Maybe it makes perfect sense when dealing with an IP as robust as Star Wars, but I still find it shocking just how many amazing Star Wars games have hit our gaming tables over the last decade. From the incredible miniature wargame Star Wars: Legion to Imperial Assault, we've been bringing our tabletop gaming to a galaxy far, far away with incredible results, thanks in large part to Fantasy Flight's expert handling of the license. Now, the FF team is taking a shot at the deckbuilding genre with Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game. But does it create something new and exciting in the space, or retread old ground? Keep on reading to find out!
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game - What Is A Deckbuilding Game?
As the name implies, Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is, well... a deckbuilding game. But what does that mean? First popularized by games like Dominion, a deckbuilding game is a card game where you start with a small hand of cards and slowly, over the course of the game, gain more cards that you add to your deck, making it more powerful in the process. Unlike collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, there's no buying additional packs with this. Everything you need to play is right in the game.
The core gameplay loop of a deckbuilding game goes something like this: You draw a hand of cards, play those cards to gain resources, use those resources to purchase new cards (usually from a central supply), and discard the cards you just played and the new cards you just purchased. When you run out of cards in your deck, you shuffle your discard pile, and re-form your deck, incorporating those cards you purchased into the deck. Rinse and repeat until win conditions are met, and that's a deckbuilding game.
How Does Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game Play?
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game takes the core mechanics of a deckbuilder and makes several key innovations. First, this is a game just for two players (though there are alternative rules for playing with four players using two copies of the game). Secondly, each player controls a specific side of the struggle for the galaxy at the time of the original trilogy - the Empire and the Rebellion. The goal of the game is to be the first player to eliminate three of your opponent's bases. Do that, and you've won!
In the game, there are three main resources your cards can provide: Attack - which is used to destroy enemy bases, Resources - which is used to purchase cards in Galaxy Row, and Force - which pulls the force toward your side (light or dark) to gain additional benefits. Laid out in the middle of the table, between both players, is the Galaxy Row. This is where cards will be drawn at random that can be purchased. But Rebel players cannot purchase Empire cards, and vice versa. Both players can purchase neutral cards, including Bounty Hunters ready for hire.
But there's another catch - don't like a powerful card up for purchase for your opponent? In many cases you can use your attack resources generated on your turn to remove enemy cards from the board. So in the game, you'll be playing cards to purchase heroes and villains like Chewbacca, Darth Vader, or Jabba the Hutt, using your Attack values to strike out at your enemy's bases, protective ships, and cards on the Galaxy Row, and playing tug of war with the Force to gain those (at times game changing) benefits.
How Does It Feel To Play Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game?
In our playtesting, it was fun to see how both decks played out against each other. The scrappy Rebel alliance really wants to make the Empire discard cards from their hand, while the Empire just wants to smash the Rebels with heavy firepower and tough, blocking ships. In this way, both decks play different, but the access to neutral cards keep it feeling well-balanced. It's also very easy to imagine new expansions coming in incorporating Separatists, the Republic, the Resistance, the First Order, and more!
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game Feels Fresher Than Bantha Tracks
In our house, no game gets as much playtime as Dominion. It's a familiar, comfortable classic, but I've always felt it could benefit from a bit more player interaction. Too often in Deckbuilding games you feel like you're playing solo, and only notice your opponents when they buy a card you really wanted, or throw a small hindrance your way. With Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game, you're constantly interacting with your opponent, pulling the force towards you and away from them, destroying cards they were hoping to purchase, and directly attacking their bases. It's a level of interactivity I've never really experienced in a Deckbuilding game, and its going to go a long way toward making this one feel like a true new classic.
Should I Buy Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game?
If you're looking for a new spin on the deckbuilding genre, and are a big fan of the Star Wars universe, this is an absolute must. With its clever and snappy gameplay and innovations on the genre, you really can't go wrong. If you're looking for a game that can be played with more than two players, this might not be the deckbuilding game for you (but we'll see if future expansions open up that player count at all).
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is currently available for preorder, and will hit shelves on March 3rd, 2023.
The copy of Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game used in the creation of this review was provided by Fantasy Flight.