniatures game where the emphasis is on tackling shifting priorities rather than just attacking the other team.

This design choice makes building your squad more than just collecting killing machines. Ahsoka, for example, gets bonus movement from half her abilities, letting her fly across the map to control points, save a wounded ally, or take advantage of an opening. Shatterpoint is a Force-powered antidote to pick-and-pop games: turtling or arranging your units across from one another and rolling dice hoping to get lucky isn’t going to work here.

This dynamism comes through the Mission Deck, a small series of cards that activate in turn as players complete them. New cards change the objectives, shifting More Star Warsthe battlefield. Your battle droids might’ve secured a crashed pod on one side to win the first mission, but the second shifts the focus to the battlefield’s middle. Now you have to decide how to get your droids moving safely, or whether you can pick off your opponent’s Jedi from the pod’s position. The game state never gets stale, with early control rarely locking one player out of winning.

This philosophy extends to the characters themselves, who tend to have larger health pools and copy Marvel: Crisis Protocol with a wounded side. It’s often so much work to kill a character that most of your team will stay in play through the entire game. Meaning, you know, you get to play with your toys, which is just more fun than watching your side get winnowed down to a single, limping, clone trooper.

Shatterpoint debuted in summer 2023, with a core set perfect for two players. Regular expansions have been releasing since, bringing Prequels-era heroes and villains like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku, and Mace Windu into play. If you’re looking for a Star Wars skirmish game, or just some fantastic miniatures to paint, Shatterpoint brings fresh style to your table.

A True Star Wars Campaign

You’ve seen it, felt it, and know that campaign games have taken over. If you’re feeling unable to resist the call of a sprawling story, you might as well do it with one of the biggest, polished, and flexible campaign systems out there in Imperial Assault. To describe it simply, Imperial Assault is a sort-of reskin of Fantasy Flight Games’ Descent line of fantasy dungeon crawlers, ported to the Star Wars board games universe and coated with sci-fi goodness.

The original Imperial Assault comes with a One vs. Many branching campaign, one that lets a single player control the Imperial forces while the others scamper around as various Rebel heroes begging to be crushed. You’re not playing as Luke Skywalker or Han Solo here (though, with expansions, you can run into and recruit those happy heroes and others to your campaign), but a wide array of soldiers, medics, snipers, and would-be Jedi. This framework lets the writers send your story in different directions, with character-specific side-quests and level-up options. The branching paths give you replayability, and the plethora of additional expansions can let you keep on rolling for a long, long time.

Imperial Assault also found new life a few years back with a new app-driven campaign, one that lets you play either true solo or cooperative, with the app handlingffgswi01.jpg (499×502) the Imperials. The app lets you add in all your expansion content too, while streamlining the between-mission shop, leveling, and more. In other words, you can focus on the story and wiping out those stormtroopers in your favorite Star Wars board game.

The core Imperial Assault gameplay isn’t too complex either, with easy-to-parse skill checks and combat rolls marking most turns. You can absolutely take this one out with the family, or folks new to the concept of campaigns, and give them an adventure in their favorite galaxy that’ll have them grinning from turn to turn.

One last note too: Imperial Assault also has a skirmish mode, where two players can pick their side, buy forces with points, and take on varied scenarios. Luke, Vader, Boba Fett and more can all join a sci-fi mosh pit, chuckling dice with one Force throw or blaster shot after another. It’s the frosting on top of the campaign’s cake, and worth breaking out on a game night when your whole group can’t get together for Star Wars board games.

The Force is Strong with this CCG

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a Star Wars collectible card game. Okay, look, it’s been a while since Decipher’s legendary crack at it, and I’m still pouring one out for Destiny’s ill-fated dice-card combo play, but Fantasy Flight Games is taking all those lessons learned and launching Star Wars: Unlimited this March.

Unlimited is a two-player head-to-head card game, like Magic and Pokemon, where you’ll buy starter sets, booster packs, and bring your decks to tournaments or your kitchen table with base bashing in mind. See, each side’s goal is to ruin the other’s headquarters, sort of like crashing life points, and you’ll do that by popping out troopers, ships, and more to do the mashing.

What makes Unlimited different is, again, Fantasy Flight’s past pedigree. For one, they’re using Destiny’s back-and-forth sequencing: players don’t take their whole turn uninterrupted, but rather play fires back and forth with every single action. This simultaneously keeps both players engaged while simplifying the rules, as there’s no interrupts or ‘stack’ to maintain. Attacking is also svelte, as the attacker simply decides who to deal damage to, even skipping past the enemy and Star_Wars_Unlimited_Key_Art_Article_Header_10a6d12354.png (1920×1080)assaulting the base (certain cards have keywords to block this). That sort of straight-on attack, though, leaves you vulnerable to a counter from the same enemy you ignored. It’s a tight back-and-forth of play and counter-play.

Unlimited also tackles the absurdity of, say, an X-Wing dueling a stormtrooper by splitting ground and space combat into separate arenas. You’ll need to build your deck to handle both, all while working within your chosen leader’s abilities to hit maximum efficiency. As you might expect, the first starter set has Luke and Vader facing off, with other classic big names like Leia and Moff Tarkin stuffing the decks. Taking these out for a spin will clue you in on whether Unlimited’s play style is worth investing in.

As for the game itself, Fantasy Flight has said they’re committed to supporting Unlimited for several years, with sets planned through at least 2027, with their largest team working on the title. That alone ought to give you confidence the game will give you plenty of fun for years to come, and ensure that everyone’s favorite character, Salacious B. Crumb, gets his moment of glory.

The Force is Strong in 2024

Star Wars board games cross into just about every area you could want, from casual to complex, two-player duels to large sagas across the stars. If you had to pick one, Imperial Assault’s cooperative campaign is a joy: a cameo-strewn, strategic adventure that uses the Star Wars world to its fullest. For miniatures enthusiasts, Shatterpoint brings the lightsabers, while X-Wing and Armada (discussed in our last Star Wars piece) provide heaps of tactics with their dice-chucking lasers.

Or, if you’d like your Friday Night Magic done up with more back-and-forth Force play, keep tabs on Unlimited. The punch behind this card game means it’ll have staying power.

Regardless, there’s no better time to take this galaxy to your gaming table.