Game Length: 30 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 5 players who want to have an episodic Star Wars adventure!
Disclaimer: I have not yet played Star Wars: Imperial Assault. This summary is based on reading the rules and other reviews and impressions that detail how the game plays.
Are you ready for a quick history lesson?
In 2004, the game designer Kevin Wilson came up with a board game version of the classic videogame Doom, where players would work together against an opponent player controlling the unending armies of Hell.
Next came Descent: Journeys in the Dark; a spiritual successor of Doom but angled more towards fantasy adventure, where players explored dungeons and tried to kill the boss before they were eliminated by the forces of the Overlord.
The next iteration of this was Descent 2nd Edition, which changed the focus from exploring a sprawling dungeon to short missions with a wide range of goals, and added a larger campaign and persistent heroes that improve over time to give the game a more epic feel.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is the latest in this line, and continues to improve upon the formula developed in the original Doom: The Boardgame. Much of what was said in my summary of Descent 2nd Edition applies here, except with a Star Wars theme instead of fantasy.
That said, you won’t necessarily be controlling Jedi and Sith in this game – the heroes are plucky members of the rebellion fighting against the forces of the Empire, and instead of lightsabers and force powers, expect more along the lines of storm troopers and blasters. You’ll still be completing missions while fighting against a player controlling the enemy forces, and your characters will gradually increase in power over the game. Your victories and losses will affect the campaign state, leading up to a climactic battle where either the forces of the Empire or the Rebellion will emerge victorious, over the course of many play sessions typically spanning weeks.
The flow of the game and some systems are changed from Descent 2nd Edition. Most dramatically, each hero will activate once then one group of Empire forces will activate, instead of all heroes activating in turn then all enemies activating in turn. This changes the pace of the game into bite-sized segments, instead of huge leaps forward followed by brutal counterattacks. Furthermore, players are now unable to ‘miss’ on their attacks; instead, the chance for an attack to miss is on a defense die only available to more agile units. This change mitigates one of the more frustrating elements of the Descent system, making it less likely that turns will be fruitless.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault also include a 1 on 1 mode which turns the one-versus-many campaign into a one-shot tactical wargame, where each player will have a deck of cards to play powers and control squadrons of troops, much like the Empire player does in the normal game. This game mode allows players to include heroes like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and is an innovative addition that allows the game to function well in a two player setting; a shortfall of the previous games’ iterations.
For those who love Star Wars and adventure, and can meet up regularly to play in a campaign, Star Wars: Imperial Assault is an excellent choice. The components are of very high quality and for those keen on miniature painting, this is one of the best ways to get a whole swag of Star Wars miniatures.