Fantasy Flight Games have a long history with tabletop gaming in the Star Wars IP. They already have every other type of tabletop gaming covered with card games; dice games; role-playing games; X-Wing; which allows you to re-enact the space skirmish warfare that Star Wars is famous for; Armada, which took those space battles to a bigger scale and allowed you to play out entire fleet battles; and Imperial Assault, which combined a board game with roleplaying game elements and allowed to you fight small skirmish missions on the tabletop.
With Star Wars Legion, Fantasy Flight Games are moving Star Wars fully into the wargaming hobby genre.
There are several different groups of people that are going to be interested in this product, each for their own reasons, but we're going to look at this product in three areas:
- The hobby side (the models themselves)
- As a stand-alone core box product (for those who want to dip in but not commit long term)
- The wargaming side (how the product stands as a future tabletop wargame)
The Hobby SideWe'll start with the hobby side, and a word of warning for those who've never done any kind of wargaming before: if you're coming straight from Fantasy Flight Games' other Star Wars lines, Legion in terms of the cost in time, effort and price is very different from what you previously know and love. The figures do require assembly, only gluing and positioning, but that does require some skill and patience—they're not pre-assembled, pre-painted, ready to go. It's very much a wargame in the hobby sense, and if this is your first wargame, you're going to have to spend some time putting the figures together and painting them if you want them to look great. There's no requirement to paint, but it's worth noting that they won't look like the awesome X-Wing models you might be used to. Price-wise as well, as a hobby, getting in to this fully can be pricey even over collectible games like X-Wing, dice, or card games, and certainly over the one-off cost of Imperial Assault (and subsequent costs of expansions). You should be aware and prepared. That's not to put you off, because the investment is certainly worth it, but this isn't a straight play out of the box.
Those coming from a wargaming background won't find anything too difficult with this. All the parts are ready to be glued together, all precut and clean, and the only really tricky pieces to glue are the front wind guides on the speeder-bikes, which have to be held at a slight angle after gluing. I've got a background in all types of tabletop gaming, and it took me less than an hour to get everything out, sorted, assembled, and drying.
The models look great, as can be seen from the photos in this article, and are everything I could want as a Star Wars fan. The expressions and positions capture iconic scenes, from Vader holding out his hand, to the speeder bike trooper looking back over his shoulder with his pistol aimed (although I would have liked the option to re-position him firing forwards as well).
The rebel AT-RT unit comes with a selection of three different weapon options, but everything else is set on the way they're put together and the weapon options. I'm very interested to see future conversions from the community over the coming months, but straight out of the box your options are limited. Though, as a starter set, this isn't a bad thing. FFG have walked the line with simplicity for new-ish wargamers mixed with some assembly required.
Another point to note is that as a wargame, a big part of the experience is the battleground you fight on and fighting on the same table with the few barricades you get in the box can hamper the experience. With a little imagination, using random household objects for buildings and terrain heightens the experience. FFG have a series of scenery and objects planned, and there are also loads of independent suppliers of terrain and scenery. It's not a point against Legion, just something to be aware of before you pick it up if you're not a wargamer.
One difference with Star Wars Legion to other FFG Star Wars products is that you will be able to build the force you wish without buying releases you don't need just to get access to an equipment card, as all cards, expansions, and accessories for the unit you purchase will be in the pack for that unit.
As a Stand-Alone Core ProductI've seen a few reports claiming that you may need to buy two core sets to play Star Wars Legion. This is not the case. You get everything you need for two players to play straight out of the box. It might not be enough for two players to share a box long term if you both don't live in the same household, but players can easily split a box (if one wishes to play Imperial and the other Alliance) and all that will need to be purchased after are another set of dice and range rulers, and possibly counters depending on how many troops you each plan on getting in the future. There are enough figures, counters, and cards for two players to get a lot of enjoyment out of the core box, and the only thing I noticed is that there aren't enough dice. There's enough to play, but more would be better. Sure you can re-roll dice, but you'll find that at points even playing with just the core box units you can be rolling a lot of dice, so most players will want to purchase an additional dice pack as well.
I've also read some criticism of the included rulebook. The rulebook included is a learn to play book, with enough rules, details, and examples for you to start playing out of the core box. Available for free online is a 50-page PDF rules reference. The reason for this is probably two-fold. Including such a big book in the core box would increase the price, and keeping it lean enough for players playing out of the core box reduces weight and costs, for this isn't just a starter set, but also it's a first edition rulebook. We're probably going to see a lot of changes, additions and errata's over the next year or so, so keeping it as a living document means that it can be updated and accessed easily for those who want to go beyond the core set. Printing fifty pages is also going to be a lot cheaper than purchasing a rulebook from FFG direct, but a lot of players will simply access it from their smartphones, tablets, or laptops while playing.
Star Wars Legion is a great game and a great product, the rules, even the learn to play rules in the box, aren't super straight-forward, but gameplay is very streamlined. We'll cover more about the rules in the wargaming section below.
The Star Wars Legion Core Set is a great starter box. It contains some unique and well loved characters and offers loads of enjoyment without adding anything extra. Once the models are together, players of any experience will love the game, and Star Wars fans especially will love how it plays.
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The Wargaming SideAs a fully fledged wargame, Star Wars Legion has a great start. There are a few products planned in the initial few waves of products, but it's really where FFG want to take this that will make or break the game. The rulebook caps army points at 800 with limitations on certain units, along with only being able to include one of each unique unit. I will be curious to see how games of Alliance vs Alliance and Empire vs Empire go as more sets are released, especially when we will almost certainly see Vader vs Vader and Luke vs Luke battles until more commanders are released.
As for the rules themselves and the gameplay, the stats for each unit are written on their cards, which always speeds tabletop games up as the information is handy, as with the addition of equipment cards, which means no searching for stats. However, you will find in each game that there are a lot of stats, counters, and equipment cards flying around to keep track of.
Each round starts with issuing a command card, which are selected from a set of generic command cards and three from your force commander. These cards dictate if you go first or second in the round and how many units you can assign direct orders to; the rest are put into a random pool. This means that at the price of going first, you might not be able to activate the key unit you need. The commander's command cards are extremely thematic and add a lot of detail when used. My favurite example of this is Darth Vader's "New Ways to Motivate them," which allows you to wound a unit in order to give it a free action.
Unit movement is done by moving the unit's commander and then arranging the rest of the models within unit cohesion, which streamlines the need for measuring and moving every model in a unit. My only real issue with the Star Wars Legion rules is with shooting. When a unit shoots, you measure range from your unit's leader to the closest model in the enemy unit, and that dictates the range for the whole attacking unit. If more than half of the units in the enemy squad are behind cover, they all get the benefits of that cover. This all works fast and is nice and simple to work out; however, if some are obscured from sight by all models in the enemy unit, that model can't suffer wounds. Line of sight is taken from the models eye view, and I feel this approach slows down the working out of shooting, as you now have to check to see if any units are obscured to all of your attacking units. I would much prefer to have continued with the majority rules system from the commander. If over half the models can't be seen, the unit can't be seen; if over half can be seen, then the entire unit can be seen. The turns are supposed to reflect the ebb and flow of combat, and sometimes the working out of the shooting phase can be slowed down by this one issue. It's a minor issue, but with a lot of cards, tokens, and units on the board, it just felt like a juddering aspect from the smooth flow of the rest of the rules.
You will find pretty quickly that while trooper units can play their part, a lot of the focus goes to your commanders and heavier units. Luke and Vader are able to cut through large units of troopers if they can get close enough, which fits the Star Wars setting perfectly, as you instantly forget the faceless troopers, but remember that one named pilot, like Wedge or Poe, and the main characters like Han, Leia, and the Emperor.
The question I get asked the most, though, is: Does it feel like Star Wars? Is it simply a wargame with a Star Wars skin? To those questions I say this: Darth Vader is slow, but as he slowly stalks towards the inevitable battle with his son, wily rebels take shots at him with their blasters. Vader strides uncaring through some and deflects others back onto his attackers with his lightsaber. Vader's Stormtroopers pour inexplicably inaccurate fire into the rebel soldiers who dodge and scurry out of the way, while a speeder-bike screams by taking out a unit of rebel soldiers but is unable to make a turn, taking it off the board and out of action.
So yes my young Padawan, this very much feels like Star Wars.
The Bottom Line:
Fantasy Flight Games have nailed the Star Wars tabletop game in terms of the models and the feel of the game. The rules aren't as streamlined as I'd have hoped, but they work well enough. There are a lot of cards, counters, and stats to keep track of during a game, and as a wargame it requires a lot more buy-in in terms of cost, time, and energy to play than a boardgame. As a core starter set, it's solid value and has a lot of potential for the future but still offers a good return if this is as far as you want to take it, as long as you understand that it's a wargame and not a playable out of the box boardgame. If you're okay with all of that and are ready to begin this journey, then welcome, you're going to have an awesome time and may the Force be with you.
Get this game if:
You have any kind fondness for Star Wars. The models alone are worth it to a Star Wars fan.
You want to take you're love of Star Wars tabletop gaming to the next level.
You want to see how truly frustrating Storm Troopers are when shooting.
You want to deflect a blaster shot with a lightsaber.
Avoid this game if:
You want a straight out of the box playable game.
You don't want to assemble models.
You don't want a game with lots of counters, stats and rules to work out.
This copy of Star Wars Legion used for this review were provided by Asmodee UK.